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Kyrgyz President Sets Conditions For Resignation

Ousted Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev speaks to reporters in Teyit on April 13.
Ousted Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev speaks to reporters in Teyit on April 13.
BISHKEK/JALAL-ABAD, Kyrgyzstan -- Kyrgyzstan's embattled president, Kurmanbek Bakiev, has said in the face of a threat of attack that he is willing to resign if his security is guaranteed.

The head of the interim government, Roza Otunbaeva, told the Associated Press in an interview her team was offering security guarantees to Bakiev and his family if he stepped down and left the country.

The news comes amid fears that possible fighting between Bakiev's staunchest forces and those loyal to the country's self-proclaimed government could take a heavy toll.

Speaking at a press conference in his home village of Teyit in the southern Jalal-Abad region, Bakiev said, "I will go into retirement if security is guaranteed for me and my relatives." Bakiev's other conditions for resignation included stopping "people from running around the street with guns," and starting preparation of a "snap presidential election to be held within two or three months."

Bakiev also invited Otunbaeva to visit him for talks. He added that Otunbaeva would fail if she tried to use force to detain him.

Earlier today, the government of Bakiev opponents had given him until the end of the day to surrender or face an attack in Jalal-Abad, where he fled after public protests were met with roundups of opposition figures and gunfire by security troops in a number of cities on April 7.

At least 82 died and more than 1,000 were reportedly injured in the capital and other cities during last week's violence.

Bakiev quickly fled the capital and sought refuge in southern Kyrgyzstan, opening the door for political rivals who have long complained of corruption and other abuses since Bakiev assumed the presidency in 2005.

Immunity 'Stripped'

The deputy head of the interim government, Azimbek Beknazarov, earlier today said a decree was issued stripping Bakiev of his immunity from prosecution. Beknazarov said that if Bakiev fails to surrender today, he will be arrested.

"A criminal case has been opened against the former president," Beknazarov said. "If he does not show up today after the rally, the special services will take measures to detain him, because last night we stripped him of presidential immunity and now our law-enforcement bodies can detain him."

The interim cabinet in Bishkek has opened criminal cases against Bakiev and several of his immediate family members, notably his brother Janysh and his son Maksim.

Beknazarov said today the interim government also dissolved the Constitutional Court, "in order to prevent any attempts to use the Constitutional Court of Kyrgyzstan to destabilize the situation."

The self-proclaimed government has not yet been formally recognized by any nation or international body, although a number of foreign officials have contacted the "new leaders."

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called the head of the new team, Roza Otunbaeva, last week, and a special OSCE envoy has met with Otunbaeva and members of her team in Bishkek.

Little Choice

Bakiev conceded on April 8 that he had lost control of virtually all levers of power.

Political and social tensions were already running high after Bakiev's disputed reelection in July, amid signs of widespread corruption and public disappointment since the 2004 Tulip Revolution that ushered him into the presidency.

He also cautioned that "a great deal of bloodshed" would ensue if those who asserted authority last week tried to kill him or seize him by force.

He has repeatedly asked the United Nations to send peacekeepers to northern Kyrgyzstan, where the capital lies, to help restore order.

Bakiev's supporters today rallied for the second day in Jalal-Abad. RFE/RL's correspondent at the scene said up to 4,000 people gathered in the center of of the city, where Bakiev addressed his sympathizers.

But many of those gathered appeared to have been bystanders, the correspondent noted, saying that "less than half could actually be called supporters. While about 1,500 gathered on the city square did applaud enthusiastically when Bakiev arrived and spoke, the majority of people remained across the street from the square and did not join in calls of support for the Kyrgyz leader."

Return To Normal?

U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters in Washington on April 12 that the United States recognized that "there's a process under way that, within six months' time, will produce a new government, one that we hope will be more democratic."

"There is a transitional administration [in Kyrgyzstan] that has taken over operation of government ministries. We recognize that reality," Crowley said. "It's not for us to say that today, the leader of Kyrgyzstan is Otunbaeva versus Bakiev."

Kyrgyzstan hosts both U.S. and Russian military bases. Otunbaeva said today her cabinet will renew the existing one-year lease for Manas, the U.S. military's air base in Kyrgyzstan that serves as a transport hub for troops and supplies into Afghanistan. In the interview with AP, Otunbaeva said the contract will be automatically extended when it expires in July.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said today there are other options to Manas, but that the alternatives are "more expensive and more challenging." Also speaking today, the head of U.S. Central Command, General David Petraeus, said the unrest in Kyrgyzstan has not slowed the arrival of U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

In the meantime, life in Bishkek appeared to be returning to normal. RFE/RL correspondent James Kirchick said schoolchildren could be seen in playgrounds across the capital.

He said there were signs that some had turned the page on a turbulent administration whose fiercest critics accused it of returning the country to the excesses of its first independent leader, Askar Akaev.

Kirchik also reported that a stone monument has been erected outside the White House in Bishkek to those who died in last week's protests.

One woman who brought her young son to the monument said that she was "afraid there will be more bloodshed because he's [Bakiev] gathering his relatives and supporters around him."

Askar Kakiev, a 75-year-old philosophy professor, said that "there were so many of our young people killed, this is really a grievance for our people."

Asked if Bakiev should go to jail, he said, "I don't know about that, it's up to the interim government. It should follow the law. Everyone should follow the law and the rules. The law should be cautiously preserved. It's a huge and terrible thing that happened to our people and I hope we never have to deal with it again in the future."

One captain in the security forces told RFE/RL that if there were any elements of the army or internal security force that remained loyal to Bakiev, they were sure to have fled with Bakiev to southern Kyrgyzstan.

written in Prague based on reporting by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service and correspondents Bruce Pannier in Jalal-Abad and James Kirchick in Bishkek. With material from agency reports

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Ukraine's Military Claims Hits On Concentrated Russian Troops; Moscow Says 5 Dead In Belgorod

Ukrainian troops fire a BM-21 Grad multiple-launch rocket system toward Russian troops on the front line in the Donetsk region.
Ukrainian troops fire a BM-21 Grad multiple-launch rocket system toward Russian troops on the front line in the Donetsk region.

Ukraine fired missiles and artillery at 15 areas where Russia troops were concentrated on June 14 as Russia tried to use its advantage in manpower, equipment, and air support to seize territory in eastern Ukraine, Kyiv's General Staff said.

"Despite the intense enemy onslaught, the Ukrainian soldiers fought back hard and effectively," the General Staff said in its late summary of the day's fighting.

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The Ukrainian military said there were 81 combat clashes during the day, while the Russian military said its troops seized about a dozen settlements, and the governor of the Belgorod region said five people were killed in attacks on the region.

In the area around Kharkiv, Russian forces supported by air power, tried to storm the positions of Ukrainian units in the Vovchansk and Tykhoy districts three times. All enemy attacks were repelled, Kyiv said.

At the same time, 10 combat clashes took place near Kupyansk, and Russian forces also tried to improve their positions in several towns in the Dnipropetrovsk region. The Ukrainian military said all enemy assaults near Sinkyvka were repulsed, while battles were still going on elsewhere.

Russian troops also attacked towns near Lyman in the Donetsk region. The General Staff described the situation as under control, saying four clashes had ended, while five were still ongoing.

The armed forces also noted that the Russian Army was "intensively" attacking in the Pokrovskiy area, where Ukrainian defenders repelled 17 attacks. At least a dozen other clashes were ongoing.

"The situation is difficult, but controlled by the defense forces," the General Staff said. Ukrainian soldiers "are making efforts to prevent the enemy from advancing deep into Ukrainian territory."

The claims could not be independently verified.

In the Russian region around the city of Belgorod, regional Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said Ukrainian attacks killed five people on June 14.

Gladkov said on Telegram that two bodies had been pulled from an apartment building hit by Ukrainian shelling in the border town of Shebekino.

Emergency services, quoted by news agencies, said a third body was later found in the rubble after shelling caused a stairwell to collapse.

A drone also struck a car in a village near Shebekino, killing the driver, and a woman was killed in her home when it was struck by rocket fire in the village of Oktyabrsky.

With reporting by Reuters

G7 Leaders Hammer Out Details Of Loaning Ukraine Billions Using Profits From Frozen Russian Assets

U.S. President Joe Biden (center), Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni (left), and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attend a working session during the G7 summit hosted by Italy.
U.S. President Joe Biden (center), Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni (left), and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attend a working session during the G7 summit hosted by Italy.

Group of Seven (G7) leaders affirmed their decision to make available around $50 billion to Ukraine by using frozen Russian assets as they wrapped up their two-day summit in Italy on June 14.

The leaders said in their final communique that by leveraging "the extraordinary revenues" of Russian assets frozen in Europe, they are sending "an unmistakable signal" to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"We are working together and with others to address the pressing challenges of our time," the G7 leaders said in the communique, noting their solidarity with Ukraine as well as support for a deal that would lead to an immediate cease-fire and release of hostages in Gaza, investment in sustainable infrastructure in Africa, and commitments to address climate change and migration.

A senior U.S. administration official, meanwhile, provided details about the sovereign-assets deal, telling reporters on a conference call on June 14 that the proceeds will flow to Ukraine through multiple channels.

Every G7 country -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States -- will do its part in the deal, the senior U.S. official said.

The United States has committed to loan up to $50 billion while Canada has committed to loan $5 billion, the official said, adding that the European Union and Japan were considering whether to join the loan syndicate.

As part of its deliberations, the Europe Union is currently discussing a loan that would be up to $25 billion, the official said.

Britain is considering guaranteeing repayment of loans, while the European Union is expected to provide the income generated from some $280 billion in frozen Russian foreign exchange reserves in the bloc, most of it in Belgium.

Those assets, which are generally invested in short-term government bonds of Western governments, are generating income amounting to a few billion dollars a year.

The senior U.S. administration official said Ukraine will not have to pay back anything and the loan would not change Ukraine's debt-to-GDP ratio, which financial agencies like Moody's use to assign ratings to government debt.

The lenders will be repaid from the profits accrued on the frozen Russian assets or through the countries that guarantee the loans.

Before the EU can take part in the loan syndicate or disperse the profits it must get all 27 members to commit to the continued freeze on the Russian reserves.

"We fully expect the EU27 will meet this moment [and] authorize continued immobilization of Russia’s sovereign assets," the senior U.S. official said, citing comments made by the leaders of Italy, France, and Germany as well as senior EU officials as encouraging.

G7 leaders turned their attention on June 14 to other matters, including discussions on migration, artificial intelligence, economic security, and the Indo-Pacific region, stressing their determination to meet global challenges "at a crucial moment in history."

Pope Francis also became the first pontiff to address a G7 summit, delivering a speech on artificial intelligence.

With reporting by AP

Flight To Chisinau Makes Emergency Landing In Bucharest After Alleged Bomb Scare

A FlyOne plane (file photo)
A FlyOne plane (file photo)

A plane en route from Moscow to Chisinau made an emergency landing in Bucharest on June 14, Moldovan authorities and a pro-Russian member of parliament said.

Romanian press reports said the plane made the emergency landing because of a bomb threat.

One report said a suspicious package was found, while another said a call was placed to the emergency-response number advising that a bomb was on the aircraft.

After the emergency landing at Bucharest's international airport in Otopeni, the Romanian SRI intelligence service checked the aircraft and determined that the bomb threat had been a false alarm, Romanian media reported.

Vladimir Cebotari, founder of FlyOne, the low-cost carrier that operated the flight, also said the bomb alert was false. Cebotari told ProTV Chisinau that several people were detained.

There was a different story, however, from Moldova's Civil Aviation Authority, which said on Facebook that the airline failed to notify aviation authorities about flight schedule changes three days in advance, as required by law.

As a result, the flight did not receive the necessary approval from Moldova and was diverted.

There were more than 170 passengers on board the aircraft, most of them Moldovan citizens, according to a Moldovan media report.

Lawmaker Marina Tauber of the Shor Party said that the plane was carrying members of the Moldovan opposition political bloc Victory and that the flight originated in Moscow.

"Chisinau airport refused to allow a flight from Moscow via Yerevan carrying participants in the congress of the Moldovan opposition political bloc 'Victory' to land," she said on Telegram. "The aircraft was diverted to Bucharest."

Moldovan pro-Russian opposition parties gathered in Moscow in April to announce the formation of the Victory political bloc ahead of the presidential election and an EU membership referendum in October.

The pro-Moscow Shor Party was founded by oligarch Ilan Shor, who fled Moldova following pro-Western President Maia Sandu's election in 2020.

Moldovan authorities confirmed on May 16 that Shor had obtained Russian citizenship and identity documents. Moldovan authorities said Russia failed to officially notify Chisinau that Shor, a fugitive wanted in Moldova, had become a Russian citizen.

Shor was sentenced in Moldova to 15 years in June 2023 for his role in a $1 billion bank fraud and other illicit schemes.

Also in June 2023, the Shor Party was declared unconstitutional by Moldova's Constitutional Court and dissolved after it organized months of anti-government protests.

With reporting by AFP

Hungarian, Slovak Embassies In Sarajevo Vandalized After UN Srebrenica Resolution

The number 8,372 was scrawled on the buildings of the Hungarian and Slovak embassies in Sarajevo in apparent reference to the number killed in the 1995 Srebrenica genocide.
The number 8,372 was scrawled on the buildings of the Hungarian and Slovak embassies in Sarajevo in apparent reference to the number killed in the 1995 Srebrenica genocide.

Red graffiti reading 8,372 -- the official number of victims of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina -- has been scribbled on the walls of the Hungarian and Slovakian embassies in Sarajevo.

The graffiti appeared on June 14, three weeks after the United Nations approved a resolution to commemorate the Srebrenica genocide. Hungary was among 19 countries that joined Serbia in voting against the resolution adopted by the General Assembly on May 23. Slovakia was among the 68 countries that abstained from the vote.

The resolution designates July 11 as the International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the 1995 Genocide in Srebrenica, establishing an annual day of commemoration for the massacre of 8,372 local Bosnian Muslim men and boys.

The Sarajevo Canton police on June 14 confirmed to RFE/RL that its investigation into the graffiti scrawled on the two embassies had been completed and that the incident had been classified as vandalism.

Police also carried out an investigation on June 14 into the word "genocide" written in red letters on a residential building not far from the Serbian Embassy in Sarajevo, Sarajevo Canton police confirmed to RFE/RL.

The law enforcement authority in charge of securing diplomatic missions in Bosnia barred RFE/RL from photographing the graffiti, but photos of it were published online by the Public Service of Republika Srpska.

Graffiti indicating the number of people killed in the genocide in Srebrenica appeared on the buildings of the Hungarian and Slovak embassies in Sarajevo.
Graffiti indicating the number of people killed in the genocide in Srebrenica appeared on the buildings of the Hungarian and Slovak embassies in Sarajevo.

Neither embassy would comment on the incident.

"We do not want to comment. You have seen the pictures. Of course we noticed, but we have no comment," the Hungarian Embassy said in response to RFE/RL's request for comment.

The nonbinding UN resolution sparked protests and a lobbying campaign by Serbia's president and the Bosnian Serb leadership to block it.

The resolution condemns any denial of the Srebrenica genocide as a historical event and condemns actions that glorify those convicted of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide by international courts.

The genocide was carried out by members of the Republika Srpska Army and was labeled in 2007 as a genocide by the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

More than 50 people were sentenced in connection to the genocide. Among them were the wartime president of Republika Srpska, Radovan Karadzic, and the commander of its army, Ratko Mladic.

Putin Lays Out Already Rejected Conditions For Talks On Eve Of Ukraine Peace Summit

Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded a commitment from Ukraine to abandon plans to join NATO. (file photo)
Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded a commitment from Ukraine to abandon plans to join NATO. (file photo)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered an immediate cease-fire with Ukraine, setting out conditions that Kyiv has already rejected just a day before a peace summit in Switzerland from which he was excluded.

During a speech at the Foreign Ministry in Moscow on June 14, Putin laid out the terms of his proposal: the withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from its territories of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya, which Russia has claimed, and an end to Kyiv's NATO aspirations.

“We will do it [end Russia's offensive] immediately,” Putin said.

The terms Putin laid out, which have been mooted by Russian officials several times in the past, were once again rejected by Ukraine, while NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg slammed the conditions as a path to "more aggression, more occupation."

"There is no novelty in this, no real peace proposal, and no desire to end the war," Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said in a post on X.

"But there is a desire not to pay for this war and to continue it in new formats. It's all a complete sham. Therefore -- once again -- get rid of illusions and stop taking seriously the 'proposals of Russia' that are offensive to common sense."

Putin presented his conditions ahead of a June 15-16 Ukraine peace summit in Switzerland, to which he was not invited.

Leaders and representatives of more than 70 countries are scheduled to meet in the Swiss resort of Burgenstock to chart a way forward to end the war in Ukraine.

Ukraine hopes to win broad international backing for its vision of the terms needed to end the war with Russia.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

RFE/RL's Live Briefing gives you all of the latest developments on Russia's full-scale invasion, Kyiv's counteroffensive, Western military aid, global reaction, and the plight of civilians. For all of RFE/RL's coverage of the war in Ukraine, click here.

A draft of a communique for the peace summit seen by RFE/RL says future peace negotiations should involve "representatives of all parties" in the conflict.

The United States will be represented by Vice President Kamala Harris and national-security adviser Jake Sullivan, while French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will also attend the summit.

Russia has dismissed the significance of the summit, saying it “makes no sense” to hold discussions on ending the hostilities without Moscow.

"This is not a proposal made in good faith," Stoltenberg said of Putin's offer following a meeting of defense ministers in Brussels on June 14. "This is a proposal that actually means that Russia should achieve their war aims by expecting that Ukrainians should give up significantly more land than Russia has been able to occupy so far."

Putin also restated a demand for Ukraine's demilitarization and said an end to international sanctions must be included in a peace deal.

He also repeated his call for Ukraine's "denazification," a nod to his often voiced but baseless slur against Kyiv's leadership.

Russia has blamed Ukraine's preliminary steps to joining NATO as one of the main reasons it launched what it calls a "special military operation" against Ukraine in February 2022.

NATO leaders will hold a summit in Washington next month, though Kyiv is not expected to receive a full invitation to join the alliance.

The alliance stated in the final declaration of last year's summit in Vilnius that "Ukraine’s future is in NATO," though U.S. President Joe Biden has Ukraine will not join NATO while it is at war.

Italian Police Reportedly Arrest Russian In Connection With 2023 Artyom Uss Escape

The United States has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Artyom Uss.
The United States has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Artyom Uss.

Italian authorities say they have arrested a Russian businessman living in Switzerland in connection with the March 2023 escape of Artyom Uss, a Russian man who fled Italian house arrest just prior to extradition to the United States.

The arrest of the man, identified by Italian media as Dmitry Chirakadze, 54, is the latest twist in the winding mystery of how Uss, the son of a powerful former Russian governor, managed to elude Italian authorities and secretly return to Russia.

Italian prosecutors previously identified six people as being accomplices in Uss's escape; three are in custody in Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia. The man held in Croatia, Vladimir Jovancic, is awaiting his own extradition to the United States.

Chirakadze was arrested on June 14 as he arrived at Rome's Fiumicino airport from Sardinia, according to Italian media.

Milan prosecutors and police did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Italian media identified Chirakadze as the founder of a Russian legal-services website called and married to a Russian woman named Lyubov Orlova.

He's reportedly the owner of a a luxury resort in Sardinia and a hunting estate in Krasnoyarsk, the Siberian region where Uss is from originally. Uss's father was the governor of Krasnoyarsk until resigning last year, around the time that Uss escaped.

He also served as former deputy governor of Kemerovo, located in the heart of Russia's coal-mining Kuzbas region.

Uss was indicted by a U.S. grand jury in 2022, charged as part of an alleged scheme to smuggle dual-use technologies to Russia, evading Western sanctions imposed in punishment for Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

He was arrested at the Milan airport in October 2022, and ordered held, pending hearings to decide on his extradition to the United States.

Italian authorities agreed to let him wait out the proceeding under house arrest, with an electronic monitoring bracelet -- a decision that was publicly criticized by U.S. officials.

In March 2023, Uss escaped from the villa in Milan's southern suburbs, breaking off his monitoring bracelet, and driving east. About three weeks later, he announced his presence back in Russia.

The incident embarrassed the Italian authorities and even drew criticism from Italy's prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, who said the decision to release him from house arrest had "anomalies." One Italian lawmaker said Italy had "embarrassed itself internationally."

The United States later announced a $5 million reward for information leading to Uss's arrest.

After Uss's return, his father Aleksandr publicly thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for his help in securing his son's release.

Kyrgyz Activists Protesting Border Deal With Uzbekistan Acquitted

Tears And Joy As Kyrgyz Court Acquits 27 Activists Charged Over Protest
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A court in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, has acquitted all members of a group facing 20 years in prison for protesting a border deal with Uzbekistan. The judge ruled on June 14 that were was insufficient evidence to convict the 27 activists. Earlier this week, prosecutors asked for lengthy sentences for each member of the group for protesting a deal that saw Kyrgyzstan hand over the Kempir-Abad reservoir to Uzbekistan. On June 12, several international rights groups demanded the immediate release of the protesters and said the request for lengthy sentences for each activist "compounds an already shocking miscarriage of justice." To read the full story by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, click here.


Ammunition Flowing To Ukraine Through Czech Initiative, Foreign Minister Says

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky speaks to RFE/RL in Prague.
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky speaks to RFE/RL in Prague.

PRAGUE -- Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky said the first shipments procured under a Czech initiative to increase supplies of badly needed ammunition in Ukraine are now arriving and will continue to flow.

"This year we will be able to procure and continuously deliver quite a lot of ammunition -- Czech-supplied through different channels -- more than a million of shells to Ukraine so far," Lipavsky said on June 13 in an interview with RFE/RL.

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RFE/RL's Live Briefing gives you all of the latest developments on Russia's full-scale invasion, Kyiv's counteroffensive, Western military aid, global reaction, and the plight of civilians. For all of RFE/RL's coverage of the war in Ukraine, click here.

The Czech Republic has been working for months on a plan to procure artillery shells from countries outside the European Union and provide them to Ukraine, whose troops in recent months have suffered from a debilitating shortage.

Under the initiative, Czech government officials and private companies have worked to source ammunition rounds from around the world.

The leaders of five European NATO states said in a joint statement on May 28 that 15 EU and NATO states have pledged around 1.6 billion euros ($1.7 billion) to fund the project.

Lipavsky said the total number of countries that have pledged to participate in the initiative is 20, including five countries that have already sent money only to finance purchases.

The total number grew to 21 on June 14, Czech Defense Minister Jana Cernochova said, when Luxembourg joined the inititative with a pledge to make financial contributions. She did not say how much Luxembourg would contribute.

"We are now able to make deals and to bring ammunition from different countries and then send it to Ukraine so it can…rightfully defend itself from Russian aggression," Lipavsky said in the interview.

He declined to provide specifics, saying it’s up to the individual countries to announce that deals have been fulfilled.

He said deals are currently being completed in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Portugal, and Canada -- the five countries that have agreed to finance the purchases.

Asked about financial issues in some countries, Lipavsky said he hopes to “move from pledges and sympathies” to getting deals signed and financed.

“We know that the Ukraine needs a lot of large-caliber ammunition, and there's...a big opportunity,” he said. “So we hope that we will be [striking] more of the deals.”

The top Czech diplomat also spoke about the peace summit on Ukraine taking place this weekend in Switzerland, saying it is part of the bigger task of securing Ukraine and Europe as a whole.

“We have to strive for peace,” he said.

Czech Foreign Minister Working To Curb Movement Of Russian Diplomats
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Czech President Petr Pavel will be joined at the summit by the head of the Czech National Nuclear Safety Authority "because nuclear and radiation safety is one of our priority [topics]," he said.

Lipavsky acknowledged that some countries have said there can be no progress without Russia's participation, but he noted that the peace summit wouldn't be necessary if there had been no Russian aggression in the first place.

At this point, he said he sees “no will to stop the horrendous attacks on Ukraine, which are continuing daily and nightly.”

“Every war ends with negotiations and with diplomacy. That's what we know for sure,” he said. “If Russia is ready to acknowledge that the aggression won't be successful, then probably they will be ready to come to the negotiation table.”

It also must change from seeking the total destruction of Ukrainian statehood and the removal of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and acknowledge that Ukraine is a sovereign state with international recognized borders, he added.

The foreign minister also said that the European Union must show Russia that its efforts to increase hybrid threats -- those involving both cyberspace and disinformation campaigns -- won’t be tolerated.

He said foreign ministers from eight EU countries have sent a letter to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell asking him to curb Russian diplomats' movements in the Schengen Area over their concern that the free movement of the diplomats facilitates "malign activities."

The measure is needed because the movement of Russian diplomats and their family members lays the groundwork for threats in cyberspace and other "sabotages and subterfuges," he told RFE/RL.

"These hybrid threats were increasing, and the European Union needs to show Russia that this won’t be tolerated,” he said.

Iran Detains 1 For Allegedly Insulting Late President Raisi

President Ebrahim Raisi and other top officials were killed in a helicopter crash on May 19.
President Ebrahim Raisi and other top officials were killed in a helicopter crash on May 19.

An unnamed person was arrested on June 13 in Iran’s central city of Qom for allegedly insulting the late President Ebrahim Raisi following his death in a helicopter accident last month. The police accused the individual of “having ties” to the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad and of “collaborating” with foreign-based opposition media. No evidence was provided for the claims. Iranian authorities often accuse critics of working with foreign intelligence agencies and opposition outlets. To read the full story in Persian by RFE/RL’s Radio Farda, click here.

Russian Airline Pilot Convicted Of Treason Dies In Prison

Igor Pokusin was accused of trying to defect to Ukraine to fight against Russia's invasion.
Igor Pokusin was accused of trying to defect to Ukraine to fight against Russia's invasion.

Retired Russian airline pilot Igor Pokusin, whose opposition to his country’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine landed him in prison, has died at the age of 61. Pokusin, who had two prosthetic joints and a stent implanted in his heart, was sentenced to eight years in January on a charge of trying to volunteer in the Ukrainian Army. Sources on June 14 told RFE/RL’s Siberia.Realities that Pokusin died in prison on June 11. The cause of death was not immediately clear. Pokusin was born in the Ukrainian port city of Odesa but lived most of his life in Abakan, the capital of Russia’s Republic of Khakassia. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Siberia.Realities, click here.


U.S. Denies Role In Ukrainian NGO's Research On Those Opposing Aid For Kyiv

The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv
The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv

The United States says the State Department played no role in a project by a Ukrainian NGO, Data Journalism Agency, which says it has come under pressure after publishing research on individuals who have campaigned to end aid to Ukraine.

Data Journalism Agency, also known as Texty, published on June 6 what it said was an analysis of the political, media, and expert environment in the United States that is "influencing decisions" on further support for Ukraine in the Russian-Ukrainian war.

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The project was done "independently and solely with the support of our readers," it said, noting Texty was supported by leading journalists and news outlets from the Ukrainian media association Mediarukh.

Since the publication of its research, the agency said it had come under "unprecedented pressure, manipulation, slander, demands to strip us of donor funding, and threats of physical violence that we have faced following the publication of our research."

Amid the backlash, several conservative media outlets said Data Journalism Agency had created a "hate list" of U.S. citizens and that the agency was affiliated with the U.S. government.

U.S. Senator J.D. Vance (Republican-Ohio) and Representative Matt Gaetz (Republican-Florida) called on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to send information about the Ukrainian NGO by June 28.

They also asked the House Appropriations Committee to end any possible U.S. support being received by the Data Journalism Agency.

A statement issued late on June 14 by the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv ruled out any role of the State Department in the project.

"The State Department did not have any role or participation in the mentioned project," the statement given to RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service said.

The Data Journalism Agency currently has a U.S.-funded subgrant through the National Democratic Institute (NDI). The Data Journalism Agency is also currently a subcontractor under the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and United Kingdom Agency for International Development (UKAID).

The two agencies fund the Transparency and Accountability in Public Administration and Services (TAPAS) program, USAID told RFE/RL in an e-mail response to a question.

TAPAS is an eight-year, $53 million anti-corruption program in Ukraine to develop online tools that improve government transparency and accountability in the area of procurement of goods and public services -- areas that have historically been rife with corruption.

TAPAS is the largest investor in the IT infrastructure of the e-procurement system Prozorro, an electronic public-procurement system through which state and municipal customers announce tenders to purchase goods and services, and through which businesses compete to become a state supplier.

Some U.S. Republican lawmakers have complained about corruption in Ukraine and cited that as one reason for holding back aid.

Eurasia Foundation, a partner of TAPAS, said TAPAS rapidly redesigned its project to meet wartime needs after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukaine in 2022.

The NDI said in a statement to RFE/RL it had worked with the Data Journalism Agency on projects related to Ukrainian media but was not aware of the Roller Coaster Project -- the report published on June 6 -- until it was published.

Paulina Chavez Alonzo, a spokeswoman for NDI, said the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that has supported democratic institutions and practices around the world "did not provide any funds or support" for the creation, development, or publication of the report.

Debate over aid to Ukraine, which has been fighting to repel invading Russian troops since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022, has raged in the United States for months, with a November presidential election looming.

Republican lawmakers in Washington -- most of whom are allied with former President Donald Trump, the party's presumed nominee for the election -- for months stalled the approval of a $61 billion aid package while demanding domestic security matters be addressed as well.

Data Journalism Agency said it analyzed the arguments made by organizations and individuals in the United States who oppose supporting Ukraine and compared them with common Russian disinformation narratives, and "debunked these narratives with evidence and source references."

"We do not label the subjects of this research as enemies of Ukraine, nor do we dispute or condemn their right to freedom of expression. We merely state the fact that they oppose support for Ukraine and that many of their arguments resonate with Russian propaganda narratives about Ukraine," Data Journalism Agency said.

"We value and respect freedom of speech, a prerequisite for a democratic society. We reserve the right to present evidence, state facts, debunk false arguments, and compare them with those propagated by Russian propaganda worldwide."

Popular right-wing American political commentator Glenn Beck, who was one of those mentioned in the research, alleged that Data Journalism Agency co-founder Anatoliy Bondarenko had attended a State Department public diplomacy program "to foment" revolutions in other countries and has ties to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), an independent agency of the U.S. government that administers civilian foreign aid and development assistance.

The Data Journalism Agency defended its right to analyze information that is in the public domain.

"We view this campaign as an attack on freedom of speech and a display of chauvinism against the citizens of Ukraine," the agency said.

Georgian Legion Fighting For Ukraine Designated As 'Terrorist' Group In Russia

Members of the Georgian Legion are wanted in Russia. (file photo)
Members of the Georgian Legion are wanted in Russia. (file photo)

Russia’s Southern District Military Court on June 14 designated the Georgian Legion that is fighting for Ukraine as a “terrorist” organization. A report by Russia’s intelligence service alleged that members of the group have tortured Russian military personnel and killed civilians. Set up in 2014, the Georgian Legion is made up of former Georgian military and police officers as well as foreign fighters. Members of the Georgian Legion are wanted in Russia on charges of illegally recruiting mercenaries and participating in the war in Ukraine against Russia's invasion. To read the full story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Prominent Tajik Lawmaker Detained For Allegedly Plotting To Overthrow Government

Saidjafar Usmonzoda has been a lawmaker for nearly a decade. (file photo)
Saidjafar Usmonzoda has been a lawmaker for nearly a decade. (file photo)

Saidjafar Usmonzoda, a prominent member of the Tajik parliament, was detained on June 14 for allegedly “plotting to overthrow the government.”

Prosecutor-General Yusuf Rahmon accused Usmonzoda of collaborating with the foreign-based opposition group National Pact of Tajikistan and of speaking with its leader, the self-exiled Sharofiddin Gadoev.

Gadoev fled Tajikistan in the early 2010s and established the Movement for Reforms and Development of Tajikistan and co-founded the National Alliance, a coalition of opposition groups abroad.

Parliament on June 14 stripped Usmonzoda of his immunity as a lawmaker.

A member of parliament since 2015, Usmonzoda was one of handful of lawmakers accessible to the media and frequently took part in programs by Radio Ozodi, as RFE/RL’s Tajik Service is locally known.

Neither Usmonzoda nor people close to him have commented on his detention. It is unclear if he has legal representation.

A former chairman of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan, Usmonzoda was expelled from the party last month for his perceived “unsatisfactory” performance as a party member.

Shaboz Abror, who had led the party conference that resulted in Usmonzoda’s expulsion, was recognized as the party’s new chairman on May 31 by the Ministry of Justice.

However, Usmonzoda maintained in an interview with Radio Ozodi earlier this month that he was the legitimate leader of the party.

Founded in 1990, the Democratic Party of Tajikistan has experienced divisions and scandals since its inception.

In 2013, the party split into two factions, with Masoud Sobirov and Rahmatullo Valiev claiming leadership positions. However, the Ministry of Justice recognized Usmonzoda as the party's leader.

In the 2013 presidential election, Usmonzoda ran against Emomali Rahmon, the longtime president who has since consolidated his grip on power.

Rahmon, who has run the Central Asian nation since 1992, has been criticized by international human rights groups over his administration's alleged disregard for independent media, religious freedoms, civil society, and political pluralism.


Ukraine's Record Power Imports Continue Due To Energy Infrastructure Damage

A municipal worker repairs a power line after a Russian missile attack on the northeastern Ukrainian city Kharkiv. (file photo)
A municipal worker repairs a power line after a Russian missile attack on the northeastern Ukrainian city Kharkiv. (file photo)

Ukraine is set to continue to import record amounts of power to make up for a shortfall caused by Russia's targeting of energy infrastructure, which has decimated output.

Ukraine's power grid operator Ukrenerho said on June 14 that it would import 31,904 megawatt hours (MWh) of power, breaking the previous record of 29,796 MWh set earlier this week.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

RFE/RL's Live Briefing gives you all of the latest developments on Russia's full-scale invasion, Kyiv's counteroffensive, Western military aid, global reaction, and the plight of civilians. For all of RFE/RL's coverage of the war in Ukraine, click here.

The announcement comes a day after the Ukrainian government said that Group of Seven (G7) member states had agreed to provide more than $1 billion to support Ukraine’s energy sector.

Russia has ramped up its missile and drone attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure since March, causing frequent blackouts in many regions. Kyiv has been forced to import electricity from the European Union to keep the lights on.

Ukraine and Russia exchanged drone attacks overnight into June 14 as the Group of Seven (G7) agreed on a $50 billion loan to Ukraine using frozen Russian assets as collateral.

The Ukrainian armed forces said air defenses had struck down all 17 Shahed-type drones launched by Russia over seven regions.

Russia also fired 17 cruise and ballistic missiles, half of which were intercepted, according to the Ukrainian Air Force.

In Donetsk, nine people were wounded as a result of Russian shelling, according to local administration head Vadym Filashkin. Ukraine’s emergency services said homes and vehicles had caught fire in the Kharkiv Oblast.

In Sumy, a bus carrying more than 20 people was targeted by a Russian drone, local authorities said, injuring at least three women.

Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry said its armed forces had shot down 87 Ukrainian drones across five regions as well as the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula.

The debris disrupted power supply in the Rostov region and damaged fuel tanks at an oil depot in Voronezh, according to local authorities.

Hours earlier, the G7 leaders in Italy agreed to provide a $50 billion loan to Ukraine. The agreement will leverage interest and income from more than $260 billion in frozen Russian assets, largely held in Europe, to secure a $50 billion loan from the U.S. and additional loans from other partners.

Speaking to reporters via teleconference, a senior U.S. administration official said the agreement “is a signal from the leading democracies of the world that we're not going to fatigue in defending Ukraine's freedom and that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is not going to outlast us.”

Separately, U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy signed a 10-year security agreement on the sidelines of the G7 summit, hailing it as a milestone in relations between their countries.

Biden said the goal "is to strengthen Ukraine's defense and deterrence capabilities.”

He said the United States has received commitments from five countries that he did not name to provide Patriot missile and other air defense systems to Ukraine.

Zelenskiy called the security agreement a "bridge to Ukraine's accession to NATO" and said it was important for all Ukrainians and Europeans to know that there will be no security deficit in Europe to tempt aggressors to wage war and make the future uncertain.

With reporting by Reuters

Armenia Denies Attacking Azerbaijani Troops In Naxcivan

Armenia and Azerbaijan have a border cease-fire agreement in place. (file photo)
Armenia and Azerbaijan have a border cease-fire agreement in place. (file photo)

The Armenian military on June 14 denied Azerbaijan’s claim that Armenian forces had opened fire on Azerbaijani troops in Baku's Naxcivan exclave. A day earlier, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry had accused Armenian troops of targeting Azerbaijani positions in the village of Khavush in the Sharur region, the village of Nurgut in the Ordubad region, and Guney Gyshlag village in the Shahbuz region. Baku said it had responded. Armenia and Azerbaijan have a border cease-fire agreement and are negotiating a peace deal. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Armenian Service, click here. To read the full story by RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service, click here.

Media Groups Condemn Armenian Police For Injuries During Clashes

Antigovernment activists clash with Armenian police officers during a protest in Yerevan on June 12.
Antigovernment activists clash with Armenian police officers during a protest in Yerevan on June 12.

Armenia's leading media associations have strongly condemned riot police for injuring at least a dozen journalists during clashes in Yerevan with protesters demanding Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian's resignation.

"We condemn the police's use of brute force against media representatives, and unprofessional, uncalculated actions that led to serious consequences," said a joint statement released on June 13 by nine Armenian press freedom groups.

"From a number of videos as well as a photo by the Photolur news agency, it is clear that stun grenades were also directed at journalists and operators standing in a place where media cameras were concentrated," it said.

Fresh Protests In Armenia As Activists Claim Police Brutality At Earlier Rally
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Security forces hurled dozens of stun grenades into the crowd during clashes on June 12, injuring at least 83 people. According to law-enforcement authorities, 18 policemen were also hurt.

Vazgen Yetumian, a cameraman with the online news service, suffered a broken leg, and two other cameramen, Narek Hayrian of Civilnet and Hovsep Hovsepian of, were injured.

Hayrian told RFE/RL that several explosive devices went off right next to him.

"I had a vision blackout and felt unwell," he said. "My leg got hit and I fell down."

Journalists were injured during another clash at the same location earlier on June 12. They included ABC Media reporter Nane Hayrapetian and her cameraman Arman Gharibian. Doctors suspect that they suffered concussions.

"Ignoring the fact that I had a 'press' inscription on my shirt and ABC written on my back and my cameraman carried a badge and a camera, the police literally trampled us underfoot," said Hayrapetian.

The ABC Media crew that replaced the duo was injured in subsequent stun grenade explosions.

The nine press freedom organizations that signed the statement expressed serious concern over Pashinian and his allies' unequivocal defense of the police actions "without waiting for the results of their analyses."

They demanded the Interior Ministry investigate those actions and "hold accountable the officers who abused their powers."

The ministry had announced no such inquiry as of the evening of June 13.

Echoing Pashinian's statements, Armenia's Investigative Committee blamed the protesters for the "mass disturbances" and said it has identified 40 people involved. An opposition-linked lawyer said earlier in the day that 28 protesters arrested during the violence remain in custody and risk criminal charges.

Czech Official Says Letter To EU's Borrell Asks To Curb Moves Of Russian Diplomats

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky. (file photo)
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky. (file photo)

PRAGUE -- Foreign ministers from eight EU countries have sent a letter to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell asking him to curb Russian diplomats' movement in the Schengen area over their concern that the free movement of the diplomats facilitates "malign activities."

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky confirmed in an interview on June 13 with RFE/RL that the letter was sent to Borrell. He said the measure was needed because the movement of Russian diplomats and their family members in the Schengen zone "creates the infrastructure" for illicit activities.

The letter says that "intelligence, propaganda, or even preparation of sabotage acts are the main workload for a large number of Russian 'diplomats' in the EU," according to AFP, which obtained a copy of the letter.

It calls on Borrell to urgently propose restrictive measures, AFP reported on June 13.

In his interview with RFE/RL, a full version of which will be published on June 14, Lipavsky said the movement of Russian diplomats lays the groundwork for threats in cyberspace and other "sabotages and subterfuges" amid concern over Moscow’s attempts to sow divisions within the EU. He said these hybrid threats were increasing and the European Union needs to show Russia that this won’t be tolerated.

He cited the Voice of Europe, a Prague-based news website that the Czech Republic in March added to its sanctions list after it was determined that it trying to carry out influence operations to Moscow’s benefit on Czech territory. Since then, more and more disinformation operations have been discovered, he said.

The letter sent to Borrell was “gladly signed” by the Netherlands, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania, Lipavsky said.

The letter, dated June 11, calls for a measure that "will significantly narrow operational space for Russian agents." It said the European Union should restrict the movement of Russian diplomats and their family members to the territory of the state of their accreditation.

“We are providing Russian diplomats…[the] possibility to travel…all over the Europe. I don't understand why,” Lipavsky told RFE/RL. Russia limits the travel of EU diplomats, “so we should remove this asymmetry for the sake of our national security,” he added.

The Czech Republic and Poland recently arrested arson suspects who claimed their crimes had been incited by Russia. Lithuania in turn is grappling with Russia's drive to unilaterally expand its maritime border at its expense.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on June 13 that Russia will respond to any restrictions imposed by European countries on the movement of its diplomats.

Zakharova told reporters the West was infected by Russophobia and Moscow would take retaliatory measures if any limits were introduced.

EU countries have dramatically reduced the number of Russian diplomats allowed to remain in their countries since the Russian invasion of Ukraine started in February 2022. Moscow has responded by expelling diplomats from Russia.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters

Iranian Dissident Sepehri Sentenced To Further 18 1/2 Years For Comments About Israel

Fatemeh Sepehri (file photo)
Fatemeh Sepehri (file photo)

Fatemeh Sepehri, a prominent critic of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been sentenced to an additional 18 1/2 years in prison for "supporting Israel," a thinly veiled reference to her condemnation of an October 7 attack by Hamas -- designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and EU -- on Israel that killed some 1,200 people, mainly civilians.

Asghar Sepehri, the dissident's brother, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Mashhad convicted Fatemeh Sepehri on multiple counts: seven years for supporting Israel, seven years for conspiring against internal security, three years for insulting the supreme leader, and one year and six months for propaganda activities against the regime.

He said that with the new sentences, Fatemeh Sepehri, who suffers from a heart ailment, now faces a cumulative punishment of 37 1/2 years.

Sepehri was originally arrested in September 2022 as protests erupted across the country over the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was taken into custody by the morality police for allegedly violating the country's hijab law and died while in detention.

In an exclusive interview with Radio Farda, Asghar Sepehri denounced the new charges and sentences against his sister as baseless, arguing that her imprisonment invalidated the claims of conspiracy and assembly.

He further noted that the accusation of insulting Khamenei lacks substance, given that her communications are heavily monitored, restricting even basic contact with family.

The crackdown on the Sepehri family extends beyond Fatemeh, as her brothers Mohammad-Hossein and Hossein Sepehri also received prison sentences on similar charges.

Mohammad-Hossein was handed eight years for conspiracy, assembly, and insulting the supreme leader, while Hossein faces a total of two years and 11 months for related offenses.

The Sepehri siblings' previous attorney, Khosrow Alikordi, has also been imprisoned, leading to the appointment of Javad Alikordi as their new legal representative.

However, the court has refused to recognize him, insisting that only attorneys approved by the judiciary are eligible to defend such cases, a condition the Sepehri family has not accepted.

Concerns about Fatemeh Sepehri's health were highlighted by her brother, who told Radio Farda that she was not physically capable of enduring further imprisonment due to multiple health issues.

He called on the authorities to immediately release her.

Fatemeh Sepehri is one of 14 activists in Iran who have publicly called for Khamenei to step down. She has been arrested and interrogated several times in recent years.

Sepehri and the other activists have also called for a new political system within the framework of a new constitution that would secure dignity and equal rights for women.

Criticism of Khamenei, who has the final say on almost every decision in the country, is considered a red line in Iran, and his critics often land in prison, where political prisoners are routinely held in solitary confinement and subjected to various forms of torture.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda

Imprisoned Russian Blogger Gets Additional Term Shortly Before Release

Russian blogger Vladislav Sinitsa (file photo)
Russian blogger Vladislav Sinitsa (file photo)

A Russian court on June 13 sentenced blogger Vladislav Sinitsa to an additional 2 1/2 years in prison on extremism charges just ahead of his scheduled release on July 1. Investigators say Sinitsa, who was serving a five-year prison term he was handed in 2019 on charges of inciting violence against children of National Guard officers online, opened an account on the X social media platform while in prison and used it to condemn Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Sinitsa denied any relation to the X account in question. The Memorial rights group has recognized Sinitsa as a political prisoner. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Kara-Murza Appeal Hearing Postponed, Kremlin Critic's Whereabouts Unknown

Vladimir Kara-Murza
Vladimir Kara-Murza

A Moscow court on June 13 postponed until July 1 a hearing into imprisoned Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza's appeal after the administration of a correctional colony in Siberia said he is no longer at the penitentiary. He was appealing against police inaction in the investigation of his alleged poisonings in 2015 and 2017. Kara-Murza's current whereabouts are unknown. His lawyer, Maria Eismont, says she has not been informed about a move for her client to another prison. Kara-Murza was sentenced to 25 years in prison in April 2023 on charges of high treason and discrediting Russia's military. He and his supporters reject the charges as politically motivated. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.


Russia To Try Jailed U.S. Journalist Gershkovich On Espionage Charge

U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich, arrested on espionage charges, looks out from a defendants' cage before a hearing to consider an appeal at the Moscow City Court in Moscow on February 20.
U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich, arrested on espionage charges, looks out from a defendants' cage before a hearing to consider an appeal at the Moscow City Court in Moscow on February 20.

The Russian Prosecutor-General's Office confirmed on June 13 a final charge of espionage against U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich and sent his case to the Sverdlovsk regional court for trial.

"Investigators revealed and confirmed by documents that the U.S. journalist of the Wall Street Journal newspaper, at the request of the CIA, in March 2023 collected classified information related to the operations of the Uralvagonzavod industrial facility producing and repairing military equipment," the office said in a statement, adding that Gershkovich "conducted the illegal actions under thorough disguise measures."

The 32-year-old U.S. citizen was arrested in late March 2023 in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg while on a reporting trip.

Russian authorities have not provided any evidence to support the espionage charges, which The Wall Street Journal and the U.S. government have vehemently rejected. They say Gershkovich was merely doing his job as an accredited reporter when he was arrested.

Dow Jones CEO and Wall Street Journal publisher Almar Latour and Wall Street Journal Editor in Chief Emma Tucker said in a statement on June 13 that Russia's latest move toward a "sham trial" is "deeply disappointing and still no less outrageous."

Gershkovich is facing a "false and baseless charge," they said, adding that he had spent 441 days in a Russian prison for simply doing his job.

"Evan is a journalist. The Russian regime's smearing of Evan is repugnant, disgusting, and based on calculated and transparent lies," the statement said. It added that the newspaper continues to demand his immediate release and now expects the U.S. government to redouble efforts to get him released.

Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens told members of Congress on June 13 that Gershkovich will soon begin the trial process, which "is not unexpected."

Carstens said Gershkovich can appeal his detention one more time, but he most likely will be moved to Yekaterinburg by June 30.

"If it's anything like what happened with Brittney Griner, Paul Whelan, Trevor Reed, there will be a period where we won't have any contact with him," Carstens said, referring to other Americans who have been imprisoned in Russia. Griner and Reed were returned to the United States in prisoner swaps.

The U.S. State Department said in December that Moscow rejected a significant offer it made to secure the release of Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, another American imprisoned in Russia on espionage charges.

Another U.S. citizen currently held by Russian authorities is Alsu Kurmasheva, an RFE/RL journalist who was arrested in Kazan, the capital of Russia's Republic of Tatarstan, in October 2023 and charged with failing to register as a "foreign agent" and spreading falsehoods about the Russian military.

Prior to her arrest, Kurmasheva, who faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted, had her passport confiscated following a visit to care for her mother. RFE/RL and the U.S. government say the charges against her are reprisals for her work.

Her husband, Pavel Butorin, who also works for RFE/RL, was at the hearing and told RFE/RL that having his wife’s designation changed to wrongfully detained is critical.

“We need the designation,” Butorin said. “Alsu is part of a news organization funded by the U.S. Congress. She has done nothing wrong.”

Russian Court Again Extends Detention Of RFE/RL Journalist Alsu Kurmasheva
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Russian officials have kept mum about any talks to win the release of the Americans. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has repeatedly said that while "certain contacts" on swaps continue, "they must be carried out in absolute silence."

Members of the committee acknowledged the presence of family members of wrongfully detained Americans at the hearing and asked whether Carstens could provide any updates.

Carstens said it would be best to discuss Kurmasheva’s case in a classified setting, noting that the "spotlight" has been on it, particularly after President Joe Biden in April called for her release.

"In Alsu's case, the spotlight's on it. As you know, the president called for her release at the [White House] Correspondents Dinner not too long ago," Carstens said, adding that her case has yet to be declared a wrongful detention.

Representative Brian Mast (Republican-Florida), chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Accountability, and Representative Jason Crow (Democrat-Colorado) agreed that it should be discussed there, implying that the classified setting would take place immediately after the hearing.

Many analysts and officials say it appears as though Russia is targeting American citizens to detain for potential use in prisoner exchanges or for other geopolitical purposes.

Russia is believed to be seeking the release of Vadim Krasikov, who was given a life sentence in Germany in 2021 for the killing of Zelimkhan "Tornike" Khangoshvili, a Georgian citizen of Chechen descent who had fought Russian troops in Chechnya and later claimed asylum in Germany.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, asked in February about releasing Gershkovich, appeared to refer to Krasikov by pointing to a man imprisoned by a U.S. ally for "liquidating a bandit" who had allegedly killed Russian soldiers during separatist fighting in Chechnya.

Belgrade's Higher Court Upholds Ruling to Extradite Belarusian Journalist

Andrey Hnyot after release from detention center. June 6, 2024
Andrey Hnyot after release from detention center. June 6, 2024

Belgrade's Higher Court on June 13 upheld a lower court ruling to extradite Belarusian journalist and opposition activist Andrey Hnyot, a decision that can be appealed. Hnyot was detained at the Serbian capital's airport at the request of Belarus last October. Last week, he was transferred to house arrest. Minsk has accused Hnyot of tax evasion, which he denies. The Higher Court told RFE/RL’s Balkan Service that Hnyot met the requirements for extradition. Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya has warned that Hnyot could face "torture" if extradited. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Balkan Service, click here.

Court Says 'Threats' Forced Closed-Door Trial Of Moscow Theater Director, Playwright

Svetlana Petriichuk (left) and Yevgenia Berkovich in a Moscow courtroom last year. (file photo)
Svetlana Petriichuk (left) and Yevgenia Berkovich in a Moscow courtroom last year. (file photo)

A Moscow court ruled on June 13 that the trial of theater director Yevgenia Berkovich and playwright Svetlana Petriichuk, who are charged with justifying terrorism, must continue behind closed doors due to unspecified "threats" received by a prosecution witness. Lawyers for the defendants protested the move, saying that only defense witnesses are left to testify in the trial. Berkovich and Petriichuk have maintained their innocence in the trial, which began last month. They were arrested last year following a production of the play Finist -- The Brave Falcon. The play is about Russian women who married Muslim men and moved to Syria. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Ukraine Calls For Ban On 4 Russian, Belarusian Wrestlers From Paris Olympics

A protest in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 2023 against allowing athletes from Russia and Belarus to participate in the 2024 Olympics in Paris
A protest in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 2023 against allowing athletes from Russia and Belarus to participate in the 2024 Olympics in Paris

Ukraine's National Olympic Committee has called on the International Olympic Committee to ban the participation of three female wrestlers from Russia and one from Belarus in the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris for their support of Russia's aggression against Ukraine. Last month, Russian wrestler Dinara Kudayeva posted on the Internet a photo of her father, who joined Russia's armed forces and was killed while fighting against Ukrainian troops. Kudayeva called her father "my hero" and asked Internet users to commemorate him. Two other Russian wrestlers -- Natalya Malysheva and Olga Khoroshavtseva, as well Belarusian wrestler Iryna Kurachkina -- liked the post. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.

Iranian Cartoonist Sentenced To 6 Years In Prison For Activism

Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani
Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani

Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani has been sentenced to six years in prison by the country's Islamic Revolutionary Court, her attorney said.

Mohammad Moqimi told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that Farghadani received five years for "insulting sacred beliefs" and an additional year for "propaganda" against the Islamic republic for her activism.

The sentences were officially communicated to the artist on June 10 following her conviction by Branch 26 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court, Moqimi said.

He highlighted that the court imposed the harshest penalties available under the charges, citing the number of infractions she was alleged to have committed.

It isn't Farghadani's first encounter with the Iranian justice system.

Last year, she was taken into custody after visiting the Evin prosecutor's office and was detained by security forces.

She has already served 18 months for charges including "assembly and collusion," "propaganda activities against the state," and "insulting the leadership and the president."

Farghadani's latest arrest occurred on April 14, after which Moqimi reported that she was severely beaten, leaving an interrogation with visible injuries on her face.

Refusing to accept the bail set for her detention, which she said was "arbitrary," Farghadani was transferred to Qarchak prison near Tehran, known for its harsh conditions.

An art graduate from Alzahra University, Farghadani was recognized internationally when the Cartoonists Rights Network International awarded her its Courage In Cartooning Award in August 2015.

The sentence is part of a broad campaign of suppression in response to the Women, Life, Freedom protests in 2022, during which many artists and popular cultural activists have been similarly targeted.

Javaid Rehman, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, concluded in a report in March that the actions of the Iranian authorities since the 2022 protests pointed to "the possible commission of international crimes, notably the crimes against humanity of murder, imprisonment, enforced disappearances, torture, rape and sexual violence, and persecution."

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda

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