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Europeans on Ukraine, Fact or Fiction in Iran, Election Rundowns in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more


A Colorado beetle (L) and a pro-Russian Ukrainian separatist wearing a St. George ribbon

A Colorado beetle (L) and a pro-Russian Ukrainian separatist wearing a St. George ribbon

RFE/RL's Weekly Rundown, a concise look at our top stories this week:

# Battleground Ukraine: In Odesa, at least 30 people are reported dead after clashes between pro-Russian and pro-Kyiv activists, while Ukrainian forces attempted to retake the town of Slovyansk from pro-Russian separatists. From #UkraineUnspun, how Russian media turned a construction site into a "concentration camp." And in Donetsk, a city looks to the upcoming Victory Day -- the May 9 holiday marking that marks the 69th anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory in World War II -- with trepidation.

# Europeans Engage on Ukraine: During an interview at RFE/RL's Prague headquarters EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele lamented that European leaders "didn't take seriously the message" of President Vladimir Putin that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was the biggest catastrophe of the 20th century. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius tells RFE/RL that Ukraine has "a duty" to use force to quell pro-Russian separatist movements in eastern Ukraine. Plus, an infographic reviews Moscow's coercive diplomacy in Central and Eastern Europe.

# Beetles Bug Ukrainians: The Colorado potato beetle, scourge of gardeners and farmers worldwide, is linked through their black and orange stripes to the St. George's ribbons worn by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. In Central Asia, St. George ribbons are being by Russian organizations ahead of Victory Day on May 9, an ostensibly apolitical move that could provoke tensions among locals that see the them as a symbol of Russian chauvinism, Luke Johnson reports.

# Balancing Rights Worries and Energy Security: The United States should hold Azerbaijan accountable for its human rights record, even as the energy-rich country has come into renewed focus as a potential player in weaning Europe off of Russian gas, U.S. officials say. RFE/RL's Luke Johnson and Carl Schreck report from Washington.

# Fact of Fiction?: The new Iranian documentary, "I Am Rohani," purports to track President Hassan Rohani's achievements in the 1980s and 1990s. But the origins of the documentary raise questions about its true intent, according to correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari, who also reports on the selfie of former President Mohammed Khatami, posted by Instagram-savvy former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi.

# "Certain" in Iraq, Surprises in Afghanistan: The results of elections in Iraq and Afghanistan are starting to come in, and RFE/RL has them. In Iraq, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki says he's "certain" of winning the April 30 vote, while in Afghanistan, several surprises emerged as preliminary results were released from the April 5 election.

# The Gift of the Great Turkmenbashi: According to an Turkmen opposition website, a vodka gift pack named for former Turkmenistan President Saparmurat Niyazov (or Turkmenbashi, as he preferred to be called) continues to fly off store shelves, seven years after his death. Correspondent Bruce Pannier reports.

# For RFE/RL journalists, every day is a day to celebrate World Press Freedom Day.

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