Accessibility links

Breaking News

News

U.S. Says Happy To Work With Iran On Tackling Drugs

Glyn Davies
Glyn Davies
VIENNA (Reuters) -- The United States and Iran, whose relations are fraught over Tehran's nuclear program, have held a rare meeting where Washington said it was happy to work with Tehran on fighting drugs.

U.S. envoy Glyn Davies said he had met on March 5 with Ali Asghar Soltanieh of Iran, which is chairing the weeklong UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) meeting in Vienna.

"It is in our interest to participate with the CND," Davies told reporters today. "We are very happy to work with the chair even if he is from a country which we have differences with."

Soltanieh confirmed he had met with Davies but said it was only in his capacity as CND chairman and said it did not constitute a bilateral meeting.

"I will meet with all members of the commission, my office is open to all members," he told Reuters. "This week I am not in the capacity of my delegation."

Soltanieh is Iran's ambassador to international organizations in Vienna, including the UN nuclear watchdog.

He said he did not expect the delegation sent from Tehran would meet with U.S. officials in Vienna.

Washington and Tehran are locked in a bitter dispute over the Iranian nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at producing atomic weapons and which Iran says is purely for civilian uses such as generating power.

The two countries have had no diplomatic relations since the Islamic Revolution three decades ago.

Big Western powers, including the United States, are urging Russia and China to back a new round of sanctions against Iran after the breakdown of a UN-brokered fuel deal with Tehran aimed at easing nuclear tensions.

But the United States said today it was prepared to work with Iran on tackling global drug flows at the Vienna meeting.

"We had a very brief organizational meeting where I indicated to him that we look forward to working with him to get some accomplishments, some achievements, together in this area," Davies said in a briefing.

Tehran and Washington could try to work together on tackling the trafficking of drugs from Afghanistan, said Gil Kerlikowske, director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy.

"There are certainly those areas of mutual cooperation and mutual support," he said.

Afghan Trafficking

Soltanieh touched on the theme earlier today, saying that the United States and Europe should help to bolster a regional effort to tackle drug trafficking from Afghanistan.

He said Iran's efforts to fight the flow of heroin from its eastern neighbor with Afghan and Pakistani authorities had been successful and that wider cooperation would be welcomed.

"Those countries which have been directly or indirectly affected by this [problem], including European, the United States, or other countries, they have to exercise and show maximum cooperation and feel the shared responsibility."

Afghan-grown poppies fuel a $65 billion heroin and opium market that supplies millions of addicts.

Europe, Russia, and Iran consume half the supply while U.S.-backed efforts have struggled to tackle opium production which helps to fund Taliban insurgents.

UN crime agency chief Antonio Maria Costa said it was important to have countries outside the region cooperate with regional drug-tackling efforts. "I hope that this [cooperation] is indeed in the making," he said.

More News

Daghestani Man Reportedly Commits Suicide In Austria Hours Before Deportation To Russia

Armed policemen patrol in the center of Vienna, Austria, following a shooting incident in November 2020.
Armed policemen patrol in the center of Vienna, Austria, following a shooting incident in November 2020.

Austrian media reported on July 11 that a native of Russia's North Caucasus region of Daghestan who was suspected of being a member of the Islamic State's Khorasan branch committed suicide hours before being deported to Russia. The 40-year-old man, whose identity was not disclosed, was suspected of being involved in plotting terrorist attacks on Catholic cathedrals in Vienna and the German city of Cologne. After police were unable to collect enough evidence to officially charge him, a decision was taken to deport him to Russia, reports said. To read the original story by RFER/RL's Caucasus.Realities, click here.

Montenegrin High Court Acquits Alleged 2016 Coup Plotters

Lawyers for the defense talk to reporters outside the High Court in Podgorica on July 11.
Lawyers for the defense talk to reporters outside the High Court in Podgorica on July 11.

The 13 Montenegrin, Russian, and Serbian individuals accused of plotting an election-day coup in Montenegro in 2016 were acquitted of all charges by that Balkan country's High Court on July 12, marking the latest twist in a seven-year prosecutorial saga since authorities claimed to have thwarted a last-ditch conspiracy to derail Montenegro's NATO accession.

Prosecutors had alleged that the Russian-organized plot included plans to attack parliament and assassinate longtime leader and then-Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic.

But at the end of a retrial ordered in 2021, the three-judge panel decided "there was no evidence that the defendants were guilty of the crimes they were charged with, so they are acquitted," according to Judge Zoran Radovic.

The Special Prosecutor's Office is expected to appeal the acquittals.

The defendants include the current speaker of the Montenegrin parliament, Andrija Mandic, along with two other senior members of the pro-Russian, right-wing populist Democratic Front party.

Two Russians tried in absentia were accused of organizing and financing the purported coup attempt, along with a retired Serbian police commander and seven other Serbian nationals who were arrested on election day more than seven years ago.

An initial court decision in May 2019 over terrorism charges resulted in guilty verdicts and a combined 70 years in prison for the defendants before that ruling was overturned in 2021.

Russia has resisted calls for the handover of alleged plotters Eduard Sismakov and Vladimir Popov.

On July 11, Judge Radovic said that, in order for someone to be declared guilty, there must be certainty in the facts, "and there is none."

He said the weapons alleged to have been organized for the coup attempt "never entered Montenegro, the equipment that was supposed to be used for the forced entry into the Assembly was not brought into Montenegro, and the claim that the special units were supposed to shoot at the Montenegrin police has not been proven."

Neither the special prosecutors nor the accused were present at the announcement of the acquittal.

Mandic and the other Montenegrin suspects accused Djukanovic of political retaliation against the then-opposition through the Special Prosecutor's Office.

Federal Penitentiary Service Chief In Russia's Rostov Resigns After Hostage Crisis

Police officers stand near detention center No.1 in Rostov-on-Don during a hostage crisis on June 16.
Police officers stand near detention center No.1 in Rostov-on-Don during a hostage crisis on June 16.

The chief of the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) in Russia's southwestern Rostov region, Dmitry Berzrukikh, and his deputy resigned following a hostage-taking incident at detention center No.1 in the regional capital, Rostov-on-Don, last month. FSIN said on July 12 that, after an internal investigation, four FSIN officers were fired and 16 officers faced disciplinary repercussions. Six inmates of the detention center took two guards hostage on June 16. The hostages were released after special troops stormed the building, killing four hostage-takers. Two hostage-takers who survived were charged with belonging to Islamic groups banned in Russia. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Caucasus.Realities, click here.

Zelenskiy Hails Ukraine Compact As 'Important Achievement' For Kyiv, Others

U.S. President Joe Biden and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, attend a Ukraine Compact event on the sidelines of the NATO Summit in Washington on July 11.
U.S. President Joe Biden and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, attend a Ukraine Compact event on the sidelines of the NATO Summit in Washington on July 11.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy welcomed a new agreement on long-term support for Ukraine finalized at this week's NATO summit in Washington as an "important achievement" and praised the U.S. leadership for its "decisive action" to ensure Ukrainian security.

The conclusion of the so-called "Ukraine Compact" committing the United States and more than 20 countries plus the European Union to help protect Ukraine was announced by U.S. President Joe Biden at a joint press conference alongside other NATO leaders and Zelenskiy at the close of the summit on July 11.

NATO Summit Ends With Promises To Ukraine, New Scrutiny Of Biden
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:02:10 0:00

"This Ukrainian agreement, which we are concluding, takes our relations to a new level," Zelenskiy said. "It is an important achievement for Ukraine and all of us."

"I thank President Biden for his leadership and efforts to ensure that our security cooperation is full of decisive action," Zelenskiy said. "There are 23 strong agreements, and there will be agreements with other countries. And we have a historically important security agreement with the United States."

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

He said the agreement had helped Kyiv acquire crucially important air-defense systems to help fight off Russia's ongoing, 28-month-old full-scale invasion.

Twenty-four NATO leaders and Ukraine approved the compact as part of boosted defense and other commitments to Ukraine.

The signatories also pledged to meet "rapidly and collectively" at the highest level in the event of a future attack by Russia on Ukraine after the cessation of the current conflict.

Biden has called the compact a "central part" of the "bridge" on Ukraine's path toward NATO.

"[H]ere today, with all these important people behind me, we take another important step in our collective support for Ukraine," Biden told the press conference. "Last year, the G7 nations...signed on to a declaration to protect Ukraine long term, not just for the duration of this war but beyond, after they win. Twenty-five additional countries quickly joined them and pledged to negotiate and sign a bilateral security agreement with Ukraine."

Biden said "more countries are finalizing theirs as we speak."

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at the summit that the alliance was “putting in place the foundations for Ukraine to prevail” in its effort to defend itself against Russia and said the alliance “cannot and will not allow this to happen again.”

“Violence and intimidation do not pay,” Stoltenberg said.

Orban Takes Solo 'Peace Mission' To Mar-A-Lago, Says Trump Is 'Going To Solve It'

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives for the NATO 75th Anniversary Celebratory Event at the Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C. on July 9.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives for the NATO 75th Anniversary Celebratory Event at the Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C. on July 9.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban met with U.S. ex-President and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in Florida on July 11 after the Central European leader's attendance at NATO's 75th anniversary summit in Washington concluded earlier the same day.

Orban asserted that the visit was part of a self-styled "peace mission" that he has been conducting despite objections from Brussels since Hungary took over the six-month rotating EU Council presidency this month, taking him to Kyiv, Moscow, and Beijing en route to the NATO event.

"We discussed ways to make #peace," Orban tweeted after the meeting with Trump, adding, "The good news of the day: he’s going to solve it!"

EU leaders have repeatedly distanced themselves from Orban's "peace mission," and Orban has acknowledged that he has no authority to act on other EU members' behalf stemming from the council presidency.

Orban has publicly endorsed Trump's candidacy and raised eyebrows by planning the visit to the billionaire U.S. politicians' Mar-a-Lago resort after holding no such bilateral meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the summit.

Critics accuse Orban of adopting Kremlin talking points since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, and Budapest has undermined Western sanctions and refused to join fellow EU and NATO allies in helping arm Kyiv to beat back the invasion.

Trump has suggested that if elected in November he will resolve the Russia-Ukraine conflict even before he takes office, without elaborating.

Last month during a podcast interview, Trump blamed the war on Ukraine’s possible NATO membership, raising concerns that he may block the country from joining the alliance as part of any potential peace deal.

Hungary has raised doubts about Ukraine's membership in the alliance, saying it risks open conflict with Russia.

"Ukraine's admission wouldn't strengthen but weaken the alliance's unity, as there are completely different viewpoints on their membership," Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on July 11.

The United States and NATO allies criticized Orban’s uncoordinated meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month. It was seen as a rogue move by the leader of a NATO country.

Orban's opposition to Ukraine's NATO bid has been watched closely during the summit, but allies said on July 11 that they did not see it denting Kyiv's eventual alliance membership.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy welcomed Orban in Kyiv but said he had not in any way endorsed the Hungarian prime minister's mediation efforts in Moscow or beyond.

“The U.S. position, the Biden administration position is: Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. So whatever adventurism is being undertaken without Ukrainians' consent or support is not something that's consistent with our policy or the policy of the United States,” Biden’s national-security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told reporters July 11 on the sidelines of the summit.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told reporters at the NATO summit on July 11 that the Hungarian leader does not represent the opinion of the European Union or NATO. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olah Scholz also expressed frustration with Orban. Macron said it was legitimate for Orban to travel to Russia as the Hungarian prime minister, but not on behalf of the European Union.

NATO Summit Ends With Promises To Ukraine, New Scrutiny Of Biden
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:02:10 0:00

On July 10, Orban said he would not sign on to the so-called Ukraine Compact, a shared pledge among more than 20 NATO to support Ukraine both now and for the long term.

In a video statement posted to his X account, the Hungarian prime minister said that NATO was "behaving more and more like a war organization," citing the alliance's military support for Ukraine.

In a communique issued during the summit, NATO members said that Ukraine’s path into NATO was “irreversible.” When asked about the potential Orban-Trump meeting, outgoing NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said it "doesn't undermine or reduce the importance of what we have agreed" at the summit.

Moldova Encouraged By NATO's Call For Withdrawal Of Russian Troops From Transdniester

Moldovan Foreign Minister Mihai Popsoi (file photo)
Moldovan Foreign Minister Mihai Popsoi (file photo)

WASHINGTON -- Moldovan Foreign Minister Mihai Popsoi said it is encouraging to Moldova that a declaration issued at the NATO summit in Washington calls on Russia to withdraw all its forces from Moldova and also welcomes Moldova’s reform efforts.

“We are happy to see Moldova mentioned and also the acknowledgement of the...positive efforts that we are [making] to reform the Republic of Moldova, but also the call for the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Republic of Moldova, which is a very important message,” Popsoi, who is also a deputy prime minister, told RFE/RL on July 11 on the sidelines of the summit.

Moldovan President Maia Sandu has repeatedly demanded an end to the presence in Moldova's breakaway Transdniester region of hundreds of Russian troops at a Soviet-era weapons depot.

The declaration agreed upon by the leaders of the 32 NATO countries on July 10 has one sentence about the withdrawal of all Russian forces from Moldova. It also has one sentence on Moldova’s efforts to continue democratic reforms.

Popsoi said at a panel discussion at the summit that, while there is always room for improvement, Moldova has been on the agenda of its friends and partners in NATO and the European Union and has “received remarkable support in the last few years.”

This was especially true during the energy crisis that rocked Moldova as a result of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, he said, adding that the crisis has eased recently thanks to the resilience of the Moldovan people and “the generous support of the international community that has come to the rescue of not just Ukraine, but also the Republic of Moldova.”

Popsoi said Moldova and the Moldovan people have also made achievements on their own, citing energy independence from Gazprom after 30 years of being tied to the Russian energy giant.

“Russian gas contracts come with significant political strings attached and we suffered more than our fair share through this political blackmail,” he said.

He also touted the 30 years that Moldova has been in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program and its contributions to peacekeeping missions in Kosovo, Lebanon, Somalia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, saying that Moldova is “firmly committed to be not just a security consumer given our challenges, given the Russia-backed separatists region.”

Popsoi told RFE/RL that Moldova now has a chance to make further progress through accession talks with the European Union that began on June 25.

“We count on the accession process helping us advance when it comes to our economic circumstances, but also democratic institutions,” he said, calling the accession negotiations “a key priority for us” and a chance to fulfill the “sincere craving of our citizens to return to the European family of nations.”

Whether Moldovans are hungry enough to become part of the EU will be tested on October 20 when a referendum on joining the 27-nation bloc takes place alongside the country’s presidential election.

Popsoi said Sandu’s government is counting on the citizens of Moldova to back the referendum.

“There's a lot of attempts to divide us domestically, to paint a negative picture of what we want to achieve. And this referendum is another democratic exercise for the Moldovan people to speak out,” he said. “And we are confident that they will support a prosperous, a peaceful future for their children in the European family of nations.”

On joining NATO, he said the question is being debated in Moldova, where “you don't need to look far” to see the risks of the region, he said.

He said many Moldovans believe that neutrality ensures security but "that is, of course, a questionable proposition in light of historic experience,” adding, “But nonetheless, in a democratic society, we need to abide by the will of the majority, and for now, there is not a majority in Moldova that would support NATO membership.”

Australia Charges Russian-Born Married Couple With Espionage

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese warned anyone considering acting against Australia's national security. (file photo)
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese warned anyone considering acting against Australia's national security. (file photo)

Australia said on July 12 that it had arrested a Russian-born married couple on espionage charges, alleging that the woman who was an information-systems technician in the Australian Army sought to access defense material and send it to Russian officials. The Australian Federal Police (AFP) said the couple, who hold Australian citizenship, worked to access material related to Australia's national security though no significant compromise had been identified yet. The AFP said the woman, 40, traveled to Russia and instructed her husband in Australia to log into her official account to access defense materials. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese warned anyone considering acting against Australia's national security.

Biden Positions Himself As Defender Of NATO And Ukraine Following ‘Putin’ Gaffe At Summit

U.S. President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (right) during the NATO summit on July 11. Biden introduced Zelenskiy as "President Putin" before quickly correcting himself.
U.S. President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (right) during the NATO summit on July 11. Biden introduced Zelenskiy as "President Putin" before quickly correcting himself.

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Joe Biden, speaking in a highly anticipated news conference following the conclusion of the NATO summit in Washington on July 11, stressed his efforts building partnerships to oppose Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and said he would “keep NATO strong.”

"For those who thought NATO's time had passed, they got a rude awakening when [Russian President Vladimir] Putin invaded Ukraine," Biden said.

In an eight-minute opening address that often took on the appearance of a campaign speech at a time when his pursuit of a second presidential term is being openly questioned, Biden lauded his early action in alerting the world that Russia was about to invade its neighbor and in building a coalition of partners to oppose it.

Biden said that Putin thought that Ukraine would fall “in less than a week,” but that the country “still stands.” He also said that he would do everything to “end the war now.”

The press appearance was seen as a pivotal moment in Biden’s attempts to overcome his disastrous performance during his debate two weeks ago against Donald Trump, his presumptive Republican opponent in the November presidential election.

The 81-year-old Biden’s tired appearance and verbal missteps during the June 27 debate fueled doubts about his ability to beat Trump or to serve a full second term should he win. Calls have grown among Democratic supporters and elected officials for Biden to end his campaign, although high-ranking party figures have continued to support his bid to win a second term in office.

Going into what some described as a make-or-break press appearance following the NATO summit, Biden was already facing criticism for mistakenly referring to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as “President Putin.”

Early on in the press conference, Biden made another gaffe when he mistakenly referred to Trump as his “vice president.”

When pressed by reporters during a 50-minute question-and-answer session about his fitness for another term, Biden made his case for continuing his campaign, saying neurological exams showed that he was “in good shape” and insisting that he was the “best qualified to govern” the United States.

In the aftermath of a NATO summit in which the alliance boosted its support for Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself against Russia and referred to China as a “decisive enabler” of Moscow’s war effort, Biden said that in the event of future negotiations with Russian President Putin or Chinese President Xi Jinping, he was “ready to deal with them now, and in three years.”

However, he added, that he was not ready to talk to Putin "unless Putin is ready to change his behavior."

“The idea that we're going to be able to fundamentally change Russia in the near term is not likely,” Biden said. “But one thing is for certain, if we allow Russia to succeed in Ukraine, they're not stopping at Ukraine."

Biden said, however, that the United States would take a cautious approach on the issue of allowing Ukraine to launch deep strikes into Russian territory.

"We're making on a day-to-day basis on what they should and shouldn't do, how far they should go in,” Biden said. “That's a logical thing to do."

The comments came after Ukrainian President Zelenskiy pressed NATO leaders to lift all restrictions against Kyiv using their donated weaponry to launch long-range strikes onto Russian territory if they want to see Ukraine defeat Russia’s invading forces.

“If he [Zelenskiy] had the capacity to strike Moscow, strike the Kremlin, would that make sense? It wouldn’t," Biden said.

The United States in early May gave Kyiv the green light to use U.S. weapons to strike just over the border on Russian territory to help Ukraine beat back a major Russian offensive near Kharkiv.

Biden, in a meeting with Zelenskiy earlier in the day, said he was pleased to announce the allocation of new aid to Ukraine to help it defeat Russia.

"We will stay with you, period," Biden said ahead of bilateral talks.

The United States later announced it would be sending $225 million worth of military equipment to Ukraine, the eight tranche since the passage of a $61 billion aid package in April. The latest tranche includes a Patriot missile battery, anti-aircraft systems and munitions, as well as artillery ammunition and rockets.

During his press appearance following the end of the NATO summit, Biden positioned himself as a protector of the alliance, while casting Trump as a danger.

Biden accused Trump, who during his presidency from 2017 to 2021 often criticized NATO members and suggested he might pull the United States out of the alliance, as having “no commitment to NATO.”

“He’s made it clear that he would feel no obligation to honor Article 5,” Biden said of Trump, referring to the NATO defense pact that requires the alliance to respond in the event any individual member state is attacked.

Biden also claimed that during the NATO summit, other leaders had told him that another Trump presidency would be a “disaster.”

"I've not had any of my European allies come up here and say 'Joe, don't run,'" Biden told reporters. "What I hear them say is 'You've gotta win. You can't let this guy [Trump] come forward, he'd be a disaster.'"

After Biden’s gaffe in which he introduced Ukrainian President Zelenskiy as “President Putin” before quickly correcting himself, some NATO leaders came to his defense.

French President Emmanuel Macron said that Biden was “in charge” during the two-day summit, while German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that "slips of tongue happen.”

During the question-and-answer session, however, at least one reporter suggested that NATO officials had said off the record that Biden's "decline had become noticeable."

U.S., NATO Allies Criticize Orban Amid Reports Of Trump Meeting

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (left) is seen during a visit to the Florida home of former U.S. President and expected Republican nominee Donald Trump in March.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (left) is seen during a visit to the Florida home of former U.S. President and expected Republican nominee Donald Trump in March.

WASHINGTON -- The United States and NATO allies criticized Viktor Orban’s secret meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month, as the Hungarian prime minister prepared to travel after the NATO summit to visit with the presumptive Republican nominee in the upcoming U.S. presidential election, Donald Trump.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

Orban's unexpected visit to Russia, which in February 2022 launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine that NATO has opposed, was seen as a rogue move by the leader of a NATO country.

Orban's opposition to Ukraine's NATO bid has been watched closely during the summit, but allies said on July 11 that they did not see it denting Kyiv's eventual alliance membership.

The Hungarian leader, who took over the six-month rotating EU Presidency at the start of July, made a secret trip to Moscow to discuss with Putin an end to Russia's invasion of Ukraine without informing the bloc or NATO allies. The visit came on the eve of the July 9-11 NATO summit in Washington hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden.

“The U.S. position, the Biden administration position is: Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. So whatever adventurism is being undertaken without Ukrainians' consent or support is not something that's consistent with our policy or the policy of the United States,” Biden’s national-security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told reporters July 11 on the sidelines of the summit.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis criticized Orban’s visit to Moscow, telling reporters at the summit on July 11 that the Hungarian leader does not represent the opinion of the European Union or NATO. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olah Scholz also expressed frustration with Orban. Macron said it was legitimate for Orban to travel to Russia as the Hungarian prime minister, but not on behalf of the European Union.

Orban, Landsbergis, Macron and Scholz were among the leaders and top officials from all 32 NATO countries taking part in the annual summit, where the main topic of discussion was military aid for Ukraine.

On July 10, Orban said he would not sign on to the so-called Ukraine Compact, a shared pledge among more than 20 NATO to support Ukraine both now and for the long-term.

In a video statement posted to his X account, the Hungarian prime minister said that NATO was "behaving more and more like a war organization," citing the alliance's military support for Ukraine.

Orban is reportedly flying to Florida after the summit to meet with Trump. The Republican contender has claimed that, should he win the election, he would negotiate a deal between Ukraine and Russia before his January 2025 inauguration. He has not given any details about his alleged peace plan.

The Hungarian leader, who recently met Trump in Florida in March, has made clear that he backs the Republican candidate in the 2024 election.

The possible return of Trump to the presidency has partially overshadowed the 2024 summit. During his four years in the presidency from 2017 to 2021, Trump repeatedly criticized NATO members for their failure to meet the defense spending target of 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and even raised the idea of pulling the United States out of the alliance.

During a campaign rally on July 10, Trump took pride in having grilled NATO members and spoke of his first days in office in 2017.

“I didn’t know what the hell NATO was too much before. But it didn’t take me long to figure it out -- like about two minutes. And the first thing I figured out was they were not paying. We were paying. We were paying almost fully for NATO. And I said that’s unfair,” he said.

Last month during a podcast interview, Trump blamed the war on Ukraine’s possible NATO membership, raising concerns that he may block the country from joining the alliance as part of a peace deal.

Hungary has also raised doubts about Ukraine's membership in the alliance, saying it risks open conflict with Russia.

"Ukraine's admission wouldn't strengthen but weaken the alliance's unity, as there are completely different viewpoints on their membership," Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on July 11.

In the communique reached during the summit, NATO members said that Ukraine’s path into NATO was “irreversible.” When asked about the potential Orban-Trump meeting, outgoing NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said it "doesn't undermine or reduce the importance of what we have agreed" at the summit.

Stoltenberg also said he did not think a change in leadership in Washington would result in the United States leaving the alliance, especially as the threat from China grows.

"The reality is that NATO makes the United States stronger and safer, and this is a strong argument for the United States to continue to support and remain a loyal and committed NATO ally," Stoltenberg said.

The NATO chief also said that Trump's biggest complaint -- that of allies' failure to meet defense spending targets -- has been significantly addressed, with 23 members now spending 2 percent or more of GDP. Just 9 members were at the target when Trump left office.

44,000 Afghans In Pakistan Still Awaiting U.S., Foreign Resettlement

Afghan refugees arrive from Pakistan at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in December 2023.
Afghan refugees arrive from Pakistan at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in December 2023.

At least 44,000 Afghans approved for relocation to Western countries following the Taliban's return to power are still waiting in limbo in Pakistan, Islamabad said on July 11. In the days after the NATO-backed government collapsed in August 2021, more than 120,000 people, mostly Afghans, were airlifted from Kabul in a chaotic evacuation. Hundreds of thousands more Afghans have fled Taliban rule since then, with many promised new lives in the nations involved in their country's 20-year occupation. Pakistan’s Foreign Office said that 25,000 Afghans approved for relocation to the United States are still living in Pakistan.

Oil Tanker Seized By Iran Moving To International Waters, Tracking Data Shows

Iranian marines rappel onto the Advantage Sweet in April 2023.
Iranian marines rappel onto the Advantage Sweet in April 2023.

A Chevron-chartered oil tanker that was seized by Iran more than a year ago was heading for international waters on July 11, LSEG ship tracking data showed. The Marshall Islands-flagged Advantage Sweet was boarded by Iran's military in the Gulf of Oman in April 2023 after an alleged collision with an Iranian boat. There was no immediate comment from Chevron or Iranian officials on July 11 on whether the vessel had been released or what discussions may have been involved. The U.S. State Department called in March for the immediate release of the tanker.

CNN: Russia Tried To Assassinate CEO Of Arms Firm Sending Weapons To Ukraine

Rheinmetall CEO Armin Papperger
Rheinmetall CEO Armin Papperger

U.S. intelligence discovered earlier this year that Russia planned to assassinate the chief executive of German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall, which has been producing artillery shells and military vehicles for Ukraine, CNN reported on July 11, citing five unidentified U.S. and Western officials. The plot to kill Rheinmetall CEO Armin Papperger was one of a series of Russian government plans to assassinate defense-industry executives across Europe who were supporting Ukraine's war effort, according to CNN. The United States informed Germany, the report said, adding that German security services were able to protect Papperger.

Updated

NATO Chief Says Support For Ukraine Shows Russia That 'Violence And Intimidation Do Not Pay'

“If we want to win, if we want to prevail, if we want to save our country, and to defend it, we need to lift all the limitations,” Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelenskiy said on July 11 in Washington.
“If we want to win, if we want to prevail, if we want to save our country, and to defend it, we need to lift all the limitations,” Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelenskiy said on July 11 in Washington.

WASHINGTON -- NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said that the alliance was “putting in place the foundations for Ukraine to prevail” in its effort to defend itself against Russia.

Referring to Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Stoltenberg said on July 11 during his final press conference of the NATO summit that the alliance “cannot and will not allow this to happen again.”

“Violence and intimidation do not pay,” he said.

NATO leaders had come together to make Ukraine “stronger and more capable” and to “build a bridge” for eventual Ukrainian NATO membership,” Stoltenberg said, giving assurances that the alliance would “meet Ukraine’s needs” in the future.

On the last day of the summit, intended to underscore NATO’s support for Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy pressed NATO leaders to lift all restrictions against Kyiv using their donated weaponry to launch long-range strikes on Russian territory if they want to see Ukraine defeat Russia’s invading forces.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

“If we want to win, if we want to prevail, if we want to save our country, and to defend it, we need to lift all the limitations,” Zelenskiy said on July 11 at a press briefing alongside Stoltenberg.

Zelenskiy’s comments came a day after NATO announced a major aid package to support Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s invasion, including the delivery of long-awaited U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets and the provision of $43 billion in military assistance within the next year.

The alliance also stressed Ukraine’s right to defend itself against foreign aggression and to choose its own security arrangements, declaring that Ukraine’s “future is in NATO” and that Kyiv would continue to receive support “on its irreversible path to full Euro-Atlantic integration.”

On July 11, the United States announced it would be sending $225 million worth of military equipment to Ukraine, part of a $61 billion aid package approved in April. The tranche includes a Patriot missile battery, anti-aircraft systems and munitions, as well as artillery ammunition and rockets.

Stoltenberg said in his press conference with Zelenskiy that while Russia has tried “to intimidate us from providing support,” if anything the opposite has happened and NATO allies are “actually stepping up their support for Ukraine.”

Zelenskiy, speaking shortly before he was to participate in a session of the NATO-Ukraine Council, called the aid offered at the summit “a success.” He has repeatedly called on partners to boost Ukraine’s air defenses.

But Zelenskiy stressed that Ukraine needs more control to hit military targets deep inside Russian territory -- specifically, aircraft used to strike Ukraine with glide bombs. Some air bases that house the planes, he said earlier this week, are located up to 500 kilometers from Ukraine’s border.

Prior to the day’s discussions, Andriy Yermak, the head of Zelenskiy’s administration, said that lifting restriction on how Ukraine uses donated weapons would be a “game-changer.”

"It is just impossible to fight when the enemies don't have any restrictions," Yermak told the NATO Public Forum on July 11.

Stoltenberg on July 10 said that Ukraine had the right under international law to defend itself against invading Russian forces, including with strikes against legitimate military targets in Russia.

The issue of how Ukraine uses their donated weaponry is up to individual NATO members to decide. Some have said Kyiv can use them to strike Russian territory, while others have said their donated weapons can only be used within Ukraine.

The United States in early May dropped its ban on Kyiv using U.S. weapons to strike Russian territory. Britain likewise loosened restrictions in early May.

 NATO Allies Map Out Commitments To Ukraine, 'Irreversible' Path To Membership
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:02:36 0:00

Germany has expressed opposition to allowing the use of NATO-provided weapons to strike inside Russia and has refused to send Ukraine its long-range Taurus cruise missile. Berlin did say in late May, however, that Ukraine could use weapons it supplies to defend itself against strikes from positions just inside Russia.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told RFE/RL on May 31 that allies need to change how they are looking at the war in Ukraine and allow Kyiv to use weapons to a fuller extent.

At the NATO summit on July 11, Landsbergis called for the restrictions to be lifted so that Ukraine could strike those targets from where Russia is firing into Ukraine.

When asked by journalists if he agreed to lifting restrictions, German Chancellor Olah Scholz said there have been no changes to Berlin’s position.

U.S. President Joe Biden, in a meeting with Zelenskiy earlier in the day, said he was pleased to announce the new aid allocation.

"We will stay with you, period," Biden said ahead of bilateral talks.

In a subsequent statement announcing the aid package, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that “as President Biden has made clear, the United States and the international coalition we have assembled will continue to stand with Ukraine.”

White House national-security adviser Jake Sullivan, speaking to reporters on the sideline of the summit, said that Ukraine's position on the battlefield had improved since the aid package was passed in April.

Sullivan said that Russia is "grinding away and not breaking through," suffering significant casualties in the meantime. However, he warned the days ahead for Ukraine “will be difficult."

A joint declaration issued by NATO leaders on July 10 in which it called China a "decisive enabler" of Russia's war effort received a sharp rebuke from Beijing.

In response to the declaration, which also said China posed systemic challenges to transatlantic security, Beijing on July 11 accused NATO of spreading false information and undermining cooperation between China and Europe.

NATO has acted on its concerns by showing increased interest in forming bonds with four Indo-Pacific countries -- Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea -- whose leaders were scheduled to meet with NATO leaders on July 11 to discuss security challenges and cooperation.

Stoltenberg highlighted the meeting in his news conference on July 10, telling reporters that the NATO leaders agreed to continue to strengthen their partnerships, especially in the Indo-Pacific, amid rising concerns that China might attack Taiwan and worries about Russia's stepped-up security ties with China and a nuclear-armed North Korea.

“In this dangerous world, friends and partners are more important than ever, so today we agreed to continue to strengthen our partnerships, especially in the Indo-Pacific. Security is global; it’s not regional. [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s war is fueled by those who do not share our values,” he said.

Iran and North Korea are providing direct military support to Russia, while China is propping up Russia’s war economy, he added.

Terror Suspects In Russian Prison Hostage-Taking Arrested

Russian police and National Guardsmen gather near a pretrial detention center in Rostov-on-Don on June 16 during the hostage standoff.
Russian police and National Guardsmen gather near a pretrial detention center in Rostov-on-Don on June 16 during the hostage standoff.

Two men involved in a high-profile hostage crisis in the southwestern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don last month were sent to pretrial detention for at least two months, the unified press service of the courts in the Rostov region said on July 11.

According to the press service, one of the men, Daniil Kamnev, who was wounded by special forces who stormed the detention center in Rostov-on-Don on June 16 and freed two guards taken hostage, confessed to being a member of the At-Takfir Wal-Hijra Islamic group, which is designated as a "terrorist" group and banned in Russia.

The press service said Kamnev also confessed to being involved in the preparation of a bombing in the city of Kislovodsk in 2021.

A second suspect, Malik Gandaloyev, confessed to being a member of the Islamic State group, which is also designated as a "terrorist" group and banned in Russia, and to making and possessing an explosive device, the press service said.

Kamnev and Gandaloyev were among six inmates who took two guards hostage in the detention center on June 16. All of the other hostage-takers were killed during the attempt to free the hostages.

The six were being held in the detention center on terrorism charges. Some of them were from Russia's mostly Muslim-populated North Caucasus regions of Ingushetia and Chechnya. They had been convicted of terrorism charges in December.

Islamic State has carried out several attacks in Russia in recent years, including most recently in late March, when gunmen opened fire on a crowd at a concert hall in an entertainment center near Moscow, killing 145 people.

With reporting by TASS

Russia Adds Yulia Navalnaya To List Of Terrorists, Extremists

Yulia Navalnaya was recently elected to head the Human Rights Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and protecting human rights around the world. (file photo)
Yulia Navalnaya was recently elected to head the Human Rights Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and protecting human rights around the world. (file photo)

Russia's financial watchdog, Rosfinmonitoring, on July 11 added Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of opposition leader and anti-corruption crusader Aleksei Navalny, to its registry of "terrorists and extremists." Two days earlier, a Moscow court issued an arrest warrant for Navalnaya on a charge of taking part in an extremist group's activities. Navalnaya was also added on July 9 to Russia's wanted list. The move came less than two weeks after Navalnaya was elected to head the Human Rights Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and protecting human rights around the world. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Trump, Hungary's Orban Reportedly Set To Meet

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (left) and former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump meet in March at Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Florida.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (left) and former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump meet in March at Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Florida.

Donald Trump and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will meet on July 11 at the Republican presidential candidate's Florida home, according to three people with knowledge of the matter. The full agenda of the meeting was not immediately clear, though one of the sources said the war in Ukraine would be a topic of conversation. The Hungarian Embassy in Washington declined to comment. Bloomberg first reported the planned meeting.

Kazakhstan Orders Local Funds To Divest Russian Securities Over Sanctions

Kazakhstan's National Bank (file photo)
Kazakhstan's National Bank (file photo)

The Central Securities Depository (CSD) of Kazakhstan said on July 11 that it had ordered brokers and management companies to divest Russian securities from their holdings by August 1. The CSD's press service said the move was necessary to adhere to U.S. sanctions imposed on the Moscow Stock Exchange (MSE) and its structures. In June, the United States and Great Britain imposed sanctions on several major financial structures in Russia, including the MSE, the National Clearing Center, and the National Settlement Depository, which act as intermediaries in trading dollars on the Russian currency market. The sanctions were the latest measures taken in response to Russia's aggression against Ukraine. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.

Veteran Russian Rights Defender's Appeal Against Imprisonment Rejected

Russian rights activist Oleg Orlov (file photo)
Russian rights activist Oleg Orlov (file photo)

The Moscow City Court on July 11 rejected an appeal filed by veteran rights activist Oleg Orlov against his imprisonment. The 71-year-old's 30-month prison sentence, handed to him in February on a charge of repeatedly discrediting Russia's military, now comes into force. The charge stems from Orlov's public condemnation of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Orlov gained prominence as one of Russia's leading human rights activists after he co-founded the Memorial human rights center following the collapse of the Soviet Union. For his contribution to human rights in Russia, Orlov was awarded the Sakharov Prize in 2009. Memorial was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.

Belarus's Tsikhanouskaya Urges West To Show Unity, Decisiveness In Resisting Russia

Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya (file photo)
Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya (file photo)

WASHINGTON -- The exiled leader of Belarus’s democratic movement, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, has urged Western leaders to be “united” and “decisive” in their resistance to “the imperialistic ambitions of Russia.”

Speaking to RFE/RL on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Washington, Tsikhanouskaya argued that the people of Ukraine are not just fighting for their own country, but also "for the values that democratic countries are based on.”

“Believe me, if we allow Ukraine to lose this war, the democratic world – powerful Europe or the U.S.A -- will be the next to be attacked by dictatorship,” she said.

Tsikhanouskaya, 41, is a former teacher who ran for president in Belarus in 2020 after her husband, popular blogger Syarhey Tsikhanouski, was barred from doing so and imprisoned.

She was forced to flee to Lithuania during a brutal crackdown on a wave of pro-democracy protests that erupted after strongman leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka was awarded a sixth presidential term following an election widely viewed as deeply flawed.

“The fates of Belarus and Ukraine are intertwined,” she told RFE/RL. “We fully encourage NATO countries to support Ukrainians and to give Ukraine everything they need to win this war. But don’t overlook Belarus.”

Tsikhanouskaya said that “dictators” like Lukashenka and Russian President Vladimir Putin perceive Western sluggishness and indecisiveness as “weakness.”

“And they think that they can cross red line after red line,” she said, adding that they are challenging the Western world to see how far they can go before there is a response.

“That is why all possible tanks and equipment for Ukraine had to be [there] already yesterday,” she said. “We don’t have time.”

“I am waiting for NATO countries’ unity and decisiveness because that is what the people who are fighting against tyranny, against the imperialistic ambitions of Russia, against the dictators of the world, are waiting for,” Tsikhanouskaya said.

NATO To Bring Ukraine Closer To Alliance By Establishing Operations In Germany, Poland

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (right) and Polish President Andrzej Duda participate in a working session of the NATO summit in Washington on July 11.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (right) and Polish President Andrzej Duda participate in a working session of the NATO summit in Washington on July 11.

WASHINGTON -- NATO officials have agreed at a summit in Washington to take further steps to bring Ukraine closer to the alliance and to counter the growing security threat posed by Russia by taking over the coordination of training and weapons deliveries from the United States.

The moves, announced by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at a news conference on July 10, include the launch of a centralized command in Germany and the establishment of a training and analysis center in Poland.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

They come with Russia making incremental gains on the battlefield in the wake of monthslong lags in aid and weapons supplies from the United States and Europe. Those delays highlighted Ukraine's vulnerability in trying to repel invading Russian forces.

Stoltenberg said the security assistance center will be located in Wiesbaden, Germany, and will be led by a three-star general overseeing around 700 personnel from across the alliance. They will be responsible for the coordination and provision of most of the international security assistance that is sent, he said.

NATO countries until now have coordinated support to Ukraine through an informal, U.S.-led body called the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.

The new center, which was approved by NATO defense ministers in June, will be formally known as the NATO Security Assistance and Training for Ukraine (NSATU) and will be part of Ukraine’s “irreversible path” to NATO membership.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it will be the first time NATO has dedicated a command to helping a country join NATO.

The operation in Poland will be known as a joint training and analysis center (JTAC), which will focus on improving NATO interoperability with Ukraine and studying the way the Ukraine war has changed warfare.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said the JTAC, which will be built in his hometown of Bydgoszcz, will examine the use of drones and other modern aspects of the Ukrainian war, which he said are causing NATO to reevaluate its assumptions.

“The role of drones has been transformational in this war, and we need to study it and learn [from] the lessons,” Sikorski said, speaking at a panel discussion on the sidelines of the summit. He envisions it becoming a state-of-the-art war analysis center that examines how drone warfare is changing the battlefield. And he predicted that Ukrainians eventually will take on major roles at the JTAC.

“In the future it won’t be us training the Ukrainians, the Ukrainians will be teaching us. And I hope JTAC will serve that,” he said.

 NATO Allies Map Out Commitments To Ukraine, 'Irreversible' Path To Membership
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:02:36 0:00

Stoltenberg said NATO’s plans to establish these two support facilities are within the elements of the “robust” security support package agreed during the summit along with providing Ukraine with 40 billion euros ($43 billion) in military aid for next year, bilateral agreements, and more equipment, including air-defense systems.

He said the decisions were “major” and would further strengthen NATO’s support for Kyiv and help Ukraine uphold its right to self-defense but would not make NATO a party to the conflict.

“We are not doing this because we want to prolong the war. We are doing this because we want to end the war as soon as possible,” Stoltenberg said.

Stoltenberg said that it’s important for NATO to show commitment and resolve at this point in the war.

“The more credible and enduring our support the quicker Moscow will realize it cannot wait us out and the sooner the war can end,” he said.

Pro-Kremlin Activist Gets 3 Years In Prison In Latvia

A man installs an anti-Putin poster on a building in the Latvian capital, Riga. (file photo)
A man installs an anti-Putin poster on a building in the Latvian capital, Riga. (file photo)

The Riga City Court sentenced pro-Kremlin activist Jelena Kreile on July 10 to three years in prison on charges of justifying war crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine and the genocide and crimes against humanity committed by the Soviet Union in Latvia. Kreile openly expressed her support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine, carrying a bag with a large letter "Z," which is used as propaganda to underpin Moscow's aggression against Ukraine. Investigators say the 56-year-old also placed Russian national flags with mottos expressing her support for the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the windows of her residence. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Imprisoned Rebellious Russian Priest Asks Putin To Send Him To War In Ukraine

Father Sergy (aka Nikolai Romanov), an ultraconservative, coronavirus-denying Russian priest who was stripped of his religious rank, attends a court hearing in Moscow in 2021.
Father Sergy (aka Nikolai Romanov), an ultraconservative, coronavirus-denying Russian priest who was stripped of his religious rank, attends a court hearing in Moscow in 2021.

An ultraconservative, coronavirus-denying Russian priest who is serving a seven-year prison term on charges of inciting hatred, vigilantism, violating the right to religious freedom, and encouraging suicide, has asked President Vladimir Putin to pardon him and send him to the war in Ukraine.

The letter addressed to Putin by Nikolai Romanov, also known as Father Sergy, was published on July 10 by the Ura.ru news agency.

Romanov, 69, stressed in his letter that he had asked earlier to be sent to the war, but his request had been denied due to his age.

Romanov also wrote that he has served more than a half of his term, adding that he will "live the life of a humbled pensioner" if he is released.

Romanov was stripped of his religious rank and sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison in November 2021. In January 2023, his prison term was extended to 7 years after a court found him guilty of inciting hatred toward Catholics, Muslims, and Jews.

That term was later cut by one month.

Father Sergy was arrested in December 2020 after law enforcement raided his convent in the Sverdlovsk region. Parishioners and some clergy skirmished with the police during the arrest of the rogue priest, who was then sent to a detention center in Moscow.

He made headlines in June 2020 after he took over the Sredneuralsk Women’s Monastery in the Urals by force with help from Cossack guards.

He was later stripped of his religious rank by the Diocesan Court in the Sverdlovsk region for what the court called disobedience toward Russian Orthodox Church authorities.

Father Sergy has been known for his public praising of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, for calling the coronavirus pandemic a Western plot, and for publicly condemning the Russian Orthodox Church's order in April 2020 to stop church services to prevent the spreading of the virus.

After forcibly taking over the convent, Father Sergy issued political statements saying that constitutional amendments proposed by President Putin "would legalize a slave-owning system."

The constitutional changes approved in 2020 allowed Putin, who has ruled Russia as president or prime minister for almost 25 years, to stay in power until 2036 if he chooses to run again after his current term ends in 2030.

Uzbekistan Convicts Man For Joining Wagner Mercenary Group In Ukraine

A Wagner mercenary on the streets of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. (file photo)
A Wagner mercenary on the streets of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. (file photo)

A court in Uzbekistan has convicted a 26-year-old man for being a mercenary after he returned to the Central Asian nation following a six-month stint in the ranks of the Wagner group where he was recruited from a Russian prison. The website Migrant.uz published the July 9 ruling by the Ohangaron City Court, according to which Shavkat Yuldashev was handed a parole-like 30-month sentence, during which, 20 percent of his salary will be taken by Uzbekistan's State Treasury. Authorities in Uzbekistan and other Central Asian nations have warned their citizens residing and working in Russia that being a mercenary is a crime in their countries. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Ukraine Impounds Cargo Ship Accused Of Exporting Crimea Grain

A Ukrainian coast guard during a Black Sea patrol in February
A Ukrainian coast guard during a Black Sea patrol in February

Ukraine’s SBU security agency says it has detained an unidentified foreign cargo ship in the Black Sea and is holding its captain. The SBU statement said the ship, which flew the flag of a Central African country, was illegally exporting agricultural products from the Russian-occupied Ukrainian region of Crimea for sale in the Middle East. The captain was identified only as a national of a South Caucasus country. Kyiv alleges that Russia has been illegally exporting Ukrainian agricultural products since shortly after its February 2022 full-scale invasion. As of November 2023, Kyiv says, Russia had exported about $1 billion worth of looted goods. Moscow denies stealing Ukrainian grain. To read the complete story by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, click here.

Russian Lawmakers Pass Major Tax Hike

Russian lawmakers have moved to raise income tax rates for the first time in 20 years amid rising military spending. (file photo)
Russian lawmakers have moved to raise income tax rates for the first time in 20 years amid rising military spending. (file photo)

The Russian parliament has passed a bill raising the country’s income tax and establishing a progressive tax scale ranging from 13 to 22 percent. Lawmakers in both chambers of Russia’s parliament adopted the measure on July 10, sending it to President Vladimir Putin for signing. For more than 20 years, Russia has had a flat 13-percent income tax rate, something that Putin has frequently touted as a major achievement. The tax increase was announced shortly after Putin was elected to a fifth presidential term in March. It comes against the background of the ongoing war against Ukraine and sharp increases in military spending, as well as onerous international sanctions. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Russian Service, click here.

Load more

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

If you are in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine and hold a Russian passport or are a stateless person residing permanently in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine, please note that you could face fines or imprisonment for sharing, liking, commenting on, or saving our content, or for contacting us.

To find out more, click here.

XS
SM
MD
LG