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Major Powers Meet To Discuss Fresh Sanctions Against Iran

Major powers meet today to discuss fresh sanctions against Iran to curb its nuclear activities.

Officials from Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States, and Germany will gather in New York.

They will assess Tehran's response to their offer in October to exchange uranium for nuclear fuel.

Iran's Foreign Minister Manochehr Mottaki has said Iran accepts the offer "in principle," but with reservations.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this week the Obama administration thinks the best way to pressure Iran is to impose new sanctions aimed at the country's ruling elite.

But analysts say China and Russia are sceptical of new sanctions and the White House has said China will be sending a lower-level official to today's talks.

China's UN ambassador has said it is too early to consider new sanctions.

The UN Security Council, including China, has previously called for Iran to stop enriching uranium and has issued three sets of sanctions.

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Painter Of Iconic Brezhnev-Honecker 'Kiss' On Berlin Wall Dies At 62

Artist Dmitry Vrubel touches up his famous mural in Berlin in April 2014.

Dmitry Vrubel, the author of the iconic painting on the Berlin Wall depicting Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev kissing East Germany's communist leader, Erich Honecker, has died in the German capital at the age of 62.

Chief editor of The Art Newspaper Russia, Milena Orlova said on Facebook that Vrubel died late on August 14.

Titled "My God! Help Me Survive This Deadly Love," Vrubel's painting on the remains of the Berlin Wall became a symbol of Germany's unification in 1990.

Sometimes also referred to as "The Fraternal Kiss,' the graffiti artwork became enormously popular and has decorated souvenirs in Germany ever since.

In 2009, Vrubel's painting was removed from the wall's remains, but the artist painted it again.

In June, Vrubel was hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms. In early August, he underwent heart surgery.

Vrubel had lived in Germany since 1990.

Updated

Russia-Backed Separatists Say Swede, Croat, Briton In Ukraine Face Possible Death Penalty

The leaders of what the separatists call the Donetsk People's Republic said the five men would be charged with being mercenaries. (file photo)

Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine's eastern region of Donetsk have charged five foreigners captured in Ukraine with being mercenaries in a trial process that began on August 15, Russian media said.

The Russian TASS news agency quoted the "judge" in the case as saying the charges against three of the men -- Swede Matias Gustavsson, Croat Vjekoslav Prebege, and Briton John Harding -- carry the death penalty.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

Reports said all five pleaded not guilty to charges of mercenary activities and training to "seize power by force."

The separatist-administered court's next hearing for the five is reportedly scheduled for October.

The leaders of what the separatists call the Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) last week accused Gustavsson, Prebeg, Harding, and Britons Andrew Hill and Dylan Healy of joining Ukraine's armed forces.

They said the five would be charged with being mercenaries, preparing for terrorist activities, and activities aimed at seizing power.

Last month, Britain's Foreign Office condemned the “exploitation” of prisoners of war and civilians for political purposes following the capture of Healy and Hill. Another Briton, Paul Ury, who was captured along with Healy and Hill, died in the separatists' custody.

In early June, two other Britons -- Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner -- and a Moroccan national -- Saaudun Brahim -- were sentenced to death by the separatists.

All three say they were serving in the Ukrainian military when they were captured by pro-Russia separatists while fighting Russian forces.

Britain, the United Nations, Ukraine, and Germany condemned the death sentences, and the European Court of Human Rights warned Moscow that it must ensure the death penalty is not carried out.

The British government insists that, as legitimate members of the Ukrainian armed forces, they should be treated as prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions.

The Ukrainian government has set up a recruitment channel and Westerners have been traveling to Ukraine to help defend it against Russia's unprovoked invasion or to assist in providing humanitarian aid to Ukrainians in wartime.

With reporting by Reuters and RFE/RL's Russian Service

Navalny Says He's Been Placed In Solitary As Retaliation For Starting A One-Man Union

Jailed Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny

Jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny says he was placed in punitive solitary confinement for violating prison dress code by having an unbuttoned jacket, a punishment in retaliation for his decision to set up a one-man labor union in the penal colony.

Navalny said on social media on August 15 that the penal colony's acting warden handed him three days in solitary, but warned it could be prolonged if he "does not change his attitude."

An extension would mean Navalny wouldn't be able to meet his family in September at a scheduled three-day visit that is given to inmates three times a year.

Last week, Navalny said he had established a labor union -- of which he is the sole member -- and managed to have stools that were hurting the backs of inmates seated at sewing machines replaced with proper chairs.

Navalny was arrested in January last year upon his return to Moscow from Germany, where he was treated for a poison attack with what European labs said was a Soviet-style nerve agent.

He was then handed a 2 1/2-year prison sentence for violating the terms of an earlier parole during his convalescence abroad. The original conviction is widely regarded as a trumped-up, politically motivated case.

In March, Navalny was sentenced in a separate case to nine years in prison on embezzlement and contempt of court charges that he and his supporters have repeatedly rejected as politically motivated.

He was transferred in June to Correctional Colony No. 6 in the town of Melekhovo in the Vladimir region east of Moscow after the Moscow City Court rejected his appeal against the nine-year jail term.

Navalny is still able to use Telegram and other social media through his representatives.

Iranian President Signs Decree Further Restricting How Women Can Dress

Under the new order, "violators" will be fined and female government employees will be fired if their social media profile pictures do not conform to Islamic laws. (file photo)

An order by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to enforce the country's hijab and chastity law has resulted in a new list of restrictions on how women can dress.

The IRIB news agency, which is affiliated with Iranian state television, quoted Mohammad Saleh Hashemi Golpayegani as saying at the National Conference of Hijab and Chastity on August 14 that under the new order, "violators" will be fined, while female government employees will be fired if their social media profile pictures do not conform to Islamic laws.

Golpayegani is the secretary of Iran’s "Headquarters for Enjoining Right and Forbidding Evil," which is responsible for determining and enforcing behavioral models in society.

Based on the new Hijab and Chastity law, women who publish their pictures without a hijab on the Internet will be deprived of some social rights for six months to one year.

The news comes amid recent reports that authorities in Iran are increasingly cracking down on women deemed to be in violation of wearing the hijab, which is mandatory in public in Iran.

In recent weeks, women judged not to be in compliance have been barred from entering government offices, banks, or riding on public transportation.

The notorious Guidance Patrols, or morality police, have become increasingly active and violent. Videos have emerged on social media appearing to show officers detaining women, forcing them into vans, and whisking them away.

The hijab -- the head covering worn by Muslim women -- became compulsory in public for Iranian women and girls over nine years of age after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Many Iranian women have flouted the rule over the years and pushed the boundaries of what officials say is acceptable clothing.

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

Another Belarusian Activist Gets Prison Term Over His Anti-Lukashenka Views

Belarusian activist Mikita Palyayonak (file photo)

A Belarusian activist has been handed a prison term for his criticism of authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his regime.

The Minsk-based Vyasna human rights center said on August 15 that the Vitsebsk regional court in the country's east sentenced 28-year-old Mikita Palyayonak to four years in prison after finding him guilty of insulting Lukashenka, organizing an extremist group, and inciting hatred.

It is not clear how Palyayonak pleaded.

Also, on August 15, the Hrodna regional court in the country's west started the trial of Dzyanis Ivashyn, who was arrested in March last year.

Ivashyn's trial is being held behind closed doors, though diplomats from the embassies of Austria, Britain, and the Czech Republic were allowed into the hearing. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.

Belarusian human rights organizations have recognized Ivashyn as "a political prisoner."

Many in Belarus have faced trials since a disputed presidential election in August 2020, with authorities brutally suppressing dissent in any form.

Rights activists and opposition politicians say the 2020 vote was rigged to extend Lukashenka's rule. Thousands have been detained during countrywide protests and there have been credible reports of torture and ill-treatment by security forces. Several people have died during the crackdown.

Many of Belarus's dissident leaders have been arrested or forced to leave the country, while Lukashenka has refused to negotiate with the opposition.

The United States, the European Union, and several other countries have refused to acknowledge Lukashenka as the winner of the vote and imposed several rounds of sanctions on him and his regime, citing election fraud and the police crackdown.

U.S. Basketball Star Griner Appeals Russian Conviction Amid Reported Talks On Prisoner Swap

U.S. basketball start Brittney Griner (file photo)

Brittney Griner has appealed her nine-year sentence for drug possession in a Russian court, as reports suggest talks are continuing between Moscow and Washington over a possible prisoner swap involving the U.S. women's basketball star .

Griner's lawyers were quoted by Russian media as saying she was requesting an acquittal or a reduced sentence.

A two-time Olympic champion and six-time Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) all-star, the 31-year-old Griner has been in Russian detention since police said they found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February. She was returning at the time to Russia, where she has competed since 2014.

Griner admitted in court to an "honest mistake" in packing the cartridges.

U.S. President Joe Biden has assigned a hostage negotiator to Griner's case and said his administration is "working hard" toward her release.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said early this month that Washington would "pursue" Russia's offer -- expressed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov -- to discuss at the presidential level a possible prisoner swap.

U.S. officials have said their proposal also involves former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who was sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in prison on espionage charges that he denies.

News reports suggest a deal could involve jailed Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

CNN has quoted multiple sources as saying that the Russian side is also pressing for the handover of Vadim Krasikov, a former colonel from Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) who was convicted last year of murder in Germany in the death of an emigrant Chechen former fighter.

Based on reporting by Meduza.io, AP, and Interfax

Iranian Activist Rezaei Still In Custody Despite Being Granted Bail

Iranian student activist Ronak Rezaei (file photo)

Ronak Rezaei, an Iranian student and labor activist arrested in May during protests over the deadly collapse of a building, remains in prison despite being granted bail by a court.

Sources with knowledge of the situation told RFE/RL's Radio Farda on August 14 that a court had set bail for Rezaei, but Iranian "security and judicial institutions" had obstructed her release and the situation remains unresolved because the judge involved in the case is on a pilgrimage to the hajj.

Rezaei was arrested in a raid on her home after the collapse of the partially finished 10-story Metropol building on May 23, in the southwestern city of Abadan, which killed 43 people. Accusations that the accident was caused by government negligence and endemic corruption sparked protests.

Rezaei spent about a month in the detention center of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) before being transferred to Sepidar prison in Ahvaz on July 2.

Farzane Zilabi, Rezaei's lawyer, has called the proceedings against her client "propaganda."

According to Zilabi, the judicial authorities did not allow her to be with her client during the court proceedings.

Rezaei is a master's student in cultural studies at Allameh Tabatabai University in Tehran. She was in Abadan to do research on her thesis.

The collapse of a large section of the Metropol building, which was under construction, was one of Iran's deadliest such disasters in years.

Authorities have blamed the accident on isolated corruption and lax safety standards. So far, 13 people are reported to have been arrested for construction violations.

In recent years there have been several cases of buildings collapsing in Iran. Experts largely attribute the incidents to a disregard for safety standards and corruption in urban management.

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

Moscow Court Launches Bankruptcy Proceedings For RFE/RL's Entity in Russia

RFE/RL had to close its Moscow bureau in March after 30 years operating in the Russian capital.

MOSCOW -- A court in Moscow has begun bankruptcy proceedings against RFE/RL’s Russian entity, RFE/RL LLC, after local tax authorities initiated the process earlier this year, a move that prompted the broadcaster to suspend operations in the country.

The Arbitration Court of Moscow ruled on August 15 to start bankruptcy proceedings, which were initiated by the Federal Tax Service on March 4, saying that RFE.RL LLC owes some 7 million rubles ($112,000) to the tax authorities for 2021.

RFE/RL LLC in Moscow represents RFE/RL's interests in Russia. It was established in 2020 due to Russia's controversial law on "foreign agents."

The bankruptcy proceedings stem from Russian media regulations requiring that RFE/RL and other outlets deemed “foreign agents” mark themselves as such with a lengthy notice in large text for all written materials, an audio statement with all radio materials, and a text declaration with all video materials.

They also coincided with a new law signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin that took effect on March 5 and allows for prison sentences of up to 15 years for people who distribute "false news" about the Russian Army at a time when Moscow had invaded neighboring Ukraine.

RFE/RL has refused to comply with this mandate and since last year Russia's media regulator, Roskomnadzor, has filed more than a thousand administrative charges against RFE/RL LLC and its director, ordering them to pay almost 1 billion rubles ($16 million) in fines.

The official start of the bankruptcy proceedings was sparked because RFE/RL LLC was unable to pay its taxes because its bank accounts were blocked by court bailiffs last year.

RFE/RL considers Russia's law on foreign agents to be an expression of political censorship that does not allow journalists to carry out their professional activities. RFE/RL has appealed the Russian authorities' moves against its activities with Russian courts and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Many international journalist organizations and foreign governments have expressed support for RFE/RL and freedom of speech in Russia.

In March, after 30 years of operations in the Russian capital, RFE/RL had to close its bureau there. Some 27 journalists contributing to RFE/RL's programs currently are listed in the Justice Ministry's registry of foreign agents.

Websites of RFE/RL's Russian Service and several of its projects, as well as their accounts on social networks, have been blocked in Russia.

Despite that, the popularity of RFE/RL's Russian Service, known locally as Radio Svoboda, remains very high.

In March, days after Russia launched its ongoing unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, more than 18 million Internet users visited Radio Svoboda's sites.

Since January, more than 100 million users have visited the sites.

Kyrgyz Blogger Detained Over Post Questioning Development Of Iron-Ore Mining

Kyrgyzstan's Jetim-Too mountain region

BISHKEK -- A Kyrgyz blogger has been detained on a charge of making public calls for mass disorder and violence after he posted online materials questioning the legality of the government's plans to develop iron-ore mining in the Central Asian nation's Jetim-Too mountain region.

The Interior Ministry said on August 15 that 19-year-old Yryskeldi Jekshenaliev was detained a day earlier after investigators questioned him regarding his post on a Facebook account called Polit Uznik (Political Prisoner).

The ministry did not specify which post sparked the teen's detention, saying only that "recently, many disputes appear regarding the development of iron-ore mines at Jetim-Too," adding that the Polit Uznik account in Facebook distributes "controversial, false information."

Polit Uznik posted a handwritten statement from Jekshenaliev while in custody in which he calls the case again him "100 percent politically motivated."

Polit Uznik also said the post in question was an old video in which a former security chief raises environmental issues when talking about the government’s

On August 14, President Sadyr Japarov condemned unspecified "defenders" of the environment in the region, calling them "false patriots and liars."

Japarov, who initiated the project to develop iron-ore mining in Jetim-Too, called on law enforcement "to work" with such persons. He did not elaborate.

Updated

U.S. Responding Privately To EU On Iran Nuclear Deal, As Tehran Readies Response

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (file photo)

The United States said on August 15 that it would respond privately to the European Union's "final draft" of a text to salvage the hobbled nuclear deal with Iran, as the international community awaited a response possibly within hours from Tehran on the proposal.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington's reaction would not be made publicly but would go directly to the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell.

Price also said that the only path to a return to the agreement was if Tehran stopped making "extraneous demands."

Stalemated talks on the 2015 deal exchanging sanctions relief for curbs on Iran's nuclear activities have given way to hints in recent weeks that a deal is within reach.

Iran says it will respond to the EU's text on August 15 before midnight.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said the coming days were important in finding a solution to the remaining issues holding up a final deal and called on Washington to show some "flexibility" to allow the talks to move forward.

"We do not want to reach a deal that after 40 days, two months, or three months fails to be materialized on the ground.... We have told them that our red lines should be respected," Amir-Abdollahian said, according to the Fars news agency, which is affiliated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

EU foreign policy chief and negotiations coordinator Josep Borrell said on August 8 that a 25-page draft had been delivered to the capitals involved for decisions on acceptance.

The draft, according to Borrell's spokesman, was a "final text" that needed a yes-or-no answer from all of the participants, as there was "no more space for negotiations."

The State Department has previously indicated that the United States was ready to "quickly conclude a deal" to revive the 2015 agreement based on the EU proposals.

The spokesman said Washington will wait to see if Tehran's "actions match their words" following repeated signals that Iranian officials might endorse the deal.

Iran has so far said it is considering the draft amid "more comprehensive discussions in Tehran."

Amir-Abdollahian said that "like Washington, we have our own plan B if the talks fail."

Enrique Mora, the European Union’s top negotiator, has said he's “absolutely” optimistic about the talks’ progress.

Iran struck the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) in 2015 with the United States, France, Germany, Britain, Russia, and China. The deal saw Iran agree to limit its enrichment of uranium under the watch of UN inspectors in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

Washington unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear pact under then-President Donald Trump in 2018. Iran reacted by gradually backtracking on its obligations under the deal, such as uranium enrichment.

Negotiators from Iran, Russia, and the EU -- as well as the United States, indirectly -- resumed talks over Tehran’s nuclear deal on August 4 after a months-long standstill in negotiations.

With reporting by Fars and Reuters
Updated

Kosovo Walks Back Power Cutoffs To Consumers Amid Energy 'Emergency'

KEDS noted that under the system, consumers will receive electricity for six hours, then supplies will be cut for two hours. (file photo)

Kosovar authorities say electricity supplies have resumed as normal after its main power distributor announced periodic brownouts starting on August 15 that it blamed on high import costs and production woes.

Nonetheless, officials in the Balkan state signaled that there would be challenges ahead as a result of the current "energy crisis and state of emergency."

"Regular electricity supply is back," the Kosovar Economy Ministry said on Facebook.

It credited cooperation between the local KEK energy company and its counterpart in neighboring Albania for resolving the immediate problem.

"Institutions will continue to do their best to maintain regular electricity supply in the coming days," the ministry said.

"However, given the situation, they ask all citizens and businesses to take frugal measures and be as careful as possible in using electricity."

Kosovo's electricity distribution company KEDS had warned that it would limit power supplies to customers from August 15 to six hours on and two hours off due to flagging local production and the high cost of importing electricity from abroad.

KEDS said in a statement that it was informed by the national grid operator KOSTT that the cuts were necessary because it will have to rely solely on domestic production for supplies.

It has been pushing regulators to allow price hikes for consumers.

The Economy Ministry said "cooperation with Albania will be followed by other measures to address the energy crisis and the state of emergency we are in."

Kosovo's 1.8 million inhabitants rely mainly on two aging coal-fired power plants for domestic electricity production. Some of the output has been limited due to scheduled summer maintenance at the plants.

European electricity prices reached record highs in the first week of August as a prolonged heat wave across the continent disrupted power markets that were already under strain from Russia’s cuts to the continent’s gas supplies amid its war with Ukraine.

With reporting by Koha

Heavy Shelling Reported In Donetsk Region As Ukrainian Forces Make Gains In Kherson

Ukrainian soldiers fire toward Russian troops at a position in the Donetsk region on August 12.

Heavy shelling by Russian forces in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk was reported overnight, with officials in Kyiv saying they are managing to repel many of the attacks while recapturing ground in the southern Kherson region.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his overnight address late on August 14 that despite the heavy and constant bombardment by Russian forces, "We must fight at all levels and on all fronts, strengthen our state as much as possible, preserve our unity, and attract even more countries to our anti-war coalition.

"The stronger Ukraine will be, the weaker Russia will be, and therefore, the less time this war will last," he said in the address, noting Kyiv is pushing for new sanctions against Russia by the international community, especially ones that target the movement of Russian citizens.

For several weeks, Ukraine's military has tried to lay the groundwork for a counteroffensive to reclaim southern Ukraine's Kherson region, which borders Crimea and fell to the Russians soon after the February 24 invasion.

Particularly heavy fighting has focused on the village of Pisky, near Donetsk Airport, according to the British Defense Ministry, which said on August 15 that it is likely Moscow is in the advanced planning stages to hold a referendum aimed at making the region part of Russia, "though it is unclear if the final decision to go ahead with a vote has yet been taken."

"The Kremlin will likely see the military’s failure to occupy the entirety of Donetsk Oblast thus far as a setback for its maximalist objectives in Ukraine," it said in a daily statement on Twitter.

Meanwhile, the situation at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant -- Europe's largest nuclear power station -- continues to be a source of major concern for the international community.

Zelenskiy warned over the weekend that recent shelling at the plant has increased the threat of a leak of radiation.

Russia doesn't deny it has troops located at the plant but has disputed claims it has shelled the area. Instead, Moscow blames Ukrainian forces for firing artillery shells in the area, which officials in Kyiv deny.

While the plant is controlled by Russia, its Ukrainian staff continues to run the nuclear operations. It is in Enerhodar, a city seized by Russian troops in early March soon after they invaded Ukraine on February 24.

"Deployment of Russian military personnel and weaponry at the nuclear facility is unacceptable and disregards the safety, security, and safeguards principles that all members of the IAEA have committed to respect," a statement by 42 nations worldwide that was published by the European Union on August 14 said.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters
Updated

Tehran Blames Rushdie For Attack; Blinken Slams 'Despicable' Iranian Press

Hadi Matar, 24 (center), listens to his public defense attorney, Nathaniel Barone (left), address the judge while being arraigned in the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, New York, on August 13.

Tehran says Salman Rushdie is to blame for the stabbing that left the award-winning author seriously wounded as Washington slammed Iranian state media for its "despicable" reaction to "this heinous attack."

In its first reaction to the stabbing, Tehran on August 15 "categorically" denied any link with the attack that occurred three days earlier in the western part of New York state.

Rushdie was taken off a ventilator on August 14 and was able to speak after suffering serious injuries in a knife attack as he was preparing to speak at a panel on the topic of freedom of creative expression at the Chataqua Institution.

Tehran was initially silent on the attack, but U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned Iran's state media for its reaction.

"Iranian state institutions have incited violence against Rushdie for generations, and state-affiliated media recently gloated about the attempt on his life," Blinken said in a statement issued late on August 14. "This is despicable."

The man accused of attacking the author of the novel The Satanic Verses has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and assault charges in what a prosecutor called a “preplanned” crime.

Salman Rushdie
Salman Rushdie

An attorney for Hadi Matar entered the plea on his behalf during an arraignment. A judge ordered him held without bail.

Rushdie, 75, suffered a damaged liver and severed nerves in an arm and an eye in the attack. He is likely to lose the injured eye.

Rushdie has faced years of death threats for The Satanic Verses, which some Muslims see as blasphemous.

Matar, 24, is accused of running onto the stage at the Chautauqua Institution and stabbing Rushdie at least 10 times in the face, neck, and abdomen.

NBC News quoted a law enforcement official as saying that Matar's social media accounts showed him to be sympathetic to Shi'ite extremism and the causes of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

There are no definitive links to the IRGC, but the initial assessment indicates he is sympathetic to the Iranian government group, the official said, according to NBC.

"More than a literary giant, Rushdie has consistently stood up for the universal rights of freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief, and freedom of the press," Blinken said in his statement.

"While law enforcement officials continue to investigate the attack, I am reminded of the pernicious forces that seek to undermine these rights, including through hate speech and incitement to violence," he added.

The Satanic Verses was banned in Iran. A year after it was published in 1988, Iran’s leader at the time, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s death.

Iran’s government has distanced itself from Khomeini’s decree, but anti-Rushdie sentiment has lingered. In 2012, a semiofficial Iranian religious foundation raised the bounty for Rushdie from $2.8 million to $3.3 million.

Rushdie, who was forced into hiding for many years because of the fatwa, dismissed that threat at the time, saying there was no evidence of people being interested in the reward.

In 1991, a Japanese translator of the book was stabbed to death and an Italian translator survived a knife attack. In 1993, the book’s Norwegian publisher was shot three times and survived.

Khamenei has never issued a fatwa of his own withdrawing the edict, though Iran in recent years hasn’t focused on the writer.

Born in Mumbai, India, Rushdie holds British and U.S. citizenship and has lived in New York since 2000.

Matar was born in the United States to parents who emigrated from Yaroun in southern Lebanon, the mayor of the village, Ali Tehfe, told AP on August 13

Flags of the Iran-backed Shi'ite militant group Hizballah are visible across the village, AP reported, along with portraits of leader Hassan Nasrallah, Khamenei, Khomeini, and slain Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters
Updated

At Least Seven Dead, 22 Still Missing As Rescuers Fight Yerevan Market Fire

An unknown number of people were trapped under rubble after a blast and subsequent fire at the Surmalu market sent a towering cloud of smoke over Yerevan. 

Firefighters and rescue crews found a seventh body and were using special cameras to search for survivors on August 15 as they continued to battle a blaze at a large market in Yerevan a day after an explosion triggered the fire.

They said that, aside from the seven confirmed deaths, 22 others remain missing at the site of the disaster, including six Iranians and a Russian national.

A least 12 more victims were being treated at a local hospital for their injuries.

Officials say the fire at the Surmalu market, about two kilometers south of the center of Armenia's capital city, still has not been completely contained.

Yerevan Market Ablaze As Fireworks Storage Explodes
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Emergencies Minister Armen Panbukhchian told reporters late on August 15 that he could not confirm reports that rescuers had located a possible survivor under rubble.

"We do not confirm this information at the moment," he said. "We are now carrying out search and rescue operations in this area, including using special equipment, that is, cameras."


Panbukhchian was earlier quoted as "almost" ruling out terrorism as a cause of the incident.

“Watching the footage of the explosion, we almost rule out such a theory [that a bomb had been planted], because first there was smoke, then fire covering some small area, then came an explosion," he said. "Quite a large amount of explosive materials was stored there."

A blast and subsequent fire at Surmalu sent a towering cloud of smoke over the capital on August 14, shared on social media. The explosion was in an area where fireworks and other pyrotechnics are stored.

The building surrounding the site of the blast and fire was initially still standing but very shaky, according to Deputy Emergency Situations Minister Davit Hambaryan.

Updated

Amid Safety Fears, Russia Pledges Access To Ukrainian Nuclear Plant For UN Atomic Watchdog

The Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant in the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhya region.

Moscow has pledged to do "everything necessary" to allow experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant while Russia's defense minister reportedly spoke to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres about the situation at the facility.

Moscow's moves come one day after 42 countries from around the world signed a statement urging Russia to withdraw its armed forces from Europe's largest nuclear station, saying their presence poses "a great danger."

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

The situation at the nuclear facility has caused heightened alarm at the United Nations and the UN's atomic energy watchdog, the IAEA. Both have said IAEA inspectors should be allowed to visit the plant, while UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for a demilitarized zone to be set up around it.

"In close cooperation with the Agency and its leadership, we will do everything necessary to make it possible for IAEA specialists to appear at the station," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement on August 15.

Moscow later said Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had spoken to Guterres about the security of Zaporizhzhya.

"Sergei Shoigu conducted telephone negotiations with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres regarding the conditions for safe operation of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant," the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

It did not elaborate.

Guterres' office did not immediately confirm the conversation or its substance.

On August 14, a statement by 42 countries condemned Moscow's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and said the presence of Russian military forces at the plant was preventing authorities from maintaining nuclear and radiation safety obligations.

"It is undeniable that Russia’s invasion and its continued presence at Ukraine’s nuclear facilities significantly raise the risk of nuclear incidents and accidents," the statement says.

"We urge the Russian Federation to immediately withdraw its military forces and all other unauthorized personnel from the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, its immediate surroundings, and all of Ukraine so that the operator and the Ukrainian authorities can resume their sovereign responsibilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders and the legitimate operating staff can conduct their duties without outside interference, threat, or unacceptably harsh working conditions.

"Deployment of Russian military personnel and weaponry at the nuclear facility is unacceptable and disregards the safety, security, and safeguards principles that all members of the IAEA have committed to respect," the statement added.

This statement was issued on behalf of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, the Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as the European Union.

With reporting by AFP

Iran's Top Automaker Eyes Russian Market Following Western Pullout

Iran Khodro new crossover model, the Rira

Iran's leading automaker is seeking to grab a share of the Russian market after Western producers halted output or exited the market following sanctions.

Iran Khodro CEO Mehdi Khatibi made the announcement on August 14 as he unveiled the company's latest model -- the crossover Rira.

"We are going to pay special attention to the Russian market, and we are also thinking of partnering with Russian investors," he said.

"The Russian market, with its capacities, will be one of our important markets," Khatibi added.

Iran Khodro will begin exporting to Russia this year, he said.

Khatibi said he had been in negotiations "with Moscow," but he did not clarify whether the talks just revolved around exports or also included possible local production.

Iran Khodro had briefly exported cars to Russia during the 2000s, according to Iranian media.

Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to Iran in July to meet his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Moscow is seeking to enhance economic ties with Tehran after the West imposed punishing sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

Iran is also under wide-ranging Western sanctions.

Russian auto production has plummeted since the imposition of sanctions, because manufacturers can no longer import microprocessors and other parts needed for final assembly.

Several Western and Asian companies have idled their Russian plants for the time being while some have announced they are permanently leaving the market.

Exports of Western cars to Russia have also sunk sharply.

Khatibi did not say how many cars he expects to export this year to Russia.

While the exit of Western models opens a door for Iran Khodro, Russia's economy is expected to contract sharply in the coming years, hurting demand for big-ticket items like cars.

With reporting by AFP

Ship Carrying Grain For Ethiopia Sets Sail From Ukraine

More than a dozen grain ships have now left Ukraine since the July 22 agreement.

A United Nations-chartered ship loaded with Ukrainian grain has set sail from a Black Sea port for Ethiopia, the first shipment of its kind in a program to assist countries facing famine.

The Liberian-flagged Brave Commander departed from the Ukrainian port of Yuzhne, east of Odesa, on August 14, according to regional Governor Maksym Marchenko.

The ship is expected to sail to Djibouti, where the grain will be unloaded and transferred to neighboring Ethiopia under the World Food Program initiative.

Ukraine and Russia reached a deal with Turkey on July 22 to restart Black Sea grain deliveries after a five-month stoppage triggered by Moscow's invasion.

Russia's Navy blockaded ports in Ukraine -- one of the world's largest exporters of grain -- amid a large-scale invasion of the country.

The blockade sparked fears of a global food shortage and caused prices of grain to skyrocket, hitting impoverished countries hard.

Ethiopia is one of five countries that the UN considers at risk of starvation.

More than a dozen grain ships have now left Ukraine since the July 22 agreement.

Based on reporting by AP

Moscow Canceling Registrations Of Opposition Candidates By The Dozens As Political Clampdown Intensifies

Maria Volokh (right) already had two administrative cases opened against her: one for holding a piece of paper with stars on it that was deemed discrediting to the Russian armed forces and another for taking part in a two-person, anti-war picket.

Moscow has been canceling en masse the registration of opposition candidates for municipal elections next month as the Kremlin clamps down on dissent.

Russian authorities have historically not concerned themselves much with municipal elections because they tend to focus on very local issues, such as apartment building repairs and park improvements.

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin has intensified his crackdown on any sign of dissent since he launched an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and it is now filtering down to the lowest levels of government, opposition members say.

Vladimir Zalishak, a deputy representing Moscow's Donskoi district, told RFE/RL that nearly a hundred would-be opposition candidates had been disqualified by local election commissions on the alleged violation of a controversial administrative clause.

He said the clampdown on potential municipal candidates was a sign that the authorities are "hysterical and panicking."

Zalishak said police were launching administrative investigations into would-be candidates on the ground that they had publicly demonstrated "prohibited symbols." Those found guilty are banned from running for office for a year.

Russia last year jailed opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, outlawed his Anti-Corruption Foundation on extremism charges, and banned symbols associated with his group.

Police are now scrolling through the social media accounts of opposition members looking for old posts that contain the symbols before they were banned, he said.

Zalishak said his registration was canceled after police found a Navalny-related symbol on a post from 2019.

Maria Volokh, a member of the liberal Yabloko party, did not have any posts on her social media but the authorities still found a way to cancel her registration, she told RFE/RL.

The police sent a letter to Volokh's local election commission, claiming falsely that she had Dutch citizenship. Volokh studied in the Netherlands for several years but never received citizenship.

She said she intended to contest the decision.

Volokh was seeking to run for a seat on the council representing Moscow's Tver district.

Volokh already had two administrative cases opened against her: one for holding a piece of paper with stars on it that was deemed discrediting to the Russian armed forces and another for taking part in a two-person, anti-war picket.

Zalishak said most of the individuals who had their candidacy canceled were opponents of Russia's war in Ukraine.

Russian Demand For Schengen Visa Surges Amid Calls For European Travel Ban

Russians are racing to secure Schengen visas amid calls for a ban on travel to Europe, the daily Kommersant has reported, citing executives at tour agencies.

Marina Shirokova, a manager at Vizakhod, told the Russian newspaper that demand for Schengen visas had surged about 40 percent over the past two weeks as fears grow that European travel could soon be off-limits.

A Schengen visa is a 90-day visa that allows a person to travel to any of the 26 European members of the Schengen area for tourism or business purposes. Each member country of the Schengen zone can issue Schengen visas.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on August 8 called on the European Union to ban Russian tourists to punish Moscow for its brutal invasion, now in its sixth month.

Three days later, Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said that his country will bar Russian citizens with Schengen visas issued by Estonia from entering the Baltic country because of the Kremlin's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

However, he said it will still remain valid for entry into other member countries.

Russians are already facing difficulties in traveling to Europe amid a backlash over the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine. Several countries have stopped issuing tourist visas to Russians in a sign of protest.

Moreover, the EU has closed its airspace to Russia.

As a result, many Russians with Schengen visas having been flying to Europe via the Baltics or Finland. Now that path could become more difficult if Estonia moves ahead with its plan.

The number of Russians traveling to Europe is down about 90 percent compared with the prewar period, Maya Lomidze, executive director of the Association of Tour Operators of Russia, told Kommersant.

She said Russians seeking Schengen visas were mainly interested in traveling to resort destinations in France, Italy, Spain, and Greece.

Germany, Europe's largest country, has come out against a blanket visa ban on Russians. Chancellor Olaf Scholz said it would hurt "innocent people."

Updated

One Dead After Fireworks Blast Starts Fire At Armenian Market

Video posted on social media showed black smoke rising from the Surmalu market, which is a sprawling complex where, among other things, fireworks and other pyrotechnics are sold.

At least one person is reported dead and some 20 injured after a strong explosion hit a fireworks storage area at a large market in Armenia's capital on August 14, triggering a blaze.

The city mayor's office said there were an unknown number of people trapped under rubble. The blast and fire at the Surmalu market sent a towering cloud of smoke over Yerevan.

Yerevan Market Ablaze As Fireworks Storage Explodes
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Rescue workers were struggling to pull people out of the rubble, a spokesman for the Yerevan mayor's office told RFE/RL. The explosion was in an area where fireworks are stored, he added.

The Ministry of Emergency Situations said at least one person was killed and 20 others were injured.

The ministry earlier said firefighters were on the scene battling the blaze.

The market is about 2 kilometers south of the city center.

Video posted on social media showed black smoke rising from the Surmalu market, which is a sprawling complex where, among other things, fireworks and other pyrotechnics are sold.

Ukraine Targets More Russian Arms Depots As Safety Fears Grow At Occupied Nuclear Plant

This house was damaged on August 12 in a Russian rocket attack in Kramatorsk, in the Donetsk region. The strike killed three people and wounded 13 others, according to the mayor.

Ukrainian officials have reported that more Russian munitions depots were targeted by the military amid mounting safety concerns over a Russian-occupied nuclear plant in the south of the country.

"Large" depots in the Kherson region were destroyed overnight, Yuriy Sobolevskiy, the first deputy head of the Kherson regional council, said on August 14.

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"There is confirmed information about the destruction of objects both in Nova Kakhovka and in Muzykivka. Quite large military warehouses with weapons and ammunition were located there. Military equipment was also stored there," he told Ukrainian media.

For several weeks, Ukraine's military has tried to lay the groundwork for a counteroffensive to reclaim southern Ukraine's Kherson region, which borders Crimea and fell to the Russians soon after the February 24 invasion.

A local Ukrainian official reported on August 13 that a Ukrainian strike had damaged the last working bridge over the Dnieper River in the region, further crippling Russian supply lines.

The British Defense Ministry said on August 13 that damage to bridges across the Dnieper meant that "ground resupply for the several thousand Russian troops on the west bank is almost certainly reliant on just two pontoon-ferry crossing points."

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has warned Russian forces not to use the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant for military purposes.

In his regular nightly address late on August 13, Zelenskiy said Ukraine would target Russian soldiers who either shoot at or from what is Europe's largest nuclear power plant.

"Every Russian soldier who either shoots at the plant, or shoots using the plant as cover, must understand that he becomes a special target for our intelligence agents, for our special services, for our army," Zelenskiy said.


Zelenskiy said recent shelling at the plant had increased the threat of a radiation leak, and that Ukrainian diplomats and partner states "will do everything to ensure" that new sanctions block the Russian nuclear industry.

While the plant is controlled by Russia, its Ukrainian staff continues to run the nuclear operations. It is in Enerhodar, a city seized by Russian troops in early March soon after they invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Zelenskiy, who did not give any details, repeated accusations that Russia was using the plant as nuclear blackmail.

The G7 group of advanced economies has called on Moscow to withdraw its forces from the power station.

Ukraine's defense intelligence agency earlier warned of fresh Russian "provocations" around the plant, while the exiled mayor of the town where the plant is located said it had come under fresh Russian shelling.

But local Russian-installed official Vladimir Rogov wrote on Telegram that Ukrainian forces were shelling the plant.

The UN nuclear chief warned on August 11 that "very alarming" military activity at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant could lead to dangerous consequences for the region and called for an end to attacks.

Rafael Grossi urged Russia and Ukraine, who blame each other for the attacks at the plant, to immediately allow nuclear experts to assess damage and evaluate safety and security at the sprawling nuclear complex where the situation "has been deteriorating very rapidly."


Elsewhere, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed on August 13 that its forces had taken control of Pisky, a village on the outskirts of the city of Donetsk, the main city in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk, most of which Moscow-backed separatists have controlled since 2014.

Russian troops and separatist forces are trying to seize Ukrainian-held areas north and west of the city of Donetsk, but the Ukrainian military said on August 13 that its forces had prevented an overnight advance toward the smaller cities of Bakhmut and Avdiyivka.

With reporting by AFP, dpa, Reuters, and AP

Rushdie Off Ventilator And Able To Talk After Knife Attack

A banner saying "the execution verdict of Salman Rushdi will be carried out" is hung at Tehran University in 2012. A year after Rushdie's The Satanic Verses was published in 1988, Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie's death.

Salman Rushdie has been taken off a ventilator and is able to speak after suffering serious injuries in a knife attack.

Rushdie's agent, Andrew Wylie, confirmed the information on August 13 to U.S. media without providing further details.

Earlier in the day, the man accused of attacking him on August 12 at a nonprofit education and retreat center in western New York pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and assault charges in what a prosecutor called a "preplanned" crime.

An attorney for Hadi Matar entered the plea on his behalf during an arraignment in western New York. A judge ordered him held without bail.

Rushdie, 75, suffered a damaged liver and severed nerves in an arm and an eye in the attack. He was likely to lose the injured eye, Wylie said after the attack.

Rushdie has faced years of death threats for his novel The Satanic Verses, which some Muslims see as blasphemous.

Matar, 24, is accused of running onto the stage at the Chautauqua Institution and stabbing Rushdie at least 10 times in the face, neck, and abdomen.

There was no official reaction to the attack in Iran, but several hard-line newspapers praised the attacker.

"A thousand bravos...to the brave and dutiful person who attacked the apostate and evil Salman Rushdie in New York," wrote the Kayhan newspaper, whose editor in chief was appointed by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. "The hand of the man who tore the neck of God's enemy must be kissed."

The Satanic Verses was banned in Iran. A year after it was published in 1988, Iran's leader at the time, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s death.

Iran's government has distanced itself from Khomeini's decree, but anti-Rushdie sentiment has lingered. In 2012, a semiofficial Iranian religious foundation raised the bounty for Rushdie from $2.8 million to $3.3 million.

Rushdie, who was forced into hiding for many years because of the fatwa, dismissed that threat at the time, saying there was no evidence of people being interested in the reward.

In 1991, a Japanese translator of the book was stabbed to death and an Italian translator survived a knife attack. In 1993, the book's Norwegian publisher was shot three times and survived.

Khamenei has never issued a fatwa of his own withdrawing the edict, though Iran in recent years hasn't focused on the writer.

Rushdie was at the Chautauqua Institution to take part in a discussion about the United States serving as asylum for writers and artists in exile and "as a home for freedom of creative expression," according to the institution's website.

U.S. President Joe Biden condemned the "vicious attack" and praised Rushdie for his "refusal to be intimidated or silenced."

In a statement on August 13, Biden said that he and his wife, first lady Jill Biden, "together with all Americans and people around the world, are praying for his health and recovery."

He added that Rushdie "stands for essential, universal ideals. Truth. Courage. Resilience. The ability to share ideas without fear."

Born in Mumbai, India, Rushdie holds British and U.S. citizenship and has lived in New York since 2000, according to Politico.

Matar was born in the United States to parents who emigrated from Yaroun in southern Lebanon, the mayor of the village, Ali Tehfe, told the AP news agency on August 13

Flags of the Iran-backed Shi'ite militant group Hizballah are visible across the village, AP reported, along with portraits of leader Hassan Nasrallah, Khamenei, Khomeini, and slain Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters

Two More Ships Loaded With Grain Leave Ukrainian Port, Turkey Says

A Turkish-flagged bulk carrier leaves the Ukrainian port of Chornomorsk on August 5, one of 16 that have left the country loaded with grain in the two weeks since a UN-brokered deal to ensure safe passage.

Two more ships carrying tons of grain left a Ukrainian Black Sea port on August 13, the Turkish Defense Ministry has said.

The Barbados-flagged Fulmar S left Ukraine's Chornomorsk port carrying 12,000 tons of corn to Turkey's southern Iskenderun Province, the ministry said.

The Marshall Island-flagged Thoe departed from the same port and headed to Turkey's Tekirdag carrying 3,000 tons of sunflower seeds, it added.

The departure of the two ships brings to 16 the number of vessels that have left the country loaded with grain in the two weeks since a UN-brokered deal to ensure safe passage for the vessels went into effect, the Ukrainian Infrastructure Ministry said.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that in less than two weeks, Ukraine had managed to export the same amount of grain from three ports as it had done by road for the whole of July.

"This has already made it possible to reduce the severity of the food crisis," he said in his nightly video address on August 13.

Before the UN-brokered deal, the blockage of Ukrainian ports trapped tens of millions of tons of grain in the country, raising fears of severe food shortages and even outbreaks of famine in parts of the world.

Based on reporting by Reuters

Hungary Says Russia Delivering Extra Gas

A general view of Hungarian oil and gas group MOL's main Danube refinery in Szazhalombatta

Russian state-run natural gas giant Gazprom has started delivering additional gas to Hungary, the country's Foreign Ministry says.

The ministry said trade negotiations with Moscow led to an agreement that resulted in Gazprom starting to deliver "above the already contracted quantities."

"It is the duty of the Hungarian government to ensure the country's safe supply of natural gas, and we are living up to it," ministry official Tamas Menczer said on Facebook on August 13.

An additional volume of 2.6 million cubic meters per day are to arrive from the south through the TurkStream pipeline until the end of August, he said. Negotiations were under way for September deliveries, he added.

The agreement that Menczer referred to was linked to Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto's visit to Moscow in July to discuss the purchase of an additional 700 million cubic meters of natural gas.

"In light of what is known about the current European market conditions, it is clear that the acquisition of such a large amount is impossible without Russian sources," Menczer said, mentioning Szijjarto's visit.

The European Union last month approved a plan under which countries are expected to voluntarily reduce their natural gas consumption by 15 percent between August 1 and March 31 compared to the average consumption over the same period the past five years.

The plan is intended to prepare the bloc for a possible halt in Russian natural gas supplies.

The plan, published as a European Council regulation on August 8, will apply for one year. Hungary, which relies on gas piped in directly from Russia, had demanded some exceptions to the voluntary rule.

The rule says Russia’s “military aggression against Ukraine…has led to gas supplies declining markedly, in a deliberate attempt to use gas supply as a political weapon.”

Based on reporting by AFP
Updated

Suspect In Rushdie Attack Charged With Attempted Murder As Author Remains Hospitalized

Iranian women are seen holding banners that read "Holly Koran" and "Kill Salman Rushdie" during a demonstration in Tehran on February 17, 1989.

The suspect in an attack on author Salman Rushdie has been charged with attempted murder and attempted assault and is being held without bond, authorities in the western New York community where the attack occurred said on August 13.

Hadi Matar, 24, was arraigned late on August 12 on charges of attempted murder in the second degree and assault in the second degree, New York state police said in a statement.

An attorney for Matar entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf.

Jason Schmidt, the district attorney in Chautauqua County, said state and federal law enforcement agencies were working on the investigation.

Matar, a resident of New Jersey, was taken into custody at the scene. Investigators are working to understand the planning and preparation that preceded the attack and determine whether additional charges should be filed, Schmidt said.

Rushdie remained hospitalized on a ventilator with a damaged liver and nerve damage, his agent, Andrew Wylie, said. Wylie added that he was likely to lose an eye.

Rushdie, who spent years in hiding after his novel The Satanic Verses drew death threats from Iran's leader in the 1980s, was attacked at the Chautauqua Institution, a spiritual retreat center in a rural corner of southwest New York State where he was scheduled to speak.

The center is known for its summertime lecture series, where Rushdie has spoken before.

The suspect stormed the stage as Rushdie was being introduced and attacked him and moderator Henry Reese, New York State Police said in a statement.

Eyewitnesses said the attack lasted for nearly 20 seconds, with Hatar allegedly continuing to punch and stab Rushdie even as onlookers rushed to restrain him. Reese suffered a minor head injury.

There was no official reaction to the attack in Iran, but several hard-line newspapers praised the attacker.

"A thousand bravos...to the brave and dutiful person who attacked the apostate and evil Salman Rushdie in New York,"
wrote Kayhan newspaper, whose editor in chief was appointed by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. "The hand of the man who tore the neck of God's enemy must be kissed."

The Satanic Verses was banned in Iran because many Muslims consider it to be blasphemous. A year after it was published in 1988, Iran's leader at the time, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie’s death.

Iran's government has distanced itself from Khomeini’s decree, but anti-Rushdie sentiment has lingered. In 2012, a semiofficial Iranian religious foundation raised the bounty for Rushdie from $2.8 million to $3.3 million.

Rushdie, who was forced into hiding for many years because of the fatwa, dismissed that threat at the time, saying there was no evidence of people being interested in the reward.

In 1991, a Japanese translator of the book was stabbed to death and an Italian translator survived a knife attack. In 1993, the book's Norwegian publisher was shot three times and survived.

Khamenei has never issued a fatwa of his own withdrawing the edict, though Iran in recent years hasn't focused on the writer.

Rushdie was at the Chautauqua Institution to take part in a discussion about the United States serving as asylum for writers and artists in exile and "as a home for freedom of creative expression," according to the institution’s website.

U.S. President Joe Biden condemned the "vicious attack" and praised Rushdie for his "refusal to be intimidated or silenced."

In a statement on August 13, Biden said that he and his wife, first lady Jill Biden, "together with all Americans and people around the world, are praying for his health and recovery."

He added that Rushdie "stands for essential, universal ideals. Truth. Courage. Resilience. The ability to share ideas without fear."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the attack was a strike on the freedom of expression.

"No one should be threatened or harmed on the basis of what they have written. I'm wishing him a speedy recovery," Trudeau said in a tweet.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also condemned the attack.

"What a despicable act," Scholz said on Twitter, adding that he wished the author strength for his recovery.

"The world needs people like you who are not intimidated by hate and fearlessly stand up for freedom of expression," he said.

Born in Mumbai, India, Rushdie holds British and U.S. citizenship and has lived in New York since 2000, according to Politico.

With reporting by AP and Reuters

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