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RFE/RL's Friday Potpourri - Exclusive Interviews And Reports From Afghanistan, Russia, Ukraine, and Iran


A roundup of original stories and exclusive interviews from throughout RFE/RL's Services and Central Newsroom:

# Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former oligarch and Kremlin critic who had spent the last decade behind bars, is now a free man in Berlin after being pardoned on "humanitarian grounds" by Russian President Vladimir Putin. In this Flash Analysis, The Power Vertical's editor Brian Whitmore describes what might be behind the move.

# Also from The Power Vertical -- Putin as leader of a "Conservative International?" Whitmore explains why.

# U.S. Senator John McCain has accused Russia of trying to block Ukraine's efforts to join the European Union. Senior Correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari interviewed McCain to get his take on the pro-European protests in Ukraine, which he saw firsthand on a recent trip to Kyiv, and what may lay ahead for the country.

# In an exclusive interview with Armenian Service Director Harry Tamrazian, James Warlick, the U.S. co-chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group, said Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to advance negotiations toward a peaceful settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

# Masood Khan, Pakistan's permanent representative to the United Nations, tells correspondent Ahmad Shah Azami that while suspected U.S. drone strikes on Pakistani territory are effective, they are a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and fuel anger against Washington and Islamabad.

# Afghanistan's plan to distribute new national electronic ID cards to all citizens has hit a snag as disputes rage over whether holders' ethnicity should be printed as well. Correspondent Frud Bezhan reports.

# She's notoriously media shy for someone so often in the spotlight, but for many of the world's leaders EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is the one to call when you want to talk to Europe. A report from correspondents Rikard Jozwiak and Robert Coalson.

# On assignment in Ukraine, special correspondent David Satter reports from Kyiv's Independence Square on the mood of the protesters, following Russia's bailout offer.

# Wrapping up with another report from Esfandiari -- new billboards in Tehran encouraging Iranians to procreate have been met with criticism.
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