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Ukraine's Referendums, Moscow's Meddling, Iranians Behaving Stealthily, and more


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

Ukraine's Referendum Run-up: Antigovernment rebels in eastern Ukraine say they plan to go forward with self-determination referendums on May 11, despite calls by Russian President Vladimir Putin to postpone them. The initiatives are similar to the one that led to Crimea's annexation by Russia in March, which has led to increased tensions in the region for Crimean Tatars and their governing body, the Mejlis. Here's what's known about the polls and what it could mean for people living in the disputed region. Programming Note: Follow updates throughout the weekend on our Ukraine Live Blog and with Radio Svoboda, and respond to this email or contact our Ukraine and Russia journalists directly for interviews or insight.

Meanwhile, in Moscow: There are plenty of reasons for the European Union to worry about what happens in Ukraine, not the least of which is the security of its gas supplies from Russia. The ABC's of patriotism are being distributed by a pro-Kremlin group to Russian schools. And Putin presides over massive Victory Day ceremonies, including a drop-in to Crimea.

Information Wars: #UkraineUnspun unravels a Facebook hoax about an Odesa doctor, Ukrainian nationalists, and anti-Semitic threats. Andrei Kondrashov, Russian state television's leading news anchor and one of 300 media professionals honored by Putin for "objective" coverage of events in Crimea, tells RFE/RL's Russian Service, Radio Svoboda, that he sees no difference between journalism and propaganda. Finally, although a Russian official recently retracted a suggestion that Russia build a domestic "sovereign" Internet, the Kremlin has clearly been moving to take greater control over web use. A look at a range of web-censorship models that might best fit Russia.

Iranians Behaving Stealthily: Dozens of Iranian women inside the country have posted their hijab-less photos on a newly launched Facebook page to share their “stealthy” moments of freedom from the veil, and author Mohammad Motlagh also used Facebook to publish his book one chapter at a time after Iran's Culture Ministry denied him a publishing license.

Two Responses to Afghan Disaster: As the death toll mounts from a huge landslide that turned the remote mountain Afghan village of Abe Barik into a mass grave, many believe a smiling snapshot of a government delegation underscores the government's slow response to the disaster. However, the disaster has triggered an unprecedented wave of charity among Afghans dependent for generations on international humanitarian aid.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back in Pakistan: The killing of thousands of clan leaders in Pakistan's northwestern tribal areas has destroyed leadership among the ethnic Pashtun tribes inhabiting one of the country’s most embattled regions, even while a groundbreaking court ruling paves the way for a constitutional amendment that would grant full citizenship rights to the FATA region's 7 million residents.

Assessing Iraq: Nikolay Mladenov, the UN's Special Representative for Iraq and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), spoke with Radio Free Iraq about his assessment of the country's April 30 parliamentary voting process.

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