U.S. Says Kabul Ready To Handle Aid Directly
The agreement recognizes that the Afghan Ministry of Public Health and the Afghan Ministry of Finance now have the capacity to fully manage donor funding.
The U.S. Agency for International Development, which is disbursing the aid, says the Afghan Ministry of Public Health has demonstrated "effective oversight of its funding, transparency and accountability in procurement and project management, and has achieved concrete results that have benefited the Afghan people."
In 2009, the first year of the agreement, the United States will provide more than $37 million directly to the Ministry of Public Health. The money is meant to be used to continue providing basic health services in thirteen Afghan provinces.
Audits and annual reviews are to be conducted to ensure that the full funding continues to go directly to priorities set by the Afghan government.
Afghan officials had complained at a donors conference in Paris last month that most aid for Afghanistan is being channeled through foreign firms or foreign nongovernmental organizations -- preventing Afghan institutions from strengthening their own financial capacities.
Most donor countries have expressed concerns about providing aid directly through the Afghan government because of corruption and poor management.
But at the Paris conference, the Afghan government agreed to allow professional audits -- including joint audits with donors -- of programs that are financed by aid sent through Afghanistan's core and external budgets.
In return, donors agreed that their development assistance would be delivered in a more coordinated way. They pledged that aid would increasingly be channeled through Afghanistan's national budget as government institutions become more accountable and acquire greater capacity for management. The donors also said they will try to provide aid in a way that promotes local procurement and capacity-building.
Afghan Finance Minister Anwar-ul Haq Ahady says he has always encouraged donors to channel more funds through the Afghan budget in order to increase aid effectiveness. He says that with the new aid agreement, the United States is making headway on the issue.
"This large grant to our core budget clearly shows that the United States is becoming more confident that our ministries have improved substantially and are able to administer funds efficiently and effectively," Ahady said. "We hope that this will encourage other donors to follow a similar path."
All Of The Latest News
Russian Woman Among Alleged Members Of Extremist Group Arrested In Germany
A Russian woman was among more than two dozen suspects detained in Germany on December 7 during nationwide raids on an extremist group linked to the Reichsbuerger movement that allegedly aimed to overthrow the government. According to German prosecutors, the detained Russian citizen is suspected of facilitating unsuccessful attempts to make contact between a would-be group leader and Russian officials. The Russian Embassy in Berlin has denied any links with the group, while Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the arrests an internal issue for Germany. To read the original story from RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.
Iranian Students Say They Were Beaten Back Ahead Of Speech By Raisi At Tehran University
Students at Tehran University say they were beaten back by security forces as they tried to hold a protest as President Ebrahim Raisi arrived to deliver a speech amid anti-government unrest that has rocked the country since the September death of a young woman while in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly.
The Students' Union Council Telegram channel on December 7 said several students were injured and left bloodied by the attacking security forces.
Each year on December 7, which is Student Day in Iran, demonstrations are organized by many universities at which students put forward democratic demands.
WATCH: General strikes have been held for a third day in Iran, with shops and factories closed across the country. Meanwhile, students at Tehran University said they were beaten by security forces ahead of a speech on campus by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
Besides such issues as academic rights, freedom of speech, and academic independence from the government, the demands also often reflect broader democratic movements in Iran, including this year's protest movement that has built up across the country since Mahsa Amini died in Tehran on September 16.
Students have been one of the main forces behind the unrest, which has been met by security officials with a brutal, and often deadly, crackdown.
Raisi, an ultra-conservative leader, arrived at the school and in a speech held in front of a selected group of pro-government students said that "protest is different from rioting" and that it was rioters who were "unjustly killing our loved ones."
While Raisi spoke, many students gathered in different parts of the university and chanted slogans against the government, as well as the slogan "Women, Life, Freedom."
Reports from other universities, including AmirKabir University in Tehran, and other universities in Mashhad said students were severely beaten there as well.
An eyewitness from Ferdowsi University in Mashhad said that a gathering of students there was "attacked" by security forces.
Meanwhile, nationwide strikes at businesses and shops continued for a third day.
Videos received by RFERL’s Radio Farda showed shopkeepers in Isfahan, Bukan, and Tehran on strike in support of the protests.
The government has responded to almost three months of unrest with deadly force as it tries to suppress one of the deepest challenges to the Islamic regime since the revolution in 1979.
The activist HRANA news agency said that, as of November 29, at least 459 protesters had been killed during the unrest, including 64 minors.
Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda
Time Magazine Announces Ukraine's Zelenskiy As Person Of The Year For 2022
Time magazine says it has chosen Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and the "Spirit of Ukraine" as its person of the year for 2022 for standing up in the face of Russia's invasion. Noting that the 44-year-old leader had no military background or interest in military affairs, he instead used instincts honed "from a lifetime as an actor on the stage" to guide him through the country's most difficult hour. "Zelenskiy's success as a wartime leader has relied on the fact that courage is contagious," the magazine said in an article making the announcement on December 7. To read the original story by Time, click here.
Kyrgyz Musician Seeks Compensation From Kazakhstan For Beating In Custody
BISHKEK -- A well-known Kyrgyz jazz musician who was severely beaten while detained by police in Kazakhstan during deadly anti-government protests in January will seek financial compensation from Astana after an investigation into his treatment by police officers is complete.
Vikram Ruzakhunov's lawyer, Bakyt Avtandil, told RFE/RL on December 6 that the move will be made after the ongoing evidence-checking process and the investigation end.
Ruzakhunov, who says he suffered a chest injury, broken ribs, a concussion, and multiple bruises while in custody, visited Kazakhstan in September after Kazakh officials launched a probe into his beating in Almaty.
Anti-government protests sparked by a fuel-price hike erupted in Kazakhstan in early January. President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev has publicly blamed what he said were "extremists" trained abroad for attacking Almaty during the unrest. He has not produced any evidence to back up the claim.
Ruzakhunov's situation was amplified when a Kazakh television channel showed a video in which he said he was recruited by an unspecified group to take part in the unrest for $200. In the video, severe bruises can be seen on Ruzakhunov's face, backing up his claims that he was forced to make the statement.
The video sparked protests in Kyrgyzstan, where Ruzakhunov was immediately recognized by fans. He was freed several days after his arrest and allowed to go to Bishkek after the Kyrgyz government demanded his release.
Kazakh officials said earlier that six people were tortured to death after being arrested for taking part in the protests, and 238 people died during or after the unrest, which was violently dispersed by law enforcement and the armed forces.
The Kazakh Prosecutor-General's Office has said 25 people were officially considered victims of torture as investigators used hot irons during their interrogations.
Human rights groups insist that the number of killed during the unrest may be much bigger, presenting proof that many peaceful demonstrators and persons who had nothing to do with the protesters were killed by police and military personnel following Toqaev's "shoot-to-kill-without-warning" order.
In July, police in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, concluded that Kazakh authorities had inflicted severe injuries on Ruzakhunov's body during his illegal arrest in January.
Belarusian Lawmakers Approve Death Penalty For High Treason By Officials, Military
Amid fears that Russia plans new attacks along with the Belarusian military against Ukraine from Belarusian territory, Belarusian lawmakers approved in the first reading on December 7 a bill that envisages the death penalty for high treason committed by officials and military personnel. The bill also includes criminal prosecution for "spreading false information discrediting Belarusian armed forces." Russia adopted a similarly controversial law in March, days after it launched its ongoing invasion of Ukraine in late February. To read the original story from RFE/RL's Belarus Service, click here.
Russian Law Enforcement Officers Detain Man Suspected Of Opening Fire At Police
Police in Russia's Rostov region have apprehended a man suspected of opening fire with a machine gun at a group of police officers on December 6, wounding one of them. The region's governor, Vasily Golubev, said on Telegram on December 7 that the suspect was found in an abandoned building in the town of Novoshakhtinsk. Some media reports identified the man as Pavel Nikolin, a 38-year inmate of a penitentiary in Bashkortostan, who was recruited in prison to join the war in Ukraine but deserted with a machine gun. To read the original story from RFE/RL's Crimea.Realities, click here.
Media Oulets Express Support For TV Dozhd After Latvia Pulls License
More than 60 media outlets and independent journalists broadcasting and writing in Russian, including those based in Latvia, have expressed support for the independent Russian television channel Dozhd (Rain) after Latvia's electronic media authority revoked its broadcasting license.
The Latvia-based Meduza news website published a letter of support for Dozhd hours after the chairman of Latvia's National Electronic Media Council (NEPLP), Ivars Abolins, announced the license revocation on December 6, saying the decision, which takes force on December 8, was made "in connection with the threat to national security and public order."
Meduza's letter of support to Dozhd TV adds that statements saying "these violations pose a 'national security threat' are unconvincing," and that the television channel's position against Russia's war in Ukraine is "obvious" as it is critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin's policies.
"[Dozhd's] significance in countering Russian state propaganda is colossal. Roaring about 'national security' conceals what is actually a heavy blow to free speech and ultimately to European security as well," the letter says.
Dozhd said in a statement on Twitter earlier that the move was "unfair and absurd," adding that while it will cease broadcasting on cable, its YouTube station will continue to operate.
NEPLP granted Dozhd a broadcast license in June after it was forced to suspend operations in Russia in March amid pressure linked to its coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
On December 2, Dozhd was fined 10,000 euros ($10,468) for using a map of Russia with Ukraine's Moscow-annexed Crimea on it and calling Russian armed forces invading Ukraine "our army."
On the same day, Latvia's state security service said it had launched an investigation in connection with statements "which raise suspicions about the assistance provided by this TV channel to the soldiers of the Russian occupation forces in Ukraine."
Dozhd anchor Aleksei Korostelyov on December 1 called on the Dozhd audience to write about cases of violations of Russian laws during the recent mobilization in Russia and about war crimes. In making the request, he said:
"We hope we also helped many military personnel, namely by assisting with equipment and bare necessities on the front line."
The security service said in a news release, "No provision of support to the aggressor Russia is justifiable," it said, adding that anyone helping the Russian forces was subject to criminal liability.
Moscow Court Postpones Verdict, Sentencing Of Opposition Politician Ilya Yashin
A Moscow court has postponed until December 9 its verdict and sentence in the case of opposition politician Ilya Yashin, who is charged with spreading false information about the Russian military amid its ongoing invasion of Ukraine. The judge was scheduled to hand down a decision on December 7 but the court building was cleared after a bomb threat. Prosecutors seek nine years in prison for the outspoken Kremlin critic. The charge against Yashin stems from his YouTube posts about alleged crimes committed by the Russian military in the Ukrainian city of Bucha. To read the original story from RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.
Putin Signs Decree Increasing Number Of Police Officers To 938,000 by 2025
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree to increase the number of police officers in the country to 938,000 by 2025. According to the decree, dated December 5, the number of police in the country will be 922,000 next year, and 934,00 in 2024. After Moscow illegally annexed Ukraine's Crimea and threw support to pro-Russia separatists in 2014, the maximum number of the police personnel in the country was legally set at 894,000. Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, tens of thousands of Russians have been called up for military duty. To read the original story by RFE/RL's North.Realities, click here.
Belarus Plans 'Counterterrorism' Exercises Amid Concerns Of New Russian Attacks On Ukraine
The Belarusian Security Council says it plans to start a two-day program of moving military personnel and equipment on December 7 in "a counter-terrorism exercise." The announcement comes amid concerns that Russia may launch a new attack on Ukraine from Belarusian territory. Council officials told the BelTA state news agency that the move will include the transportation of vehicles and persons in unspecified parts of the country. To read the original story by BelTA, click here.
Russian Drones, Artillery Target Central Ukraine As Fighting Rages In East
Russian forces attacked several Ukrainian regions with kamikaze drones and heavy artillery, officials said on December 7, killing two people and wounding several others, as heavy fighting continued in the east a day after Moscow accused Kyiv of hitting an airfeld inside Russia.
In Kherson, Russian troops shelled the region 51 times the previous day, killing two people, Yaroslav Yanushevych, the head of the regional military administration, said on December 7.
Dnipropetrovsk Governor Valentyn Reznichenko said all Russian drones were destroyed by Ukrainian forces in the overnight attack.
"Military men from the East air command did a great job. We shot down all eight enemy drones that the enemy directed at the area,"Reznichenko wrote on Telegram.
He said Russian shelling targeted the Nikopol district and city, causing damage to gas pipelines, houses, and farm buildings, but no people were wounded.
"Nikopol suffered the most. Up to a dozen private houses, farm buildings, and gas pipelines were damaged in the city. Several shops, office buildings, and a college were destroyed by Russian shells," he said.
Russian troops also shelled two settlements in the Zaporizhzhya region, the head of the regional military administration, Oleksandr Starukh, said on December 7.
"Two houses were destroyed in one of the villages, and eight more were damaged. "We know about three wounded, including a 15-year-old girl," said Starukh.
In Washington, U.S. lawmakers agreed to provide Ukraine at least $800 million in additional security assistance next year, according to a defense policy bill unveiled on December 6.
WATCH: Soviet-era T-72 tanks are getting new optics, armor, and more at a Czech facility in Sternberk, thanks in part to the efforts of Ukrainian refugees working there.
The Fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, authorizes the additional spending for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, an increase of $500 million over President Joe Biden's request earlier this year.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on December 7 the United States "neither encouraged nor enabled the Ukrainians to strike inside of Russia" after another Russian airfield was set ablaze by a drone strike on December 6, a day after Russia had said two of its air bases, had been hit by drones.
Blinken added that it was important to understand what Ukrainians are living through every day with the "ongoing Russian aggression," accusing Russia of "weaponizing winter" through attacks on civilian infrastructure.
Officials in the Russian city of Kursk, around 90 kilometers north of the Ukraine border, released pictures of black smoke above an airfield, where the governor said an oil storage tank had gone up in flames.
While Ukraine did not directly claim responsibility for any of the three strikes -- one of which targeted a Russian military air base about 600 kilometers east of Ukraine in the Saratov region -- a senior Ukrainian official quoted on December 5 anonymously by The New York Times said the drones were launched from Ukrainian territory.
The official said at least two planes were destroyed at one of the Russian bases and several more were damaged.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said the air base in Saratov is Russia's only base fully equipped for the long-range bombers Russia has used in its campaign to damage Ukraine's energy grid that has plunged millions of Ukrainian homes into darkness and cold at the onset of winter.
“All this complicates their operation against Ukraine,” Arestovych said. “Yesterday, thanks to their 'unsuccessful smoking,' we achieved a very big result," he said, poking fun at an earlier claim by Russia that explosions at one of its bases had been caused by carelessness with cigarettes.
Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said very heavy battles were taking place in the Donetsk region, "and the price is very high."
"For us, the epicenter of hostilities today is the Donetsk region, and the enemy has concentrated most of its forces there,” she said.
It was the sixth time in memory that Russian forces had tried to push to the borders of the Donetsk region and failed, she added.
"We must understand that when we liberate the temporarily occupied territories, it is a victory. When we stand firm and don't let the enemy in, it's also a victory," Malyar emphasized.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine earlier reported that Russian troops were concentrating their main efforts on conducting offensive operations in the Bakhmut and Avdiyivka areas of the Donetsk region.
With reporting by Reuters and AP
U.S. Lawmakers Authorize $800 Million More For Ukraine In Defense Bill
U.S. lawmakers agreed to provide Ukraine at least $800 million in additional security assistance next year and to boost Taiwan with billions in aid over the next several years, according to an $858 billion defense policy bill unveiled on December 6. The Fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, authorizes the additional spending for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, an increase of $500 million over President Joe Biden's request earlier this year. To read the original Reuters story, click here.
UN Aid Chief: Ukrainians Are Suffering 'Colossal' Torment
The UN humanitarian chief on December 6 decried the “colossal” torment Ukraine is suffering from Russia’s destruction of its infrastructure. That view was echoed by Western allies of Ukraine at a UN Security Council meeting but strongly opposed by Russia. Humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths outlined the toll of “widespread death, displacement, and suffering.” He said more than 14 million people have been displaced -- 7.8 million to Europe and 6.5 million still within the country -- and 17,023 civilians have been killed, including 419 children, though the UN human rights office believes “the real toll is far greater.” To read the original story from AP, click here.
Spirits Low After Russian Vodka Brand Auction Runs Dry
The spirits of shareholders of dismantled Russian oil company Yukos were low on December 6 after the top bid in an auction of several iconic vodka brands came up short. The financial holding company GML, the majority shareholder in Yukos before the Kremlin dismantled it in 2003, was hoping to sell the rights to Russian vodka brands Stolichnaya and Moskovskaya. Two bidders each placed a $250,000 deposit hoping to win the rights to use the trademarks in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. But GML reserved the right to reject the winning bids, and did so, deeming them as too low. To read the original story by AP, click here.
Iran Rebroadcasts 'Confessions,' Raising Fears Four Kurds May Have Been Executed
Iranian state television has aired for the second time the "confessions" of four Kurdish political prisoners -- admissions their families and supporters say were coerced -- raising fears that they may have been executed.
Pejman Fatehi, Vafa Azarbar, Mohsen Mazloum, and Hajir Faramarzi have been detained for four months and are thought to be part of a group of people who were identified by security police in November as allegedly being "Mossad-related agents."
On December 5, Javana Teymasi, the wife of Mohsen Mazloum, wrote in a tweet that she has no information about her husband's condition and that the rebroadcast of what she called his forced confession has added to her worries.
"We don't even know if their trial was held and if a verdict was issued or not. What is clear is that the link in their case is with the accusations of 'espionage,'" she wrote.
"Rebroadcasting forced confessions and raising these accusations has worried the families."
Iran’s Intelligence Ministry has previously identified the group as operatives from the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, but the party itself has denied the claim. It has said previously that several of its members have been arrested.
In early November, the judiciary of the Islamic republic announced the indictment of 10 people who were identified as "Mossad-related agents" and announced that four of them were accused of "corruption on earth" -- a charge that is punishable by death and often leveled in cases allegedly involving espionage or attempts to overthrow Iran's government.
Earlier this week, Iran executed four people it accused of working for Israel's Mossad intelligence agency.
The four were identified as Hossein Ordukhanzadeh, Shahin Imani Mahmudabadi, Milad Ashrafi, and Manuchehr Shahbandi. They were accused of receiving weapons and funds in the form of cryptocurrency from Mossad.
Israel, as is its policy, has not commented on the accusations.
Iran is currently in the throes of unrest as people take to the streets across the country to protest against the death on September 16 of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while she was detained by the notorious morality police for wearing a head scarf improperly.
Amini, who was taken into custody in Tehran, was from the Kurdish region of western Iran and many of the largest protests have taken there.
Police have met the unrest with deadly force.
The activist HRANA news agency said that, as of November 29, at least 459 protesters have been killed during the unrest, including 64 minors, as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent.
The Oslo-based Iran Human Rights Organization says the number of executions in Iran this year exceeds 500.
Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda.
Iranian Lawmaker Says Government Is Seeking Alternative Punishments For Hijab Violators
A member of the Iranian parliament has unveiled the government's plan for alternative punishments -- including financial ones -- to try and force women to wear a hijab in public despite massive protests across the country over the issue.
Hossein Jalali, a member of the Cultural Commission of the Iranian parliament, said that under the new plan, the actions of morality police would be curbed, allowing for less intrusive methods to be used for ensuring compliance.
"It is possible to notify nonhijab wearers in the form of a text message that they did not observe the hijab rule and that they must respect the law," Jalali said in an interview with Iranian media.
He added that after two warnings, the government would move to block the bank account of the offender as a way of punishing them. He did not explain how the government intends to recognize the identities of those who are supposedly in violation of the hijab law.
The issue has sparked massive protests across the country after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died while in police custody. She was detained by the morality police for allegedly wearing her hijab, or head scarf, improperly.
The government has responded to almost three months of unrest with deadly force as it tries to suppress one of the deepest challenges to the Islamic regime since the revolution in 1979.
Since the outbreak of the unrest, morality police have been less visible in cities. Still, their status is unclear since the country's chief prosecutor said over the weekend that the notorious force had been closed, only to then walk it back by saying it was a decision for the Interior Ministry, which has jurisdiction over the force.
On December 5, a spokesman for the morality police said that the mission of the police unit has ended and that new methods should be used to enforce the country's mandatory hijab law, but the ministry itself has not commented on the issue.
The hijab -- the head covering worn by Muslim women -- became compulsory in public for Iranian women and girls over the age of nine after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and Jalali said that there will be no backing away from the hijab and chastity plan laid out by the state.
"Moving away from the hijab means a retreat of the Islamic republic," Jalali added.
The activist HRANA news agency said that, as of November 29, at least 459 protesters had been killed during the unrest, including 64 minors, as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent.
Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda.
Iranian Sunni Cleric Says He Has Received Reports Of Sexual Assaults On Female Prisoners
Iran’s top Sunni cleric, a vocal critic of the government, says he has received reports of sexual assaults on female prisoners in Iranian prisons.
Molavi Abdolhamid wrote on his Twitter account on December 6 that the assaults on female prisoners were being committed with the intention of humiliating, suppressing, and obtaining forced confessions from them.
"If proven, the real corrupters on earth are the perpetrators of these crimes," Abdolhamid added, and asked the judiciary to punish these people severely.
"Corruption on Earth," is a common charge often leveled by Iran’s judiciary in cases involving attempts to overthrow the government.
Molavi Abdolhamid is regarded nationwide as a spiritual leader for Iran’s Sunni Muslim population, who are a minority among the mainly Shi'ite population of Iran. He is the director of the main Sunni seminary in Iran and has been under pressure for his comments against the Islamic republic.
CNN first published an investigative report last month about the "sexual assault and rape" of some of the detainees from recent protests while they were being held in Iran's prisons. Citing the testimony of a number of released detainees or hospital sources, CNN said it has confirmed that young women and teenage boys and girls have been raped in prisons.
In response to the report, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price condemned the Iranian authorities' use of sexual violence as a tool for protest suppression.
Price said on November 23 that the United States “is disgusted by the reports and eyewitness accounts of protesters, including minors, being sexually assaulted while in the custody of law enforcement.”
Previously, in an open letter to Javaid Rehman, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Narges Mohammadi, a human rights activist imprisoned in the notorious Evin prison, called for a special investigation into the assault of detained women.
Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda.
Top Official At Kazakh City's Thermal Power Plant Found Dead Amid Heating Crisis
A top official at a heating plant in Kazakhstan’s northern city of Ekibastuz, Sergei Vidlog, has been found dead as parts of the city have been left without heat since late November. Authorities said on December 6 that Vidlog's body was found in his car in a garage two days earlier. Last week, Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev sacked the region's governor after experts described the situation in Ekibastuz, where temperatures have been minus 30 degrees Celsius for weeks, as "catastrophic." To read the original story by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, click here.
Hungary Vetoes EU Aid For Ukraine; Bloc Delays Decision On Funds For Budapest
Hungary vetoed an 18 billion euro ($19 billion) EU loan for Ukraine and EU finance ministers delayed a decision on whether to unfreeze billions of euros in aid earmarked for Budapest. At a meeting in Brussels, Hungarian Finance Minister Mihaly Varga confirmed his government's opposition to supporting Ukraine with the loan. Locked in a tug-of-war with Hungary, the ministers decided to take off their agenda on December 6 any decision about 7.5 billion euros ($7.9 billion) in EU funds earmarked for Hungary, according to EU officials. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service story, click here.
Gas Explosion Kills At Least Eight In Siberia
A gas explosion has killed at least eight people and destroyed five apartments in a five-floor residential building in the Russian city of Nizhnevartovsk in Siberia. Local officials said on December 6 that teams continue search-and-rescue operations after the explosion, which took place two days earlier. Ten other apartments were also at least partially damaged in the blast. Gas explosions occur with some frequency in Russia due to aging pipelines and infrastructure, as well as lax safety standards. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Siberia.Realities, click here.
Man In Military Uniform Opens Fire At Police In Russia's Rostov Region
A man in military dress opened fire with a machine gun at a group of police officers on December 6, wounding one of them, in the southwestern Russian region of Rostov, which borders Ukraine. The region's governor, Vasily Golubev, said on Telegram that the wounded officer was being treated in a hospital in the town of Novoshakhtinsk, where the incident took place. Law enforcement is working on locating the perpetrator, whom media described as a possible deserter from the war in Ukraine. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.
Ukraine Says Embassies In Denmark, Romania Receive More 'Bloody Packages'
Ukrainian embassies in Denmark and Romania have received more "bloody packages," Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in an online interview on December 6 with the Ukrinform news agency. Last week, Ukrainian embassies and consulates in several European countries received "bloody packages" that contained animal eyes as Russia continues its ongoing unprovoked invasion of Ukraine launched in late February. To read the original story by Ukrinform, click here.
Zelenskiy Makes Lightning Trip To Ukraine's Donbas As Battle Rages
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has made a working trip to the Donetsk region and met with the Ukrainian troops close to hotly contested battle lines with Russia. The president's office said in a statement on its website that Zelenskiy made the December 6 visit to hand the soldiers state awards on Ukraine's Day of the Armed Forces. The statement said that Ukraine's east "today is the most difficult front." Russia has backed separatists in the region since 2014 and the region is the site of some of the heaviest fighting in Ukraine at the moment.
Russia Extradites Nephew Of Jailed Informal Leader Of Restive Tajik Region
DUSHANBE -- Russian authorities have extradited a nephew of Tolib Ayombekov, the jailed informal leader of Tajikistan's volatile Gorno-Badakhshan region.
Law enforcement sources in the Central Asian country told RFE/RL that Russian police arrested 33-year-old Qurbonjon Ayombekov on December 1 as he was trying to cross the Russian-Ukrainian border, and extradited him to Dushanbe days later.
Relatives told RFE/RL that Qurbonjon Ayombekov, who has resided in Russia since autumn 2021, decided to flee Russia for Ukraine after his uncle Tolib was handed a life sentence in November along with several other prominent Gorno-Badakhshan figures on charges of murder, hooliganism, robbery, drug and weapon smuggling, inciting hatred, organizing mass disorder, and creating a criminal group.
Also last month, Tolib Ayombekov's brother, Inoyatsho, was sentenced to 30 years in prison, while 16 years were added to the prison term of another brother, Okil, who in 2013 was sentenced to 17 years in prison. Also in November, another of Tolib Ayombekov’s nephews, Mamadamon Ayombekov, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Earlier in August, Tolib Ayombekov's three sons were handed lengthy prison terms.
Details of the charges and sentences are not clear as all the trials were held behind closed doors.
The crackdown on informal leaders and activists in Gorno-Badakhshan has been under way since May, when police violently dispersed protesters in the restive region.
Demonstrators in Gorno-Badakhshan had demanded a thorough investigation into the 2021 death of an activist while in police custody and the refusal by regional authorities to consider the resignation of regional governor and mayor of the regional capital, Khorugh.
The rallies intensified after one of the protesters was killed by police in May, prompting the authorities to launch a "counterterrorist operation."
Authorities violently dispersed the protesters, arresting dozens of them during and after the rallies.
Protests are rare in the tightly controlled nation of 9.5 million where President Emomali Rahmon has ruled with an iron fist for nearly three decades.
Darya Losik, Wife Of Jailed RFE/RL's Journalist, May Face Up To Seven Years In Prison
MINSK -- Darya Losik, the wife of jailed RFE/RL journalist Ihar Losik, may face up to seven years in prison on a charge of facilitating extremist activity in Belarus.
The Prosecutor-General's Office said on December 6 that an investigation of the case against Darya Losik had been completed and sent to court, meaning that her trial is expected to start soon.
According to the statement, the charge against Darya Losik stems from an interview she gave to the Poland-based Belsat television channel that has been officially labeled as an extremist group by Minsk. During the interview, she "positioned herself as the wife of a 'political prisoner,'" the statement said.
"She expressed her personal negative assessment of state organs involved in criminal prosecution and justice. She also said her husband had not committed any crimes and had been illegally convicted. She called on relatives of other convicts to follow her example," the Prosecutor-General's Office said in the statement.
Darya Losik was detained in October after police searched her home.
The United States has called for the immediate and unconditional release of Darya Losik, while RFE/RL President Jamie Fly has also demanded her immediate release and condemned her detainment.
Ihar Losik was sentenced to 15 years in prison in December 2021 on charges that remain unclear.
The husband of exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Syarhey Tsikhanouski, as well as four other bloggers and opposition politicians and activists, were sentenced to lengthy prison terms along with Losik at the time.
Losik and other defendants have insisted that the case against them is politically motivated.
Prominent Chechen Blogger, Kadyrov Critic Reported Killed2
Ukrainians Scramble As New Wave Of Russian Missiles Launched3
Gepard Antiaircraft Systems From Germany Target Iranian Drones Over Ukraine4
Russian Soldier Says Commander Stabbed Ukrainian Woman To Death5
Kyrgyz Politicians Annoyed Over Russian Anger At Possible Soviet-Era Name Changes6
Who's Helping Putin? Dozhd Controversy In Latvia Inflames Tensions Over Émigré Anti-War Russians7
Children From Ukraine's Occupied Areas Sent To 'Military-Patriotic' Camp In Chechnya8
U.S. Not Encouraging Strikes In Russia, State Department Says After Another Russian Air Base Hit9
Czech Company Modernizes Tanks For Ukraine With The Help Of Refugees10
FIFA Announces Probe Into Conduct Of Serbian Team, Fans At World Cup