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Kyrgyz President Won't Back Down, As Opposition Claims Power

Bishkek - A Day After The Deadly Protests
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WATCH: Bishkek residents found many government buildings ransacked and most of the shops empty and looted in the center of the Kyrgyz capital this morning. (video: Reuters)

BISHKEK (RFE/RL) -- Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev has said he will not relinquish power to an opposition coalition that said it was forming an interim government in the wake of a violent uprising.

In an interview with the Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy, Bakiev said, "I am the elected head of state and I do not accept any defeat."

His remarks came after the opposition said it had taken control of the government and dissolved parliament following the April 7 clashes between antigovernment protesters and police that left at least 75 people dead and hundreds more wounded.

Roza Otunbaeva, a former foreign minister, said she was now head of a temporary caretaker government (see profile) after Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov signed a letter of resignation.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service today, Otunbaeva said she would coordinate an interim administration for at least six months until a new constitution is drafted that would pave the way for "fair" presidential and parliamentary elections:

But Bakiev, speaking to Ekho Moskvy several hours later, said he did not intend to resign and accused the opposition of an armed seizure of power.

"I think this is a real orgy [of violence] carried out by an armed group of people and I do not consider it my defeat," Bakiev said. He acknowledged, however, that he had been "stripped of any possibility" to influence events in the country at the moment.

The statement from Bakiev was the first since the unrest erupted in the northwestern city of Talas on April 6. His exact whereabouts are still unclear, though he said he was currently in the south of the country -- his stronghold -- as the opposition had earlier suggested.

Bakiev's statement of defiance capped another extraordinary day of events in Kyrgyzstan and raised the prospect of continued instability in the Central Asian country.


In what appeared to be an early sign of recognition of the interim government, the website of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said he spoke to Otunbaeva by phone today in her capacity as the "head of the Kyrgyz government of national confidence."

Otunbaeva -- who helped bring Bakiev to power in the 2005 revolution that toppled his predecessor, Askar Akaev -- had urged the president to resign, saying his business "in Kyrgyzstan is finished."

Bakiev's Whereabouts Unclear

Bakiev has yet to appear in public since the unrest erupted in the northwestern city of Talas on April 6, and his exact whereabouts were not immediately clear.

He reportedly fled the capital for the southern part of the country, where Otunbaeva said he was trying to rally supporters "in order to continue defending his positions."

RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service correspondent in the southern city of Jalal-Abad said the regional governor told a crowd there today that Jalalabad was establishing a "committee" to protect Bakiev. Governor Koshbai Masirov said Jalal-Abad would not allow anyone to offend "our son," a reference to Bakiev, who hails from the region.

There's also been no word from Prime Minister Usenov.

The country's de facto rulers -- many of them political figures released just hours earlier from jail -- said they were in control of the army, police, media, the parliament, the White House, hospitals and Bishkek international airport.

Among those released was Ismail Isakov, a former defense minister jailed on what supporters said were politically motivated charges of abuse of power. Isakov -- named by Otunbaeva as interim defense minister -- said people had nothing to fear now from the security forces, and described the security situation as stable.

"There is no reason to conclude that security is not being maintained in the country. The people's power has been established everywhere. The border guards are guarding the borders and carrying out their own duties," Isakov said. "There is just one matter that we need to stop activities of tiny clans of the corrupt families who care about their own interests, then, as I strongly believe, life will go on by its order."



However, RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service correspondents said the situation in Bishkek remained chaotic today. With continued looting and city residents setting up voluntary groups in an attempt to keep order, the self-proclaimed new interior minister, Bolot Sherniazov, ordered security forces to fire on looters.

Some of the members of Otunbaeva's team were seen talking to crowds of people who were outside the White House.

A national day of mourning will be held on April 9 to honor victims of the April 7 clashes.

RFE/RL's correspondent in the northern Chui Province also said there had been reports today that groups of Kyrgyz had attacked members of the local Dungan minority, a Muslim people of Chinese origin.

In a radio address, Otunbaeva called on people "not to give in to provocations or destroy and loot the property of ordinary citizens."

The chaos followed weeks of tension between the opposition and the government led by Bakiev, who opponents say has cracked down on independent media and fostered corruption.

In other developments today, Russian news agencies reported that Moscow had sent 150 extra troops to its military base in Kant. The Kremlin also said it ordered increased protection for Russian diplomatic missions and other institutions in Kyrgyzstan.

And the UN secretary-general and the current chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Kazakhstan, said they would send special envoys to Kyrgyzstan to monitor the situation.

The European Union's foreign-policy chief, Catherine Ashton, called for a quick return to law and order and said the EU would offer emergency aid to Kyrgyzstan.

Washington Reaching Out To Both Sides

The international community -- including the United States, Russia, China and the United Nations -- has urged all sides to show calm and restraint.

Before the opposition claimed control, Bakiev’s son, Maxim, accompanied by Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Kadyrbek Sarbaev, left Bishkek for Washington to take part in government-level meetings.


Today U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said a State Department official met briefly this morning with Sarbaev to inform him that the scheduled meeting had been canceled.


He added that in Bishkek this morning, the U.S. Embassy's charge’ d’affairs had met with Otunbaeva, and said in both encounters, the U.S. message was that “we hope that calm will be restored in a manner consistent with democratic principles.”


“Our priority at this point is law and order and that democracy be established in accordance with the rule of law,” Crowley said. “We continue to reach out to government officials and opposition leaders in every way that we possibly can.”

Crowley said there has been no U.S. contact with Bakiev, and when asked if Washington still considers him the president, the spokesman replied that U.S. officials are “in touch with government ministries … and opposition figures” alike.


“We stand with the people of Kyrgyzstan. We understand that there were specific grievances that resulted in the demonstrations that have produced an opposition that now says that it has effective control of the government,” he said, adding, “We will continue to work to help Kyrgyzstan and the people of Kyrgyzstan to have a government that they can support and that functions in accordance with democratic principles.”


U.S.-Russian Cooperation

U.S. officials also said today that they're working closely with Russia to respond to the changing situation in Bishkek. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev discussed the latest developments before signing an arms treaty in Prague.


At a press briefing following the signing, Michael McFaul, Obama's advisor on Russian affairs, said the United States doesn't view the conflict as a proxy struggle between Washington and Moscow.


Kyrgyzstan is home to a military base in the city of Manas that Russia tried to claim before the U.S. gained access to the facility as a supply line to Afghanistan.


McFaul said the two leaders agreed that they have mutual interests in Kyrgyzstan’s stability, and said that unlike at the beginning the Obama’s term in office, when “there was a sense of 'it's us against them'” with regard to the competition for control of the Manas air base, “what was striking today, as we talked about our mutual interests and security in Kyrgyzstan, was that we were not talking in zero-sum terms. We were talking about our mutual interests there."


The NATO-led force in Afghanistan today said flights supporting NATO operations in Afghanistan from the U.S. military air base at Manas had been temporarily suspended. However, a spokesman said the move had not had any significant impact on operations or logistical support in Afghanistan.

More News

Deadly Flood Hits Kyrgyzstan's Second City

Deadly Flood Hits Kyrgyzstan's Second City
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At least five people are known to have lost their lives when the Ak-Buura River burst its banks in Osh, Kyrgyzstan's second largest city, on July 14. The current was so strong that some victims' bodies were washed across the border into neighboring Uzbekistan. Water and mud have made Osh's central market unusable for days to come.

Kazakh Anti-War Activist Summoned To Police Over Online Rap Song

Kazakh anti-war activist Maria Kochneva told RFE/RL on July 15 that Almaty city police summoned her over performing a rap song online that was critical of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Kochneva said that her online song sparked an outcry on pro-Kremlin Telegram channels, adding that an investigator called her and ordered her to come to the police "for a conversation due to the public response" to her performance. Kochneva said the investigator did not tell her about her status, and she did not receive an official subpoena. According to Kochneva, she and her relatives have received threats from unknown individuals since her song was posted online. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, click here.

Anti-Putin Shaman Loses Appeal Against Refusal To Get Transferred To Less Restrictive Psychiatric Clinic

Yakut shaman Aleksandr Gabyshev (file photo)
Yakut shaman Aleksandr Gabyshev (file photo)

The Primorye regional court in Russia's Far East on July 15 rejected the appeal against a lower court's refusal in May to transfer Yakut shaman Aleksandr Gabyshev to a less restrictive psychiatric clinic. Gabyshev made headlines in 2019 by launching a march to Moscow in what he called an attempt to drive Putin out of the Kremlin. He walked some 2,000 kilometers before officials detained him in the Siberian region of Buryatia. Several recommendations to transfer Gabyshev to a general psychiatric clinic have been rejected since he was placed in a restrictive clinic against his will in July 2021. The Memorial human rights group has recognized Gabyshev as a political prisoner. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Siberia.Realities, click here.

'Fugitive' Ukrainian Soldier Shot At Moldovan Border

More than 23,000 Ukrainian men have crossed the border illegally into neighboring Moldova since Russian troops poured into Ukraine in February 2022. (file photo)
More than 23,000 Ukrainian men have crossed the border illegally into neighboring Moldova since Russian troops poured into Ukraine in February 2022. (file photo)

Ukraine's main investigative office said on July 15 that it was looking into the circumstances surrounding the death in the Odesa region of a serviceman who it suggested was shot after going AWOL and trying to get to Moldova illegally along with three other men.

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 incident comes with Ukrainian officials pressing conscription and other measures to bolster their fighting forces as the full-scale Russian invasion nears its 30th month.

The State Bureau of Investigations (DBR) said border guards detained the dead man and three other "fugitives" as they tried to cross the border into Moldova by foot on July 14.

It said one of the detainees attacked a border guard "while trying to escape."

"In response, he used a service weapon and shot the assailant," the investigators said.

The agency said its investigation was based on the death of a serviceman and was intended to clarify whether the guard used appropriate force.

More than 23,000 Ukrainian men have crossed the border illegally into neighboring Moldova since Russian troops poured into Ukraine in February 2022 in Europe's first all-out army invasion since World War II.

As part of early defense efforts, Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 and 59 were banned from leaving the country.

In April, Ukrainian officials lowered the conscription age from 27 to 25.

To address a shortfall in troops, hundreds of thousands of whom are thought to have been killed or wounded so far in the war, they also required men to update their draft registration information.

They also imposed pressure and punishments on Ukrainians abroad who refused to register for possible military service.

Ukrainian border officials have detained small numbers of individuals trying to leave the country into Moldova.

They reported the deaths of at least a dozen people this year who were trying to cross a western river on the border between the two countries.

Cyberexperts Predict Pro-Russia Hackers Will 'Almost Certainly' Target Paris Olympics

Paris is hosting this year's Summer Olympics, which run from July 26 to August 11. (file photo)
Paris is hosting this year's Summer Olympics, which run from July 26 to August 11. (file photo)

Finland-based cybersecurity firm WithSecure has warned that the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics "faces a greater risk of malicious cyber activity than previous Olympics." In a report on July 15, the company's director of threat intelligence called the threat "moderate" and predicted that “Hacktivists aligned with states that are pro-Russia will almost certainly try to disrupt the Olympics in some way." The report lists "threat actors" in four categories: Russian, Chinese, Iranian, and North Korean, and speculates as to their intentions and capabilities.

Nephews Of Former De Facto Leader Of South Ossetia Reportedly Wounded In Shoot-Out

Former de facto leader of Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia, Anatoly Bibilov (file photo)
Former de facto leader of Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia, Anatoly Bibilov (file photo)

Media reports in Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia said Sergo and Lyova Kabisov, two nephews of the region's former de facto leader, Anatoly Bibilov, were wounded in a shoot-out in the regional capital, Tskhinvali, on July 14. The reports cited witnesses as saying that Alik Gagloyev, a brother of the region's current de facto leader, Alan Gagloyev, was involved in the incident. Officials have not commented on the situation. South Ossetia's de facto Interior Ministry confirmed that two men were wounded in a shoot-out but did not identify them. Alan Gagloyev called on law enforcement to thoroughly and swiftly investigate the matter. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Echo of the Caucasus, click here.

State Of Emergency Declared In Kyrgyzstan's Osh After Deadly Flooding, Mudslides

Rescue workers battle floods in Kyrgyzstan's southern city of Osh on July 14.
Rescue workers battle floods in Kyrgyzstan's southern city of Osh on July 14.

Authorities in Kyrgyzstan's southern city of Osh have declared a state of emergency after mudslides and flooding caused by heavy rains killed at least four people on July 14. As of July 15, the deaths of a 44-year-old woman and her three daughters, as well as the death of another woman, have been confirmed. The Ak-Buura River's currents became extremely dangerous over the weekend, officials said, and its banks were breached, flooding the local market as well as a village near the city. Kyrgyz officials said earlier that mudslides and floods caused by heavy rains in recent months killed 17 people. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, click here.

Estonian PM Kallas Steps Down To Prepare For EU Diplomatic Role

Outgoing Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas in a file photo
Outgoing Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas in a file photo

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas officially stepped down on July 15 to step aside and set up her expected move later this year to replace Spaniard Josep Borrell as the European Union's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy. Kallas, a staunch supporter of support for Ukraine in its ongoing war against a Russian invasion, still faces hearings before her likely appointment in the fall. She is a longtime advocate for liberal democracy who was shaped by her personal experience growing up as a child under Soviet occupation and, if appointed, she will have a major role shaping and advancing the bloc's security and defense goals. She will stay on as a caretaker prime minister for now.

At Least 3 Troops Dead, Dozens Injured In Attack On Pakistani Garrison

Smoke can be seen rising from a security garrison in Bannu in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province on July 15 after an attack claimed by a previously unknown group.
Smoke can be seen rising from a security garrison in Bannu in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province on July 15 after an attack claimed by a previously unknown group.

At least three soldiers are dead and 50 more injured after an explosion at a military cantonment that appeared to be under siege in Bannu city in northwestern Pakistan on July 15, security officials told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal.

The incident began with an early-morning blast at the barricaded garrison, and fighting is said to be continuing with gunmen inside the facility.

A previously unknown group called Jaish-e Fursan-e Muhammad claimed responsibility for the attack in a WhatsApp message to media outlets.

Radio Mashaal could not independently confirm the existence of any such armed group.

There has been no official version of events shared by Pakistani central authorities.

Security officials who described the incident to Radio Mashaal asked to remain anonymous as they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Local residents told a Radio Mashaal correspondent that homes far from the blast were shaken and windows shattered.

Residents of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province have recently protested the lack of security provided by Islamabad and against the actions of extremists.

Pakistani security forces have reported conducting targeted operations against militants in several parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a longtime ally in Pakistan of the Afghan Taliban, has been blamed for a surge in violence in the region over the past year.

Azerbaijan Reopens Embassy In Iranian Capital Following Deadly Attack

The former building of the Azerbaijani Embassy in Tehran (file photo)
The former building of the Azerbaijani Embassy in Tehran (file photo)

Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry said on July 15 that its ambassador and embassy staff have returned to Tehran, a year and a half after a deadly attack on its diplomatic facility there. The diplomatic mission will work from new premises and Iran “will implement adequate steps to ensure diplomatic protection in front of the new building," it said. Baku closed its embassy and evacuated its staff at the end of January 2023, after an armed attack on the building. The attacker killed the mission security chief and wounded two other security officials. The suspect was detained, tried in court for a year, and, according to Iran’s Justice Ministry, sentenced to death. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, click here.

Note: This article has been amended to clarify that it is Azerbaijan which is reopening its embassy in Iran.

Rights Watchdog Calls On Incoming Iranian President, Other Officials To Curb 'Excessive' Force At Border

HRW has urged Iran to end its use of "excessive and lethal force" at the country's border with Iraq. (file photo)
HRW has urged Iran to end its use of "excessive and lethal force" at the country's border with Iraq. (file photo)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged President-elect Masud Pezeshkian and other Iranian authorities to end their use of "excessive and lethal force" against mostly Kurdish border couriers at the frontier with Iraq, saying such low-level smugglers frequently "come from marginalized communities." In a July 15 statement, the rights organization quoted Pezeshkian saying before his July 5 election that it was "shameful" that young people are forced into such roles "for a piece of bread." HRW has recently cited "serious violations against border couriers" and highlighted socioeconomic and other factors that contribute to the practice. Pezeshkian will be sworn in on July 30.

Borrell Quietly Leading EU Boycott Of Foreign Ministers' Summit In Hungary

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (left) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow, in a handout picture released by Orban's office on July 5.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (left) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow, in a handout picture released by Orban's office on July 5.

EU foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell plans to convene the bloc's foreign ministers for his own "formal" council meeting at the same time that EU Council presidency holder Hungary has scheduled a similar gathering in August, according to "three diplomats with direct knowledge of the plan" quoted by the Politico website. There has been no confirmation from Borrell. His purported move follows Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's uncoordinated shuttle diplomacy with Ukraine, Russia, and China in the first week of Hungary's six-month term in the EU presidency, which enraged EU officials and many member states, who stressed that he was not acting on their behalf.

State Of Emergency Declared As Fires Burn Russia's Black Sea Coast

A handout photo from the Russian Emergencies Ministry shows a firefighter at the scene of a fire near Khutor Dyurso, in southern Russia, on July 14.
A handout photo from the Russian Emergencies Ministry shows a firefighter at the scene of a fire near Khutor Dyurso, in southern Russia, on July 14.

Novorossiisk Mayor Andrei Kravchenko has announced a state of emergency in the southern Russian port city due to forest fires engulfing the outskirts of several villages and threatening others in the Krasnodar region. Authorities have already evacuated hundreds of residents, with more leaving through mountainous terrain where the firefighters' operational center said fire had burned more than 50 hectares and was continuing to spread. "Coastal rescuers in boats are ready to provide the necessary assistance in evacuating people by sea," the Novorossiisk mayor said via Telegram. Hundreds of firefighters and at least two helicopters are battling the blaze. To read the original story from RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here. To read to original story from Current Time, click here.

Biden, Trump Appeal For National Unity After Assassination Attempt

Supporters react as Trump Force One, carrying Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump, lands in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a day after he survived an assassination attempt at a rally in Butler, Pennsylvania.
Supporters react as Trump Force One, carrying Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump, lands in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a day after he survived an assassination attempt at a rally in Butler, Pennsylvania.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Republican challenger ex-President Donald Trump each appealed to the country for unity late on July 14 following the shooting at a Pennsylvania campaign rally that injured Trump and killed a supporter, while Biden ordered an independent investigation into a security lapse that was likely to reshape the campaign ahead of the elections in November.

Biden said he had a "short but good" conversation with Trump, who was struck in the right ear when an alleged gunman identified by the FBI as 20-year-old Thomas Matthew Crooks fired at Trump and the crowd from a nearby rooftop before he was killed by Secret Service officers on July 13.

The FBI said it was still seeking a motive in the attack, which came two days ahead of the Republican convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where the opposition party is expected to officially nominate Trump on July 18.

The 78-year-old Trump has already arrived in Milwaukee for the start of the convention on July 15.

Trump told the Washington Examiner newspaper that he was going to deliver a speech to the convention that is "a lot different than it would've been two days ago," saying, "This is a chance to bring the whole country, even the whole world, together."

U.S. Analyst Warns Of Growing Political Instability: 'Violence Begets Violence'
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Biden condemned the assassination attempt in a televised address to the nation from the White House late on July 14, and said he had ordered a review of how a man with an AR-15-style rifle got close enough to shoot at Trump despite U.S. Secret Service protection.

"There is no place in America for this kind of violence, for any violence ever. Period. No exceptions. We can't allow this violence to be normalized," Biden said. "The political rhetoric in this country has gotten very heated. It's time to cool it down."

Trump and Biden are poised to face each other in a tight rematch of the 2020 election, according to most opinion polls. The shooting reverberated around the world and through the presidential campaign, which had been focused on whether 81-year-old Biden might drop out amid intense focus on his age and medical state.

"In this moment, it is more important than ever that we stand united, and show our true character as Americans, remaining strong and determined," Trump said on Truth Social.

Attempted Assassination Of Trump Shakes U.S. Election Campaign
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The FBI said they were not aware of any threats to the Republican convention, which gets launched on July 15, and the Secret Service said they do not anticipate any changes to the security plan in Milwaukee.

U.S. authorities were racing to identify a motive behind the assassination attempt.

The alleged shooter, Crooks, was reportedly from a town located about an hour south of Butler. Several U.S. news outlets reported that state voting records showed Crooks was a registered Republican, but that he had also made small donations to Democratic campaigns.

The FBI said the gun used in the attack appeared to have been purchased by Crooks' father at least six months before.

In a statement published on X shortly after the incident, Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the shooter had fired "multiple shots toward the stage from an elevated position outside of the rally venue." He also said the shooter had been "neutralized."

Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro identified the rally attendee who died in the incident as 50-year-old Corey Comperatore, a former fire chief from the area. Two other people were in serious condition but reportedly "stable."

Political analysts speculated about the likely effects of the assassination attempt on the race and pointed to a likely outpouring of sympathy for Trump and defiance at the violence, but said it was mostly too early to tell.

With reporting by Reuters and CNN

China, Russia Start Naval Drills, Days After NATO Says Beijing Enables Ukraine War

Chinese and Russian naval forces began joint drills in sea off southern China on July 14. (file photo)
Chinese and Russian naval forces began joint drills in sea off southern China on July 14. (file photo)

Chinese and Russian naval forces on July 14 kicked off a joint exercise at a military port in southern China, the official news agency Xinhua reported, days after NATO allies called Beijing a "decisive enabler" of the war in Ukraine. China's Defense Ministry said in a brief statement that forces from both sides recently patrolled the western and northern Pacific Ocean and that the operation had nothing to do with international and regional situations and didn't target any third party. Xinhua reported that Chinese and Russian naval forces carried out on-map military simulation and tactical coordination exercises after the opening ceremony in the city of Zhanjiang.

Updated

Russia Says Another Ukrainian Village Captured In East

The former mining city of Toretsk has come under intense bombardment in recent days.
The former mining city of Toretsk has come under intense bombardment in recent days.

Russian troops have captured a small village in Ukraine's southeast, the Defense Ministry said, an incremental advance that highlights the grinding advances Russian forces continue to make against Ukrainian troops.

Ukrainian officials had no immediate comment on the Russian claim on July 14 that it had taken Urozhayne, one of several settlements located along the Mokriy Yaly River west of the city of Donetsk.

The advance was one of several places along the roughly 1,200-kilometer front line where Ukrainian forces have struggled to hold back Russian troops.

The fiercest fighting at present is occurring near the former mining city of Toretsk, north of Donetsk, and Chasiv Yar, yet further to the north.

After Russia launched a localized offensive into the Kharkiv region in early May, Ukraine was forced to redeploy many of its more experienced units, to stabilize their defenses. But it also stretched Ukrainian units thin, leading to openings along the front line that Russia has sought to exploit.

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.

Both Russian and Ukrainian troops are grappling with soaring summer temperatures, which are making life miserable in many Ukrainian cities suffering from regular power outages.

Large parts of Ukraine's electricity grid have been damaged by Russian missiles, and there are concerns the grid could collapse entirely by the winter.

The Kremlin, meanwhile, reacted angrily to news that the United States was planning to deploy long-range weapons including Tomahawk cruise missiles in Germany beginning in 2026. The decision marks a return of U.S. cruise missiles to Germany after a 20-year absence.

The White House made the announced on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Washington earlier in the week.

"We have enough capacity to contain these missiles but the potential victims are the capitals of these countries," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian state television.

"Europe is coming apart. Europe is not living its best moment. In a different configuration, a repeat of history is inevitable," he said.

Russian and U.S. defense chiefs spoke by phone on July 12, in what was described as an effort to lower the risk of "possible escalation."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on July 14 said further military aid was on the way to the country after a series of meetings with world leaders at the NATO summit in Washington.

"Following my visit to the United States, we have secured new Patriot systems and dozens of other air defense systems. We are working tirelessly to increase the strength and number of Ukrainian Patriots," he wrote on X.

"The Ukrainian Compact, approved at the NATO Summit in Washington, focuses on weapons for our soldiers, the work of defense companies in and with Ukraine, and support for our recovery – all concrete and genuinely supportive of our defense."

With reporting by AFP
Updated

World Leaders Condemn 'Assassination Attempt' On Former U.S. President Trump

Former U.S. President Donald Trump was rushed from the stage at the campaign rally in Pennsylvania by Secret Service agents on July 13.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump was rushed from the stage at the campaign rally in Pennsylvania by Secret Service agents on July 13.

World leaders rushed to condemn the attack on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, an incident that roiled the U.S. election campaign and raised fears of further political violence.

Antonio Guterres, the United Nations’ secretary-general, "unequivocally" condemned what the FBI has described as an assassination attempt.

"The secretary-general unequivocally condemns this act of political violence. He sends his best wishes to President Trump for a speedy recovery," Guterres spokesman Stephan Dujarric said in a statement.

Trump was speaking at a campaign rally on July 13 in western Pennsylvania when several shots were fired. He said later that he had been hit in the ear by a bullet and slightly wounded.

Two people were killed, including the suspected shooter, and two other spectators were wounded. The FBI later identified the suspected gunman as a 20-year-old man from a town not far from where the rally was held. Law enforcement officials also said a semiautomatic rifle had been recovered at the scene.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she was "deeply shocked" by the shooting.

"Political violence has no place in a democracy," she wrote on X. "I wish Donald Trump a speedy recovery and offer my condolences to the family of the innocent victim."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was "sickened" by the violence.

"It cannot be overstated -- political violence is never acceptable. My thoughts are with former President Trump, those at the event, and all Americans," he said in a post to X.

Josep Borrell, the European Union's top diplomat, said he was shocked and strongly condemned the attack.

"Once again, we are witnessing unacceptable acts of violence against political representatives," he wrote on X.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni voiced "solidarity" with Trump, while French President Emmanuel Macron wished him a "speedy recovery," while calling the shooting "a tragedy for our democracies."

"France shares the shock and indignation of the American people," Macron said in a post to X.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also described the violence as a threat to democracy.

"The attack on U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump is despicable," he said in a post to X. "Such acts of violence threaten democracy."

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who visited Trump at his home in Florida earlier in the week, said his thoughts and prayers were with the former U.S. president.

And Ukraine’s president, who has had a fraught relationship in the past with Trump, said he was appalled to hear of the violence.

"Such violence has no justification and no place anywhere in the world. Never should violence prevail," Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a post to X.

"We pray for his safety and speedy recovery," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a post to X.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused President Joe Biden's administration of creating an atmosphere that provoked the attack on Trump.

"We do not believe that the attempt to eliminate and assassinate Trump was organized by the current authorities," Peskov told reporters in a conference call.

"But the atmosphere that the [Biden] administration has created through its political fights, the atmosphere that's surrounding candidate Trump, has provoked what America is now facing today."

The incident came two days before the opening of the Republican National Convention, at which the businessman and former reality TV star is expected to secure the party's nomination and less than four months before the November 5 election.

With reporting by AFP
Updated

Biden Orders Review Of Security Measures Amid Search For Trump Shooting Motive

Former U.S. President Donald Trump is led from a campaign rally after what police say was an assassination attempt on July 13.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump is led from a campaign rally after what police say was an assassination attempt on July 13.

U.S. President Joe Biden has condemned the assassination attempt on election rival Donald Trump and ordered an independent investigation into the shooting that took place the night before at a Trump rally in Pennsylvania, as the search went on for a motive behind the attack.

"There is no place in America for this kind of violence or any violence, for that matter. An assassination attempt is contrary to everything we stand for...as a nation. Everything," he said from the White House after being briefed in the Situation Room.

"We don't yet have any information about the motive of the shooter. We know who he is. I urge everyone, please don't make assumptions about his motives or his affiliations," Biden said.

Biden said he was ordering a review into security measures surrounding the attack as questions arose on how someone with a semiautomatic rifle could get so close to the former president. The Secret Service is responsible for the security of U.S. presidents, former presidents, and other top officials.

The president said he had ordered "an independent review of the national security at yesterday’s rally to assess exactly what happened" and that details would be made public.

Biden also said he had a "short but good" conversation with Trump following the shooting and that he was "sincerely grateful he is doing well and recovering," but he did not discuss details of the call.

The president said he would address the nation with extended remarks later on July 14 from the White House Oval Office, tentatively scheduled for 8 p.m. local time.

Throughout the day, U.S. authorities raced to identify a motive behind the assassination attempt on Trump, as officials blamed a 20-year-old man for the shooting at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania.

The alleged gunman, identified by the FBI as Thomas Matthew Crooks, was killed by Secret Service officers, and one other spectator also died, the agency said. Two other people were critically wounded.

Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro identified the slain rally participant as 50-year-old Corey Comperatore, a former fire chief from the area.

Trump said later he had been shot in the ear, and video from the July 13 rally showed blood visible on the right side of his head as Secret Service agents rushed him from the stage.

The 78-year-old presumptive Republican nominee for the 2024 election had just begun to deliver a speech in the city of Butler when several gunshots were heard, prompting screams from the crowd.

Trump then reached for his right ear before he quickly crouched down behind the podium where he was delivering the speech.

Secret Service officers rushed the stage and surrounded him.

WATCH: Donald Trump responded with a defiant raised fist -- a startling image that, political analyst Robert Spitzer says, will be used to promote his candidacy.

Attempted Assassination Of Trump Shakes U.S. Election Campaign
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As he got up and was led off of the stage, blood was visible on Trump's right ear and cheek. He was whisked by the Secret Service agents into a waiting car and left the venue.

As he was being led off of the stage, Trump turned toward the crowd, pumped his fist in the air and appeared to yell, "Fight, fight, fight!"

"It is incredible that such an act can take place in our country," Trump said on his Truth Social platform following the shooting.

In a second statement issued about 12 hours after the shooting, Trump said he was looking forward to speaking at the Republican National Convention, which gets under way later this week.

"In this moment, it is more important than ever that we stand united, and show our true character as Americans, remaining strong and determined," Trump said on Truth Social.

At a briefing for reporters late July 13, Kevin Rojek, the FBI agent in charge of the bureau's local office, said the shooting was being investigated as an "assassination attempt."

In a statement published on X shortly after the incident, Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the shooter had fired "multiple shots toward the stage from an elevated position outside of the rally venue." He also said the shooter had been "neutralized."

In a statement provided to RFE/RL, the FBI identified Crooks, 20, as the suspected gunman, and said he was from a town located about an hour south of Butler.

Several U.S. news outlets reported that state voting records showed Crooks was a registered Republican, but that he had also made small donations to Democratic campaigns.

Leslie Vinjamuri, director of the U.S. and the Americas Program at Chatham House in London, told RFER/RL that it was too soon to tell how Crooks' background factored into the incident.,

"I've seen reporting that he is a registered Republican who, when he was 17, donated to Act Blue [a Democratic political campaign group], suggesting that he was at one point also a Democrat," Vinjamuri said.

"He's a young person. We have no information about motivation yet.... We know that many acts of violence are linked to mental health issues, to guns being in the hands of people who shouldn't possess them. And so I would be deeply reluctant to project on the basis of really very limited knowledge right now," she said.

Overnight on July 13, law enforcement officials blockaded the roads leading to the house identified as belonging to Crooks' family.

AP reported that police had recovered an AR-style rifle -- a lightweight, semiautomatic rifle similar to the U.S. military's M16 -- at the scene. The weapon is popular in the United States, and widely available for sale throughout the country.

The FBI said the gun used in the attack appeared to have been purchased by Crooks' father at least six months before.

The agency also said that bomb squads had found a "suspicious" device in the suspect's car, while media outlets said bomb-making materials were found at his residence.

Trump was treated locally, before flying to his golf club in neighboring New Jersey. Video of his arrival released by a campaign official showed him being escorted to the club by heavily armed Secret Service agents.

The shooting comes two days before the opening of the Republican National Convention at which the businessman and former reality TV star is expected to secure the party’s nomination and less than four months before the November 5 election.

Trump said he would travel on July 14 to Wisconsin for the event.

Robert Spitzer, a professor of political science at State University of New York-Cortland, told RFE/RL that "I think Trump will want to return to the campaign stump partly to demonstrate that he is OK, partly to demonstrate that he's not deterred by this terrible event."

"You will see a bump for him [Trump] in the polls in the next couple of weeks. There will be sympathy for him," he said. "But I think in the space of a few weeks, the results on the relative poll standing of Trump and President Biden will even out to where they have been in the last month or two."

Matthew Dallek, a professor of political history at George Washington University, told RFE/RL said the shooting was likely to be a major theme of the Republican Convention.

"Oh, yeah, I think it will, it'll thrust it to the fore of the convention," he said.

Participants will “paint Trump as a martyr, and someone who…sacrifices…for the good of the country and for his supporters, he added.

Pennsylvania is considered one of the key swing states that will determine the election outcome. Vice President Kamala Harris was in the state campaigning on the same day as Trump's rally.

Before his televised remarks, Biden, whom Trump is challenging in the November election, said in a statement he was grateful to hear that Trump was safe and well.

"I’m praying for him and his family and for all those who were at the rally, as we await further information," Biden said in the statement.

"There's no place for this kind of violence in America. We must unite as one nation to condemn it."

Leading U.S. politicians rushed to condemn the shooting of Trump, who served as president from 2017 to 2021.

"Political violence has no place in our country," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a tweet, adding he was "horrified" by the news and "relieved" that Trump was safe.

"This horrific act of political violence at a peaceful campaign rally has no place in this country and should be unanimously and forcefully condemned," Mike Johnson, the Republican leader of the House of Representatives, said in a post on X.

He also said Congress would schedule hearings to know the circumstances behind the shooting, and how someone was able to bring a weapon into the rally.

The Secret Service, which provides protection to leading political candidates such as Trump, also conducts security checks for political rallies.

While political violence is rare in the United States, several presidents or candidates have been shot over the country's history.

Most recently, President Ronald Reagan was shot and seriously wounded as he left an event at a Washington hotel in 1981.

In 1975, President Gerald Ford was unscathed in two separate assassination attempts.

Four presidents -- Abraham Lincoln (1865), James Garfield (1881), William McKinley (1901), and John F. Kennedy (1963) -- have been assassinated in U.S. history.

With reporting by AP and Reuters. Todd Prince contributed to this report.

Russia To Ban Adoption From Countries Recognizing Gender Transition

Volodin wrote that Russia was "essentially implementing a ban on the adoption of children by citizens of NATO countries."
Volodin wrote that Russia was "essentially implementing a ban on the adoption of children by citizens of NATO countries."

Russia is developing legislation that would ban child adoption by citizens of countries that recognize the right to change gender, the speaker of the lower house of parliament, or State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, said on July 13. The ban concerns states that either allow people to change their gender through medical procedures or on official documents. In a note to the legislation, Volodin wrote that Russia was "essentially implementing a ban on the adoption of children by citizens of NATO countries." The move appears to expand the 2012 legislation known as the Dima Yakovlev law, which bars U.S. citizens from adopting Russian children. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Russia Won't Air Summer Olympics Amid Ban On Athletes, Flag

Individual Russian athletes who do not support the war are allowed to participate but without the Russian tricolor on their uniform. Few have agreed to do so.
Individual Russian athletes who do not support the war are allowed to participate but without the Russian tricolor on their uniform. Few have agreed to do so.

Russia has decided not to show the 2024 Summer Olympics on national television after its teams were banned from participating in the widely watched event following its invasion of Ukraine. Moscow last refused to air the Olympics in 1984, when the Soviet Union boycotted the Games held in the United States. Individual Russian athletes who do not support the war are allowed to participate but without the Russian tricolor on their uniform. Only a few Russian athletes have agreed to the conditions. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Putin Signs Bill Banning Lawmakers From Leaving Russia Without Permission

Russian President Vladimir Putin (file photo)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (file photo)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a bill that bans members of parliament from leaving the country without permission, a move likely aimed at curtailing dissent among the country's elite over his struggling invasion of Ukraine. The law does not state who should approve overseas trips, only stating that the upper and lower chambers should decide for themselves. Lawmakers who break the law may lose their seat. Putin has outlawed criticism of the war and armed forces, prompting many people to leave amid fear of arrest. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Swiss Suspect Russian Diplomat, Others Of Trying To Obtain Weapons

Swiss prosecutors suspect three individuals, including a Russian diplomat, of trying to obtain weapons and other potentially dangerous material, AFP and Tages-Anzeiger reported on July 13. The Russian diplomat immediately left the country, Tages-Anzeiger reported. Prosecutors have searched several houses and an arrest warrant has been issued for one of the individuals without diplomatic immunity, Switzerland's top prosecutor told AFP. The case comes amid growing concerns about Kremlin espionage efforts in Switzerland, where Russia has 220 accredited diplomats and staff. Switzerland's Federal Intelligence Service said last year the number of Russian intelligence officers in the country operating under diplomatic cover was among the highest in Europe.

Updated

Ukraine's Zelenskiy Meets Irish PM As 11 Killed in Russian Attacks

Ukrainians in Paris rally in memory of athletes killed during the war in Ukraine on July 13, two weeks before the start of the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics Games.
Ukrainians in Paris rally in memory of athletes killed during the war in Ukraine on July 13, two weeks before the start of the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics Games.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy met with Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris to discuss Russia’s invasion as at least 11 civilians were killed in attacks in the east and south of the country.

Zelenskiy stopped off in Ireland on July 13 on his way back to Ukraine from the July 9-11 NATO summit in Washington, where alliance members announced they would continue to back the embattled country with military aid.

Though Ireland joined the alliance’s Partnership for Peace program in 1999 to increase interoperability with other Western militaries, it is a neutral country and does not support parties involved in conflict with military aid.

In a post on X, Zelenskiy said he and Harris discussed demining, cybersecurity, and the fate of Ukrainian children taken to Russia against their will. Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, it has taken thousands of children from the occupied territories to Russia.

Zelenskiy will travel next week to the United Kingdom for a meeting of the European Political Community, a collective launched following Russia's invasion. Nearly 50 European leaders will attend the event hosted by new British Prime Minister Keir Starmer, including Harris.

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 NATO summit and European Political Community meeting come as Russia doubles down on its invasion of Ukraine with the help of China, North Korea, and Iran.

Russia has been slowly grinding forward in Ukraine's Donetsk region, though at a significant cost in human life and equipment.

More than 10,000 Russian soldiers have been confirmed killed this year, according to an investigation published on July 13, though the actual number is most likely much higher.

Six people were killed and 22 injured overnight in the Donbas region, Ukrainian officials said on July 13.

Meanwhile, two people were killed and two injured in a Russian strike on Priozernye village in the Ukrainian-controlled Kherson region, Aleksandr Prokudin, head of the Kherson military administration, said on his Telegram channel.

In the Dnipro region, three people were injured in a Russian strike, the local administration said, while in the Kharkiv region, three were killed and dozens injured in attacks.

Russia has stepped up air strikes against Ukraine's armed forces and infrastructure this year amid Kyiv's deficit of air defenses.

Russia has damaged half of Ukraine’s power capacity, causing outages across the country. Amid a jump in demand triggered by a heat wave, Ukraine's state power operater said on July 13 that outages had increased.

NATO allies announced this week plans to donate five air-defense systems and hundreds of missiles and also reiterated the first deliveries of F-16s this summer.

Russian Businessman Charged With Bribing Defense Officials Dies In Jail

The Moscow detention center is known for its tough conditions, and Igor Kotelnikov was allegedly moved to a punishment cell against doctor's orders. (file photo)
The Moscow detention center is known for its tough conditions, and Igor Kotelnikov was allegedly moved to a punishment cell against doctor's orders. (file photo)

A Russian businessman charged with bribing senior Defense Ministry officials on behalf of suppliers has died in pretrial detention, according to a member of the country's human rights council.

Igor Kotelnikov, 52, died on July 8 after feeling unwell in the Moscow pretrial detention center, Yeva Merkacheva said. She did not give a cause of death but said he had been held in a part of the center that has tough conditions.

"Rights defenders, examining the pretrial detention center, repeatedly noted that these cells are packed with people. [The cells] are small, hot in warm weather, cold in the winter. In addition, some detainees sit there all day," Merkacheva wrote in a column for the popular daily Moskovsky Komsomolets.

She said that Kotelnikov's death was not the first in such cells and that other detainees have committed suicide.

Kotelnikov allegedly operated as a middleman in the bribery scheme that rocked the ministry earlier this year, leading to the arrest of former Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov and two other businessmen. Kotelnikov denied the charges.

According to the Telegram channel CHEKA-OGPU, officials from the Federal Security Service (FSB) visited Kotelnikov in detention on several occasions to encourage him to finger Ivanov.

The channel claimed that when Kotelnikov refused, the FSB officials began pressuring him and later moved him to a punishment cell. CHEKA-OGPU is reportedly close to Russia’s security services.

According to the Telegram channel, prison doctors said Kotelnikov should not be held in a punishment cell due to chronic illness and had him sent back. However, prison officials, allegedly under FSB pressure, had him returned, CHEKA-OGPU said.

Ivanov, who oversaw the military-industrial complex for the ministry, was arrested in April on charges of taking more than 1 billion rubles ($11.4 million) in bribes from contractors. Ivanov, whose family flaunted its wealth, has denied the charges.

Businessmen Sergei Borodin and Aleksandr Fomin were also arrested in connection with the alleged bribery scheme.

Corruption in the Russian military allegedly flourished under former Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who held the top post for more than a decade.

Russian President Vladimir Putin in May replaced Shoigu with Andrei Belousov, an economist and former deputy prime minister, reportedly in part to improve the efficiency of defense spending.

Russia is set this year to spend tens of billions of dollars, or 6 percent of GDP, on defense as its invasion of Ukraine continues into its third year.

Russia Seeking To Exploit Ethnic Tensions In Western Balkans, U.S. Warns

Bosnian Serb protesters carry portraits of Russian President Vladimir Putin as they rally in support of leader Milorad Dodik in East Sarajevo in September 2023.
Bosnian Serb protesters carry portraits of Russian President Vladimir Putin as they rally in support of leader Milorad Dodik in East Sarajevo in September 2023.

Moscow is seeking to exploit ethnic tensions in the Western Balkans to provoke "instability and hinder the region's integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions," the U.S. State Department has said.

The warning came after retired U.S. General Wesley Clark, the former NATO supreme allied commander in Europe, recently cautioned that Russia, which maintains close ties with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, is using Belgrade as a proxy to sow discord in the region.

Serbia, which has been a candidate for membership in the European Union since 2012, has so far refused to impose sanctions on Moscow over its war against Ukraine, even though it voted in favor of several UN resolutions condemning Russia's aggression.

Tensions have been on the rise in recent months in northern Kosovo, where there's a sizeable ethnic Serb minority, and in Republika Srpska, the Serb-majority entity of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Republika Srpska leader Milorad Dodik, who has been put under sanctions by the United States and Britain over his efforts to undermine the 1995 Dayton peace accords that ended the Balkan country's civil war, has also been on friendly terms, with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Dodik's separatist statements have been one of the main stumbling blocks in Bosnia's progress toward EU membership, after it became a candidate in 2022.

"It is clear that Russia does not support the same European future for the countries in the Western Balkans that they themselves have chosen and that the people of the region deserve. Russia seeks to exploit interethnic tensions, create instability, and obstruct the region’s integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions," a State Department spokesperson told RFE/RL.

In Serb-dominated northern Kosovo, tensions have remained high since an incident in September 2023 that left an ethnic Albanian police officer dead after an encounter with masked commandos allegedly led by a Kosovar Serb politician.

A long-delayed promise by Kosovo's government of an association of Kosovar Serb municipalities for dialogue with Pristina and a recent ban on the use of the Serbian dinar, which has remained in widespread use in northern Kosovo, have also added to the tensions with Belgrade, which has not recognized its former province's 2008 declaration of independence.

"We remain concerned about the risk that local tensions will turn into serious political conflagrations that will hold back the states of the region, for instance in northern Kosovo and given threats of secession in Bosnia-Herzegovina," the spokesperson told RFE/RL.

"We are working closely with all parties to minimize those risks."

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Asia James O'Brien has recently described the tensions on northern Kosovo and Republika Srpska's threats to secede as the main security risks in the Western Balkans.

"This is why the United States is working with the Western Balkan countries to strengthen regional cooperation and advance reforms that will lessen opportunity for malign Russian influence and bring lasting peace, stability, and prosperity to the region," the spokesperson said.

"Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine underscores the urgency and importance of these priorities."

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