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Roman Nasirov attends a court hearing in Kyiv in March 2017.

The Ukrainian government has fired tax and customs service chief Roman Nasirov, who was suspended from the post after his arrest on suspicion of embezzlement in March 2017.

Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman said on January 31 that the State Commission for Senior State Service Personnel had approved the government's recommendation that Nasirov be dismissed.

Nasirov is being investigated on suspicion of defrauding the state of 2 billion hryvnyas ($70 million).

He is one of the highest officials to face prosecution in Ukraine, whose pro-Western government is under pressure from the United States, the European Union, and donor organizations to tackle a deep-seated graft problem.

Nasirov was arrested after the National Anticorruption Bureau accused him of signing off on grace periods for a number of taxpayers, including companies linked to a former lawmaker who fled the country in 2016 while facing a corruption investigation.

Shortly after his arrest, he was released on bail but ordered to wear an electronic bracelet and barred from leaving Kyiv without investigators' permission.

Western officials say corruption hurts Ukraine's chances of throwing off the influence of Russia, which seized the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and backs separatists whose war with Kyiv has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, UNIAN and 5 Kanal
Pavel Nikulin (file photo)

Police in Moscow have questioned an independent journalist who came under fire from the state last year over an article about a Russian man who joined Islamist militants in Syria.

Before taking Pavel Nikulin for questioning, police searched his apartment on January 31, saying that he was a witness in a case related to suspicions of terrorist training, a lawyer for the NGO Open Russia said.

Nikulin wrote on Telegram later that he had been released after questioning.

Lawyer Roman Klimov said police confiscated Nikulin's electronic devices, copies of Moloko Plus -- the magazine he edits -- and T-shirts with the magazine's logo.

Earlier, Nikulin wrote on Twitter that police came to his home to conduct a search in a case related to his article in The New Times magazine.

In June 2017, a Moscow court fined The New Times for publishing Nikulin's article about a young ethnic Russian man from the city of Kaluga, near Moscow, who converted to Islam and joined Islamist militants in Syria.

Before the court ruling, Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor warned The New Times that Nikulin's article contained elements of the "justification of terrorism."

The New Times' editor, Yevgenia Albats, called Roskomnadzor's warning "classic censorship" at the time, noting that President Vladimir Putin had publicly said many times that thousands of Russia citizens had joined Islamist militants in Syria.

Rights groups say Putin's government uses legislation that is ostensibly aimed at fighting extremism and terrorism to target Kremlin critics and silent dissent.

With reporting by Mediazona

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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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