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Ukrainian journalist Taras Ibrahimov (file photo)

Russia's Border Guard Service, a branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB), has banned Ukrainian journalist Taras Ibrahimov from entering Russia and the Russian-occupied Ukrainian region of Crimea until the middle of 2054.

Ibrahimov, who works with the Crimea Desk of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, told RFE/RL on January 18 that he had been handed the order in person without explanation.

"I definitely believe this is connected with my journalism and my work for publications that actively cover the cases of Crimean Tatars in Crimea and in Russia," Ibrahimov said.

He said that he was also photographed and fingerprinted at the administrative line between Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014, and the rest of Ukraine.

In February 2019, photographer Alina Smutko, who also worked with the Crimea Desk of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, was banned from entering Crimea and Russia until 2028.

In November 2018, another Ukrainian journalist who also works with the Crimea Desk of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, Alena Savchuk, was also banned from entering Crimea and Russia until 2028.

Rights groups and Western governments have denounced what they describe as a campaign of repression by the Russian-imposed authorities against Crimean Tatars and others who have spoken out against Moscow's military seizure and occupation of the peninsula.

In its annual global report on freedom of religion in 2019, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said that "Russian authorities continued to kidnap, torture, and imprison Crimean Tatar Muslims at will" in Russia-occupied Crimea.

Iranian Brigadier General Hassan Shahvarpour (file photo)

The United States has imposed sanctions on a senior military Iranian official over a crackdown on anti-government protesters, the State Department announced on January 17.

Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Brigadier General Hassan Shahvarpour was banned from entering the United States for his role in crushing protests in November in the southwestern city of Mahshahr.

“General Shahvarpour was in command of units responsible for the violent crackdown and lethal repression around Mahshahr," U.S. special envoy for Iran Brian Hook said, adding that Shahvarpour's designation was the result of photographic and video tips submitted to the department by Iranians.

"He oversaw the massacre of 148 helpless Iranians in the Mahshahr region," Hook told a news conference.

The department has received more than 88,000 such tips since it appealed for Iranians to report evidence of repression and gross human rights abuses, Hook said.

Tehran has denied accusations by the United States and human rights watchdogs of widespread repression but has acknowledged confronting separatists in Mahshahr that it said were armed.

Mahshahr, home to many from Iran's Arab minority, was a hotbed of protests that broke out after an abrupt hike in fuel prices.

Despite a fiery sermon on January 17 by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Hook said that Iran did not appear to be escalating the military conflict following the killing earlier this month of Major General Qasem Soleimani, the powerful head of Iran's elite Quds Forces in a U.S. air strike in Baghdad.

"They appear to be standing down for now," Hook said. "But we have a combination of maximum economic pressure and restoring deterrence by the credible threat of military force if attacked."

Based on reporting by AP and AFP

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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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