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Kyrgyz Situation 'Critical' As Death Toll Mounts, Exodus Under Way

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WATCH: Ethnic clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks continued in southern Kyrgyzstan on June 12 amid gun battles and other street violence. The Kyrgyz interim government called up reserve forces to send to the troubled area around Osh and Jalalabad. Six people wounded during the clashes arrived at Zhukovsky air field east of Moscow for emergency treatment on June 13. (Reuters video)

By RFE/RL

The International Committee of the Red Cross has warned that the humanitarian situation in southern Kyrgyzstan is becoming "critical" following days of arson, killing and clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbek groups.

Russia, meanwhile, has reportedly sent at least 150 paratroopers to Kyrgyzstan to protect personnel and equipment at Russia's Kant air base in Kyrgyzstan's north.

Moscow has said, however, that it has no current plans to deploy Russian forces to help stabilize the situation in the south.

The Kyrgyz Health Ministry has reported that at least 117 people have been killed -- most of them in Osh but at least 21 in Jalal-Abad -- and more than 1,400 injured in the past three days of violence.

Tens of thousands of members of the Uzbek minority are reported to have fled their homes to escape attacks by Kyrgyz gangs, who have been accused of slaughters and setting fire to Uzbek-operated properties.

Rights activists have alleged that Kyrgyz authorities and security forces have not been taking decisive enough action to halt the violence.


Authorities 'Overwhelmed'

Uzbekistan has set up makeshift camps along its border with Kyrgyzstan to take in the refugees, most of them women and children.

Ethnic Uzbek residents bury victims of violent clashes in the suburb of Osh on June 13.

"Currently, it is very difficult for me to give the exact figures. They speak about thousands of refugees now," Anna Nelson, representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) mission in Kyrgyzstan, told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service. "We, together with other humanitarian organizations and Uzbekistan’s Red Cross, are trying to get the exact figure on the Uzbek side of the border, the figure of people who were forced to leave their homes."

In a written statement, the Red Cross said its representatives in southern Kyrgyzstan have received "reports of severe brutality, with an intent to kill and harm."

It said the Kyrgyz authorities are "completely overwhelmed, as are the emergency services."

The statement added that Red Cross representatives in Osh had "witnessed an estimated 100 bodies being buried in a city cemetery, raising concerns that the dead are not being properly identified before burial."

RFE/RL correspondent Alisher Toksonbaev said by telephone from Osh on June 13 that fires continued in some areas of the city and several government buildings had burned.

He added that people were afraid to drive or walk in the city because armed young men were driving around in cars without number plates, shouting and otherwising harassing anyone they could find. In some streets, he said, resident had erected barricades.

"One of my relatives was shot dead. We can't go out there and gather the body for burial," one resident who gave his name as Khikmatullah, told RFE/RL's Russian Service by phone from Osh. "There are even bodies that cannot be identified. Today we buried a man not knowing who he was."

It is the worst violence in Kyrgyzstan since former President Kurmanbek Bakiev was toppled in a bloody uprising in April.

Interim President Roza Otunbaeva has acknowledged that her government lost control over Osh despite sending troops, armor, and helicopters. The government has also given police and soldiers shoot-to-kill power.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has reportedly expressed concern over the escalating violence in a telephone call to the foreign minister of neighboring Kazakhstan, which currently holds the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

'Homes Are Burning'

Ethnic Uzbeks make up some 14 percent of the total Kyrgyz population. But they make up roughly one-third of inhabitants in the Osh and Jalal-Abad regions. While the Uzbeks largely back the interim government, many Kyrgyz in the south support the ousted president and his clan.

Witnesses say armed gangs are setting homes alight and shooting at people in Uzbek neighborhoods.

"Right now, homes are burning in our Furqakt district," Komiljon Ermatov, an ethnic Uzbek living in Osh, told RFE/RL.

"Armed people wearing military uniforms fire at people and prevent them from fleeing to Uzbekistan. They are provocateurs. In hospital, we saw Uzbeks with gunshot wounds. We are just peaceful people protecting our homes, fathers, and mothers."

Late on June 12, authorities declared a partial mobilization of the army. Government spokesman Azimbek Beknazarov called on all able-bodied men to "come forward and carry out their duty."

Uzbek border guards help refugees from Osh across the border. Photo courtesy of EurasiaNet

The interim government has appealed for Russian help in quelling the ethnic riots, but Moscow has said it will not send in peacekeepers alone. It has pledged to discuss the situation on June 14 within the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a bloc of former Soviet republics.

Russian and Kyrgyz media are reporting, however, that Moscow has deployed a reinforced battalion of paratroopers to Kyrgyzstan. An unidentified Russian defense ministry official told Interfax that the battalion would "reinforce the defense of of Russian military facilities and ensure the security of Russian military servicemen and their families."

The Kyrgyz news website www.24.kg reports, citing a Kyrgyz Defense Ministry official, that the Russian troops landed at the Kant air base aboard three Russian IL-76 aircraft.

Russia has about 500 troops at a base in Kyrgyzstan. The United States uses an air base in Manas, close to the capital of Bishkek, to supply its forces in Afghanistan.

Russia has also sent in a plane to deliver humanitarian supplies and evacuate some of the victims.

'We Are Afraid To Go Out'

Residents in Osh are without gas and some neighborhoods are without electricity. Food supplies in the Osh and Jalal-Abad areas are also running out, and stores have been looted.

But ongoing street violence means the little humanitarian aid that has been sent to the region is not reaching those in need.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmoot Qureshi says he believes that 15 Pakistani citizens have been taken hostage and one killed.

A young Kyrgyz women, who hid in a basement in Osh with her two-month baby, told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that she was too scared to leave her shelter. She declined to give her name for safety reasons.

"We don't know how to receive humanitarian aid," the woman said.

"Even if we knew where to collect the aid, we couldn't go there. We are afraid to go out because we can still hear gunfire and screams."

The killings have caused outrage in Uzbekistan and among ethnic Uzbeks living outside the area.

In Moscow, some 200 ethnic Uzbeks gathered outside the Kyrgyz Embassy on June 12 to urge Russia to help end the violence.

Zakir Eminov, an ethnic Uzbek living in Russia, said he sent his children to his parents in Osh for holidays two weeks ago. He hasn't heard from them and said he fears for their lives.

"This Kyrgyz government does not control the situation at all, they don't even have correct information," Eminov said.

"This Otunbaeva and her government, they don't control anything. If they were in control, then they wouldn't have allowed hundreds of cars with young people to drive there from Bishkek."

Otunbaeva has accused Bakiev and his relatives of instigating the unrest in Osh and of seeking to derail a constitutional referendum to be held June 27.

Speaking from his exile in Belarus on June 13, Bakiev rejected the accusations as "shameless lies" and blamed the interim government for failing to quell the unrest.

Meanwhile, RFE/RL's correspondent reports from Osh that efforts have been taken by several local Kyrgyz and Uzbek leaders to reduce tensions.

Turkmenistan has sent two aircraft to Kyrgyzstan to evacuate Turkmen students from Osh region. One student, Arslan, told RFE/RL's Turkmen Service there were about 1,000 students awaiting evacuation.

Written in Prague with agency material and reporting from Osh by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service. RFE/RL's Uzbek, Turkmen, and Russian services also contributed to this report

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The former Pink Floyd bassist told the Security Council that the invasion of Ukraine was illegal and he condemned it “in the strongest possible terms." But he implied that Kyiv was to blame as well.

"Also the Russian invasion of Ukraine was not unprovoked. So I also condemn the provocateurs in the strongest possible terms," he said, addressing the council via a video link.

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Ukrainian Ambassador to the UN Serhiy Kyslytsya responded by referencing the lyrics of one of Pink Floyd's most famous songs, Another Brick in the Wall, released in 1979.

"How sad for his former fans to see him accepting the role of just a brick in the wall, a wall of Russian disinformation and propaganda," Kyslytsya said.

The ambassador also referenced the giant inflatable pink pig that featured in many of the rock band's shows, saying he was surprised Waters had not arranged to have it floating in the Security Council chamber.

"What could it have been this time Mr. Waters? Pigs with swastikas and the hammer and sickle?" Kyslytsya said during the discussion.

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Albanian UN Ambassador Ferit Hoxha told the council Waters was “lucky to be in New York,” where he could speak his mind, “including about the Russian aggression and how wrong that is.” He said if he had been in Russia, “with what he said, he might have been in custody by now."

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The Hrodna regional court in the country's west sentenced the 49-year-old activist and journalist on February 8 on charges of public calls for actions directed at harming the country's national security, distributing materials containing such calls, and inciting hatred.

The trial was held behind closed doors.

Poczobut, who is a correspondent for the respected Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, was arrested in March 2021 amid rising tensions between Minsk and Warsaw following the brutal suppression of mass protests against Lukashenka after he claimed a landslide victory in a 2020 presidential election.

The Belarusian opposition claimed the election was rigged in favor of Lukashenka, who has been in power since 1994.

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The European Union, the United States, and other countries have imposed sanctions against Lukashenka's regime following the crackdown on protesters.

The Minsk-based Vyasna (Spring) rights group has included Poczobut on its list of 1,440 political prisoners in Belarus, and Poland has demanded his release.

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QONAEV, Kazakhstan -- The Almaty regional court in southern Kazakhstan has rejected an appeal filed by noted dissident Ermek Narymbaev (aka Narymbai) against a lower court's refusal to grant him an early release.

Narymbaev's lawyer, Zhanar Balghabaeva, told RFE/RL on February 8 that the court was unable to clearly explain its decision in the courtroom and expressed hope that proper justification would be shown in the court's written decision, which has yet to reach her client.

The Qonaev city court near Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty, ruled on December 14 that Narymbaev did not deserve an early release on parole due to a violation of internal regulations allegedly committed by the activist at the penal colony where he is incarcerated.

Narymbaev has been jailed several times for his political views and is known as a staunch critic of the tightly controlled former Soviet republic's government.

He fled Kazakhstan in 2016 for Ukraine after receiving death threats from unknown individuals. Narymbaev said at the time that the threats were masterminded by Kazakh authorities in a bid to intimidate him.

He returned to Kazakhstan in February 2022 after unprecedented anti-government rallies shook the Central Asian nation the month before, leaving at least 238 people dead.

He was arrested upon his arrival in Almaty and sent to prison for 30 months to serve the remainder of a previous suspended prison term he was given in 2015 on a charge of inciting hatred, which he called politically motivated.

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Iranian protester Armita Abbasi, who media reports said was tortured and raped while in detention after being identified as a "leader" of protests sparked by the death of a young woman while in policy custody for an alleged head scarf violation, has been released from prison.

"We experienced a very difficult time, but now I am extremely happy," Abbasi’s father wrote in a social media post along with a video of his 20-year-old daughter next to him.


Armita Abbasi’s lawyer, Shahla Orouji, said last week that a court accused her client of “propaganda against the Islamic republic” and “gathering and conspiring to commit a crime against national security.”

Abbasi was arrested on October 10 in her hometown of Karaj, west of the Iranian capital, nearly a month into the nationwide protests triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody in September.

The Iranian government claimed she was “the leader of the riots” and that police discovered “10 Molotov cocktails” in her apartment.

In November, CNN published an investigative report about the sexual assault and rape of some of the detainees from recent protests, including Abbasi, while they were being held in prisons across Iran.

A source told CNN that Abbasi was rushed to the Imam Ali hospital in Karaj on October 17, accompanied by plainclothes officers while “her head had been shaved and she was shaking violently.”

“In the accounts, the medical staff attending to her spoke of the horror they felt when they saw evidence of brutal rape,” CNN added.

Neither Abassi, her family, nor her lawyer have publicly commented on the report.

Earlier in January, Abbasi and 14 other Iranian women incarcerated in the Kachoui prison near Tehran reportedly went on a hunger strike to protest the conditions of their imprisonment and the lack of medical attention at the facility.

At that time, her mother wrote on her Instagram account that, because of her daughter’s hunger strike, prison authorities were no longer allowing her to call her family. She also said the court did not accept the lawyer representing her daughter.

Since Amini's death, Iranians have flooded into the streets across the country to protest against a lack of rights, with women and schoolgirls making unprecedented shows of support in the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

The U.S.-based Human Rights Activists News Agency said that, as of January 29, at least 527 people had been killed during the unrest, including 71 minors, as security forces muzzle dissent.

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

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The Iranian oppositionists will meet at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. (file photo)

Eight prominent Iranian opposition figures have announced they will meet this week at Georgetown University to discuss the future of the country's pro-democracy movement amid a wave of protests following the September 16 death of a young woman while in custody for allegedly violating the country's head-scarf law.

Rights activist Masih Alinejad, the exiled former crown prince of Iran Reza Pahlavi, the spokesman for the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims Hamed Esmaeilion, and rights activist Nazanin Boniadi will be present at the February 10 meeting.

Four others, including Nobel laureate lawyer Shirin Ebadi, renowned Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani, leader of the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan Abdullah Mohtadi and former captain of Iran’s national soccer team Ali Karimi will join the meeting online.


According to the announcement published by Washington, D.C.-based Georgetown University, the eight are going to sit together in a meeting called “The Future of Iran’s Democracy Movement.”

The meeting comes amid months of pressure from Iranian opposition politicians and protesters, who have demanded that the Islamic republic's leadership step down.

Iranian social media users welcomed news of the meeting, with many calling for the leaders to form an alliance to unify forces battling to change the system.

The news comes amid nationwide protests in Iran sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini on September 16. The 22-year-old died while in custody after being arrested by the notorious "morality police" for "improperly" wearing a mandatory Islamic head scarf, or hijab.

Her death, which officials blamed on a heart attack, touched off a wave of anti-government protests in cities across the country. The authorities have responded to the unrest with a harsh crackdown that rights groups say has killed more than 500 people, including 71 children.

Officials, who have blamed the West for the demonstrations, have vowed to crack down even harder on protesters, with the judiciary leading the way after the unrest entered a fourth month.

The protests pose the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

Several thousand people have been arrested, including many protesters, as well as journalists, lawyers, activists, digital rights defenders, and others.

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

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International investigators say there are "strong indications" that Russian President Vladimir Putin was personally involved in the 2014 downing of a civilian airliner over eastern Ukraine, parts of which were controlled by Moscow-backed separatists, but that a lack of concrete evidence meant they were putting an end to their eight-year probe into the tragedy.

The Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was blown out of the sky on July 17, 2014, amid a conflict between Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian armed forces. All 298 people on board the airliner died in the crash. The victims came from more than a dozen countries, although more than two-thirds of them were Dutch citizens.

Russia has denied any involvement in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17).

Even though the probe resulted in some convictions, prosecutor Digna van Boetzelaer told journalists in The Hague on February 8 that the investigation "has now reached its limit.”

“There are strong indications that the Russian president decided on supplying the Buk [missile system] to the [Russia-backed] separatists. This is the conclusion of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in its investigation into those responsible in the Russian Federation for the downing of flight MH17 with a Buk missile” van Boetzelaer said.

During the news conference, the investigators backed up the claim by playing a recording of a telephone call from an adviser who appears to make a thinly veiled reference to Putin, saying a delay in sending the weapons used was "because there is only one who makes a decision...,the person who is currently at a summit in France."

"Although a lot of new information has been discovered about various people involved, the evidence is at the moment not concrete enough to lead to new prosecutions," van Boetzelaer added.

In November last year, a Dutch court convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison two Russians and one pro-Moscow Ukrainian separatist for their role in the shooting down of the passenger plane. They had been tried in absentia

The three men convicted were former Russian intelligence agents Igor Girkin (aka Strelkov) and Sergei Dubinsky, and Leonid Kharchenko, a Ukrainian separatist leader. All three are believed to be currently in Russia.

The court concluded that the three men had helped to arrange the transport into Ukraine of the Russian military Buk missile system that was used to shoot down the plane.

The fourth defendant, Russian Oleg Pulatov, the only suspect represented by defense lawyers at the trial, was acquitted due to a lack of evidence.

Russia called the trial "scandalous" and said the court's ruling was "politically motivated," insisting that the court was under "unprecedented pressure" from Dutch politicians, prosecutors, and media.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said after the decision to end the investigation into the incident was announced that the news was a "bitter disappointment." He added that the Dutch government would continue to call for Russia to be held to account for the "tragedy."

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The well-known Kyrgyz political activist and government critic Nazarbek Nyshanov has been detained on a charge of making public calls to forcibly seize power, the State Committee for National Security (UKMK) said on February 8. According to the UKMK, Nyshanov was detained two days earlier. Nyshanov's representatives and relatives have yet to comment on the statement. Nyshanov is known for his criticism of the current and previous governments, as well as for his political ambitions and attempts to get registered as a candidate for presidential elections since 2005. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, click here.

Georgian Officials Detain Man Suspected Of Bank Robbery, Hostage-Taking

On October 21, 2020, a masked gunman wearing military fatigues took 43 people hostage at a branch of the Bank of Georgia in the western city of Zugdidi. Georgia's Interior Ministry identifies the suspect as Badri Esebua (right). (composite photo)

TBILISI -- Georgia's Interior Ministry says its officers have detained a man suspected of an attempted bank robbery in October 2020 that turned into a hostage-taking situation.

In a statement on February 8, the ministry said the suspect, Badri Esebua, born in 1988, was apprehended early in the morning as he tried to cross the administrative boundary of Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia.

Esebua is accused of illegal arms possession, terrorism, and hostage-taking and may face up to 15 years in prison if convicted, the statement said.

On October 21, 2020, a masked gunman wearing military fatigues took 43 people hostage at a branch of the Bank of Georgia in the western city of Zugdidi.

He initially released 24 of the hostages and then, after an almost 12-hour standoff with police that stretched into the evening, he left the bank premises with four persons, including three hostages and the head of the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti Police Department, Avtandil Galdava, who had been acting as a negotiator. He also reportedly demanded $500,000 and a guarantee to leave the area safely.

The four were released later, while the suspect escaped with an unknown amount of cash and remained at large until his arrest on February 8.

In December 2020, police arrested Esebua’s brother for the illegal purchase and possession of firearms and ammunition. He was found guilty and sentenced by a court to four years in prison in July 2021.

U.S. To Lift Sanctions On Russian Sberbank's Former Subsidiary In Kazakhstan

The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on the subsidiary in February 2022 in response to Russia's ongoing unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

The U.S. Treasury Department plans to lift sanctions imposed on the former Russian Sberbank subsidiary in Kazakhstan, Bereke Bank. The U.S. Treasury Department said on February 7 that it will lift the sanctions on March 6. Kazakhstan's state-owned Baiterek financial holding group bought the Sberbank's Kazakh subsidiary in August 2022. The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on the subsidiary in February 2022 in response to Russia's ongoing unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, click here.

Kazakh Website Editor Receives Box Containing Meat And Photos Of Her Children

The box was delivered to the website's office on February 8.

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- The chief editor of the Ulysmedia.kz news website in Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, says she received a box from unknown people that contained a hunk of meat and pictures of her children, a parcel she called a new attempt "to intimidate" her and her staff.

Samal Ibraeva told RFE/RL that the box was delivered to the website's office on February 8. She linked the box's delivery to the professional activities of her team, which she said has been the target of other intimidation attempts.

On January 18, Ulysmedia.kz had to suspend its operations following a hacking attack. Ibraeva said at the time that the attack was most likely linked to the website's work, adding that it had faced several previous similar attacks.

The incident comes at a time when the independent press in Kazakhstan is coming under pressure.

The Almaty-based Adil Soz (A Just Word) group, which monitors journalists' rights, said earlier that there have been at least five attacks against journalists in the Central Asian nation since January 1.

The subjects of the attacks, including Ulysmedia.kz, have been writing and reporting about Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine and the first anniversary of the violent dispersal of anti-government protests in Kazakhstan that turned into mass unrest that left at least 238 people, including 19 law enforcement officers, dead.

On January 20, presidential spokesman Ruslan Zheldibai said President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev, who has initiated a series of changes since last year's deadly protests aimed at creating what he calls a "new Kazakhstan," has ordered law enforcement to investigate each attack against journalists.

Ibraeva said to RFE/RL on February 8 that, despite the presidential order to investigate the attacks, it remains unclear who is behind the assaults.

International human rights watchdogs and the embassies of several Western nations have urged Kazakh authorities to investigate the attacks.

Kazakh Court Convicts Five Dead Men Killed During 2022 Anti-Government Unrest

The men's relatives protested near the courtroom after the verdicts were announced, saying that their loved ones were victims of police and security officers who opened fire on protesters.

A court in Kazakhstan's southern city of Taraz has posthumously convicted five men who were shot dead during unprecedented anti-government protests in January 2022. The five were convicted of illegal weapons possession and taking part in mass unrest. The men's relatives protested near the courtroom after the verdicts were announced, saying that their loved ones were victims of police and security officers who opened fire on protesters following a presidential order "to shoot to kill without warning." At least 238 people, including 19 law enforcement officers, were killed across Kazakhstan during the protests. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, click here.

Estonian Intelligence Service Warns Of 'Security Risks' From Russia

(Left to right) Lithuania's President Gitanas Nauseda, Polish President Andrzej Duda, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Latvian President Egils Levits, and Estonia's President Alar Karis pose for a picture during their meeting in Kyiv on April 13.

The Estonian intelligence service said in its annual report on February 8 that Russia remains capable of exerting “credible military pressure” in the Baltic region, presenting a medium- and long-term security risk. Although the Russian military is currently engaged in its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, “Russia’s belligerence and foreign policy ambitions have significantly increased security risks for Estonia,” the report stated. To read the original story from Reuters, click here.

Russian Prosecutor Seeks 23 Years In Prison For Former Khabarovsk Governor Sergei Furgal

Sergei Furgal in court in Moscow on February 8.

The prosecutor at the high-profile murder trial of Sergei Furgal, the former governor of the Far Eastern Khabarovsk Krai region whose arrest in 2020 caused months-long protests in the region, has asked a Moscow court to sentence the politician to 23 years in prison.

The prosecutor on February 8 also asked the Lyubertsy City Court, which held the trial in the building of the Moscow regional court, to sentence Furgal's three co-defendants -- Marat Kadyrov, Andrei Palei, and Andrei Karepov -- to 10 1/2, five, and 17 years in prison, respectively.

On February 2, a jury found Furgal guilty of attempted murder and of ordering two killings in 2004 and 2005. The prosecutor claimed that decisions to commit the murders were driven by the commercial interests of Furgal and his accomplices. Investigators said Kadyrov was the actual perpetrator of the crime.

Furgal has stressed his innocence several times in court. He and his supporters insist that the case against him is politically motivated.

In his closing remarks, the ex-governor noted that 100 witnesses were brought forward by the defense but that only two were interrogated, while the rest were not admitted. In addition, he alleged the investigation hid material evidence.

Furgal, a member of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, was elected in 2018 in a runoff that he won handily against the region’s longtime incumbent from the Kremlin-backed ruling United Russia party.

His arrest on July 9, 2020, sparked mass protests in Khabarovsk Krai's capital, Khabarovsk, and several other towns and cities in the region.

The protests were held almost daily for many months, highlighting growing discontent in the Far East over what demonstrators see as Moscow-dominated policies that often neglect their views and interests.

With reporting by Meduza and TASS

Russian Police Launch Probe Into Alleged Fraud At Shelter Where Mutilated Dogs Found

Some 60 dogs were found dead and mutilated at the shelter in December.

Police in Russia's southwestern city of Astrakhan have launched a probe into alleged financial fraud after investigating the operations of an animal shelter where some 60 dogs were found dead and mutilated in December. The Investigative Committee said on February 7 that the shelter is suspected of embezzling 28 million rubles ($392,000) allocated by the authorities to catch stray dogs, provide them with medical assistance, and find homes for them. No names were mentioned. The shelter is owned by the wife of a former Astrakhan city lawmaker, Andrei Nevlyudov. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Self-Exiled Pussy Riot Member Charged With Discrediting Russian Armed Forces

Lyusya Shtein (left) with her partner and founding member of Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina (file photo)

MOSCOW -- Moscow municipal lawmaker Lyusya Shtein, who is also a member of the Pussy Riot protest group, has been charged in absentia with discrediting the Russian armed forces.

Media reports in Russia quoted sources as saying that the case launched against Shtein is linked to her online posts last March about Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Shtein told Meduza on February 7 that she learned about the probe against her from those media reports, adding that neither she nor her lawyer had been officially informed about the case.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

In May, the Interior Ministry added Shtein to its wanted list for violating a parole-like sentence she was handed in August 2021 for violating coronavirus safety precautions by calling on people to protest against the detention of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny.

The outspoken critic of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine left Russia in April after her apartment door was marked with a Z-shaped sticker inscribed with the slogan: "Collaborator. Do Not Sell Motherland," in an apparent attempt to intimidate her.

Many Russian military vehicles and tanks have been marked with the letter Z during the ongoing invasion, with the insignia becoming an increasingly ubiquitous symbol of support for the war, for the military, for the Kremlin’s policies, and most of all for President Vladimir Putin.

Shtein's partner and a founding member of Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina, also fled Russia last year after a Moscow court changed the remainder of her one-year parole-like sentence to real prison time, saying she had violated the terms of her punishment.

Shtein, Alyokhina, and other members of the protest group were sentenced to up 15 days in jail several times in 2021-22 over taking part in protest actions and unsanctioned rallies.

Pussy Riot came to prominence after three of its members were convicted of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" for a stunt in which they burst into Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral and sang a "punk prayer" against Putin, who was prime minister at the time and campaigning for his subsequent return to the Kremlin.

Alyokhina and bandmate Nadezhda Tolokonnikova had almost completed serving their two-year prison sentences when they were freed in December 2013 under an amnesty. The two have dismissed the move as a propaganda stunt by Putin to improve his image ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics that were held in the Russian resort city of Sochi.

With reporting by RIA Novosti and Meduza

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