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<p>Firecrackers explode as devotees of the Chinese Jui Tui Shrine in Thailand return the statue after it had been taken on a procession celebrating the annual vegetarian festival in Phuket on September 30. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj)</p>
Based on court documents and extensive interviews, a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) finds that those jailed in Uzbekistan on politically motivated charges are subjected to torture and abysmal prison conditions. HRW says Uzbekistan has one of the world’s worst human rights records and has unlawfully imprisoned thousands of people for the peaceful exercise of their freedom of expression. HRW spoke with more than 150 people, including 10 recently released prisoners. Here are the stories of some of those prisoners. (Captions by HRW)
Some of the most compelling photographs from RFE/RL's broadcast region and beyond. For more photo galleries, see our "Picture This" archive by clicking on the banner above.
As the annual cotton harvest gets under way in Uzbekistan, officials have ordered people of all ages and professions to contribute to the harvest effort. Although compulsory labor for anyone under 18 is officially banned, school-age children were seen working in the fields alongside adults, including pensioners. Medical students and doctors were also ordered to pick cotton, leaving some clinics closed to patients. (RFE/RL's Uzbek Service)
Thousands of people marched in Moscow on September 21 to call for peace in eastern Ukraine. Other antiwar protests were taking place simultaneously in St. Petersburg and in Ukrainian cities. Moscow police reported that some 5,000 people turned out for the demonstration, but organizers put the number as high as 40,000.
Some of the most compelling photographs from RFE/RL's broadcast region and beyond. For more photo galleries, see our "Picture This" archive.
At least three people have been reported missing and around 400 have been evacuated from the Kladovo district in eastern Serbia, which has been struck by severe flooding for several days. RFE/RL's Balkan Service correspondent Ognjen Zorić filed photos of flood damage in the village of Tekija, where the Danube River overflowed its banks.
Thousands of supporters of opposition leader Imran Khan and his ally Tahir ul-Qadri, a cleric, have been camped out by the parliament building in Islamabad for weeks in a protest against the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The protesters accuse the prime minister of rigging last year's election that brought him back to power. The number of demonstrators has declined since the protest began in August, but some have vowed to stay until Sharif resigns. While they make their temporary home near the parliament, some people are scraping by on their earnings from selling food and other goods to fellow protesters. (Photos by Ahmad Shah Azami , RFERL’s Radio Mashaal)
Hamid Karzai has been the leader of Afghanistan for almost 13 years, since shortly after the U.S.-led invasion of the country in late 2001. He was constitutionally barred from seeking a third term. Some have expressed fears that Karzai might continue to wield influence over Afghan politics even after he leaves office. But Karzai has said he will retire, not to a mansion built on the grounds of the presidential palace but to a more modest home in Kabul.
Voters in Crimea went to the polls on September 14 to elect local city councilors and lawmakers in the regional parliaments of Crimea and Sevastopol. The election was the first since Russia annexed the peninsula from Ukraine in March. Ethnic Crimean Tatars boycotted the vote to show their rejection of the legitimacy of Crimea's new Moscow-backed authorities. (RFE/RL)
Some of the most compelling photographs from RFE/RL's broadcast region and beyond for the 37th week of 2014. For more photo galleries, see our "Picture This" archive by clicking on the banner above.
There's a new European Commission in town. And with the changing of the guard in Brussels, we asked RFE/RL's Brussels correspondent, Rikard Jozwiak, to take a look at some of the new faces.
A trade union official says five coal miners have died after being trapped in a pit in Bosnia-Herzegovina following an earthquake. The chairman of Bosnian Miners' Trade Unions, Sinan Husic, told RFE/RL that five miners had died and that all 29 others who had been trapped were rescued on September 5. The mine's manager, Esad Civic, said the rescue effort had been "halted" as rescuers had not been able to reach the remaining five men. The 34 miners had been trapped 500 meters underground after a 3.5 magnitude earthquake struck near the central Bosnian town of Zenica on September 4.
Russia's state news agency ITAR-TASS has just rebranded itself and will be known by its old, Soviet-era name TASS. Founded in 1925, the Telegraph Agency Of The Soviet Union was responsible for all news content for radio, television, and print media.
On September 1, 2004, Chechen and Ingush militants stormed an elementary school in the town of Beslan in the Russian republic of North Ossetia. Surging through the back-to-school crowds, the militants took 1,100 teachers, children, and relatives hostage, holding them for more than two days and demanding the withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnya. On the third day, a series of explosions ripped through the building, igniting fires and sparking a deadly gun battle between the militants and Russian security forces. More than 330 hostages died in the violence. A decade later, correspondent Tom Balmforth and photographer Diana Markosian traveled to Beslan to speak to survivors still grappling with the memories of the loved ones they lost.
Surrounded by scandal since the early days of the project's history, it appears that, as the Kyrgyz government attempts to acquire more shares of the Kumtor gold mine, there is need for some serious upgrading at the site. RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Azattyq, has received some photos of the facilities at Kumtor as they were in April 2013 and those pictures show some major housekeeping was in order.
On September 1, 2004, Chechen militants stormed an elementary school in the town of Beslan in the Russian republic of North Ossetia. They took 1,100 teachers, children, and their relatives hostage, demanding the withdrawal of federal forces from Chechnya as a condition for their release. On the third day of the standoff, Russian security forces stormed the building, resulting in a battle in which more than 330 hostages died, including 186 children.
In Russia's Altai Republic in southern Siberia, the small Altai minority maintains a unique set of cultural customs, including their traditional "Golden Wedding" ceremony.
For Muslim women in the United Kingdom, the decision to wear a head scarf, or hijab, reflects a complex range of personal beliefs and competing social pressures.
Amid tensions between Moscow and the West, Russia has announced the closure of four McDonald's restaurants in the capital for "technical reasons." When the fast-food chain first opened in Russia nearly 25 years ago, it was hailed as a sign of thawing Cold War relations and crowds of Muscovites flocked to taste their first Big Mac.
On August 23, 1939, the Soviet Union and Germany signed a nonaggression treaty in Moscow, paving the way for the Nazi and Soviet invasions of Poland the following month and the beginning of World War II.
A Ukrainian artist who displayed antiseparatist installations in the streets of Donetsk has been missing for over a week. Serhiy Zakharov's friends say he is being held by the insurgents and fear for his life.
A group of Russian supporters of pro-European activists in Ukraine has collected antiwar drawings by children from across Europe, which they want to send to soldiers fighting pro-Russian separatists in east Ukraine.
Demonstrators clashed with city employees in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, on August 7 as the workers tried to clear barricades and tents from Independence Square. Protesters set fire to piles of tires and threw bottles and bricks at the municipal workers, who eventually withdrew. After the mass antigovernment protests that ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych last winter, hundreds of protesters have remained on Independence Square, saying they want to ensure the new government follows through on reforms.
The Azeri town of Ciraqli sits almost on top of the Line of Contact dividing Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh, the region controlled by Armenian-backed separatists. There has been fighting around the town in the last week, but residents have been dealing with conflict in the area for far longer than that. RFE/RL photographer Abbas Atilay went to the town in the Agdam district to record what life is like there for the residents.
For more than a decade, the international military presence and foreign aid in Afghanistan have helped prop up the local economy. But now, with the number of troops falling and military bases shrinking, Afghans have been left struggling to make ends meet.
"National Geographic Traveler" magazine has announced the winners of its annual photography contest, chosen from more than 18,000 entries.
In the Jerge-Tal region of Tajikistan, high in the Pamir Mountains, the descendants of Kyrgyz nomads have settled and established a unique community. The residents of Jerge-Tal easily switch between Kyrgyz, a Turkic language, and Tajik, closely related to Persian. Though they have ties to two cultures, the inhabitants of the region are isolated by their remote location and the frequent closure of the roads leading to Kyrgyzstan amid ongoing border disputes. (Photos by Janyl Jusupjan, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service)
At the Choa Saidan Shah coal mine, workers dig coal with pickaxes, break it up, and load it onto donkeys to be transported to the surface. The mine is in Punjab, Pakistan's most populous and richest province, but most of the miners come the poorer region of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, to the northwest. Employed by private contractors, the miners work in teams of four, with each team earning about $10 a day to be divided among them. (Photos by Sara Farid, Reuters)
Since MH17, many periodicals around the world have portrayed Russian President Vladimir Putin on their covers as a pariah, a liar, and a murderer.
Armenians celebrated the holiday of Vardavar on July 27, throwing water on one another in the streets of Yerevan. Observed on the 14th Sunday after Easter, the festival is associated with the biblical Transfiguration of Jesus when he appeared before his disciples on Mount Tabor. But the water festival tradition predates Christianity, and was originally a celebration of the pagan deity Astghik, the goddess of water, beauty, love, and fertility. Today, Vardavar is largely an opportunity to cool off from the summer heat. (Photos by Photolure News Agency)
On July 28, 1914, Austro-Hungarian troops fired the first shots during the invasion of Serbia that marked the start of World War I. The conflict resulted in more than 16 million military and civilian deaths, but did not bring about the end to all wars as some hoped and dreamed it would. One-hundred years later, harrowing images from the war retain their power and immediacy. Included in this collection are photos that have been only recently discovered and shown publicly.
"The Washington Post" reports that the U.S. intelligence community has released its analysis of photos relating to the shoot down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence reportedly says the images show the movements of an antiaircraft missile system toward Russia, and increased Russian military activity.
During World War I -- which broke out 100 years ago on July 28 -- the Austro-Hungarian Empire's "feldpost" system enabled soldiers to communicate with their loved ones back home. Preserved postcards and letters provide a very personal view of how individual soldiers experienced the conflict. Jaroslav Bis, from the east Bohemian town of Vysoke Myto, sent these poignant messages home to his family during the war. His fate was sadly similar to many others who fought in the trenches from 1914 to 1918. After fighting on the Italian front, he was sent home in 1916 with a head wound that caused him to lose the sight in one eye. In the 1920s, he was admitted to an insane asylum. He died in 1937, and his war injury was cited as the official cause of death. These postcards from a Czech family's private collection were shared with RFE/RL and have never before been shown publicly.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel turned 60 on July 17. She was born Angela Dorothea Kasner in Hamburg but grew up in a small town near East Berlin, where her father served as a Lutheran pastor.
Russian journalist and human rights activist Natalya Estemirova was abducted in the Chechen capital, Grozny, on July 15, 2009. Her body was found the next day in neighboring Ingushetia. The Memorial Human Rights Center, where Estemirova worked, has said an initial investigation by authorities showed the possible involvement of local law enforcement officers in the crime. There have been no arrests in her case.
Some of Pakistan's more affluent residents enjoy a lifestyle that is far removed from the conflict and instability often associated with the country by observers abroad.
Love on the Ukrainian frontlines has been on display since December, when protesters took to the streets of Kyiv to protest then-President Viktor Yanukovych's last-minute decision to reject closer ties with the European Union. The relationships don't always succeed, but here are some pictures of weddings among the unrest.
July 11 marks the anniversary of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, when Bosnian Serb forces overran the town and killed more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys. On the anniversary, the bodies of 175 newly identified victims were due to be reburied at the memorial cemetery in Potocari, near Srebrenica. The remains of more than 6,000 people have so far been exhumed from mass graves and reburied at the cemetery, and work to identify the remaining victims continues. Photos by Sadik Salimovic, RFE/RL's Balkan Service
One in four Tajik citizens lives and works in Russia. Ksenia Diodorova, a graphic designer from St. Petersburg, spent part of the past winter photographing families living high up in the Pamir mountains of Tajikistan's remote Gorno-Badakhshan province. She then met with their relatives toiling in Russia to support them financially. The result is "In The Cold," a poignant photo essay illustrating the harsh realities of labor migration.
Artur Gasparyan , a 24-year-old native of Spitak, Armenia, was recruited in Moscow in May to fight in eastern Ukraine after the deadly fire in Odesa. He shares with us some of the photographs he brought back from his month in the conflict.
An Iranian man threatening to jump from a telephone pole in central Tehran was talked down by emergency services on July 8 as crowds gathered below and blocked traffic for three hours.
Eduard Shevardnadze, the former Georgian president and Soviet foreign minister, died on July 7 at the age of 86. This is a look at the political career of the man who was considered a hero in the West for helping end the Cold War as the last Soviet foreign minister but who suffered a dramatic fall from grace as president of his native Georgia.
The city of Luhansk, the seat of the self-declared separatist "Luhansk People's Republic," is one of the flashpoints of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Some rebels in the Luhansk region agreed to observe a 10-day cease-fire called by President Petro Poroshenko, but renewed clashes broke out in the region even before the truce expired on June 30. But in the city of Luhansk, residents are carrying on with daily life despite the crisis unfolding nearby. RFE/RL correspondent Andrei Babitsky filed these photos of a city in a state of limbo.
The city of Slovyansk has been a focal point of the conflict ravaging eastern Ukraine for months, with government forces battling pro-Russian separatists. Many residents have remained, but some have fled despite a cease-fire that was declared in the region by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. RFE/RL correspondent Andrei Babitsky got a firsthand look at the damage that has been inflicted on the city.
The ancient city of Bolgar in Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan has been added to UNESCO's World Heritage List. The city was an early settlement of the civilization of Volga-Bolgars that existed between the 7th and 15th centuries.
Pakistan launched an offensive on June 15 aimed at rooting out Taliban fighters and other militants from North Waziristan in the country's tribal areas. The military action prompted a civilian exodus from the region, with many crossing the border into neighboring Afghanistan. (RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal)
Afghans returned to the polls on June 14 for a second round of voting to decide which of two candidates -- Abdullah Abdullah or Ashraf Ghani -- will succeed Hamid Karzai, the only head of state the country has seen since the Taliban was ousted 13 years ago.
The soccer World Cup began on June 13 in Sao Paulo with the opening game between hosts Brazil and Croatia. In the Serbian capital, Belgrade, a number of locals put history aside to cheer on their neighbors at a special live screening of the match organized by the Youth Initiative for Human Rights,a Belgrade-based non-governmental organization with a reputation for breaking ethnic-based taboos.
The 2014 FIFA Football World Cup got under way with a colorful ceremony at Sao Paolo's Corinthians Arena. Hundreds of dancers, gymnasts, and stars as Jennifer Lopez took part in the event.
On June 6, 1944, Allied soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy in northern France in the World War II operation known as D-Day. More than 150,000 troops took part in the largest seaborne invasion in history. On the 70th anniversary of D-Day, world leaders gathered on the Normandy coast to for ceremonies to mark the historic day and remember those who fell in battle. (10 PHOTOS)
Ukrainian government forces battled separatists with artillery and automatic weapons on June 4 as fighting raged for a second straight day in and around the eastern town of Slovyansk, forcing many frightened residents to flee and stay in temporary accomodation in various cities in eastern Ukraine -- in the towns of Nyzhnya Krynka, Ilovaysk, and Makiyivka.
Bloggers have debunked some of the most outrageous fabrications about Ukraine in the Russian state media and pro-Russian online communities, which often use shocking images from other countries to illustrate the situation in Ukraine. (WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES)
In April 1989, Chinese students began protesting on Beijing's Tiananmen Square to demand democratic reforms and an end to corruption. The rallies, sparked by the death of reformist Communist Party chief Hu Yaobang, quickly grew into mass pro-democracy demonstrations. On June 4, 1989, the Chinese military launched a violent crackdown against the protesters. The government has never released an official death toll, but estimates range from the hundreds to the thousands. Today, the Chinese government forbids any discussion in the media of the events of 1989.
Ahead of the 70th anniversary of D-Day, Reuters photographer Chris Helgren compiled archive pictures taken during the 1944 invasion, and then visited the same places to photograph them as they appear today.
The Shi'ite neighborhood of Sadr City in Baghdad was shaken by clashes between U.S. and Iraqi forces and Shi'ite militias throughout the mid-2000s. Today, Sadr City is calm, but it bears the scars of earlier fighting and remains one of the poorest neighborhoods in the Iraqi capital. Reuters photographer Ahmed Jadallah spent time documenting the residents and their daily life.
Heavy fighting broke out on May 26 at the international airport in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, a major foothold for pro-Russian separatists. After reports early in the day said gunmen had stormed the airport and forced its closure, Ukrainian troops rushed to the scene. Explosions and gunfire erupted, sending smoke into the skies as the fighting continued. Fighter aircraft were also deployed to the scene. With the battle still raging, AFP reported that Ukrainian security forces had attacked after a deadline to the separatist occupiers expired.
Parties on both the far left and far right of the political spectrum have made large gains in elections to the European Parliament, according to preliminary results released on May 25. Fringe parties won as many as 160 out of 751 seats in the chamber, up from 98 in 2009. On the far right, France's National Front party and the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) each captured new seats, while Greece's Coalition of the Radical Left made gains alongside the country's far-right Golden Dawn.
General Wojciech Jaruzelski, the Soviet-era leader who memorably tried and failed to crush Poland's Solidarity movement, died on May 25 at the age of 90. After nearly a decade of clampdown that ended in negotiations with trade unionists, Jaruzelski eventually stepped down as Poland’s president in 1990, telling the nation that he should be held responsible for crimes committed. But for the most part, Jaruzelski escaped punishment, being deemed by the Polish courts as too ill for trial.
Ukrainians go to the polls to vote in a presidential election, which authorities hope can help resolve a confrontation with Russia that has split the country. Reports said early signs pointed to a high turnout in the capital, Kyiv, and western Ukraine. However, the regional administration in Donetsk said that only 426 out of 2,430 polling stations in the eastern region were open and none in the city of Donetsk itself. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has urged Ukrainians to vote to "defend Ukraine."
The 67th Cannes Film Festival is under way in the French resort city, attracting thousands of film industry professionals, journalists, tourists, and movie lovers. The city pulses with activity as the population swells from some 67,000 to more than 160,000 for the duration of the festival. But the glamorous event does not eclipse the seedier side of Cannes, where homeless people beg for change not far from the festival's red carpet. (Photos by Franak Viachorka, RFE/RL's Belarus Service)
Young protesters and police faced off for a second night on May 20 amid ethnic tensions in the Macedonian capital, Skopje. Demonstrators gathered in the Gjorce Petrov district to protest the murder of a 19-year-old ethnic Macedonian man, allegedly by an ethnic Albanian. The previous night, May 19, a crowd of ethnic Macedonians went on a rampage in the neighborhood, damaging shops and cafes owned by ethnic Albanians. Police confirmed that the death leading to the protests is being investigating as a murder and that a suspect has been arrested.
Dozens of people have died and thousands have fled their homes amid massive floods in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Cleanup operations have begun in some areas, but others were braced for worse flooding as river levels continued to rise in other places.
Torrential rains in the Balkans have caused widespread floods in recent days. A state of emergency was declared on May 15 in central Serbia, where two deaths occurred. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, hundreds of people were forced to leave Sarajevo's western suburbs as well as towns and villages north of the capital. Meteorologists forecast several more days of rain in the region.
A museum commemorating the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks the United States is opening its doors. Survivors, victims' relatives, rescue workers, and others directly affected by the tragedy will be the first to visit the museum this week before it opens to the general public on May 21.
Mineral water from the springs of the Borjomi Gorge is one of Georgia's largest exports, well-known throughout the former Soviet region. Nestled in the valley, the town of Borjomi is a popular spa that has been celebrated for the alleged health benefits of its water for nearly 200 years. Abbas Atilay of RFE/RL's Azerbaijan Service filed these photos of the quiet spa town.
Countries throughout the former Soviet sphere marked Victory Day on May 9 -- the 69th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. Veterans, government officials, clergy, and ordinary citizens attended parades and commemorations to pay their respects to those who fought and died in the war.
The fierce fighting on the Crimean Peninsula -- and particularly around the strategic port city of Sevastopol -- is one of the most dramatic and impressive pages of the Soviet Union's struggle during World War II. The story highlights the courage and endurance of the Red Army and Soviet civilians. And the Crimean campaign was one of the only bright spots for the Soviet Union during the dark, desperate days of the first two years of the war. In May 1945, Soviet leader Josef Stalin named Sevastopol -- together with Leningrad, Stalingrad, and Odesa -- as the first four "hero cities" of the Soviet Union. Crimea was conquered by the Russian Empire in the 18th century. For most of the Soviet period, it was part of the Russian republic. However, in 1954, the Soviet government transferred it to the Ukrainian republic. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia and the international community agreed to retain Crimea within the borders of the newly independent Ukraine. In March, however, Russia annexed the peninsula following a hastily called referendum, provoking a major international crisis and sparking instability that has since spread to other parts of Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to attend Victory Day celebrations in Sevastopol on May 9, which marks both the 69th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Sevastopol from German occupation. Pride in the Soviet achievements during World War II has played a major role in Moscow's bid to strengthen its influence in the former Soviet states. -- Robert Coalson
On May 6, 2012, a day before the start of President Vladimir Putin's third term as president, thousands of people protested on Moscow's Bolotnaya Square, accusing Putin and his party of electoral fraud and corruption. Police violently dispersed the gathering and detained hundreds of protesters, eventually handing down sentences of up to four years to a core group of activists. In the two years since the protest, the trial of the Bolotnaya detainees has become a focal point for opposition activists, who see the harsh police response as the onset of a widespread crackdown on freedom of assembly.
Tatyana Samoilova, the Soviet-era Russian film star best known for her roles in "The Cranes Are Flying" and "Anna Karenina," has died.
Donetsk is among the cities in eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian separatists have taken control of government offices. On May 1, some 200 people stormed the regional prosecutor's office, throwing rocks at police and raising the flag of the self-declared "Donetsk People's Republic." In this photo series, Reuters photographer Marko Djurica asked a group of pro-Russian separatists to pose for portraits inside one of the government buildings they are occupying.
The Eurovision Song Contest draws more than 1 million viewers a year. But sometimes it's the controversies, not the music, that steal the show.
The National Art Museum of Ukraine is hosting an exhibition of art, religious icons, and decorative objects from Mezhyhirya, the extravagant private residence of former President Viktor Yanukovych.
A new exhibition at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., offers a glimpse into the rich literary tradition of the Persian language. Titled "A Thousand Years of The Persian Book," the exhibit showcases a unique Persian collection, one of the most important outside of Iran. It includes editions of the 10th-century epic poem "The Shahnameh" -- or "Book of Kings" -- as well as contemporary novels from Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. The head curator, Hirad Dinavari, told RFE/RL that the goal of the exhibition is to introduce the Persian language to a Western audience, and to help give Persian speakers a better understanding of their own heritage.
Ukrainians living in the Czech Republic and their Czech supporters have set up a symbolic graveyard to honor those who died in Euromaidan protests in Ukraine. On April 23, activists of the Dekomunizace civic association erected more than 100 wooden crosses and held a solemn ceremony for those killed since the Ukrainian unrest began in November.
From tragedy in Korea to turmoil in Ukraine -- some of the most compelling photographs from RFE/RL's broadcast region and beyond. For more photo galleries, see our "Picture This" archive.
The Belarusian capital Minsk is getting ready to host the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Championship. The event will be held on 9-25 May 2014 in two main venues, Minsk Arena, a 15,000-seater stadium inaugurated in 2009, and Chizhovka Arena, with a seating capacity of around 10,000. Hotels are being built or renovated to accommodate 5,000 people.
In a dramatic scene at a scheduled public execution, an Iranian woman spared the life of her son's killer as he stood with a noose around his neck.
April 23 marks the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare, Britain's most famous playwright and one of the most celebrated writers worldwide. Shakespeare's poems and his 37 plays, written between 1590 and 1613, have been translated into every major living language. Here is a look at diverse interpretations of his work, performed everywhere from South Sudan to Sweden and from a metro station to a refugee camp. (13 PHOTOS)
In February, Moldova's autonomous region of Gagauzia -- home to a Russian-speaking, ethnically Turkic minority -- voted for closer ties with Russia, and voted against closer EU integration for Moldova. Gagauz voters also supported the region's right to declare independence should Moldova lose or sur
A domineering and sinister Russia, ineffectual Western leaders, and a skeptic's take on political realities in Ukraine: RFE/RL political cartoonists Zhenya O, Corax, and Sergei Yolkin weigh in on the Ukraine crisis.
Getting rich in Ukraine requires powerful friends, and results in powerful enemies. A guide to who's who in the world of oligarch Rinat Akhmetov.
As Europe marks the centenary of the start of World War I, Prague is hosting an exhibition of political propaganda from the first modern war until today.
Residents of Boston are marking the first anniversary of the double bombing that struck the city's marathon on April 15, 2013, killing three people and wounding at least 260. Over the past year, photographer Chris Padgett noticed a growing number of Bostonians who commemorated the tragedy with tattoos showing their pride in their city. The trend gained momentum as some tattoo parlors offered to donate the proceeds from Boston-themed tattoos to an aid fund for the bombing victims. Padgett started a photo project called "Bled for Boston" to document, in his words, "the people who dedicated permanent space on their bodies as memorials to their city, first-responders, and the people who lost their lives at the Marathon.”
Police were investigating the site of a bomb blast that struck a fruit and vegetable market on the outskirts of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, early on April 9. The bombing killed at least 25 people and injured at least 70. Officials said the explosives had been placed in a fruit box. (RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal)
In the spring of 1989, Georgians took to the streets to demand independence from the Soviet Union. At the peak of the demonstrations, many thousands of people -- some of them on hunger strike -- gathered in central Tbilisi. On April 9, Soviet Interior Ministry troops moved in to crush the peaceful protests, killing at least 20 people and leaving hundreds injured or poisoned by gas. The crackdown became one of the turning points in the final years of the Soviet Union. (13 PHOTOS)
Pro-Russia Ukrainian protesters have stormed the main government building in the eastern city of Donetsk. Some 2,000 protesters rallied outside the regional administration building earlier on April 6, before a group of protesters broke into the building and raised the Russian flag. Meanwhile in Luhansk, also in the east of the country, protesters broke into the headquarters of Ukraine's security agency, the SBU.
Voting has begun in Afghanistan's presidential election, which will mark the first democratic transfer of power since the country was tipped into chaos by the fall of the hard-line Islamist Taliban regime in 2001. Amid fears of violence and insecurity, thousands of Afghans lined up at polling centers from early morning to cast their ballots. (RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan)
Anja Niedringhaus, an award-winning photographer who spent her 20-year career covering conflict zones -- including the Balkans, Kuwait, Iraq, and Libya -- was killed while covering elections in Afghanistan on April 4. She was in a car in eastern Afghanistan with AP reporter Kathy Gannon when an Afghan policeman opened fire on them, killing Niedringhaus instantly. This is a look at Anja Niedringhaus's work.
Nearly 20 years have passed since a May 1994 cease-fire put an end to the Nagorno-Karabakh war, and residents are carrying on with ordinary life in the midst of the so-called frozen conflict.
With its Crimean takeover, Russia has not only expanded its borders -- it's also reclaimed miles of sunny, storied beachfront property. Here's a look at Crimea's history as a prime holiday destination.
RFE/RL's Frud Bezhan took these pictures at various voter-registration centers in and around Kabul on April 1, the last day of registration for Afghanistan's presidential and provincial elections on April 5.
Ahead of Afghanistan's presidential election on April 5, painters in the southern city of Kandahar are using public art to encourage voters to take part. The street-art initiative, called "Vote," was organized by three NGOs in an effort to encourage participation in the democratic process. The call to vote comes amid threats from Taliban militants, who have pledged that they will target voters as well as observers and candidates on election day. (RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan)
Born 100 years ago in Brno on March 28, Bohumil Hrabal was one of the most important Czech writers of the 20th century.
A group of women in Iran's capital has discovered parkour, the fast-moving sport that blends acrobatics and gymnastics, and made it their outlet for evading social constraints and coping with stress. (AFP)
Our weekly compilation of some of the most compelling photographs from RFE/RL's broadcast region and beyond.
The United States has levied a new set of sanctions against Russia, targeting some of the most powerful people in the country, including members of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. Here are some of those individuals.
Some of the world’s leading architects have petitioned Russian President Vladimir Putin to save Moscow's iconic Shukhov Radio Tower from destruction. In February 2014, the Federal Ministry of Communications agreed to the dismantling of the work of early Soviet constructivism with the hope of reconstructing it elsewhere -- but a final decision by Russian authorities is expected by March 24.
The first day of spring is celebrated as Norouz, the Persian new year, and is marked on March 21. Across the Middle East, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and elsewhere, Norouz means several days of music, dancing, eating, and other festivities as families celebrate the popular holiday. (18 PHOTOS)
Several hundred Crimean Tatars attended the funeral of a man reportedly abducted and tortured for protesting against the Russian annexation of the peninsula. Simferopol resident Reshat Ametov was found dead on March 16 -- nearly two weeks after he participated in a March 3 protest against the Russian troop presence in Crimea. (Photos by RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service)
Voting began on March 16 in a disputed referendum in Crimea, the Ukrainian region currently occupied by Russian troops, where inhabitants are being asked whether the peninsula should secede and become part of the Russian Federation or remain in Ukraine. The Ukrainian government and Western states say the vote is "illegitimate," while Moscow insists it is "in line with international law."
Kyiv's Independence Square is quieter and emptier than it was when it became the epicenter of the Maidan protests. Some of the people who remain attempt to busy themselves with errands, chopping wood for fires, or delivering food. Others simply sit, staring into the distance, contemplating Ukraine's uncertain future even as they recover from violent clashes that claimed more than 80 lives. Ordinary residents still make a regular pilgrimage to the square, where mounds of flowers and makeshift memorials continue to honor the victims.
In early March, The Center for Documentary Photography in Moscow, FotoDoc, opened a photo exhibition entitled "Them," which presents the work of 20 photojournalists about the life of migrant workers Russia. (17 PHOTOS)
After Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fled Kyiv with his inner circle on the night of February 21-22, activists and journalists quickly occupied the lavish presidential residence he had abandoned. Investigators have been combing through the mansion in search of evidence of government corruption, and the residence was closed to the public on March 10. RFE/RL correspondent Natalie Sedletska filed these photos from the inside of Yanukovych's residence. (9 PHOTOS)
During his travels throughout the former Soviet Union, Canadian photographer Christopher Herwig discovered that the region's bus stops constitute an unexplored world of Soviet-era public art. The relative insignificance of these structures allowed Soviet authorities to give free rein to the local administrators, architects, and artists tasked with designing them. The result was a wide variety of creative expression in the unlikeliest of locales. (15 PHOTOS)
Western magazine covers are having a field day with Russia's military occupation of Crimea, portraying President Vladimir Putin variously as an arsonist, a strait-jacketed crazy, or a devilish, Brezhnevesque presence. Russian-language publications, meanwhile, are largely taking a less strident approach.
March 11 marks the third anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In Koriyama, near the crippled nuclear plant, city officials recommended shortly after the disaster that children under two years old not spend more than 15 minutes outside each day to avoid radiation exposure. Those aged three to five should limit their outdoor time to 30 minutes or less. The limits were lifted last year, but many kindergartens and nursery schools continue to obey them, in line with the wishes of worried parents. (13 PHOTOS)
The village of Deman, some 300 kilometers from Baku on Azerbaijan's border with Iran, has just 99 inhabitants. Most of the village's former residents were evacuated in 1953 after a border dispute between Iran and the Soviet Union, which resulted in the area being turned into an unoccupied zone. Today, some families persevere in the remote village, and the no-man's-land has become a pasture, accessible only by passing through border posts. (Photos by Abbas Atilay, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service)
Russia and Ukraine have been locked in a tense stand-off since Russia's upper house of parliament approved the deployment of its forces in Crimea on March 1. Armed men -- without military insignia, but believed to be Russian -- have been guarding airports and government buildings on the Crimean peninsula, while more forces were massing near the Kerch Strait, which separates Crimea from Russia. (11 PHOTOS)
Crowds of ethnic Russians and Crimean Tatars clashed in Simferopol in southern Ukraine on February 26 during protests near the parliament building. The opposing demonstrations were sparked by growing calls for the Crimea region to secede from the rest of the country.The following day, armed men occupied the parliament building as well as another government facility and raised the Russian flag.
The main events of the final day of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics in photos. Russia takes two gold medals. Canada wins the men's ice hockey gold medal match against Sweden. Sochi marks the end of the games with an elaborate closing ceremony.
Yulia Tymoshenko's release, funerals in Kyiv, Winter Olympics action, and Pussy Riot protests -- some of the most compelling photographs from RFE/RL's broadcast region and beyond.
Protesters have remained on Kyiv's Independence Square, saying farewell to the dead and protecting their positions after the intense political violence that shook the country and its leadership.
Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was released from a prison hospital in Kharkiv following a parliamentary vote granting her freedom. She had been imprisoned on abuse of office charges since 2011 that were widely seen as politically motivated.
The selected events of the day in photos from the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Day 15, February 22: On the penultimate of the games, the bronze medal game for men's ice hockey was decided, Russia took two gold medals, and Norway's women skiers took all the medals in cross country mass start event.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych left Kyiv while antigovernment protesters took control of the capital's government district and even the grounds of the presidential country house. Many funerals were also held for protesters killed in the recent violent clashes.
Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been a key figure in Ukrainian politics since the country's 2005 Orange Revolution. RFE/RL takes a look at the ups and downs of her dramatic career.
The selected events of the day in photos from the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Day 14, February 21: men's ice-hockey reached the semifinals, the first announced doping case in Sochi, and the Ukrainian women's biathlon relay victory.
The body count mounted dramatically in Kyiv on February 20 as fighting between antigovernment protesters and security forces escalated. Field hospitals were hastily improvised in hotel lobbies in Independence Squares to care for the injured, as video footage showed that some security forces were apparently using live ammunition and sniper rifles. There have been dozens of deaths since fighting broke out on February 18.
The selected events of the day in photos from the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Day 13, February 20:
France won all three medals in men's freestyle cross skiing and several of the biggest women's events reached their conclusion.
Cossacks attacked the Pussy Riot punk group with whips and pepper spray on February 19 as the group tried to perform under a sign advertising the Sochi Olympics. The group had gathered to perform in a downtown Sochi restaurant, about 30 kilometers from where the Winter Olympics are being held. They left the restaurant wearing bright dresses and ski masks and had only been performing for a few seconds when they were set upon by Cossacks.
The best images from the 12th day of the Sochi Olympics: Hosts Russia are dumped out of the men's ice hockey competition by Finland, while U.S. skier Ted Ligety wins his second Olympic gold medal after a wait of eight years.
Buildings and barricades burned on Kyiv's Independence Square after a day and night of clashes that left 26 people dead. The deadly violence on February 18 was the worst since Ukraine's mass antigovernment protests began three months ago.
The main events of the day in photos from the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Day 11, February 18: Russian Nikolai Olyunin won silver in the snowboard men's cross, Slovenian Tina Maze won the ladies' giant slalom, Norway's Emil Hegle Svendsen won gold in the men's mass-start biathlon, and the Dutch filled the podium in men's speed skating.
Crimea is Ukraine's only region where ethnic Russians are a majority, comprising approximately 60 percent of its 2 million population. From the 18th century until just 60 years ago this week, the peninsula was part of Russia. And as Ukraine's turmoil shakes the region's ethnic and religious fault lines, there is increasing talk that perhaps it should be again.
Darya Domracheva of Belarus won the 12.5-kilometer women's biathlon. The men's biathlon and men's snowboarding-cross competitions were called off, due to the heavy fog, and Russia won gold in the two-man bobsled competition.
Photos of the main events of the day from the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. On Day 9, February 16, Norway celebrated alpine skiing wins, the U.S. hockey team moved on to the quarterfinals, and Russian ice dancers performed at the Iceberg Palace.
The main events of the day in photos from the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Day 8, February 15: The United States tops Russia in men's hockey group play, Austria takes gold in the women's Super G, and China wins a speed skating competition.
The main events of the day in photos from the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. Day 7, February 14. Soaring temperatures wreak havoc, the women's 15-kilometer biathlon is twice as nice for Belarus, the Swiss take cross-country and super-combined gold, along with the women's skeleton, women's freestyle skiing, and men's free skating.
The results are in from the 57th World Press Photo Contest, where the winning photo shows African migrants on the shore of Djibouti City. Other winners cover events from the fighting in Syria to South Africans' reactions to the death of Nelson Mandela.
On February 14, 1989, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ruled that British writer Salman Rushdie's book "The Satanic Verses" was "blasphemous against Islam" and an Iranian religious foundation offered a bounty for the author's assassination.
The main events of each day in photos at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. Day 6, February 13: The skeleton competition begins, figure skater Yevgeny Plushenko pulls out, and Russia launches its bid to win the Olympic men's ice hockey title with a win over Slovenia.
British figure skaters Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean have returned to Bosnia-Herzegovina to recreate their gold-winning performance 30 years after the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo.
On February 15, 1989, Soviet forces officially completed the nine-month process of leaving Afghanistan. The withdrawal came after nearly a decade of war, which had killed more than 14,000 Soviet soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Afghan combatants and civilians. (12 PHOTOS)
The first dead heat for gold in the history of the Winter Olympics took place in Sochi on Day 5, February 12, as the preliminary round begins in men's ice hockey.
The main events of each day in photos at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. Day 4, February 11: the women's ski jump makes its Olympic debut, while there are complaints from some athletes and officials about the snowboard and ski courses being dangerous and not well planned.
The main events of each day in photos at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Day 3, February 10, four more sets of medals were won between many trainings, preliminary rounds and heats.
The main events of each day at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Day 2, February 9, the busiest day with eight finals.
Thirty-five years ago, the monarchy of the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was toppled and replaced by a government led by Islamic cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. On February 11, 1979, revolutionary forces and rebel troops seized control in Iran, paving the way for Khomeini's elevation to power.
The Sochi Olympics are now in full swing a day after the winter games were declared officially open on February 7 by Russian President Vladimir Putin. February 8 saw plenty of action in a number of disciplines, including snowboarding, downhill and cross-country skiing, speed and figure skating, and the biathlon.
An uneasy calm has now descended on Sarajevo and other Bosnian cities, which have been wracked by fierce protests in recent days. Many locations have been left scarred by violent demonstrations over accusations of corruption among government officials and the state of the country's economy. Bosnia is facing intensifying economic and social problems nearly 20 years after the end of the 1992-1995 civil war. The country of some 3.8 million people is one of the poorest in Europe, with many residents living below official poverty lines. It is estimated that more than 40 percent of Bosnians are unemployed or underemployed. (RFE/RL's Balkan Service)
With a spectacular show of lights, fireworks, and pageantry, the opening ceremony for the Sochi Olympics kick-started the games on February 7. Russian President Vladimir Putin was in attendance to officially announce the beginning of the event.
Thirty-four years before the Winter Games in Sochi, the Soviet Union played host to the Summer Olympics in Moscow. Here is a look back at the opening ceremonies on July 19, 1980. (8 PHOTOS)
Ukrainian antigovernment activist Dmytro Bulatov has described being abducted in Kyiv and tortured by his captors for a week. After his release, he traveled to Lithuania for treatment of his injuries. Speaking at a press conference on February 6, he said that he was beaten "hard and professionally" and interrogated every day. These photographs, provided by Bulatov's doctors in Lithuania, show the injuries he suffered.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had hoped to use the 2014 Sochi Olympics to showcase a Russia that had recovered from the post-Soviet tumult of the 1990s. But his Olympics project has been beset from the outset with questions of corruption, fears over security, and anger over a law banning gay "propaganda" that passed last year. As the Olympics begin, cover art for major western magazines has focused on these issues in lieu of sport.
In onetime Olympic city, Sarajevo, the infrastructure built for the 1984 Winter Games is slowly turning to rubble. Bosnia-Herzegovina's war of the early 1990s, followed by years of neglect, left its 1984 Olympic sites decaying and forgotten.
Olympic games aren't just about athletic excellence. It seems they are also a competition of colorful and sometimes questionable clothing choices. Here's a look at the occasionally far out fashions that teams and competitors from around the world are sporting.
The campaign for Afghanistan's April 5 presidential election has gotten under way. Colorful signs, billboards, and posters have gone up around the country. Eleven candidates are vying to succeed President Hamid Karzai. (Photos by RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, Sabawoon)
Just before the Winter Olympics open on February 7, many facilities in the Russian host city of Sochi remain unfinished. Workers are under pressure to clear construction rubble, fix sewer systems, and pave the streets before the games begin.
Athletes competing at the Sochi Winter Olympics stand to gain tens -- or even hundreds -- of thousands of dollars if they bring home a gold medal. But some of the highest cash bonuses are being offered by countries that are not expected to win any gongs at Sochi, since winter sports such as skiing or curling are not their specialty. (Written by Antoine Blua based on reporting by RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani, Armenian, Belarusian, and Ukrainian services)
The Azerbaijani village of Nugedi is home to a unique 19th-century mosque. Built with a wooden frame and decorated with carved wood, it is registered as a historic monument. But, in spite of its protected status, the structure is slowly crumbling and the community has no funds to repair it.
On February 6, 2004, an explosion struck a metro train in Moscow, killing at least 41 people and injuring more than 150 others. The blast went off on board a car traveling between the Paveletskaya and Avtozavodskaya stations, near the center of the capital. The explosion -- identified as a suicide bombing -- started a large fire, complicating rescue efforts. Just six months later, the Moscow metro would be struck again by another deadly suicide attack. (11 PHOTOS)
Heavy snowfalls over the last few days have caused traffic chaos, electricity shortages, and other difficulties in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan.
From preparations for the Chinese New Year to the protests in Kyiv --some of the most compelling images from RFE/RL's broadcast region and beyond.
With Ukrainian protesters occupying several key buildings in Kyiv, the heart of the demonstrations -- Independence Square -- continues to live a life of its own. Antigovernment activists, some of whom have been living on the square for two months, are waiting for opposition leaders' negotiations with the government to move forward. Meanwhile, they fill their time preparing food, battling the cold, and sometimes just playing chess. (Photos by Franak Viachorka, RFE/RL's Belarus Service)
Illustrator Oleksandr Kom'yakhov and journalist Andriy Pryimachenko have joined forces to produce portraits of Ukraine's Euromaidan protesters.
Long before it hosted the Olympics, the resort city of Sochi was the holiday home of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, who had a summer residence built there in 1937. Stalin's dacha, still furnished with some of the original decorations, is now open for visits from tour groups. (10 PHOTOS)
Ukrainian protesters took over a building in Kyiv early on January 26 after opposition leaders spoke to the crowds in Independence Square, vowing to continue their struggle. The protesters had allowed several hundred police to leave the building, known as Ukrainian House, before moving in and occupying it.
The tense standoff between protesters and riot police continues in Kyiv as unrest spreads further throughout the country, especially in western Ukraine. (11 PHOTOS)
Russia is marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the Siege of Leningrad on January 27, 1944. The siege by German and Finnish forces during World War II lasted for 872 days -- one of the longest and deadliest in history. Estimates of casualties vary, but some sources state that 1 million residents of Leningrad -- present-day St. Petersburg -- died from hunger, disease, exposure, and shelling. (10 PHOTOS)
A day after intense clashes between protesters and riot police left at least three people dead, activists in Kyiv set fire to tires and barricades, filling the streets with smoke. The main opposition leaders have called on their supporters to refrain from violence, but they have threatened that antigovernment protesters will go "on the offensive" unless President Viktor Yanukovych calls an early election. (16 PHOTOS)
On January 24, 1984, the first "Mac" was released. It is considered the first commercially successful personal computer to use a mouse and a graphical user interface, which was modeled after a desktop.
Ninety years ago, on January 25, 1924, the first Winter Olympic Games opened in Chamonix, France. Initially known as Semaine des Sports d'Hiver (International Winter Sports Week), the games were associated with the 1924 Summer Olympics and were later designated as the first Winter Olympic Games. The small mountain resort town invested heavily to build a bobsled run and an ice rink and improve its existing ski jump. (15 PHOTOS)
A legal team commissioned by the Qatari government says it has verified the authenticity of a collection of photos of torture victims in Syria. The large collection images are said to show 11,000 bodies and victims of starvation, torture, and execution. They were reportedly smuggled out of Syria by a police photographer. (Warning: graphic images)
Clashes between riot police and antigovernment protesters have shaken the Ukrainian capital since January 19, when thousands gathered to protest harsh new legislation restricting demonstrations. Hundreds of people have been reported injured in the unrest. Protesters threw rocks and petrol bombs, setting fire to cars and buses and using the debris to build barricades in the streets. (Photos by Pavlo Zubyuk, RFE/RL)
January 21 is the 90th anniversary of the death of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the founder of the Bolshevik party and the Soviet state. Here's a look at the life of one of the most influential political figures of the 20th century.
Protests broke out January 15 in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh after long-time mayor Melis Myrzakmatov was defeated in indirect elections. City lawmakers voted 25-19 to elect Aitmamat Kadyrbaev, the former deputy governor of the Osh region and an ally of Kyrgyz Prime Minister Jantoro Satybaldiev. (RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Ernist Nurmatov)
A new building housing the Gazi Husrev-Beg Library, a collection of more than 100,000 mainly Arabic and Turkish texts, has opened in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The library was founded in 1537 by Gazi Husrev-beg, a provincial governor of Bosnia under Ottoman rule, who also financed many buildings in Sarajevo's old city. The location of the collection was moved many times throughout its history; during Bosnia's war of the 1990s, the collection was housed in eight different locations. The newly built library was funded by donations from Qatar. (Photos by Midhat Poturović, RFE/RL's Balkan Service)
The village of Kandovan in Iran's East Azerbaijan Province is home to ancient cliff dwellings, some of them inhabited for as long as 700 years.
Organizers at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, who had been slammed for forcing players to play on in searing temperatures on January 14-15, enacted the third stage of their "Extreme Heat Policy" for the first time on January 16. Play would continue in all matches until the end of the ongoing set and then cease until conditions eased, a statement said.
On January 16, 1969, 20-year-old student Jan Palach set himself on fire in Prague in protest against the August 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops. He died of his burns three days later. Palach's funeral turned into a mass demonstration of opposition against the Soviet Union's crushing of the liberal reforms of the Prague Spring. His act of protest inspired two other Czechs -- Jan Zajic and Evzen Plocek -- to commit suicide by self-immolation in the following months, followed by several in other communist countries. In 1989, on the 20th anniversary of Palach's death, gatherings in his memory turned into mass anticommunist protests, giving momentum to the Velvet Revolution that brought down the communist regime later that year.
Some of the most compelling photographs from RFE/RL's broadcast region and beyond, including refugees in South Sudan, demonstrations in Ukraine, and Dennis Rodman in North Korea.
Since January 7, Sarajevans have been paying tribute to legendary shoe cleaner "Uncle Miso," who died at the age of 83 after more than 60 years working on the streets, even during the 1992-95 war.
Georgia's breakaway territory of Abkhazia borders Russia and is just a few dozen kilometers from the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, which will host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in February.
Most Orthodox and Eastern Rite Christians celebrate Christmas according to the Julian calendar on January 7, two weeks after Christians who observe the holiday using the Gregorian calendar. Here's a look at how the Orthodox holiday was observed in a number of different countries, from Eastern Europe to the Middle East.
Twenty-one contestants over the age of 70 took part in a special Super Grandmother and Super Grandfather competition in Tbilisi on January 6.
A severe cold snap has struck the Midwest of the United States and is expected to spread to the Northeast, which has already seen several days of heavy snowfall. The unusual weather conditions, known as a "polar vortex," could send local temperatures to their lowest points in 20 years. Authorities in many places have urged residents to stay indoors and stock up on food, while the National Weather Service described the cold as "life-threatening." More than 1,300 flights were canceled on January 5 at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, one of the country's busiest airports.
As early as 1899, French artists were imagining the world as it would look in the 21st century. Works by Jean-Marc Cote and other artists were first produced for the World Exposition in Paris, and were later enclosed in cigarette and cigar boxes. The drawings, described by the artists as utopian in view, envisioned everything from mechanized barber shops and flying policemen to diving underwater -- to fish for seagulls flying overhead.
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