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Russians Expand Chechen Counterterror Effort

GROZNY -- Russian authorities have expanded federal counterterrorism operations in Chechnya in three districts of the war-battered republic, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported, hinting at an escalating clampdown just weeks after the official close of a decade-long, republic-wide counterterrorism campaign.

The head of a local press arm of federal forces in Chechnya, Vladimir Patrin, told journalists on April 24 that Chechen rebels were planning terrorist acts in the districts of Shali, Shatoy, and Vedeno.

"We have received information about gang leaders planning terrorist attacks against government and law-enforcement officials," Patrin said. "The [federal] operational headquarters [in] the Chechen Republic decided to launch a counterterrorism operation in the mountainous part of the Shali district -- excluding the towns of Chiri-Yurt, Novye Atagi, Shali, Serzhen-Yurt -- and throughout the Shatoi and Vedeno districts of the Chechen Republic."

The latest measures follow the announcement on April 21 of rigorous inspections aimed at capturing hundreds of rebel fighters.

Patrin also cited an increase in the number of rebel hiding places and weapons caches uncovered in remote Chechen areas, saying security forces had found 10 bases and six hideouts in the past month.

Moscow-backed Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov said on April 21 that the situation in the republic had stabilized, but army commanders subsequently said rebels had become more active.

Reuters quoted news agencies saying officials claimed forces had killed two rebel leaders, one in Daghestan to the east of Chechnya and one in Kabardino-Balkaria at the center of the region.

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In Rare Display Of Defiance, Iranians Dance To Mark Death Of Ruhollah Khomeini

Iranians dance ahead of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, in Tehran on March 14. Dancing, a form of expression often suppressed by the government, has emerged as a symbolic act of civil disobedience.

A wave of public demonstrations has swept across Iran on the anniversary of the death of Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic republic, with Iranians dancing in the streets in a display of defiance of authority amid a crackdown on unrest that has swept the country.

Videos posted online showed many Iranians demonstrating on June 3, the day Khomeni died in 1989, with some showing footage of the burning of the flag, as well as images of Iran's current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, amid chants of "Death to the dictator" and "Death to Khamenei, curse on Khomeini."

The public demonstrations follow a series of recent protests in Iran. Dancing, a form of expression often suppressed by the government, has emerged as a symbolic act of civil disobedience, challenging the values and rules put in place by the regime.

In recent months, the anger has focused on the mandatory hijab rule, which forces women to cover their heads while in public. Unrest erupted in September 2022 when a young woman in Tehran died while in police custody for an alleged hijab violation.

Since then, thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets to demand more freedoms and women's rights, with the judiciary, backed by lawmakers, responding to the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution with a brutal crackdown.

Several thousand people have been arrested, including many protesters, as well as journalists, lawyers, activists, digital rights defenders, and others. At least seven protesters have been executed after what rights groups and several Western governments have called "sham" trials.

Several more remain on death row and senior judiciary officials have said they are determined to ensure those convicted and sentenced have their punishments meted out.

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

Pakistan's Prime Minister 'Hopeful' For Deal With IMF This Month

"Hopefully, we’ll have some good news this month,” said Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. An IMF agreement to release $1.1 billion has been delayed since November as the IMF seeks more information about Pakistan's finances. 

Pakistan’s prime minister said he is “very hopeful” of finalizing a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in June. “We are still very hopeful that the IMF program will materialize. Our ninth review by the IMF will match all terms and conditions and, Shehbaz Sharif told Anadolu in an interview conducted in Ankara, where he attended the inauguration of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s inauguration. An IMF agreement to release $1.1 billion -- out of a $6.5 billion package -- has been delayed since November as the IMF seeks more information about Pakistan's finances.


Zelenskiy Meets With British Foreign Secretary in Kyiv, Thanks Britain For Support

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (left) shakes hands with British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly in Kyiv on June 5.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy met with British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly to discuss the upcoming NATO summit, Ukraine’s formula for peace, and the scheduled London conference on reconstruction of the war-torn country. Zelenskiy thanked Cleverley for Britain’s support following the Russian invasion of February 2022. “We are very grateful for the support the U.K. has provided and continues to provide to Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said following the June 5 meeting in Kyiv. In a video on Zelenskiy's Facebook page, Cleverly said that Britain "will continue backing you and your country until you are victorious.”


Russian Prosecutors Seek 18 Years In Prison For Ukrainian Activist From Crimea

Russian prosecutors asked a court in Rostov-on-Don to sentence Ukrainian activist Bohdan Zyza from Russian-annexed Crimea to 18 years in prison. Zyza was arrested and charged with terrorism in May 2022 after he splashed yellow and blue paint -- the colors of the Ukrainian flag -- on the building of the Russian-imposed administration of the Crimean city of Yevpatoria and threw a Molotov cocktail at it. At his trial, Zyza said he had started a hunger strike, demanding his Russian citizenship forcibly imposed on him by occupying Russian authorities to be annulled and all Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia be released. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Crimea.Realities, click here.

Jailed Former Warden Of Siberian Penal Colony Gets Additional 10 Years In Prison

A riot broke out following a conflict between an inmate and a prison colony worker at Correctional Colony No. 15 in the Siberian city of Angarsk on April 9, 2020. Dozens of inmates later said they were tortured into confessing to organizing the riot.

Andrei Vereshchak, the jailed former warden of Correctional Colony No. 15 in the Siberian city of Angarsk, was handed an additional 10 years in prison on charges of abuse of office and bribe-taking, Russia's Investigative Committee said on June 5. In March, Vereshchak was sentenced to four years in prison for abuse of office. Investigations into Vereshchak's activities were launched after dozens of inmates said they were tortured by guards to confess to organizing a violently quashed riot at the facility in April 2020. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Siberia.Realities, click here.

U.S. Presidential Candidate Nikki Haley Says Supporting Ukraine In U.S. National Interest

Nikki Haley, pictured in 2018, is also a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Nikki Haley, former South Carolina governor and 2024 Republican presidential candidate, said helping Ukraine defend itself from Russian aggression is in the U.S. national interest, breaking with leading party candidates Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, who have voiced more ambiguous positions on the war. "This is bigger than Ukraine," Haley said. "This is a war about freedom, and it's one we have to win." Haley called Russian President Vladimir Putin a tyrant and refuted claims the conflict is purely a territorial dispute -- comments targeted at Trump's close relationship with Putin and DeSantis's initial comments about the war. To read the original story on CNN, click here.

Iran Won't Be Allowed To Obtain Nukes, Blinken Tells Israeli Lobby Group

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers a statement upon arriving in Tel Aviv on January 30.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on June 5 reiterated the U.S. administration's firm stance that Iran is Israel's top threat and will never be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon. "If Iran rejects the path of diplomacy, then, as President [Joe] Biden has repeatedly made clear, all options are on the table to ensure that Iran does not obtain nuclear weapons," Blinken told the pro-Israel AIPAC lobby in Washington. Blinken also said Saudi-Israeli normalization is deeply important for Washington. "The United States has a real national-security interest in promoting normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia," he said.

Russia Says It Sees 'No Prospects' For Further Grain Deal Renewal

A grain terminal in the sea port in Odesa (file photo)

Russia's Foreign Ministry on June 5 said it saw no prospects for extending the Black Sea grain export deal, which is set to expire in mid-July, Russian news agencies reported. TASS news agency quoted the ministry as saying that it was continuing consultations with the UN and that ship inspections had resumed. RIA news agency said a new round of Russia UN talks would take place in Geneva on June 9. Russia has repeatedly threatened to quit the deal, complaining that obstacles still remain to its own exports of food and fertilizer. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

British Army Completes Training Of Ukrainian Military Chaplains

Chaplain Mykola Medinsky holds a cross and a rosary at the site of a military strike on a shopping center in Kyiv on March 21, 2022.

Ukrainian military chaplains on June 5 completed training with the British Army before heading back to the war-ravaged country to give frontline troops a "spiritual umbrella." The two-week program run by the Royal Army Chaplains' Department saw an initial group of 10 Ukrainians train at a camp in southwest England. The participants learned how to deliver pastoral care, spiritual support, and moral guidance to soldiers on the battlefield. Ukraine's army already has 160 chaplains who have joined the military's command structure since April, having previously worked as embedded civilians rather than officers.

Kremlin Says Putin Mobilization Announcement Broadcast On Radio Stations Was 'Fake'

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at the Kremlin in Moscow on June 5. The Kremlin said that audio messages released earlier in the day purporting to be by Putin about imposing martial law in three regions were "utterly fake."

The Kremlin says a radio address supposedly given by President Vladimir Putin about imposing martial law in Russia’s three regions bordering Ukraine and announcing "a full-scale mobilization" that was broadcast on several radio stations earlier in the day was "fake."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on June 5 that the audio statement with a voice similar to the Russian leader was the result of a "break-in" by hackers in some regions of the country that is now under investigation.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

"All of these messages are utterly fake," he said.

Peskov's statement came hours after several radio stations broadcast what was introduced as a statement by the president in which it was announced that Ukrainian forces "armed to their teeth by NATO and with support and approval of Washington" invaded the Kursk, Belgorod, and Bryansk regions, and as a result, "martial law" was being imposed in those areas.

"Also, today I will sign a decree on a full-scale mobilization because to prevail the dangerous and subtle enemy we need to unite all forces of the Russian Federation," the statement, read by a voice similar to Putin's, said in the broadcast.

Peskov said control over the situation "has already been restored," but not before several Internet users placed the recorded radio statement in question on Telegram.

Local authorities in the regions of Belgorod and another near the border, Voronezh, also have called the announcement fake.

Russia's regions bordering Ukraine, especially the Belgorod region, have been shelled and attacked with drones in recent days. However, neither martial law nor the mass evacuation of local residents was introduced there.

Ukraine has denied any involvement into the attacks, while the so-called Russian Volunteer Corps and the Free Russia Legion, mostly consisting of Russian citizens, have claimed responsibility for the attacks.

With reporting by TASS and RIA Novosti

Turkish Forces Arrive In Kosovo To Bolster NATO-Led Peacekeepers After Recent Violence

The Turkish Defense Ministry shared a video on June 4 showing troops wearing the insignia of the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force departing Turkey and arriving in Kosovo.

The Turkish commando battalion requested by NATO arrived on June 5 in Kosovo to assist in quelling recent violent unrest in the Balkan country. The Turkish Defense Ministry shared a video on June 4 showing troops wearing the insignia of the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force departing Turkey and arriving in Kosovo. Around 500 Turkish troops would be deployed, a Defense Ministry official said last week. Violent clashes with ethnic Serbs on May 29 left 30 international soldiers -- 11 Italians and 19 Hungarians -- wounded, including fractures and burns from improvised explosive incendiary devices. To read the original story by AP, click here.

Iranian Labor Groups Call On ILO To Kick Iran Out Of Organization

The logo of the International Labor Organization

Eight independent labor organizations in Iran have called for the expulsion of the country from the International Labor Organization (ILO) and its session in Switzerland that starts on June 5.

The organizations, including the Organizing Council of Oil Contract Workers' Protests and the Iran Retirees Council, urged representative delegations from countries around the world to kick Iran out of the conference being held in the Swiss city of Geneva, as well as from the ILO, to protest against the suppression of dissent in Iran, especially with regard to workers, teachers, and protesters who have been jailed for speaking out.

The authors of the letter, which includes the names of 22 imprisoned labor activists and 19 imprisoned teachers, criticize the Iranian government's economic policies, saying they have led to widespread poverty and hardship, particularly for workers. They also highlighted "the government-sanctioned killing" of Mahsa Amini last September, which sparked public anger and spurred a movement against poverty, misery, and human rights suppression in Iran.

The letter says workers' and teachers' rights, particularly the right to form independent organizations and the right to hold gatherings and protests, are fundamental rights in any society.

The Iranian government delegation at the annual ILO conference "does not truly represent the workers, teachers, and people of Iran," it says, adding the ILO conference should make the "release of all imprisoned workers, teachers, and social activists and detainees of the movement of 'Women, Life, Freedom' and all political prisoners" and the immediate cancelation of executions in Iran as a "special agenda" for the meeting in Geneva.

The labor organizations have also demanded the "expulsion of the Islamic republic from the ILO and not allowing the delegation of this government to participate in the ILO conference in Geneva."

Iran's economy has been ravaged by U.S. sanctions, leading to a surge of protests in several cities. A report from the Labor Ministry indicated a significant increase in Iran's poverty rate, growing 50 percent in 2021 compared to the previous year.

Unrest has rattled Iran since last summer in response to declining living standards, wage arrears, and a lack of welfare support. Labor law in Iran does not recognize the right of workers to form independent unions.

Adding to the dissent, the death in September of the 22-year-old Amini while in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly breathed new life into the demonstrations, which officials across the country have tried to quell with harsh measures, including the death penalty.

The Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) group said on June 1 at least 307 people -- including at least 142 people in May alone -- have been executed in 2023, a 76 percent rise compared with the same period last year.

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

Belarusian Poet Sarokin Dies In Police Custody

Dzmitry Sarokin

Belarusian poet Dzmitry Sarokin, 37, has died in police custody in the country’s western city of Lida. Human rights defender Syarhey Sys quoted Sarokin's acquaintance in a tweet on June 5 as saying that Sarokin died a day earlier, adding that the poet will be buried on June 6. The Mediazona website also quoted sources, confirming Sarokin's death. It remains unclear why Sarokin was being held at a police station and what caused his death. Sarokin's friends have said that police had detained the poet in the past and recorded him on video "repenting" for unknown misdeeds. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Belarus Service, click here.

Wagner Group Posts Video Of Russian Officer In Sign Of Rising Tensions With Army

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin poses in Bakhmut with two of his mercenary fighters on May 25.

In a sign of rising tensions between Russia's Wagner mercenary group and the country's official armed forces, the private company led by Yevgeny Prigozhin has released a video of a captured Russian officer where he "confesses" to ordering an attack on the mercenaries.

The video, released by Wagner's press service on June 4, shows the apparent interrogation of a person who calls himself Colonel Roman Venevitin, the commander of the Russian Army's 72nd motorized rifle brigade. During the questioning, he says he ordered an attack on Wagner troops due to "personal enmity."

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

Just prior to the publishing of the video, Wagner's press service released a military report about a shootout between the mercenary group's fighters and regular Russian armed forces that allegedly took place on May 17 near Ukraine's eastern city of Bakhmut, the epicenter of heavy fighting between Russian troops -- backed by Wagner forces -- and Ukrainian armed forces for months.

The report said a Ural military truck was damaged during the attack.

In the video published by Wagner on Telegram, the man who calls himself Venevitin says he ordered his troops to open fire at Wagner troops aboard the truck while being under influence of alcohol. The man, who appears to have an injured nose, apologizes to Wagner for the attack.

The veracity of the video could not be independently verified. It was unclear whether the man identified as Venevitin was speaking freely and without duress in the video.

Russia's Defense Ministry has yet to comment on the video or the report.

The report and the video appear to reveal deep ongoing problems between Wagner and Russia's Defense Ministry. Prigozhin has several times openly criticized the ministry's efforts during the war against Ukraine that has followed Russia's full-scale invasion of its neighbor in February 2022.

Wagner troops were seen as being instrumental in Russia's assault to take Bakhmut, and Prigozhin's stature as a major player in the war appeared to grow as his fighters took territory -- albeit with heavy losses -- regular forces seemed unable to grab.

The city now appears to be controlled by Russia, though Kyiv says the battle continues.

International military experts also have stressed that military units involved in the invasion have regularly lacked a joint command and often conflict with one another.

Prigozhin, in an audio statement on June 5, called on Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the chief of the Russia's armed forces' General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, to come to Ukraine’s east and personally lead Russian units to defend positions near Berkhivka settlement.

According to Prigozhin, Ukrainian armed forces have retaken parts of Berkhivka, north of Bakhmut.

"Shoigu, Gerasimov, I call on you to come to the front line, take out your guns to lead the armed forces, to make them go forward. Go for it, you can do it! If you can't, you'll die like heroes," Prigozhin said.

Prigozhin, considered to be a close ally of Rusian President Vladimir Putin, has accused Shoigu and Gerasimov of corruption, unprofessionalism, and high treason for months.

Iran To Reopen Its Embassy In Riyadh In Sign Of Further Thawing Of Relations

Women walk past the Iranian embassy in Riyadh, which will reopen on June 6. (file photo)

Iran will reopen its embassy in Saudi Arabia’s capital on June 6, Iranian sources told the semiofficial Fars news agency, months after Tehran and Riyadh agreed to end years of hostility. In March, Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to reestablish relations after years of hostility between the regional rivals that had threatened stability and security in the Middle East and helped fuel regional conflicts from Yemen to Syria. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Poisonous Cider Kills Eight People In Russia's Ulyanovsk And Samara Regions

Russian authorities said that eight people died after they drank cider bought in local shops. (file photo)

Russia's Investigative Committee said on June 5 that eight people have died and several others have been hospitalized in the Ulyanovsk and Samara regions in the Volga federal district after they drank cider bought in local shops. Poisonings with surrogate alcohol are common in Russia as people look to save money on cheaper drinks. In 2021, 34 people were killed by surrogate alcohol in the Urals region of Orenburg. In December 2016, 78 people died in the Siberian region of Irkutsk after drinking a scented herbal bath oil, which contained methanol, a highly poisonous type of industrial alcohol. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Idel.Realities, click here.

Kyrgyz Police Said To Be Rounding Up Suspects Who Were Allegedly Preparing A Coup

Several sources in Kyrgyz law enforcement entities told RFE/RL on June 5 that people suspected of allegedly preparing to seize power are being detained across the Central Asian nation. According to the sources, at least 10 suspects have been detained by the State Committee of National Security (UKMK). The UKMK has yet to comment on the reports. Internet users placed videos online showing security forces entering an unspecified private house and an unidentified man being handcuffed. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, click here.

Budget For Afghanistan Aid Plan Revised Down To $3.2 Billion

Afghan women wait to receive food rations distributed by a humanitarian aid group in Kabul, Afghanistan, late last month.

The United Nations and humanitarian agencies have revised the budget for Afghanistan's aid plan for 2023 to $3.2 billion, down from $4.6 billion earlier in the year, the UN humanitarian office said on June 5.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement that a "changing operating context" in the wake of Taliban administration restrictions on female aid workers had contributed to the revised plan.

Taliban authorities have issued several orders barring many Afghan female NGO and United Nations employees from work, which aid agencies have warned would severely hamper delivery in the religiously conservative nation.

To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Jailed Mother Of Chechen Opposition Bloggers Hospitalized

Zarema Musayeva in a defendant's cage at a court hearing in, Grozny, Chechnya, on February 2.

Zarema Musayeva, the jailed mother of three self-exiled outspoken Chechen opposition activists, has been hospitalized as her health state has dramatically worsened since her arrest.

Abubakar Yangulbayev, who along with his brothers, Ibragim and Baisangur, now lives abroad, said on June 5 that his mother’s diabetes has progressed, her eyesight has worsened, and she has started having pains in her back, since being detained after Chechen police snatched her in January last year from her apartment in the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod, some 1,800 kilometers (1,080 miles) from Chechnya.

She has since been transferred to Chechnya, where she is currently on trial on charges of fraud and the assault of a law enforcement officer. Critics insist that the charges are politically motivated.

Abubakar Yangulbayev added that his mother is unable to walk, with jail guards now taking her for daily one-hour walks in a wheelchair.

Abubakar and Ibragim have been known for their online criticism of Kremlin-backed Chechen head Ramzan Kadyrov. Musayeva's youngest son, Baisangur, was added to Russia's federal wanted list on unspecified charges last month.

In November, Russian authorities added him to the list of extremists and terrorists without explanation.

All three brothers are currently out of Russia. The activists' father, retired federal judge Saidi Yangulbayev, and a sister also fled Russia following threats.

Kadyrov, other Chechen officials, and a member of the Russian Duma from Chechnya have publicly vowed to kill all members of the Yangulbayev family, calling them "terrorists."

Journalists, rights activists, and other Russians have urged the government to punish those who issued the threats.

Ibragim and Abubakar Yangulbayev say they faced years of pressure from Chechen authorities over their criticism of Kadyrov and the rights situation in Chechnya.

Russian and international human rights groups have for years accused Kadyrov of overseeing grave human rights abuses, including abductions, torture, extrajudicial killings, and the persecution of the LGBT community.

Kremlin critics say Putin has turned a blind eye to the abuses because he relies on the former rebel commander to control separatist sentiment and violence in Chechnya.

Kremlin Says U.S. Statement On Nuclear Arms Control Is 'Positive'

White House national-security adviser Jake Sullivan said on June 2 that the United States would abide by the nuclear weapons limits set in the New START treaty until it expired in 2026 if Russia did the same. (file photo)

The Kremlin said on June 5 that a statement by U.S. national-security adviser Jake Sullivan calling for bilateral arms control discussions was "positive", and that Russia remained open for dialogue. Sullivan said on June 2 that the United States would abide by the nuclear weapons limits set in the New START treaty, the last remaining nuclear arms reduction pact between the two Cold War rivals, until it expired in 2026 if Russia did the same. President Vladimir Putin suspended Moscow's participation in the treaty in February.

Poland Receives Draft EU Regulation Extending Ban On Ukrainian Food Imports

A dump track unloads grain in a granary in Ukraine. (file photo)

Poland's agriculture minister, Robert Telus, says he has received a draft regulation from the European Commission extending a ban on Ukrainian grain imports until September 15. The EU on May 2 set restrictions until June 5 on imports of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed, and sunflower seed to ease the excess supply of the grains in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia. Those countries had complained that cheaper Ukrainian grain was making domestic production unprofitable and had asked the EU to extend the ban. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Belgium Investigating Whether Its Weapons Were Used In Russia

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (file photo)

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said on June 5 that his government will ask Ukraine for clarification on reports that rifles made in Belgium had been used by pro-Ukrainian forces to fight Russian troops inside Russia's western border. The Washington Post reported on June 3 that anti-Kremlin fighters who launched a cross-border attack from Ukraine into the Russian Belgorod region last month used tactical vehicles originally given to Ukraine by the United States and Poland and carried rifles made in Belgium and the Czech Republic. De Croo declined to comment on possible consequences if the reports were confirmed. (Reuters)

To read the original story by Reuters, click here. https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/belgium-investigating-whether-its-weapons-were-used-russia-pm-says-2023-06-05/

Papal Peace Envoy To Visit Kyiv On June 5-6, Vatican Says

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi (file photo)

Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, tasked by Pope Francis to carry out a peace mission to try to help end the war in Ukraine, will visit Kyiv on June 5-6, the Vatican said in a statement. "This is an initiative whose main purpose is to listen in-depth to the Ukrainian authorities on the possible ways to reach a just peace and support gestures of humanity that may help ease tensions," it said. Since the war started in February 2022, Francis and the Vatican have tried to offer themselves as a possible peace brokers, but to date, their efforts have not been successful. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Russia's Baltic Fleet Starts Naval Drills In Baltic Sea

Around 3,500 soldiers and up to 40 ships and boats will take part in the drills. (file photo)

Russia's Baltic Fleet started naval exercises in the Baltic Sea on June 5 the Russian military's press service said. Around 3,500 soldiers and up to 40 ships and boats will take part in the drills, which are scheduled to last until June 15, the military said. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

U.S. Navy Says Iranian Fast-Attack Boats 'Harassed' Ship In Strait Of Hormuz

The U.S. Navy's guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul was one of two Western vessels that responded to the incident. (file photo)

The U.S. Navy said on June 5 that its sailors and the U.K. Royal Navy came to the aid of a ship in the crucial Strait of Hormuz after Iran's Revolutionary Guards “harassed” it. Three fast-attack vessels with armed troops aboard approached the merchant ship at a close distance in the afternoon on June 4, the U.S. Navy said in a statement. The U.S. Navy's guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul and the Royal Navy's frigate HMS Lancaster responded to the incident, with the Lancaster launching a helicopter. To read the original story by AP, click here.

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