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Kabul Urges UN To Remove More Names From Terrorist List

Zahir Tanin, Afghanistan's ambassador to the UN: "Such measures will benefit Afghanistan's peace and reconciliation initiative."
Zahir Tanin, Afghanistan's ambassador to the UN: "Such measures will benefit Afghanistan's peace and reconciliation initiative."
UNITED NATIONS -- Afghanistan's ambassador to the UN has urged the Security Council to remove more members of the Taliban from its international sanctions list, saying the move is "critical for achieving lasting peace and security."

UN Resolution 1267 blacklisted hundreds of individuals and entities suspected of being associated with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban but is increasingly viewed by Kabul as a major impediment toward its peace and reconciliation effort.

During a special council session on global terrorism matters, Ambassador Zahir Tanin also urged the council to streamline the procedures for listing and delisting names on the list.

Created in 1999, the 1267 list was initially seen as a temporary measure aimed against the emerging Al-Qaeda and Taliban threats. Over time, it has become a permanent fixture and lightning rod for criticism.

The Austrian diplomat who chairs the 1267 committee, Thomas Mayr-Harting, said the committee is investigating how many terrorist suspects on the list have died. He also acknowledged the weaknesses in the current procedures for listing and delisting names.

"The 1267 regime regarding Al-Qaeda and Taliban has also been recently criticized in the sense that it was no longer a temporary emergency measure to address a specific threat but an open-ended measure that was not limited in time or space," he said.

Top Priority

In October, Martin Scheinin, an independent UN expert on the protection of human rights, argued that it is problematic to impose binding permanent obligations for acts of terrorism which have not yet taken place because there is no universally accepted and precise definition of terrorism.

There are now 433 Al-Qaeda and Taliban names and entities on the list. Forty-five were recently removed and 58 are being considered for possible delisting.

Kabul has made the removal of as many Taliban individuals from the list one its top priority at the UN, as it pursues a strategy of bringing the Taliban into the process of national reconciliation.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has submitted 10 additional high priority names that he wants taken off the list.

No Legal Recourse


Tanin said the decision earlier this year to remove 10 Taliban members from the list "will benefit Afghanistan's peace and reconciliation initiative." But he added that, even though Kabul welcomes the reforms, individuals named on the list have virtually no legal avenues to dispute the decision.

"Afghanistan welcomes the delisting of 10 former Taliban members during the course of the year. Such measures will benefit Afghanistan's peace and reconciliation initiative," he said. "We urge the committee to also give the consideration to Afghanistan's additional delisting requests and look forward to the monitoring team's visit to Kabul at the end of this month."

Ahmad Sial, Pakistan's acting representative to the UN, echoed his Afghan counterpart's views and said the procedure could be simplified further.

"We are of the view that much needs to be done to improve the revised procedures and meet the standards required to ensure a fair hearing for listing or delisting of individuals and entities," he said.

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YouTube Confirms Iranian Foreign Ministry Account Closed Over U.S. Sanctions

Iran blocked access to YouTube in 2012. (file photo)
Iran blocked access to YouTube in 2012. (file photo)

Internet video platform YouTube has confirmed terminating an account run by Iran's Foreign Ministry to comply with U.S. sanctions against the Islamic republic.

"Google is committed to compliance with applicable sanctions and trade compliance laws, and enforces related policies under our Terms of Service," YouTube spokesman Alzbeta Houzarova told RFE/RL in a written statement on May 28.

"If we find that an account violates our Terms of Service, we take appropriate action," she added.

Iran's official IRNA news agency said the account had been suspended after posting a video in English in support of Palestinians amid Israel's war against Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, in the Gaza Strip.

State-controlled IRNA accused YouTube, which has been banned in Iran since 2009, of "violating freedom of speech."

Asked about IRNA's claim that a pro-Palestinian video had resulted in the account's removal, Houzarova reiterated that U.S. sanctions were the reason for the channel's suspension.

The account "will remain terminated," according to YouTube, which is owned by Google's parent company, Alphabet.

"Due to established U.S. sanctions, Iran's state-owned channels are not permitted on YouTube," the platform said.

Iran has blocked all major social media platforms and outlawed the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) to bypass the ban. However, the authorities themselves continue to use the blocked platforms.

Iran has for years tried to encourage the public to use domestically developed alternatives to popular social media platforms, with little success. A survey in January by the state-affiliated ISPA polling agency found that Instagram, WhatsApp, and Telegram -- all of which are blocked -- are the most popular platforms among Iranians.

YouTube has previously suspended other Iranian state-owned accounts, including the English-language news service Press TV and the Spanish-language Hispan TV.

In February, Instagram removed accounts run by the office of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Instagram and Facebook for posts in support of Hamas.

A spokesperson for Instagram’s parent company, Meta, told RFE/RL the accounts had been shut down for "repeatedly violating our Dangerous Organizations & Individuals policy."

The policy includes organizations backlisted by the U.S. government.

Sweden Donates $1.3 Billion In Military Support For Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (left) and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson meet in Sweden in August 2023.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (left) and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson meet in Sweden in August 2023.

Sweden's government on May 29 announced its largest military aid package for Ukraine since the beginning of Russia's unprovoked invasion. The package, the 16th since the start of the war, is worth 13.3 billion Swedish crowns ($1.3 billion) and includes Airborne Surveillance and Control (ASC 890) aircraft to beef up Ukraine's depleted air-defense capabilities, the Swedish government said in a statement on May 29. Stockholm has provided 43.5 billion Swedish crowns ($4.1 billion) in military aid to Ukraine since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022.

Former Putin Bodyguard, Kremlin Aide Dyumin Elevated To Key Position

Aleksei Dyumin (left), former governor of the Tula region, previously worked as a bodyguard for President Vladimir Putin.
Aleksei Dyumin (left), former governor of the Tula region, previously worked as a bodyguard for President Vladimir Putin.

Aleksei Dyumin, a former bodyguard to Russian President Vladimir Putin who was recently named a top Kremlin aide, has been appointed secretary of the State Council.

Dyumin's appointment to the council, an advisory board consisting of governors, top parliament deputies, the prime minister, and other regional officials, was the latest indication of his growing clout within the Kremlin.

Though not as powerful as the Security Council, the council is nevertheless a highly public venue that analysts say is used by Putin to build support among regional officials and business elite.

The Kremlin made the announcement on May 29, but gave no other details.

A former governor of the Tula region, home to a sizable number of defense industries, the 52-year-old Dyumin was named as an aide to Putin earlier this month amid a wide-ranging shuffle of top Defense Ministry and Security Council positions.

Dyumin had previously worked as a bodyguard for Putin as part of the powerful Federal Protective Service, Russia's equivalent of the U.S. Secret Service.

In a 2016 interview with the newspaper Kommersant, he described how once, when he was serving on Putin’s security detail, he scared off a bear that had approached a presidential residence where Putin was sleeping.

A recipient of Russia's highest honor and regular ice hockey teammate of Putin, Dyumin has also served as deputy defense minister and was instrumental in the 2014 operation to occupy Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, which was subsequently annexed.

The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Dyumin in 2018, citing his role in the Crimea annexation.

He's also frequently been on Kremlin watchers' short list of possible successors to Putin.

The Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta has reported that Dyumin may have been instrumental in the creation of the Wagner mercenary group.

The company's founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was killed in a mysterious plane crash in August 2023 two months after he staged an unprecedented mutiny that openly challenged Putin and Russia's military leadership.

During the June 2023 mutiny, Dyumin reportedly played a key role in persuading Prigozhin to back down.

Afterwards, Dyumin publicly praised Prigozhin as "a true patriot, a decisive and fearless man."

Putin recently began a reshuffle of top defense-related jobs, including relieving his close ally, Sergei Shoigu, of his duties as defense minister. The appear to underpin an attempt by the Kremlin to crack down on corruption in the sector.

In his appointment as a Kremlin aide earlier this month, Dyumin was given oversight of Russia's military-industrial complex, a position Kremlin watchers said was aimed at balancing other powerful business interests, including the state defense conglomerate, Rostekh.

"Apparently, Putin decided that some kind of independent supervision over them was needed," Abbas Gallyamov, a former Putin speechwriter who now lives outside of Russia, told Current Time on May 29.

"Dyumin is not from their clan, he is not their enemy, but he is not from their clan. And this independent supervision of an extremely important industry for Putin will be carried out by Dyumin," Gallyamov said.

Poland To Reintroduce Buffer Zone At Belarus Border, PM Says

Polish soldiers patrol along the border fence on the Polish-Belarusian border in Usnarz Gorny.
Polish soldiers patrol along the border fence on the Polish-Belarusian border in Usnarz Gorny.

Poland will reintroduce a 200-meter buffer zone at the Belarusian border at the beginning of next week, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on May 29, after a soldier was left fighting for his life after an attack on the frontier. The border has been a flashpoint since migrants started flocking there in 2021, after Belarus, a close Russian ally, reportedly opened travel agencies in the Middle East to offer a new unofficial route into Europe -- a move the European Union said was designed to create a crisis. Belarus rejects the accusation that it helps to channel migrants to the Polish border.

Eyes On Georgia's President After Lawmakers Nix Her Veto Of 'Foreign Agent' Law

President Salome Zurabishvili delivers a speech on Georgia's Independence Day in Tbilisi on May 26.
President Salome Zurabishvili delivers a speech on Georgia's Independence Day in Tbilisi on May 26.

TBILISI -- Georgia's so-called "foreign agent" law is expected to land back on President Salome Zurabishvili's desk after lawmakers on May 28 overrode her veto, prompting fresh protests against the piece of legislation seen as mirroring a repressive Russian measure and jeopardizing the country's drive toward the European Union.

The ruling Georgian Dream party, as expected, pushed through the override on May 28 with an 84-4 vote in the 150-seat parliament. A simple majority of 76 votes was needed to cancel Zurabishvili's veto.

Most opposition deputies had walked out of the chamber ahead of the vote.

Angry Protests In Tbilisi As Parliament Rejects Veto On 'Foreign Agent' Bill
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Zurabishvili, who has been at odds with Georgian Dream over the bill and sided with the pro-Western protesters, now has five days to sign the measure into law. She has given no indication she intends to do so but if she refuses, the speaker of parliament, Georgian Dream member Shalva Papuashvili, can sign the law and publish it.

The vote to override Zurabishvili's veto came despite last-minute appeals from the European Union and several member states to Georgian lawmakers as hundreds of mostly young protesters chanted "No Russian law!" and "Slaves!" while waving Georgian and EU flags.

Zurabishvili addressed the crowd massed peacefully at the back entrance of the legislature via video link, urging them not to let the 84 lawmakers who voted for bill have the final say.

The 84 deputies who voted for the law are "nobody compared to those who are here today -- the new Georgia, the Georgia of the future," she said, encouraging demonstrators to save their anger and energy for national elections in October.

Georgia's civil society has for years sought to move the country away from the influence of Russia, which still maintains thousands of troops in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two breakaway Georgian regions that Moscow recognized as independent states following a five-day war with Tbilisi in 2008.

Critics say the legislation was introduced by Georgian Dream, founded by Russian-friendly Georgian tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili, in order to cement the party's grip on power ahead of elections later this year seen as crucial for Georgia's Euro-Atlantic path.

Both the United States and the European Union have warned Georgian Dream that ignoring criticism and cracking down violently on protesters will have negative consequences.

Georgia obtained the coveted status of EU candidate country in December, but it has yet to start actual accession talks, which could last for years. There had been hope such talks could start later this year, but Brussels has warned that the "foreign agent" law could endanger the path toward Europe.

Georgian Dream has insisted that it remains committed to joining Western institutions and the law was only meant to increase transparency on NGO funding.

But European Council President Charles Michel warned on May 28 that overriding Zurabishvili's veto was a "step backward" for Georgia's European aspirations.

"The European Council decided in December to grant Georgia candidate status on the understanding that Georgia undertakes the relevant steps and necessary democratic reforms," Michel wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

"The adoption of the transparency law in the parliament is a step backward and takes Georgia further away from its EU path. The Georgian people have clearly chosen a future in the EU and we will do everything to support their ambitions," Michel said, adding that the issue will be on the agenda of the next European Council meeting.

A day before the vote, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc had started weighing options should Georgia enact the law. He said a decision will be made next month.

After the Georgian Dream party pushed the bill through, a State Department spokesman said the United States condemns the parliament's decision and told reporters that the party's actions and anti-Western rhetoric threaten Georgia's democratic trajectory.

Senator Ben Cardin (Democrat-Maryland), chairman of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the Georgian Dream vote was a "sad day for Georgia," and reaffirmed Washington's determination to back the aspirations of the Georgian people.

"The people have demonstrated that they will not allow Ivanishvili to destroy their democracy & take away their European future. We stand with them," Cardin said on X.

Zurabishvili, meanwhile, has urged Georgians to gear up for the upcoming parliamentary elections later this year.

"We must now do everything we can to prepare for October 26, which will be our answer to today. Are you angry today? Get angry, but let's get down to business," she said, calling for a campaign to collect signatures for an EU referendum.

The law requires civil society and media organizations that receive more than 20 percent of funding from foreign sources to submit to oversight that could encompass sanctions for as-yet-undefined criminal offenses.

Ukraine Repels Russian Drone Attacks On Three Regions

Ukrainian air defenses intercept a Russian drone. (file photo)
Ukrainian air defenses intercept a Russian drone. (file photo)

Ukraine's air defenses shot down 13 of the 14 drones launched by Russia early on May 29 at three of its regions, the Ukrainian Air Force reported on Telegram. "As a result of antiaircraft combat, 13 Shahed [drones] were shot down in the Mykolayiv, Kirovohrad, and Rivne regions," the message said. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage. Meanwhile, Veniamin Kondratyev, the governor of Russia's southern Krasnodar region, said in a message on Telegram that a Ukrainian drone had been shot down by Russian air defenses over the city of Armavir. There were no casualties or damage, Kondratyev wrote. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, click here.

Blinken Visits Moldova In Show Of U.S. Support For Country's Western Path

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) and Moldovan President Maia Sandu (file photo)
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) and Moldovan President Maia Sandu (file photo)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected on May 29 in Moldova, where he is to reaffirm Washington's support for the small Southeastern European country's aspirations to join Western institutions. Moldova, which has a long border with war-wracked Ukraine, has strongly condemned Russia's invasion of its neighbor and sheltered thousands of Ukrainian refugees at the start of the conflict. Under pro-Western President Maia Sandu, Moldova has sought to shake off Russia's long-standing influence and obtained EU candidate status in June 2022. Washington has voiced its firm backing of Sandu, who faces reelection later this year. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Moldovan Service, click here.

Allies Meet In Prague To Discuss Czech Munitions Drive, Air Defense For Ukraine

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala (file photo)
Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala (file photo)

The leaders of five European NATO states reaffirmed their support for Ukraine on May 28 at a meeting in Prague where the main focus was a Czech plan to procure up to 800,000 artillery shells from countries outside the European Union and provide them to Ukraine.

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Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said Ukraine can expect the first delivery of tens of thousands of 155-millimeter shells in the next few days.

Fiala hosted the working dinner attended by Polish President Andrzej Duda, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, and Latvian Prime Minister Evika Silina and said they would also meet with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.

At a news conference ahead of the dinner, Fiala said the officials would discuss how their countries can help Ukraine "at this critical stage of its defense from Russian aggression."

They also would discuss to what extent the existing initiatives to arm Ukraine are working and what more could be done beyond the Czech initiative and a German initiative on supplying air defenses.

Under the Czech initiative, Czech government officials and private companies have worked to source ammunition rounds from around the world. Fifteen EU and NATO states have pledged around 1.6 billion euros ($1.7 billion) to fund the project.

The leaders said in a joint statement after the meeting that with the current financing, they "expect to ensure the donation of half a million rounds of artillery ammunition before the end of the year."

They added that they would continue the initiative as long as needed.

Duda pledged to support the transport of the artillery shells and described the situation on the Ukrainian-Russian front as difficult. He said Russia had the initiative in the war and is preparing another major offensive, and artillery will play a key role in defense.

"We need it (the ammunition) at the front lines as soon as possible," said Shmyhal, who also spoke about the initiative to provide Ukraine with air defense systems to secure its skies.

“We need, [at] a minimum, seven Patriot systems and modern combat aircraft also as soon as possible,” he said.

Fiala also commented on Ukraine's request to use weapons supplied by its Western allies against targets inside Russia.

"I see this as fully logical. Ukraine is a country that defends itself from Russian aggression. It needs to protect its territory and civilian population," he said. "Being a country under attack, it definitely has the full right to use all means for its defense."

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and others have endorsed letting Ukraine use weapons on Russian targets, saying concerns that the use of Western weapons inside Russia would implicate the alliance in the war are unfounded.

With reporting by Reuters and dpa

Bosnian Serbs Withdraw 'Foreign Agent' Law From Assembly Agenda

The National Assembly of Republika Srpska (file photo)
The National Assembly of Republika Srpska (file photo)

The government of Republika Srpska has withdrawn a controversial proposed "foreign agent" law from the agenda of the National Assembly.

The move on May 28 came on the same day that lawmakers in Georgia overrode the president’s veto of similar legislation and then voted overwhelmingly to pass the bill despite mass protests against it in recent weeks.

The withdrawal of the bill in Republika Srpska, the Serbian entity of Bosnia-Herzegovina, was announced by Deputy Prime Minister Milos Bukejlovic, who is also justice minister, without explanation.

The proposed "agents of foreign influence" bill is aimed at NGOs and other organizations that deal with political activities or that attempt to influence public opinion and those that "violate the integrity and constitution of the Republika Srpska."

The draft law calls for the surveillance of NGOs and other organizations funded from abroad and requires registration, financial reporting, and a ban on political activities.

It was included in the agenda at the beginning of the assembly session on May 22 despite a written request from 46 NGOs to deputies not to vote for the law. The NGOs expressed concern that under the draft law everyone "who fights for human rights and against corruption" would be attacked.

The government of Republika Srpska considered the foreign agent law proposal on May 22, but no details were announced afterward.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) also warned last week that the bill contradicts the constitutions of Republika Srpska and Bosnia and the country's international obligations to respect human rights.

The law was announced in 2022 by Milorad Dodik, the pro-Russian president of Republika Srpska, who is also the leader of the largest party in parliament. Dodik is under sanctions imposed by the United States and Britain for his efforts to undermine the Dayton agreement that brought an end to the 1992-95 Bosnian War.

The draft law was referred to the National Assembly on March 28 just days before the legal deadline.

Research conducted by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty showed that the draft law is close to one that has been in effect in Russia for more than a decade.

The U.S. Embassy previously told RFE/RL that the draft law was "repressive and undemocratic” and, if implemented, would drastically violate the rights and freedoms of people living in Republika Srpska.

The Office of the High Representative (OHR) to Bosnia also asked for the withdrawal of the draft law from the parliamentary schedule, saying it aimed to scare civil society organizations into submission.

Zelenskiy To Attend D-Day Commemorations In Normandy, Says Macron

A general view of the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial Colleville-sur-Mer, France. (file photo)
A general view of the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial Colleville-sur-Mer, France. (file photo)

French President Emmanuel Macron said on May 28 that he will greet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy along with other world leaders in Normandy for the 80th anniversary commemorations of D-Day. U.S. President Joe Biden is also scheduled to attend this year’s commemorations of the landings, which led to the liberation of France and Europe from Nazi Germany’s occupation. Dozens of World War II veterans are expected to return to Normandy’s beaches for the ceremony. Macron said during a visit to Germany that he will elaborate on Paris’s support for Ukraine next week, when Zelenskiy visits for the D-Day events.

Iranian Court Sentences Journalist To 21 Years For 'Propaganda Against Regime'

Iranian journalist Zina Modares Gorji (file photo)
Iranian journalist Zina Modares Gorji (file photo)

The Islamic Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj, western Iran, has sentenced journalist Zina Modares Gorji to a combined 21 years in prison for her advocacy of women's rights.

The Kurdish human rights portal Kurdpa reported that Judge Mohammad Karami, handed down a split verdict in the case, with Gorji receiving 10 years for "forming an illegal group aimed at overthrowing the regime" and another 10 years for "collaborating with hostile groups and governments." Additionally, she was given one year for "propaganda against the regime."

Under Iranian law, the longest sentence in cases where multiple punishments are handed down is enforced, meaning she will spend 10 years in prison. However, the court also enforced a 10-year exile period after that.

Her supporters said the sentencing was officially communicated on May 23 and that her legal team has filed an appeal. Her lawyers have requested a retrial and are challenging what they view as an overly harsh and politically motivated verdict aimed at intimidating voices within the country.

The exile portion of the punishment, analysts said, shows how far Iranian authorities are going to stifle dissent in the wake of nationwide unrest over the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody for an alleged Islamic head scarf, or hijab, violation in September 2022.

Gorji was first detained during Amini-inspired protests.

After an initial 40-day detention period for "assembly and collusion against the system," Gorji was temporarily released on a bail.

She was rearrested in April 2023 and spent about a month in solitary confinement before being transferred to a general prison ward.

Last month Gorji said on Instagram that her bookstore in Sanandaj was forcibly closed for several days by local authorities for alleged noncompliance with mandatory hijab laws.

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

Spain Says Its Decision Not To Recognize Kosovo Unchanged After Deciding To Recognize Palestinian State

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said that recognizing a Palestine state was "an imperative to achieve peace." (file photo)
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said that recognizing a Palestine state was "an imperative to achieve peace." (file photo)

Spain's position on recognizing Kosovo’s independence from Serbia remains unchanged, the Spanish Foreign Ministry said May 28 after announcing Madrid’s decision to recognize a Palestinian state.

The ministry told RFE/RL that it viewed the two situations as very different.

"Recognition of the state of Palestine does not affect Israel's territorial integrity, as this territory has never been legally part of the state of Israel,” ministry spokeswoman Elena Aljarilla Cortezon said in response to an inquiry from RFE/RL.

“Spain's decision to recognize the state of Palestine aims to uphold international law, the principles of the UN Charter, and the resolutions of the UN Security Council," Aljarilla Cortezon said.

Spain joined Ireland and Norway on May 28 in formally recognizing a Palestinian state. Israel has slammed the decision as a "reward" for Hamas, which has been declared a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.

More than 140 countries of the 193 in the UN General Assembly have now recognized Palestine as an independent state.

Spain, Ireland, and Norway said they believed their initiative has strong symbolic impact that is likely to encourage others to follow suit.

"Recognition of the state of Palestine is not only a matter of historical justice, with legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people, but is also an imperative to achieve peace," Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on May 28.

"It is the only way to realize the solution we all recognize as the only possible one to achieve the future of peace -- a Palestinian state that coexists alongside the state of Israel in peace and security," Sanchez said.

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008. It has been recognized by more than 110 states, including many EU-member countries and the United States. Serbia, Russia, and China are among those that refuse to recognize it along with EU-member states Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Romania, and Slovakia.

The issue of the recognition of Kosovo by Spain in the light of it recognizing Palestine came up during a meeting of foreign ministers on May 27 in Brussels. Sources told RFE/RL that there was an open spat between Germany and Spain. While Germany was "very convincing" on Kosovo recognition, "Spain was defensive, arguing that Kosovo was not on the agenda."

Spain's former ambassador to Belgrade, Raul Bartolome Molina, said last year just before Madrid took over the presidency of the European Union that his country's position is not to recognize Kosovo's independence, while supporting EU efforts to normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia.

“This position has not changed, nor will it change, and all our allies know it very well," Bartolome said on June 30, 2023.

Siberian Court Upholds 9-Year Prison Sentence Handed To Former Navalny Associate

Ksenia Fadeyeva (file photo)
Ksenia Fadeyeva (file photo)

A court in the Siberian city of Tomsk has rejected an appeal filed by Ksenia Fadeyeva, a former local lawmaker and the ex-head of late opposition politician Aleksei Navalny's regional team, over a nine-year prison term she was handed in December for extremism, a charge she and her supporters reject.

Judges Andrei Arkhipov, Ksenia Gerasimova, and Lyudmila Matyskina of the Tomsk City Court ruled on May 28 that Fadeyeva's sentence must be upheld as a lower court's decision to convict her of organizing the activities of an extremist group and participating in the activities of an NGO that violates "citizens' privacy and rights" was legally grounded.

The judges also concluded that the initial ruling by a lower court ordering Fadeyeva to pay 500,000 rubles ($5,535) fine also remains.

Fadeyeva's lawyers, meanwhile, have called for their client's immediate release, stressing that she had ended her involvement with Navalny's organization before it was labeled extremist in 2021.

During her trial last year, prosecutors asked the court to sentence Fadeyeva to 10 1/2 years in prison.

Fadeyeva was detained in December 2021. She was later released but barred from using the Internet and from communicating with others without the permission of investigators, She was also banned from attending public events.

She was then placed under house arrest and later put in a detention center for what investigators said was a violation of house arrest conditions.

After that, her trial, which started in mid-August, resumed behind closed doors.

In January 2022, Russian authorities added Fadeyeva and several other former leaders of Navalny's teams across the country to the list of extremists and terrorists.

Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation and his other organizations were labeled extremist in August 2021 as part of a crackdown on civil society.

Since Russia launched its ongoing unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, several of Navalny's former associates have been charged with discrediting the Russian armed forces, distributing "fake" news about the military, and extremism.

Earlier in 2023, the former leaders of Navalny’s teams in the Republic of Bashkortostan and the region of Altai Krai -- Lilia Chanysheva and Vadim Ostanin -- were sentenced to 7 1/2 and 9 years in prison, respectively, on extremism charges, which they and their supporters call politically motivated.

In April, Chanysheva's prison term was extended by two years at the request of prosecutors.

Visa-Free Travel To China For Georgians Comes Into Force

The Chinese Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia (file photo)
The Chinese Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia (file photo)

A deal allowing Georgians to travel to China without visas for up to 30 days came into force on May 28, the Georgian Foreign Ministry said. In September, Georgia canceled the visa requirement for Chinese nationals visiting the South Caucasus nation after the two countries announced a decision to upgrade their bilateral ties to a strategic partnership. Tbilisi's move to enhance ties with Beijing coincided with rising tensions between China and both the United States and the European Union over what was seen as the Georgian government's ambivalence toward Russia in the face of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Echo of the Caucasus, click here.

Former Deputy Chief Of Almaty City Police Detained In Torture Case

The arrest is reportedly linked to the beating and torture of Kyrgyz jazz musician Vikram Ruzakhunov in Kazakhstan. (file photo)
The arrest is reportedly linked to the beating and torture of Kyrgyz jazz musician Vikram Ruzakhunov in Kazakhstan. (file photo)

The Kazakh Prosecutor-General's Office said on May 28 that the former deputy chief of the Almaty city police department, Berik Abilbekov, was detained as part of a case of torture during unprecedented anti-government protests in January 2022 that turned deadly after security forces opened fire.

While the office provided no details, the media outlet Orda.kz cited lawyer Rena Kerimova, who represents popular Kyrgyz jazz musician Vikram Ruzakhunov, as saying that Abilbekov's arrest was linked to the beating and torture of her client.

Ruzakhunov, who says he suffered a chest injury, broken ribs, a concussion, and multiple bruises while in Kazakh custody, visited Kazakhstan several times after Kazakh officials launched a probe into his beating in Almaty.

Ruzakhunov has said that four Kazakh police were detained in Almaty on suspicion of involvement in his beating.

Anti-government protests sparked by a fuel-price hike erupted in Kazakhstan in early January 2022. President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev has publicly blamed what he said were “20,000 extremists” trained abroad for attacking Almaty during the unrest. He has not produced any evidence to back up the claim.

Ruzakhunov's situation was amplified when a Kazakh television channel showed a video in which he said he was recruited by an unspecified group to take part in the unrest for $200.

In the video, severe bruises can be seen on Ruzakhunov's face, which appear to back up his claims that he was forced to make the statement.

The video sparked protests in Kyrgyzstan, where Ruzakhunov was immediately recognized by his fans. He was freed several days after his arrest and allowed to go to Bishkek after the Kyrgyz government demanded his release.

Kazakh officials have said that six people were tortured to death after being arrested for taking part in the protests, and 238 people died during or after the unrest, which was violently dispersed by law enforcement and the armed forces.

The Kazakh Prosecutor-General's Office has said 25 people were officially considered victims of torture as investigators used hot irons during their interrogations.

Human rights groups insist that the number of people killed during the unrest may be bigger, presenting proof that many peaceful demonstrators and persons who had nothing to do with the protesters were slain by police and military personnel following a "shoot-to-kill-without-warning" order issued by Toqaev.

After Ruzakhunov was released following the public outcry in Kyrgyzstan and returned from Kazakhstan to Bishkek, Kyrgyz authorities concluded that Kazakh police had inflicted severe injuries on Ruzakhunov's body during his illegal arrest.

Jailed Kyrgyz Activists Demand Medical Checkups Fearing TB Outbreak

Supporters demand the release of activists and politicians detained for protesting a Kyrgyz-Uzbek border deal. (file photo)
Supporters demand the release of activists and politicians detained for protesting a Kyrgyz-Uzbek border deal. (file photo)

Eight jailed Kyrgyz activists and politicians on trial for protesting a Kyrgyz-Uzbek border deal issued a statement on May 28 urging authorities to organize immediate medical checkups for them after at least two inmates in their detention center were diagnosed with tuberculosis. The eight men were arrested in 2022 along with 19 other people and charged with organizing mass disorder and plotting to seize power after they protested the deal that saw Kyrgyzstan hand over the territory of the Kempir-Abad reservoir to Uzbekistan. Nineteen of the group were later transferred to house arrest. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, click here.

Updated

Belgium Pledges $1 Billion In Military Aid, 30 F-16s For Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (left) and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo shake hands after signing a bilateral security agreement in Brussels on May 28.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (left) and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo shake hands after signing a bilateral security agreement in Brussels on May 28.

Belgium will deliver 977 million euros ($1 billion) in military aid and 30 F-16 fighter jets for Ukraine under a 10-year bilateral security agreement signed by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo on May 28 in Brussels.

The agreement is the second of its kind signed by Zelenskiy in as many days as he continues a whirlwind tour to secure more military aid for Ukraine's outgunned and outmanned troops as they struggle to fend off a Russian offensive and relentless strikes on civilian targets in the northeastern region of Kharkiv.

"For the first time, such an agreement specifies the exact number of F-16 fighter jets -- 30 -- that will be delivered to Ukraine until 2028, with the first arriving already this year," Zelenskiy wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

De Croo said at a joint news conference that Brussels will do "everything possible" to deliver the first fighter jets by the end of the year.

Asked by RFE/RL to specify how many warplanes will be delivered this year, De Croo did not answer, saying just that efforts of the aircraft coalition for Ukraine were ongoing.

De Croo stressed that the planes are to be used only above the territory of Ukraine. "The security agreement stipulates that military equipment will be used by the armed forces of Ukraine and on the territory of Ukraine," he said.

The Belgian prime minister added that training was already under way for Ukrainian pilots on Belgian F-16s.

"Today, our planes are used to train new Ukrainian pilots. Our technical teams are used to provide technical support to keep aircraft in the air. Our teams are training Ukrainian technicians how to perform [technical support]," he said.

WATCH: Zelenskiy Visits Belgian Military Base As Brussels Pledges F16s

Zelenskiy Visits Belgian Military Base As Brussels Pledges F16s
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Zelenskiy, asked by RFE/RL about the progress of negotiations with partners on obtaining permission to strike targets on the territory of Russia, replied that he was "confident of a positive result both from some partners and from our production."

Ukraine has been frustrated by the lack of permission from some of its allies, mainly the United States and Germany, to hit military targets inside Russia with Western weapons systems.

The European Union's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, has backed Kyiv's request.

"According with the law of war, it is perfectly possible and there is no contradiction. I could retaliate or I could fight against the one who fights against me from his territory," Borrell told journalists ahead of a meeting with EU defense ministers.

"You have to balance the risk of escalation and the need for Ukrainians to defend," he said.

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.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has also thrown his weight behind Ukraine's plea, saying concerns that the use of Western weapons inside Russia would implicate the alliance in the war are unfounded.

"Ukraine's use of weapons supplied by its Western allies against targets inside Russia would not make NATO and its members part of the conflict," Stoltenberg said in Brussels on May 28.

French President Emmanuel Macron added his voice, saying on May 28 that Kyiv should be allowed to "neutralize" Russian military bases from which Moscow troops have fired missiles into Ukraine.

"We think that we should allow them to neutralize military sites where missiles are fired," Macron said on a state visit to Germany.

He stressed, however, that Ukraine should not be allowed to hit other targets in Russia or civilian facilities.

But the White House on May 28 again rejected ending restrictions on Kyiv using U.S.-supplied arms to strike Russian territory.

"There's no change to our policy at this point. We don't encourage or enable the use of U.S.-supplied weapons to strike inside Russia," White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told a briefing.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned earlier on May 28 that hitting Russian soil with Western-supplied long-range weapons could set the war on a dangerous new path.

Speaking to reporters while on a trip to Uzbekistan, Putin said the use of such weapons would rely on Western intelligence data and imply the involvement of NATO military personnel.

“Representatives of countries that are NATO members, particularly in Europe, should be aware of what they are playing with,” Putin said, adding that “countries with small territory and dense populations” should be particularly careful.

With reporting by AP and AFP

Former Siberian Coal Mine Official Imprisoned Over Deadly 2021 Blast

A Russian Emergency Ministry rescue team at the Listvyazhnaya coal mine after a deadly blast in 2021
A Russian Emergency Ministry rescue team at the Listvyazhnaya coal mine after a deadly blast in 2021

A court in Russia's Siberian region of Kemerovo on May 28 sentenced the former chief engineer at a coal mine over an explosion in 2021 that killed 51 people. Anatoly Lobanov was convicted of giving false information regarding the mine's safety. The court had already handed sentences to several former employees of the mine and a technical safety service inspector ranging from parole-like sentences to up to six years in prison for safety violations, negligence, and bribery. Numerous inspections of the mine in 2021 revealed 914 violations and operations were stopped nine times. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Siberia.Realities, click here.

Tatar Activist Gets Suspended Sentence Over Anti-War Stance

Anti-war activist Zulfia Sitdikova was convicted of rehabilitating Nazism and discrediting Russia's military.
Anti-war activist Zulfia Sitdikova was convicted of rehabilitating Nazism and discrediting Russia's military.

The Supreme Court in Russia's Tatarstan region on May 28 handed a suspended two-year prison sentence to anti-war activist Zulfia Sitdikova, who was convicted of rehabilitating Nazism and discrediting Russia's military. The charges stem from two public actions Sitdikova carried out in 2023 to protest against the war in Ukraine. In 2022, she was fined for wearing a hoodie with the words "No war" on it while attending a pro-Kremlin concert in Tatarstan's capital, Kazan. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service, click here.

Belarusian Entrepreneur Gets 9 Years In Prison Amid Crackdown

Artur Rolich
Artur Rolich

The Vyasna human rights center said on May 28 that the Minsk City Court sentenced Artur Rolich, the owner of a shop selling brand-name clothing and shoes, to nine years in prison on charges of financing terrorist and extremist activities and financially supporting an extremist group. The charges stem from Rolich's donations to various foundations assisting Belarusian citizens, including those who fled their homeland amid an ongoing crackdown on democratic institutions, free media, and dissent. The 39-year-old Rolich left Belarus in late July 2023. He was most likely arrested after he returned home.

Missing Ukrainian Journalist Turns Up In Russian Custody

Ukrainian journalist Victoria Roshchyna
Ukrainian journalist Victoria Roshchyna

Ukrainian journalist Viktoria Roshchyna, who went missing in the Russia-occupied part of Ukraine's southeastern Zaporizhzhya region last August, has turned up in Russian custody. The Russian Defense Ministry informed Roshchyna's father on May 28 that his daughter "was detained and is currently on the territory of the Russian Federation." No reason for her detention was given. Roshchyna covered Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine from its outset in February 2022. In March 2022, she was detained for 10 days by Russian authorities in the Russian-occupied city of Berdyansk. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Updated

Georgian Parliament Votes To Override Presidential Veto Of 'Foreign Agent' Law

Demonstrators protesting the "foreign agent" law crowd outside the parliament building in central Tbilisi on May 28.
Demonstrators protesting the "foreign agent" law crowd outside the parliament building in central Tbilisi on May 28.

TBILISI -- Georgian lawmakers approved an override of President Salome Zurabishvili's veto of the so-called "foreign agent" law, angering protesters gathered outside parliament and jeopardizing the country's drive toward the European Union.

The ruling Georgian Dream party, as expected, pushed through the override on May 28. Its alliance with the Democratic Georgia party holds 84 of the chamber's 150 seats. A simple majority of 76 votes was needed to cancel Zurabishvili's veto.

Lawmakers then voted 84-4 to pass the bill. Most opposition deputies had walked out of the chamber ahead of the vote.

The approval came despite last-minute appeals from the European Union and several member states to Georgian lawmakers not to override the veto of a law frequently referred to as the "Russian law" because of its resemblance to legislation introduced by the Kremlin to silence opposition and free speech.

The law now goes back to Zurabishvili to be signed. If she refuses, the speaker of parliament, Georgian Dream member Shalva Papuashvili, can sign the law and publish it.

Hundreds of mostly young protesters chanting "No Russian law!" and "Slaves!" while waving Georgian and EU flags massed peacefully at the back entrance of the legislature amid a heavy presence of riot police. Further protests were expected later in the day.

Zurabishvili told the crowd not to let the 84 parliamentarians who voted for bill have the final say.

The 84 deputies who voted for the law are "nobody compared to those who are here today -- the new Georgia, the Georgia of the future," she said, encouraging demonstrators to save their anger and energy for nationwide elections in October.

"We must now do everything we can to prepare for October 26, which will be our answer to today. Are you angry today? Get angry, but let's get down to business," she said, calling for a campaign to collect signatures for a referendum.

A referendum isn’t possible, however, because it would have to be held across all Georgian territory, and currently 20 percent is occupied by Russia. A plebiscite would be possible, but it’s not binding.

The law requires civil society and media organizations that receive more than 20 percent of funding from foreign sources to submit to oversight that could encompass sanctions for as-yet-undefined criminal offenses.

Critics have said the legislation was introduced by Georgian Dream, founded by Russia-friendly Georgian tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili, in order to cement the party's grip on power ahead of elections later this year seen as crucial for Georgia's Euro-Atlantic path.

Georgian Dream has insisted that it remains committed to joining Western institutions and the law was only meant to increase transparency on NGO funding.

Georgia's civil society has for years sought to move the country away from the influence of Russia, which still maintains thousands of troops in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two breakaway Georgian regions that Moscow recognized as independent states following a five-day war with Tbilisi in 2008.

Both the United States and the European Union have warned Georgian Dream that ignoring criticism and cracking down violently on protesters will have negative consequences.

After the party pushed the bill through, a U.S. State Department spokesman said the United States condemns the parliament's decision and told reporters that Georgian Dream's actions and anti-Western rhetoric threaten the country's democratic trajectory.

The European Union said it "deeply regrets" the decision to override Zurabishvili's veto.

"The EU has stressed repeatedly that the law adopted by the Georgian Parliament goes against EU core principles and values. Its enactment leads to a backsliding on at least three out of the nine steps (on disinformation; on polarization; on fundamental rights and involvement of Civil Society Organizations) set out in the Commission's recommendation for candidate status endorsed by EU leaders and will negatively impact Georgia's EU path," the statement said.

"We urge the Georgian authorities to reverse this trend and to return firmly on the EU path. There is still time to change the dynamics -- but a strong commitment by the governing authorities is needed," the statement said.

It also said its member states "are considering all options to react to these developments."

Georgia obtained the coveted status of EU candidate country in December, but it has yet to start actual accession talks, which could last for years. There had been hope such talks could start later this year, but Brussels has warned that the "foreign agent" law could endanger the path toward Europe.

Parliament speakers from seven EU member countries -- the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, France, Netherlands, and Poland -- on May 27 issued a joint statement calling on the Georgian lawmakers to scrap the legislation.

The statement addressed to Papuashvili says recent developments in Georgia are "disturbing" and the Georgian government's actions contradict the values and principles that Georgia undertook to respect.

"The spirit and content of the Law on Foreign Transparency adopted by the Parliament of Georgia are incompatible with European norms and values. The law as it stands seeks to silence media and civil society organizations that play a vital role in a democratic society and are instrumental in helping Georgia on its path to the EU," the statement said.

Georgia Marks Independence Day Amid Protests Over 'Foreign Agent' Law
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"We urge you to withdraw this law and engage in a meaningful and inclusive dialogue with organized civil society and citizens. We also urge you to respect the fundamental values by upholding the rights of people to assembly and discontinue the use of violence and intimidation against peaceful demonstrators."

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on May 27 that the bloc had started weighing options should Georgia enact the law. He said a decision will be made next month.

Georgian Ombudsman Levan Ioseliani also warned on May 27 that the law needs changes to limit the damage it will bring to civil society.

Lawyer For Family Of Executed Iranian Protester Sentenced To 6 Years In Prison

Lawyer Amir Hossein Koohkan represents the family of Mohammad Mahdi Karmi, who was executed during nationwide protests.
Lawyer Amir Hossein Koohkan represents the family of Mohammad Mahdi Karmi, who was executed during nationwide protests.

The Islamic Revolutionary Court of Karaj has sentenced Amir Hossein Koohkan, a defense lawyer for the family of Mohammad Mehdi Karami, who was executed during protests over the death of Mahsa Amini that rocked Iran in 2022, to six years in prison.

Koohkan faced several charges, according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), including assembly and collusion and propaganda against the regime.

Koohkan's arrest comes after he was summoned by the Karaj Intelligence Department last year. He was detained at the time and held until he was granted a conditional release in December.

The charges come shortly after the sentencing of Mashallah Karami, Mohammad Mehdi Karami’s father, to six years in prison on charges of endangering national security and propaganda against the regime.

The cases highlight a pressure campaign, rights groups say, the government is using against those connected to protest movements in Iran.

Mohammad Mehdi Karami was one of nine individuals executed by the Islamic republic in relation to the protests of 2022, which saw widespread unrest over government policies that protesters said curbed basic human rights and intruded too deeply in the lives of most Iranians.

His execution in January 2023, which was tied to the alleged murder of a Basij militia member during the nationwide upheaval, drew international condemnation.

The cases of Koohkan and Karami underscore the concern among Iranian authorities of the possibility of a new wave of unrest.

Following the death of Amini in September 2022, hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the streets nationwide to protest. The 22-year-old died under mysterious circumstances while she was in police custody for an alleged head-scarf violation.

A clampdown by security forces against protesters has resulted in the deaths of approximately 600 demonstrators, as reported by human rights groups, and thousands of arrests.

The Iranian judiciary has also executed several protesters, further inflaming public outcry against the regime's harsh tactics.

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

Iranian Authorities Ratchet Up Crackdown On Critics After Raisi's Death

Factory owner Ali Reyhani Kajvar was reportedly detained and charged with "propaganda against the system and insulting Ebrahim Raisi" for his online posts regarding Raisi's death.
Factory owner Ali Reyhani Kajvar was reportedly detained and charged with "propaganda against the system and insulting Ebrahim Raisi" for his online posts regarding Raisi's death.

Rights groups say Iranian authorities have intensified their crackdown on posts made by social media users following the death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash on May 19.

Raisi, who along with Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and several others died in the helicopter crash in a mountainous region in northwestern Iran, had been accused of serving as a prosecutor for an "execution committee" that sent thousands of political prisoners and regime opponents to their deaths in the late 1980s.

He is often referred to by critics as "Ayatollah Execution" or "Ayatollah Massacre" due to his alleged role in mass executions during 1988.

The crash was mocked by many users of Persian-language social networks. In turn, Iranian security and judicial agencies have responded vigorously to the online activities of citizens and media activists.

The Association for the Defense of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran highlighted an example of the crackdown with a report saying that factory owner Ali Reyhani Kajvar was detained and charged with "propaganda against the system and insulting Ebrahim Raisi" for his online posts regarding Raisi's death.

It was not clear which comments the charges referred to.

Similarly, human rights media outlets said Akbar Yousefi, a resident of Malekan in East Azerbaijan Province, is said to have been arrested on charges related to his social media commentary on the crash.

Others have been charged, rights groups say, for "spreading lies and insulting the sanctity of service martyrs," for their comments on Raisi’s death.

Reza Babarnejad, whose brother was a casualty in the Women, Life, Freedom protests that followed the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody for an alleged head scarf violation, was also arrested for his reactions to the incident.

Others say they have been warned by authorities for their online activities.

The Judiciary Information Center of Kerman province announced that 254 individuals received telephone warnings for posting "offensive" content, while eight people faced judicial summons.

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

Russia To Build 'Vital' Nuclear Power Plant In Uzbekistan

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) signed several agreements in Tashkent with Uzbek leader Shavkat Mirziyoev on May 27.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) signed several agreements in Tashkent with Uzbek leader Shavkat Mirziyoev on May 27.

Russia and Uzbekistan have signed an agreement for Moscow to build a small nuclear power plant in the Central Asian country.

The agreement was one of several deals signed on May 27 in Tashkent between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Uzbek counterpart, Shavkat Mirziyoev.

The Uzbek leader hailed the project as "vital" in a statement released by his press service after the talks, noting that Uzbekistan had "its own large reserves of uranium."

Meanwhile, Putin vowed to "do everything in order to work effectively" on Uzbekistan’s nuclear energy market.

If the agreement is enacted, the nuclear plant will become the first in Central Asia, further cementing Russia's influence in the region.

Putin said Russia would inject $400 million into a joint investment fund of $500 million to finance projects in Uzbekistan.

Mirziyoev also said Tashkent was interested in buying more oil and gas from Russia, a reversal of decades-long practice where Moscow imported hydrocarbons from Central Asia.

The Russian president pledged to increase gas deliveries to Uzbekistan.

Putin and Mirziyoev also discussed migration, with the Russian leader reassuring the Uzbek president that his government would ensure good working conditions and provide social protection for migrant workers from Uzbekistan.

Putin arrived in Tashkent on May 26 and was greeted at the airport by Mirziyoev.

International investigations have identified Uzbekistan as one of the main entry points into Russia for goods that are subject to sanctions. Putin has traveled sparingly since he launched Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Putin's trip to Uzbekistan is his third foreign trip since being inaugurated for a fifth presidential term earlier this month.

He previously traveled to China, where he welcomed China’s proposals for talks to end the war in Ukraine.

Putin later traveled to Belarus, an ally where Russia has deployed tactical nuclear weapons.

With reporting by AP and Reuters

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