- By Todd Prince
Senate Panel Passes Bill To Impose Sanctions On Turkey, Delays Vote On Tough Russia Measures
WASHINGTON -- A U.S. Senate committee has passed legislation with bipartisan support to hit Turkey with sanctions but refrained from voting on a controversial Russian sanctions bill.
It also approved legislation to help finance energy projects in Central and Eastern Europe with the goal of reducing the region's dependence on Moscow and a bill that would require the Secretary of State to determine whether Russia should be labeled a state sponsor of terrorism.
The votes come a day after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met in Washington with President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the latter of whom said following his talks with Lavrov that he hoped to soon announce "significant progress" on economic relations with Moscow.
Trump, who has shown affinity for both Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin, has sought to delay imposing sanctions against their countries.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved on December 11 a bill that imposes sanctions on fellow NATO-ally Turkey for its invasion of Syria and purchase of Russia’s S-400 antiaircraft defense system.
"Turkey’s actions over the past year are truly beyond the pale. This bill makes clear to Turkey that its behavior with respect to Syria is unacceptable, and its purchase of the S-400 system is untenable," Senator Bob Menendez (Democrat-New Jersey), the leading minority member on the committee, said in a tweet following the vote.
The measures would be applied -- among other people and entities -- to key individuals in the government, including the defense and finance ministers, as well as state-owned Halk Bank, one of the nation's largest lenders.
The bill -- known as Promoting American National Security and Preventing the Resurgence of ISIS Act -- would also impose sanctions on Russian individuals helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad acquire weapons and defense services.
Russia has been a key supporter of Assad, whom the United States has sought to remove from power, throughout the years-long conflict in Syria.
The bill, which passed with a vote of 18 to 4, must still be brought to the Senate floor for a full vote and be signed by the president before it can become law.
A similar bill has already been passed by the House of Representatives.
The Senate committee delayed a vote on a bill to impose sanctions on Russia for its actions in Ukraine and interference in democratic elections.
The Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act -- described by Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina) as the "sanctions bill from hell" -- targets Russian banks that support the Kremlin’s efforts to "undermine democratic institutions in other countries," Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects in other countries, and the nation's cybersector, among other things.
Russian Pipeline Sanctions
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee also passed a bill that requires the secretary of state to submit a strategy to Congress to enhance the energy independence of NATO allies and increase U.S. energy exports to such countries as well as Japan.
"Russia continues to use its energy resources as a weapon to intimidate, influence and coerce our allies. Freeing Europe from Russian energy dependence will strengthen both our allies and our NATO alliance," Senator John Barrasso (Republican-Wyoming), who co-sponsored the bill, said in a statement.
U.S. natural gas production has been surging over the past few years, enabling the United States to begin exporting gas to Europe and Asia for the first time.
The bill -- known as Energy Security Cooperation with Allied Partners in Europe Act -- initially included a provision to sanction persons or entities helping Russia build energy export pipelines, such as Nord Stream 2 and Turkstream.
That provision was removed after a similar bill to sanction vessels helping to build energy pipelines was included on December 9 in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The NDAA is expected to pass this month.
Russia has already completed the Turkstream pipeline to Turkey that runs under the Black Sea. Gazprom, Russia's state-owned gas company, is expected to begin deliveries through Turksteam in the coming weeks. The pipeline has a capacity of 15.75 billion cubic meters (bcm) a year.
Russia has completed all but a small section of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline along the Baltic Sea floor to Germany. The $11-billion pipeline with an annual capacity of 55 bcm is expected to begin transporting gas early next year. The sanctions threaten to hold up its completion.
European Energy Diversification
The Senate committee also approved a bill that would set aside $1 billion to encourage the development of energy infrastructure projects in Central and Eastern Europe to reduce their dependence on Russian supplies.
Hungary and other countries in the region still receive most or all of their imported gas from Russia due to a lack of pipelines connecting countries in the region, a legacy of communist rule. The region also lacks LNG terminals that could import gas to the continent from the Middle East or the United States.
The European Energy Security and Diversification Act, as the bill is called, would make financing available for projects that improve the capacity to transfer gas and electricity within and between European countries -- such as LNG terminals and pipeline interconnectors -- that are deemed important for energy security.
"This is a piece of legislation that seeks to redress what has been an asymmetry in the way in which we try to combat Russia's attempts to curry favor in the region with its oil and gas. This is I think, a compliment in many ways to Senator Barrasso's legislation, which I am glad passed," said Senator Murphy (Democrat-Connecticut), who sponsored the bill.
The Senate also passed a bill that would require the Secretary of State to determine whether Russia should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and whether Russian-backed entities in Ukraine should be designated as foreign terrorist organizations.
During a Senate hearing on December 3 on U.S. policy toward Russia, Undersecretary of State David Hale said he considers Russia's behavior "malign" but did not see it as a state sponsor of terrorism.
Ukrainian Forces Shell Settlements In Russia's Belgorod Border Region, Says Governor
The governor of Russia's Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine, said on May 29 that several frontier settlements were being shelled simultaneously by Ukrainian forces. In a statement published on the Telegram messaging app, Vyacheslav Gladkov said two industrial facilities in the border town of Shebekino had been shelled and four employees had been wounded. Several settlements were left without electricity, he added. Belgorod, which borders Ukraine's Kharkiv region, has repeatedly come under attack from Kyiv's forces since the beginning of the full-scale conflict in Ukraine in February 2022. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Kazakh Journalist Launches Hunger Strike Protesting Second 25-Day Jail Term
Kazakh journalist Duman Mukhammedkarim has launched a hunger strike to protest against a 25-day jail term he was handed on May 28, two days after he had finished serving a similar sentence. Mukhammedkarim’s lawyer told RFE/RL that a court in the southern town of Qonaev sentenced his client on a charge of violating regulations for public gatherings because of a video on Mukhammedkarim's YouTube channel that called on Kazakhs to defend their rights. His previous 25-day sentence was on the same charge over his online calls for Almaty residents to rally against the government's move to introduce visa-free entry to Kazakhstan for Chinese citizens. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, click here.
Russia Puts U.S. Senator Graham On Wanted List; Remarks Taken Out Of Context
Russia's Interior Ministry has put U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina) on a wanted list, Russian media reported on May 29. In an edited video released by the Ukrainian president's office of Graham's meeting with Volodymyr Zelenskiy on May 26, Graham was shown saying "the Russians are dying" and then saying U.S. support was the "best money we've ever spent." After Russia criticized the remarks, Ukraine released a full video of the meeting that showed the two remarks were not linked. Graham disputed Russian criticism of his support for Ukraine, saying he had simply praised the spirit of Ukrainians in resisting a Russian invasion with assistance provided by Washington. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Kosovar Serbs Thwarted From Taking Over Municipality Buildings In The North
Ethnic Serbs in northern Kosovo on May 29 tried to take over the local government buildings where ethnic Albanian mayors entered last week with the help of police. Kosovar police and members of the NATO-led KFOR protection force were seen protecting the municipality building in Zvecan, one of the four communes to hold snap elections last month that were largely boycotted by ethnic Serbs. Only ethnic Albanian or other smaller minority representatives were elected in the mayoral posts and assemblies. To read the original story by AP, click here.
Belarus's Lukashenka Says There Can Be 'Nuclear Weapons For Everyone'
Belarus’s authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka said that if any other country wanted to join a Russia-Belarus union there could be "nuclear weapons for everyone." Russia moved ahead last week with a plan to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, in the Kremlin's first deployment of such warheads outside Russia since 1991, spurring concerns in the West. In an interview published on Russia's state television late on May 28, Lukashenka, President Vladimir Putin's staunchest ally among Russia's neighbors, said that it must be "strategically understood" that Minsk and Moscow have a unique chance to unite.
Ukrainian Capital Repels Another Wave Of Russian Air Strikes, One Day After 'Largest' Drone Attack
Kyiv repelled another wave of overnight air raids by Russian forces, officials said on May 29, a day after the Ukrainian capital came under what the authorities described as the largest drone attack on the city since the start of the war.
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"Only 18 hours have passed since the largest attack by [unmanned aerial vehicles] on Kyiv, and the enemy attacked the capital again," the city’s military administration said, adding that it was the 15th air attack on Kyiv since the beginning of May.
Ukraine’s defense systems shot down more than 40 drones and cruise missiles, according to the Kyiv military authorities.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said it was "another difficult night” for the city, but he said there were no casualties or destruction reported in the aftermath of the latest air raids.
"Thanks to the professionalism of our defenders, as a result of the barbarians' air attack on Kyiv, there was no damage or destruction of infrastructure and other objects or apartment buildings," Klitschko wrote on Telegram. "There are no injured or dead."
At least two people were killed and three others were wounded in the previous day’s attack on Kyiv, which also damaged several buildings.
That attack was “carried out in several waves, and the air alert lasted more than five hours,” according to Serhiy Popko, the head of Kyiv's military administration.
The strikes came on the last Sunday of May, when the Ukrainian capital celebrates Kyiv Day, the anniversary of the city’s official founding 1,541 years ago.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on May 28 hailed his country's air-defense forces and rescue services, calling them “heroes.”
"You look up to destroy enemy missiles, aircraft, helicopters, and drones. Every time you shoot down enemy drones and missiles, lives are saved.... You are heroes!" Zelenskiy said, also thanking rescuers.
Russia has intensified missile and drone strikes on Ukraine after a lull of nearly two months, targeting military facilities and supplies with waves of attacks several times a week.
Bolstered by sophisticated Western-supplied equipment, Ukrainian air defenses have been adept at thwarting Russian air attacks -- both drones and aircraft missiles.
With reporting by AFP and Reuters
Hundreds Demonstrate In Sarajevo To Demand Better Street Safety
Hundreds of people gathered in central Sarajevo to demand improved street safety after a man was killed by a drunk driver while walking in the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina. "The streets of Sarajevo are not safe. The existing legal regulations are not adequate," organizers of the protest said on May 28. "The institutions must take responsibility and offer solutions." The protests came after a 25-year-old man was killed and two other pedestrians were seriously injured when they were struck by a speeding vehicle driven by an intoxicated driver as they crossed a street. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Balkan Service, click here.
Iranian Official Says Conflict With Afghanistan Detrimental To Both Sides
An Iranian Foreign Ministry official has said following the outbreak of border clashes between Iranian border guards and Taliban fighters that any conflict between the two countries is detrimental to both of them.
The May 28 comments on Twitter by Seyyed Rasool Musavi, director of the Iranian Foreign Ministry's South Asia Department, came a day after deadly gunfire was exchanged along the countries' mutual border.
Abdul Nafee Takour, spokesman for the Taliban-led government's Interior Ministry, told RFE/RL's Radio Azadi that one Taliban fighter and one Iranian border guard were killed in the incident.
Iran's official IRNA news agency has said two border guards were killed and two civilians injured.
Each side has accused the other of shooting first.
Tensions over water rights have risen between Iran and Afghanistan in recent weeks. Drought-stricken southeastern Iran is heavily dependent on upriver water flows from Afghanistan, leading to calls for Afghanistan to release more water and accusations that Kabul is not honoring a bilateral water treaty signed in 1973.
The Taliban has denied it is in violation of the agreement, and said low water levels on the Helmand River -- which feeds lakes and wetlands in Iran's southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan Province -- preclude releasing more water.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian earlier this month demanded in a call with his Taliban counterpart, Amir Khan Muttaqi, that Afghan authorities open the gates of the inland Kajaki Dam on the Helmand River "so both the people of Afghanistan and Iran can be hydrated."
During a visit to Sistan-Baluchistan on May 18, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi warned "the rulers of Afghanistan to immediately give the people of Sistan-Baluchistan their water rights," adding that the Taliban should take his words "seriously."
The region is one of the most arid areas of Iran, which has seen multiple public protests over water scarcity in recent years.
Shortly after Raisi's comment, Taliban officials announced the construction of a new dam on the Farah River, which feeds agricultural land in southwestern Afghanistan and also drains into southeastern Iran.
In 2021, prior to the Taliban's seizure of power, Afghanistan completed work on the Kamal Khan Dam, which also sits on the Helmand River.
Zelenskiy Seeks Sanctions On Iran As Ukraine War Rages On
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy initiated sanctions against Iran for a period of 50 years, according to state news agency Unian, referring to a presidential legislative initiative received by the Ukrainian parliament. The bill would ban trade in military equipment and dual-use goods. In addition, Ukraine would also halt its economic and financial obligations to Tehran and prevent the export of capital to Iran. The bill also proposes a ban on technology transfers and investment in Iran. The Ukrainian parliament is expected to back the decision, which has already been approved by the National Security Council.
Iranian Student Suspended From University For Refusing To Wear Hijab Summoned In New Case
Sepideh Rashno, a 28-year-old Iranian writer and student arrested last year for refusing to wear the mandatory hijab, has said she has been summoned to appear before the Tehran Prosecutor's Office in relation to a supposed new case against her.
Rashno announced the development by publishing a photograph of the official judicial notice on her Instagram page.
"A new case has been created and today I was notified that I have to go to the Evin courthouse to explain the charge or imputed charge,"
Rashno said, adding that she believed the summons was related to several Instagram posts that she has published in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, Rashno wrote on her Instagram account that she had been banned from studying at Al-Zahra University in Tehran for two semesters for "not observing the Islamic dress code."
She was arrested in June after a video of her arguing with another woman who was enforcing rules on wearing a head scarf on a bus in Tehran went viral.
Rashno was handed a five-year suspended prison sentence in December after being found guilty of "gathering and colluding against the country's security," "propaganda activity against the government," and "appearing without a hijab in public."
Just weeks after Rashno's arrest, mass protests erupted around the country after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in September while in police custody after being arrested by morality police in Tehran for "improperly" wearing a hijab.
Hundreds of Iranian students are reportedly facing disciplinary committees and possible suspensions at Al-Zahra University over issues related to the mandatory hijab on campus.
According to the Telegram channel Voice of Al-Zahra Students, since the beginning of the Persian New Year in late March, at least 35 students have been suspended from studying for one to two semesters due to issues related to the mandatory hijab and have been deprived of dormitory access until the end of their studies.
Take A Stand On War, Ukraine's Kostyuk Tells Belarus's Sabalenka At French Open
Marta Kostyuk refused to shake hands with Aryna Sabalenka after their first-round match at the French Open and the Ukrainian says the Belarusian should take a stronger, more personal stand against Russia's war against Ukraine. Booing and jeering could be heard from the crowd as Kostyuk left the court after a 6-3 6-2 loss to world No. 2 Sabalenka on May 28. Kostyuk has said she would not shake hands with tour rivals from Russia and Belarus -- a staging ground for Russia's invasion -- if she feels they have not done enough to speak out against the war. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
NATO Head Urges Kosovo To Ease Tensions With Serbia
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on May 28 called on Kosovo to tone down tensions with Serbia, two days after violent clashes between Kosovar police and protesters opposed to Albanian mayors taking office in ethnic Serbian areas. Stoltenberg, the transatlantic military alliance's Norwegian secretary-general, said he had spoken to European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell about Kosovo. He said Pristina and Belgrade must engage in the EU-led dialogue. Serbs, who form the majority of the population in Kosovo's northern region, do not accept Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Wagner Chief Prigozhin Says Kremlin Blanking Him On State Media Will Provoke Backlash
Russia's most powerful mercenary said on May 28 he was convinced that senior Kremlin officials had banned reporting about him on state media, cautioning that such a misleading approach would lead to a backlash from the Russian people within months. Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the private Wagner Group, is the most striking member of President Vladimir Putin's circle to gain widespread notoriety in the 15-month war in Ukraine. Prigozhin claimed that his mercenary forces gained control of the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut earlier this month -- something Ukraine has denied -- but Russian state television gave him little coverage. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Russia Thwarts Drone Attack On Krasnodar Oil Refinery, Officials Say
Russia's air-defense systems destroyed several drones as they approached the Ilsky oil refinery in the Krasnodar region near the Black Sea, local officials said on May 28. "Several unmanned aerial vehicles tried to approach the territory of the Ilsky oil refinery in the Krasnodar Krai," the region's emergency officials said on Telegram. "All of them were neutralized, the infrastructure of the plant was not damaged." The officials did not say who launched the attack. Reuters was not able to independently verify the report. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Russia Targets Ukrainian Capital With 'Largest' Drone Attack As City Marks Kyiv Day
Russian forces targeted Kyiv with multiple waves of air strikes early on May 28, Ukrainian officials said, describing the air raid as the "largest" drone attack on the city since the start of the war.
The strikes came on the last Sunday of May when the Ukrainian capital celebrates Kyiv Day, the anniversary of the city's official founding 1,541 years ago.
The Tavberidze Interviews
Since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Vazha Tavberidze of RFE/RL's Georgian Service has been interviewing diplomats, military experts, and academics who hold a wide spectrum of opinions about the war's course, causes, and effects. To read all of his interviews, click here.
Ukrainian military officials said 58 out of 59 drones used in the attack were shot down by Ukraine’s defense systems.
Falling debris killed at least one person and wounded two others in Kyiv, according to the city authorities.
Serhiy Popko, the head of Kyiv's military administration, said Russia used the Iranian-made Shahed drones in the pre-dawn attacks on Kyiv, the largest Ukrainian city with a population of around 3 million.
"Today, the enemy decided to 'congratulate' the people of Kyiv on Kyiv Day with the help of their deadly [unmanned aerial vehicles]," Popko wrote on Telegram.
"The attack was carried out in several waves, and the air alert lasted more than five hours," he added.
Several buildings were damaged, and fires broke out, city officials said.
Falling debris set a three-story warehouse on fire in the Holosiyivskiy district in the southwestern part of Kyiv, destroying 1,000 square meters of building structures, according to Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko.
Falling drone debris also caused a fire in the Solomyanskiy district, a busy rail and air transport hub in the city's west.
The roof of a nine-story building was set on fire by debris in the Pecherskiy district, and a shop was damaged in the Darnytskiy district, military administration officials said on Telegram early on May 28.
Russia has intensified missile and drone strikes on Ukraine after a lull of nearly two months, targeting military facilities and supplies with waves of attacks several times a week.
Bolstered by sophisticated Western-supplied equipment, Ukrainian air defenses have been adept at thwarting Russian air attacks -- both drones and aircraft missiles.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy hailed his country's air-defense forces and rescue services, calling them "heroes."
"You look up to destroy enemy missiles, aircraft, helicopters, and drones. Every time you shoot down enemy drones and missiles, lives are saved.... You are heroes!" Zelensky said on May 28, also thanking rescuers.
Drone strikes and artillery fire were also reported from other parts of Ukraine, including the northeastern province of Sumy on the border with Russia and the town of Nikopol in the southeastern Dnipropetrovsk region.
In the northeastern Kharkiv Province, regional authorities said two people were killed in two separate shelling attacks on May 28.
Also on May 28, the death toll from a missile attack two days earlier on the city of Dnipro, the provincial capital of Dnipropetrovsk, rose to four.
Dnipropetrovsk Governor Serhiy Lysak said three people who were considered missing were confirmed dead. At least 32 people, including two children, were wounded in the May 26 attack.
With reporting by Reuters and AFP
Tens Of Thousands Take To The Streets Of Belgrade To Protest Mass Shootings, Government Response
Tens of thousands of Serbian citizens took to the streets of the capital, Belgrade, on May 27 to protest against the government’s response to two mass shootings earlier in the month that killed 18. Protesters called on President Aleksandar Vucic, Interior Minister Bratislav Gasic, and Aleksandar Vulin, the director of Serbia's security agency, to resign. Many opponents blame Vucic for creating an atmosphere of hopelessness and division in the country that they say indirectly led to the mass shootings. The demonstration was the fourth such protest in recent weeks. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Balkan Service, click here.
Ukraine Claims Russia Plotting 'Provocation' At Nuclear Plant, Offers No Evidence
Ukraine’s military intelligence has claimed, without offering evidence, that Russia is plotting a "large-scale provocation" at a nuclear power plant it occupies in the southeast of the country with the aim of disrupting a looming Ukrainian counteroffensive. A statement released on May 26 by the intelligence directorate of Ukraine's Defense Ministry claimed that Russian forces would strike the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, the biggest in Europe, and then report a radioactive leak in order to trigger an international probe that would pause the hostilities and give the Russian forces the respite they need to regroup ahead of the counteroffensive. To read the original story by AP, click here.
- By Current Time
Russian Orthodox Church Fires Archpriest For 'Obstruction' Of Trinity Icon Transfer
Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, on May 27 fired archpriest Leonid Kalinin, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s expert council on church art, architecture, and restoration for "obstructing" the transfer of the historic 15th-century Trinity icon to the church from a museum in Moscow. Kalinin was also banned from the priesthood, according to a statement published by the Russian Orthodox Church. "I apparently made a mistake," Kalinin was quoted as saying by the Tass news agency, adding that he accepted the decision "calmly." To read the original story by Current Time, click here.
Germany Says Russia Set To Expel German Diplomats, Teachers, Cultural Staff
Russia will start expelling German diplomats, teachers and employees of German cultural institutions next month, the German Foreign Office said on May 27 -- a move that will further enhance tensions between the two countries that have already had very fraught ties since Russia invaded Ukraine early last year. The German Foreign Ministry sharply criticized Russia’s move, calling the upcoming expulsions a "unilateral, unjustified and incomprehensible decision." To read the original story by AP, click here.
Tehran Police Issue Warning As Drivers Cover Up License Plates
Police in Tehran issued a stern warning to road users amid an increase in the number of people covering up the license plates of mopeds with face masks, plastic covers, and badges. It is a criminal offense to cover a registration that can carry a penalty of six months to a year in prison, according to a senior police officer in Tehran on May 27, state news agency IRNA reported. Locals in Tehran say people are covering up their license plates for several reasons. As ever, road users are keen to avoid fines for infractions. In addition, many women who ride small mopeds are no longer wearing head scarves, as in the past, in a continued protest at the requirement. To avoid fines now that compliance is being monitored through CCTV, many cover their license plates.
Three Killed In Border Clashes Between Iranian Forces And The Taliban
Two Iranian border guards and one Taliban fighter were killed after the two sides exchange gunfire on the Islamic republic's border with Afghanistan.
The incident on May 27 came amid tensions between the two countries over water rights.
Both sides accused each other of starting the shooting.
The official government news agency IRNA quoted Brigadier General Qasem Rezaei, deputy commander of the national police as saying that a border outpost in southeastern Iran had come under "heavy attack" by the Taliban, prompting a "a decisive and courageous counteraction" from Iranian border guards.
"The Taliban forces initiated the assault in contravention of international law and principles of good neighborliness," Rezai said.
IRNA said that following the border skirmishes, Brigadier General Ahmadreza Radan, chief commander of the national police, issued a directive to the border guards, asking them to "defend the borders bravely and decisively and not allow any trespassing or encroachment."
A Taliban spokesman said two people were killed in the clashes while accusing Iranian forces of shooting first.
"Today, in Nimroz Province, Iranian border forces fired toward Afghanistan, which was met with a counter-reaction," a spokesman for the Taliban-run Interior Ministry, Abdul Nafi Takor, said in a statement. "During the battle, one person was killed on each side and many were injured."
"The situation is under control now. The Islamic Emirate does not want to fight with its neighbors," Takor added.
Taliban Defense Ministry spokesman Enayatullah Khowarazmi confirmed the clashes in the Kang district of Nimroz Province while calling for "dialogue and negotiations."
"The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan considers dialogue and negotiation to be a reasonable way for any problem. Making excuses for war and negative actions is not in the interest of any of the parties," Khowarazmi said.
Iranian news agencies confirmed the death of two Iranian border guards. IRNA said two civilians had been injured in the incident. The semiofficial Mehr news agency reported that a main border crossing with Afghanistan had been closed following the exchange of fire.
Earlier, the hard-line Fars news agency, affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), said the clashes ended after "a short time." Fars said the two sides had convened a meeting to investigate the cause of "the tensions."
It wasn't clear what provoked the incident.
HalVash, a Baluch rights group, posted a video and photos that it said were from the area where Iranian forces and the Taliban engaged in "heavy" clashes and exchange of fire.
RFE/RL could not independently verify the footage.
The clashes follow a warning by Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi who on May 18 called the de facto Taliban regime in Afghanistan not to violate Iran’s water rights to the Helmand River.
According to the 1973 agreement, Afghanistan is obligated to provide Iran with 850 million cubic meters of water annually from the Helmand River. Iran has accused Afghanistan of not complying with the accord, an allegation that Kabul rejects. Disputes over the distribution of cross-border water supplies have plagued relations between the two neighbors for decades.
Taliban officials have repeatedly claimed that due to low water levels, even if they opened the Kajaki Dam, nothing would reach Iran.
Water from the 1,150-kilometer (690-mile) Helmand River, Afghanistan’s longest, feeds the Hamun Lake in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan Province. The region relies heavily on the lake, and officials say it has suffered major issues because of a persistent lack of water.
With reporting by AP and Reuters
At Least Nine People Killed In Avalanche In Northern Pakistan
At least nine people were killed in an avalanche that occurred in northern Pakistan close to the border with China, officials said on May 27. The avalanche occurred early in the morning in the Astore district of the Gilgit-Baltistan region and involved a family from Pakistan-administered Kashmir, officials said. Khalid Khurshid, the chief minister of Gilgit-Baltistan ordered a search-and-rescue mission to go to the scene as soon as possible despite the bad weather. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal, click here.
Ukraine Asks Germany To Provide Taurus Long-Range Missiles
Ukraine has asked Germany to supply it with Taurus cruise missiles, an air-launched weapon with a range of some 500 kilometers, a spokeswoman for the Defense Ministry in Berlin said on May 27. Germany received the request several days ago, the spokeswoman said, confirming a report by Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. She declined to provide further details or say how likely it was that Germany would supply the missiles to Ukraine. Britain earlier in May became the first country to publicly provide Kyiv with Storm Shadow long-range cruise missiles. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Suicide Attack Wounds 23 Pakistani Troops In Tribal Area, Officials Say
A suicide attacker slammed his explosives-laden motorcycle into a convoy of military vehicles in Pakistan's South Waziristan tribal region that borders Afghanistan on June 27, wounding 23 troops, security officials told Radio Mashaal on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. "The military convoy was traveling from Dera Ismail Khan to South Waziristan tribal district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province," one security official said. The wounded have been shifted to the military hospital in Dera Ismail where two of them are in critical condition. No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal, click here.
NATO Urges Kosovo To 'Immediately De-escalate' Tensions After Police Clash With Protesters In Serb-Majority North
NATO on May 27 called on Kosovar authorities to take immediate steps to de-escalate tensions in the Serb-majority northern towns after security forces used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse crowds in three towns and enter municipal buildings in support of recently elected ethnic Albanian mayors.
The situation was calm on May 27, RFE/RL correspondents reported, a day after the unrest shook Zvecan, Leposavic, and Zubin Potok -- similarly sized communities of 16,000 to 18,000 people where the ethnic Albanian mayors sought to enter municipal buildings and take office amid opposition from Serb-majority protesters. There was heavy police presence in the area, the correspondents reported.
"We urge the Institutions in Kosovo to de-escalate immediately & call on all parties to resolve the situation through dialogue," NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu wrote on Twitter on May 27.
"NATO-[led] KFOR remains vigilant & will ensure a safe & secure environment," Lungescu added referring to the KFOR protection force that was deployed in Kosovo in 1999 after the NATO alliance's bombing forced the Serbian Army out of the territory. KFOR comprises nearly 3,800 soldiers.
Five police officers were injured in Zvecan, authorities said, adding that at least four vehicles had been damaged. There were no immediate reports of possible injuries among protesters who had gathered at the town's main municipal building.
In a move that threatened to further fan tensions, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on May 27 announced that his country's military remained on high alert after he had ordered troops to deploy closer to the border with Kosovo late on May 26.
The decision to keep troops on high alert was made at a meeting of Serbia's National Security Council in Belgrade on May 27, the Serbian presidency said, adding that the move was necessary after the "brutal use of force by [Kosovar Prime Minister] Albin Kurti against the Serbian people in Kosovo."
The unrest prompted the United States and other Western allies to take an unusually harsh line against Kosovar authorities for the aggressive police action after previously assailing the government's decision to hold elections on April 23 following a boycott announced by the main Serb party.
The so-called QUINT states -- United States, France, Italy, Germany, and Britain -- had previously expressed concerns about the situation in northern Kosovo, saying the April elections did not constitute a lasting political solution for the municipalities involved due to the boycott.
In a joint statement on May 26, the group condemned the Kosovar authorities’ use of force and also expressed concerns about "Serbia's decision to raise the level of readiness of its armed forces at the border with Kosovo and call all parties for maximum restraint, avoiding inflammatory rhetoric."
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on May 26 said Kosovo’s government took the action to force access to municipal buildings against U.S. advice.
“We strongly condemn the actions by the Government of Kosovo that are escalating tensions in the north and increasing instability. We call on Prime Minister [Albin Kurti] to immediately halt these violent measures and refocus on the EU-facilitated Dialogue,” he wrote on Twitter.
Blinken urged all sides in the dispute to "refrain from any further actions that will inflame tensions and promote conflict."
The European External Action Service (EEAS) said in a statement that the “European Union condemns in the strongest terms the clashes between Kosovo police and protesters in northern Kosovo, initiated by the attempt of newly elected mayors to enter municipal buildings.
"Everyone must take steps to reduce the tense situation and immediately restore calm. The EU will not accept any further unilateral or provocative moves and peacekeeping and security on the ground should be a priority," the statement added.
The ethnic Albanian mayors were sworn in on May 25 to lead majority Serb municipalities, replacing Serb mayors who had resigned last November to protest a cross-border dispute over vehicle registrations.
The subsequent election to replace the mayors was boycotted by the dominant ethnic Serb party, Srpska Lista (Serbian List), which enjoys the support of neighboring Serbia's government -- paving the way for ethnic Albanian candidates to win with tiny vote totals.
A fourth mayor was sworn in last week -- in North Mitrovica -- in a process that Vucic condemned as an "occupation" of areas of the former Serbian province. Vucic has vowed never to recognize Kosovar independence.
The Serb minority accounts for 5 percent of Kosovo's 1.8 million population, which is 90 percent Albanian. But they hold majorities in regions near the Serbian border.
With reporting by Reuters
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