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Savchenko Back In Parliament After Release From Jail
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KYIV -- Ukrainian lawmaker Nadia Savchenko has returned to parliament a week after she was unexpectedly released from jail, where she had been held for more than a year over allegations that she plotted a terrorist attack on parliament.

Speaking on April 23, Savchenko vowed to remain in politics and said she does not plan to be in opposition to Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who defeated incumbent Petro Poroshenko by a wide margin in an April 21 presidential runoff election.

"It was enough for me to read [his] program. Many points there are those I was talking about three years ago," Savchenko said without giving details. "I saw in Zelenskiy's program everything that had to be there. I think that must be supported."

Savchenko, who returned from Russia a hero following two years in prison there but was arrested in her home country in March 2018, was freed on April 16 because the term of her pretrial detention expired and had not been extended.

Savchenko said she will continue to work as a lawmaker in the Verkhovna Rada "because I was sworn in to the Ukrainian people."

"As for my political future, yes, I will stay in politics. I will not be alone. I have a team," she said.

Savchenko's release was the latest twist in a dramatic series of events for her, who for a time was a hero of the war that has killed some 13,000 people in the eastern region known as the Donbas since Russia fomented unrest and backed separatists after pro-European protests drove Moscow-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych from power in 2014.

Savchenko says she was abducted in the combat zone later that year and taken to Russia. She spent two years in prison there, defying the Kremlin with a series of hunger strikes, and returned to a hero's welcome in Kyiv when she was released as part of a prisoner swap in May 2016.

Elected to the Verkhovna Rada while still in Russian captivity, she had declared her intention to run in this year's presidential election. But she was stripped of her parliamentary immunity on March 22, 2018, a week after Lutsenko accused her of plotting to destroy the Rada’s roof cupola with mortar shells, kill surviving lawmakers with assault-rifle fire, and overthrow the government.

Savchenko has maintained her innocence. She said in March 2018 that undercover agents attempting to discredit her encouraged her to plan to overthrow the government, and that she pretended to go along with the conspiracy in a bid to embarrass the authorities and expose what she said was their duplicity.

Before her arrest Savchenko had drawn fire from several political camps, facing criticism for holding talks with the separatists without government consent and for comments nationalists said indicated she advocated accepting Moscow's seizure of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.

After Savchenko 's release, Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko said that the accusations against her remain in place.

Ukrainian media reports said that the next hearing in the case was scheduled for May 7.

With reporting by Unian, Gordon, and Interfax
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon

DUSHANBE -- Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has canceled a government decision to increase Internet fees in the Central Asian country in the face of online protests.

Tajik presidential spokesman Adbufattoh Sharifzoda told RFE/RL on April 23 that Rahmon ordered the government and the Antimonopoly Service to restore the previous, lower rates for Internet services.

Earlier in the day, the presidential press service said Antimonopoly Service chief Sadi Qodirzoda had been dismissed from his duties "due to his transfer to another job."

The press service said Qodirzoda will now serve as a deputy chief of the presidential administration.

Ikromiddin Valizoda, who was deputy chief of the government's Agency for Standardization, was appointed as the new chief of the Antimonopoly Service, the press service said.

Qodizoda's removal from the post comes amid criticism of his leadership at the Antimonopoly Service, which last month ordered all Internet providers in the country to nearly double the minimum fee for Internet connections, as of April 18.

Tajik Internet users started paying at least 62 somonis ($6.50) per gigabyte. Before that, the fee was a maximum of 35 somonis per gigabyte.

The move has been criticized among Internet users across Tajikistan, one of the poorest countries in the former Soviet Union.

Activists have in the past two days been collecting signatures in support of a petition urging President Emomali Rahmon and the Prosecutor-General's Office to cancel the Antimonopoly Service decree.

One of the organizers of the campaign launched on April 22, Shahlo Ibrohimova told RFE/RL that professors at the Russian-Tajik Slavonic University in Dushanbe, questioned students on April 23, trying to learn the names of those involved.

"Teachers warned a student who was collecting signatures that she could be expelled," Ibrohimova said.

According to Ibrohimova, more than 200 people have signed the petition.

Officials have said the price hike was a "a necessary step" to take the youth "out of the virtual world back to reality."

The decision received the support of a prominent Tajik Salafist cleric, Eshoni Sirojiddin Abdurakhmonov, who called the Internet "the century’s plague" while claiming that it leads to “debauchery and adultery and provokes cheating."

Critics accuse Rahmon’s government of systematic rights abuses and censorship.

Rahmon, 66, holds titles including Founder of the Peace and National Unity of Tajikistan and Leader of the Nation, and enjoys lifelong immunity from prosecution according to a law he endorsed in December 2015.

He has been in power in Tajikistan since 1992 -- a year after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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