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RFE/RL Weekly Rundown: Ukraine's Elections, Russia On The Brink, Belarus Bravado, and more


Bracelets distributed in Ukraine to encourage young voters to take part in the May 25 presidential election.

Bracelets distributed in Ukraine to encourage young voters to take part in the May 25 presidential election.

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

# Ukraine's Elections : It's all but certain that "chocolate king" Petro Poroshenko is going to win more votes than "gas princess" Yulia Tymoshenko in Ukraine's May 25 first-round elections. But there are still a few new things to learn about the vote. Meanwhile, kidnappings, gunfights, and separatist unrest are common in Ukraine's industrial east. So how will Ukraine be able to pull off a landmark presidential election in these conditions? Follow extensive coverage from RFE/RL's Ukraine Service, Radio Svoboda, and Central Newsroom Live Blog, from nine cities throughout Ukraine on election day, with additional reporting from RFE/RL's Russian, Moldovan, and Belarus Services.

# Information Wars : From #UkraineUnspun, nymphet video techs are held responsible for old, misleading footage that found its way on Russian state TV's coverage of the Ukraine crisis. Russia is taking the West's criticism of press restrictions -- and throwing them right back with the help of a familiar social-media campaign tactic.

# Walesa On The Maidan : On May 23, RFE/RL's Russian Service, Radio Svoboda interviewed former Polish president Lech Walesa, who criticized leaders of Ukraine's Maidan protest movement for failing to negotiate with the former government, thus giving Russia a pretext for intervention. Walesa added, however, that Europe should never accept Russia's intervention in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.

# Russia On The Brink : In the last few months, Russia's Ukraine policies seem to have brought one gain after another to the Kremlin at almost no cost, but over the next few years it may be a different story. Whenever there is a serious political turmoil, Russian capital flees the country, and the standoff with the West over Ukraine is prompting the largest flight since the financial crisis of 2008. Even so, the Kremlin says it's had enough and is threatening to unplug from the West and create a self-sufficient alternate universe where Russian credit cards, Russian Internet, and even Russian song contests reign supreme. (At least Russia still has China in its corner.)

# Belarus Bravado : For years viewed as one of the Kremlin's staunchest allies, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka diverged from the party line in a surprisingly candid interview with Dozhd TV, by discussing the Ukrainian crisis, Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, Vladimir Putin's divorce, and ...beautiful women. Maybe not so surprisingly, he neglected to congratulate RFE/RL's Belarus Service, Radio Svaboda, on its 60th anniversary, which was celebrated on May 21 in Minsk with a rock concert. (See more anniversary highlights with a curated list of important events and broadcasts in each year of Radio Svaboda's history.)

# Morningstar Talks Azerbaijan : With Baku now taking over the chairmanship of the Council of Europe, U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Richard Morningstar talked to Khadija Ismayilova from RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service about what the Caucasus country could achieve at the helm of the human rights body, a discussion that earned an unapologetic Morningstar harsh criticism from a senior Azerbaijani government official.

# Counting The Cost Of Balkans Floods : Massive floods in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina has left at least 49 people dead and forced some 150,000 to flee their homes. RFE/RL's Balkan Service spoke to evacuees from the flooded Serbian town of Obrenovac who have taken refuge at an emergency shelter in Belgrade after fleeing their homes amid the worst floods in living memory.

# Drawing Lines in Afghanistan and Pakistan: Afghanistan's top soldier said conflicting maps of the country’s long and porous eastern border with Pakistan are adding to cross-border tensions between the two countries. Meanwhile, a remote district in the northeastern Badakhshan province had fallen into the hands of the Taliban, who had maintained an eight month siege while defenders awaited help from Kabul. The news reinforces previous reporting by Radio Free Afghanistan that the Taliban-backed Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan was infiltrating the area and raise questions about the Afghan government's ability to protect its territory.
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