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Belarusian Who Helped Those Fleeing Crackdown Cross Border Jailed

Yauhen Buynitski (file photo)
Yauhen Buynitski (file photo)

A court in Belarus has sentenced an activist who assisted Belarusians facing persecution flee to Lithuania to 4 1/2 years in prison.

A court in the town of Shchuchyn in the western region of Hrodna sentenced Yauhen Buynitski on May 31 after finding him guilty of illegally crossing the state border in a group. The court also ordered Buynitski to pay a 3,520-ruble ($1,040) fine.

Buynitski was arrested in August 2021 for assisting Belarusians cross the border into Lithuania in the wake of Minsk's crackdown on dissent following mass protests against the official results of an August 2020 presidential poll that handed authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka a sixth consecutive term.

The Crisis In Belarus

Read our coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka continues his brutal crackdown on NGOs, activists, and independent media following the August 2020 presidential election.

Buynitski is one of many Belarusians who have faced multiple charges linked to the mass protests against Lukashenka following the controversial presidential election, which the opposition says was rigged.

Thousands have been arrested and much of the opposition leadership has been jailed or forced into exile.

Several protesters have been killed and there have also been credible reports of torture during a widening security crackdown.

Belarusian authorities have also shut down several nongovernmental organizations and independent media outlets.

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

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Bulgarian President Vetoes Donation Of Armored Personnel Carriers To Ukraine

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev (file photo)
Bulgarian President Rumen Radev (file photo)

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev has vetoed the country's plans to send 100 surplus armored personnel carriers (APCs) to Ukraine, sending the arrangement back to parliament for reconsideration. In explaining the veto, signed off on by parliament last month, Radev said on December 4 that lawmakers needed to assess if the vehicles -- last deployed in the 1980s -- were expendable and not of possible use to Bulgaria in case of emergencies. Under an agreement signed with Kyiv in August, the APCs were to be provided free of charge. The deal will now go back to parliament for a second vote. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service, click here.

Relatives Of Kazakhs Incarcerated In Xinjiang Blocked From Approaching Chinese Consulate

The protesters said it was the 1,000th day of their rallies "against China's genocidal politics against ethnic Kazakhs, Uyghurs, and Kyrgyz," as well as other indigenous peoples of the region.
The protesters said it was the 1,000th day of their rallies "against China's genocidal politics against ethnic Kazakhs, Uyghurs, and Kyrgyz," as well as other indigenous peoples of the region.

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Police in Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, have blocked five Kazakh men and women from approaching the Chinese Consulate, where they planned to demand the release of their relatives imprisoned in so-called reeducation camps in China's northwestern region of Xinjiang.

The protesters, who planned to picket the Chinese Consulate on December 4, told RFE/RL that it was the 1,000th day of their rallies "against China's genocidal politics against ethnic Kazakhs, Uyghurs, and Kyrgyz," as well as other indigenous peoples of the region.

According to the protesters, their relatives in Xinjiang were incarcerated either for being practicing Muslims or for posts on the Internet.

China has been accused of human rights violations against Kazakhs, Uyghurs and other mostly Turkic-speaking indigenous ethnic groups over the existence of mass detention camps in Xinjiang.

Beijing denies that the facilities are internment camps, saying its actions are aimed at combating terrorism. People who have fled the province, however, say people from the ethnic groups are undergoing "political indoctrination" at a network of facilities officially referred to as reeducation camps.

Amid ongoing rallies and pickets in front of China's diplomatic missions in Kazakhstan, the Chinese Embassy said in March 2021 that all ethnic Kazakhs incarcerated in Xinjiang are Chinee citizens and are being held there for breaking Chinse laws.

Several relatives of the protesters were released and allowed to travel to Kazakhstan in recent years.

Kazakh authorities refrain from openly criticizing the policies of China, one of their main creditors.

The U.S. State Department has said that as many as 2 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and members of Xinjiang's other indigenous, mostly Muslim ethnic groups have been taken to detention centers.

Kazakhs are the second-largest Turkic-speaking indigenous community in Xinjiang after Uyghurs. The region is also home to ethnic Kyrgyz, Tajiks, and Hui, also known as Dungans. Han, China's largest ethnicity, is the second-largest community in Xinjiang.

Two Kazakh Journalists Handed Prison Terms On Extortion Charges They Reject

Vladimir and Nargiz Severny
Vladimir and Nargiz Severny

A court in Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, has sentenced journalists Vladimir and Nargiz Severny to seven years and eight years in prison, respectively, on extortion charges that the couple rejects. The court ruled on December 4 that Nargiz Severnaya may start serving her prison term in 2028. Investigators say the married journalists blackmailed two businesses in Almaty, extorting significant amount of cash from them for withholding sensitive information related to the businesses from being published. The couple pleaded not guilty and denies any wrongdoing. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.

Revenue Of World's Top Arms Producers Down; Order Backlog Signals Increase On Horizon

The fall in revenue “was mostly driven by overall decreases in the arms revenue of companies in the United States and Russia,” SIPRI said.
The fall in revenue “was mostly driven by overall decreases in the arms revenue of companies in the United States and Russia,” SIPRI said.

Revenue from the sales of arms and military services by the 100 largest companies in the global defense industry was down in real terms an annual 3.5 percent in 2022, despite a sharp rise in demand, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said on December 4.

The combined arms revenue of the world’s largest arms-producing and military services companies -- the SIPRI Top 100 -- totaled $597 billion last year, according to new data released by the research institute.

The fall in revenue “was mostly driven by overall decreases in the arms revenue of companies in the United States and Russia,” SIPRI said, adding that orders are likely to increase in the coming years.

“Large backlogs in orders and surging demand for arms during 2022 and 2023 suggest that the total Top 100 arms revenue may rise significantly in the years ahead,” the institute added.

The data also shows that Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine drove an increase in demand for weapons in 2022, but many arms companies’ efforts to increase production capacity were hindered by labor shortages, rising costs, and supply chain disruptions.

Despite the year-on-year drop, the total arms revenues of the Top 100 firms were still 14 percent higher in 2022 than in 2015, the first year that SIPRI included Chinese companies in its ranking.

While three U.S. companies -- Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Technologies, and General Dynamics -- topped the list, revenue nonetheless was down for arms manufacturers in the United States and Russia as well, while among Asian and Middle Eastern companies, revenue increased substantially, it said.

Arms revenue at the seven companies in the Top 100 based in the Middle East went up by 11 percent to $17.9 billion. This was the largest annual percentage increase in arms revenue when assessed by region.

The SIPRI data also shows that China accounted for 18 percent of the Top 100’s arms revenue in 2022, the second most after the United States at 51 percent.

The aggregate arms revenue of the eight Chinese companies in the rankings increased to $108 billion, SIPRI said.

The seven British companies in the top 100 grew their revenue to $41.8 billion, 7 percent of the overall total.

The combined arms revenues of the two Russian companies in the Top 100 fell by 12 percent to $20.8 billion, SIPRI said, adding that there was an overall lack of data on Russian companies as “transparency in the Russian arms industry continued to decline.”

The only Ukrainian company in the top 100, UkrOboronProm, saw a real 10 percent drop in its arms revenue to $1.3 billion. Although its arms revenue increased in nominal terms, this was more than offset by the country’s high inflation.

Updated

Heavy Shelling Kills Two In Ukraine's Southern Kherson Region

Ukrainian authorities said that residential areas, medical facilities, and other infrastructure were damaged in the regional capital, Kherson, during the shelling. (file photo)
Ukrainian authorities said that residential areas, medical facilities, and other infrastructure were damaged in the regional capital, Kherson, during the shelling. (file photo)

Two people were killed in Ukraine's southern Kherson region on December 3 after the region came under heavy shelling by Russian 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.

Regional head Oleksandr Prokudin said on December 4 that in addition to the deaths, eight people were injured as the region was targeted 117 times by Russian shelling.

In the regional capital, Kherson, residential areas, medical facilities, and other infrastructure were damaged, Prokudin said.

Ukraine's military leadership in Kherson said earlier on December that the city was under "heavy fire" from Russian forces from the "temporarily occupied left bank" of the Dnieper River.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration on December 4 sent the U.S. Congress an urgent warning about the need to approve tens of billions of dollars in military and economic assistance to Ukraine, saying Kyiv's war effort to defend itself from Russia's invasion may grind to a halt without it.

In a letter to House and Senate leaders and also released publicly, Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young warned that the United States will run out of funding to send weapons and assistance to Ukraine by the end of the year, saying that would “kneecap” Ukraine on the battlefield.

With reporting by AP

First Trucks Pass Through New Ukraine Crossing At Polish Border

Four Poland-Ukraine border crossings have been under a blockade since earlier this month. (file photo)
Four Poland-Ukraine border crossings have been under a blockade since earlier this month. (file photo)

The first 30 trucks passed through the newly opened Uhryniv-Dolhobychuv crossing on the Ukrainian-Polish border that Kyiv expects will unblock main land corridors amid protests by Polish drivers, Ukraine's border service said on December 4. Those protests, over what Polish truckers see as unfair competition from their Ukrainian peers, started on November 6, with four border crossings now under a blockade. Polish haulers' main demand is to stop Ukrainian truckers having permit-free access to the EU, something that Kyiv and Brussels say is impossible.

Updated

Belarusian Leader Lukashenka Discusses Cooperation And Ukraine With Chinese President Xi

Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka (left) meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on December 4.
Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka (left) meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on December 4.

Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka discussed ways to boost diplomatic and economic cooperation with China, as well as the ongoing war in Ukraine, during talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on December 4. Xi told Lukashenka that China was ready to continue to strengthen bilateral cooperation, including through international bodies like the United Nations, according to Xinhua. The Chinese state news agency also said the two leaders discussed the war in Ukraine launched by mutual ally Russia. Belarusian state media said that the meeting, the two leaders' second this year, lasted more than three hours. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Belarus Service, click here.

Serbian Minister Says Work On Gas Interconnector With Bulgaria Completed, Testing Imminent

Serbian Energy Minister Dubravka Djedovic Handanovic (second from right) and EU Ambassador to Serbia Emanuele Giofre (third from right) visit the site of a planned Serbia-Bulgaria gas interconnector earlier this year.
Serbian Energy Minister Dubravka Djedovic Handanovic (second from right) and EU Ambassador to Serbia Emanuele Giofre (third from right) visit the site of a planned Serbia-Bulgaria gas interconnector earlier this year.

Serbian Mining and Energy Minister Dubravka Djedovic Handanovic announced on December 3 that all the work has been completed and testing should begin this week on a "strategically important" interconnector to carry natural gas between Bulgaria and Serbia, an official statement said. Djedovic Handanovic said the 109 kilometers of new pipeline with a transmission station in Trupale would more safely provide a stable supply of gas to Serbia from sources "especially Azerbaijan." Russia provides most of Serbia's natural gas imports. President Aleksandar Vucic said last summer that Serbia was negotiating for 300-400 million cubic meters of gas from Azerbaijan. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Balkan Service, click here.

Amnesty International Faults Serbia, World Bank For 'Stripping' Vulnerable Of Social Assistance

Children play in a Roma settlement near Belgrade. A new report identifies the ethnic minority as one of the groups who have been badly affected by a revamp of Serbia's social welfare system. (file photo)
Children play in a Roma settlement near Belgrade. A new report identifies the ethnic minority as one of the groups who have been badly affected by a revamp of Serbia's social welfare system. (file photo)

Amnesty International has warned that Serbia's recently revamped system with World Bank funding to determine eligibility for social protections has worsened poverty "especially for Roma and people with disabilities" in the Balkan nation of around 6.6 million people.

The international rights group said in a report published on December 4 that the so-called Social Card registry launched in 2022 has adversely affected already "poverty-stricken and marginalized communities" and "strip[ped] them of social assistance."

Damini Satija, who heads a lab at Amnesty's global digital collective, Amnesty Tech, was quoted in a statement as saying the registry's effects confirm "that imposing automation in social assistance systems can exacerbate inequality, entrench or scale discrimination, and pose a dire risk to human rights."

The report is titled Trapped By Automation: Poverty And Discrimination In Serbia’s Welfare State.

The World Bank touts registries like the Serbian Social Card registry as "inclusion systems" or a "tool for inclusion."

But Amnesty International, citing the data and individual cases in Serbia, suggested people forced to appeal their exclusion can end up "trapped in a bureaucratic maze."

Serbia's 2022 census counted nearly 132,000 Roma, or under 2 percent of the population, but most experts warn that such official figures are probably undercounts.

Minority Rights Group International quotes local and international estimates at between 300,000 and 460,000 Roma, which would make them the country's largest minority group above Hungarians (184,000) and Bosniaks (154,000).

The United Nations recently estimated that nearly 600,000 people in Serbia, most of them women or girls, live with some type of disability.

“Rather than make benefit payments fairer, thousands of people who rely on these payments as their only source of income have been locked out of the social safety net and cut off from essential assistance," Satija said.

"Already marginalized groups, have suffered the sharpest consequences of this automated system, leading to disproportionate impact on their access to benefits programs."

Low-quality data translates into problems, Amnesty International said. The accuracy of existing databases at the Social Card registry's inception "plays a huge role in ensuring fair application outcomes and continued receipt of social assistance," the group said.

It also said "the semi-automated layer has reduced the role of social workers in verifying the data and documents of applicants."

Amnesty International said the World Bank, an international financial institution established in 1944 to help finance projects in middle- and low-income countries, provided technical and financial assistance for Serbia's Social Card registry and helped implement similar schemes in other places, including nearby Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

UNICEF, the UN's aid and relief organization for children, said that 6.9 percent of Serbia's population lived below the absolute poverty line in 2020.

“The World Bank and governments -- including in Serbia -- must conduct robust human rights risk assessments both during the design and implementation of such programs, and ensure system design that eliminates potential threats to human rights," Amnesty Tech's Satija said.

"Crucially if the human rights risks of a system cannot be prevented then this system is not fit for purpose and should not be rolled out."

Bosnian Serb Dodik Says He'll 'Declare Independence' If Trump Retakes U.S. Presidency

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik has threatened secession for years as he spurned the rest of Bosnia and its UN-backed overseer and cozied up to Moscow.
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik has threatened secession for years as he spurned the rest of Bosnia and its UN-backed overseer and cozied up to Moscow.

The anti-Western president of Bosnia-Herzegovina's majority-Serb entity says he intended to "declare independence" for Republika Srpska during U.S. President Donald Trump's first term and regrets he "got scared and didn't do it," but "if Trump won again, I think I wouldn't hesitate." The 64-year-old Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik further told Serbian TV Prva that he believes Republika Srpska will be independent some day. Dodik has threatened secession for years as he spurned the rest of Bosnia and its UN-backed overseer and cozied up to Moscow, but has taken steps to establish some separate institutions over the past 18 months. To see the original story by RFE/RL's Balkan Service, click here.

Renowned Russian Director Sokurov Says Official Ban Means His Career 'Is Over'

Aleksandr Sokurov (file photo)
Aleksandr Sokurov (file photo)

One of Russia's best-known film directors, Aleksandr Sokurov, says his "professional career...is over" because of Russia's ban on his new film. Sokurov told News.ru he's "not working on new projects" after the Culture Ministry refused to allow distribution of Fairytale (Skazka). International media describe the film as an experimental "deepfake" film that uses archival imagery to depict Stalin, Churchill, Mussolini, and Hitler meeting in purgatory. The outspoken Sokurov publicly supported artist Aleksandra Skochilenko last month when she was sentenced to seven years in prison for using price tags to spread information about the war in Ukraine. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.

Ulyanovsk Police Target Russian Wives Pleading For Return Of Mobilized Husbands

A growing number of protests across Russia have featured the wives of mobilized soldiers calling for their return.
A growing number of protests across Russia have featured the wives of mobilized soldiers calling for their return.

Police in the western Russian city of Ulyanovsk joined ongoing official backlash over a bumper-sticker protest involving women purportedly calling for their husbands deployed for the war in Ukraine to be sent home. The 7x7 Telegram channel said police suggested to four women they might be accused of breaking the administrative law on "discrediting" the army. They have summoned at least one of the wives for questioning on December 4. An unnamed deputy mayor reportedly also got involved after media reported individuals were putting stickers on cars reading, "Bring back husband. I'm [expletive] tired of this." To read the original story by Current Time, click here.

Ukraine Says Kherson Takes 'Heavy Fire' From 'Temporarily Occupied Left Bank' Of Dnieper River

Ukrainian soldiers navigate on the Dnieper River by boat at the front line near Kherson.
Ukrainian soldiers navigate on the Dnieper River by boat at the front line near Kherson.

Ukraine's military leadership in the southern city of Kherson said on December 3 that the city was under "heavy fire" from Russian forces from the "temporarily occupied left bank" of the Dnieper River, and one person had been killed in the attacks. Roman Mrochka, head of Kherson's military administration, urged residents to seek safe shelter and avoid open spaces. He later updated the casualty figure to say one person had been killed and three injured after a multistory building was shelled. Ukraine's military said early on December 3 that it had destroyed 10 Russian drones overnight. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, click here.

NATO's Stoltenberg Stresses Ukraine Support 'In Both Good And Bad Times'

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg arrives to attend the Nato foreign ministers' meeting on Ukraine at NATO headquarters in Brussels on November 29.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg arrives to attend the Nato foreign ministers' meeting on Ukraine at NATO headquarters in Brussels on November 29.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has stressed that it is in the defense alliance's interest to back Kyiv and it must "support Ukraine in both good and bad times," as Russia's full-scale invasion continues in its 22nd month. Speaking to German broadcaster ARD, Stoltenberg said that "conflicts develop in stages." "We should also be prepared for bad news," he said. Stoltenberg acknowledged that Ukraine's Western allies have not provided it with ammunition in sufficient quantity. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy recently blamed a lack of weaponry for an absence of the desired results. To see the original story by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, click here.

Ukraine And Poland Open Border Crossing To Ease Blockade

An aerial photo made with a drone shows trucks standing in a queue at the Polish-Ukrainian border in Hrebenne, southeast Poland, on November 27.
An aerial photo made with a drone shows trucks standing in a queue at the Polish-Ukrainian border in Hrebenne, southeast Poland, on November 27.

Ukraine and Poland will open a border crossing for empty trucks on December 4 in a bid to ease a blockade by Polish hauliers, whose protests have paralyzed traffic for weeks. Polish truckers have been blocking major crossings with Ukraine demanding the reintroduction of entry permits for their Ukrainian competitors. The Dolhobyczow-Uhryniv crossing, which currently serves cars and buses, will open to empty trucks traveling from Ukraine into Poland from December 4, Kyiv's border service said. Kyiv said December 1 that fallout from the Polish protest was "catastrophic" and Ukrainian drivers stuck at the border were in a "dire" situation.

Kyiv Police Cannot Confirm Whether Ukrainian Lawmaker Detained For Alleged Treason Injured In Custody

Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksandr Dubinskiy attends a parliamentary session in Kyiv in November 2019.
Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksandr Dubinskiy attends a parliamentary session in Kyiv in November 2019.

Kyiv police said on December 3 that following an investigation they were unable to confirm allegations that detained Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksandr Dubinskiy was physically injured while in custody.

The headquarters of the National Police in Kyiv earlier this week reported it had been informed by Dubinskiy's legal team in a message that the lawmaker, who is in detention in Kyiv as he awaits trial for alleged treason, was physically injured over the course of two days.

On December 2, Dubinskiy's lawyers claimed on his Telegram channel that an ambulance had been sent to facility and determined that he had suffered "multiple hematomas, as well as a suspected rib fracture."

After sending a team to investigate, the National Police in Kyiv said in its December 3 statement that it was unable to verify the claims.

"According to the results of an inspection and forensic examination" carried out at the facility, the National Police in Kyiv said, the information it had received "was not confirmed."

Dubinskiy, a former deputy for the ruling Servant of the People party who is under U.S. sanctions for interference in U.S. elections, was ordered by a Kyiv court last month to serve 60 days in pretrial detention on suspicion of treason.

Dubinskiy was expelled from the party in 2021 after he was put on a U.S. sanctions list for election interference, which he has denied. He has continued in parliament as an independent lawmaker.

The SBU said on November 13 that an investigation had determined that an unidentified current member of the Servant of the People party it said was suspected of treason went by the call sign "Buratino" and "was part of a criminal organization formed by the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces."

The SBU alleged that criminal organization had $10 million in financing and that its aim was "to disrupt the sociopolitical situation in Ukraine and discredit the state in the international arena."

The investigation, according to the SUB, also documented instances in which the unidentified lawmaker spread false information about Ukraine's military and political leadership, including the "alleged interference in 2019 of Ukrainian high-ranking officials in U.S. presidential elections."

Ukrainian media have reported that the lawmaker under investigation was Dubinskiy.

Ukrainian prosecutors have reportedly indicted Dubinskiy, along with another Ukrainian politician and a former prosecutor, for allegedly colluding in 2019 with Russian intelligence in an alleged effort to tie the family of then-U.S. presidential candidate and 2020 U.S. election winner President Joe Biden to corruption in Ukraine.

Also reportedly indicted are Kosyantyn Kulyk, a former Ukrainian deputy prosecutor general who is also under U.S. sanctions for election interference, and former lawmaker Andriy Derkach.

The three have also been accused of promoting conspiracy theories that Kyiv, and not Russia, had meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election won by Donald Trump.

Updated

Ukraine Says Apparent Shooting Of Surrendering Soldiers A Russian War Crime

Ukrainian Human Rights Commission Dmytro Lubinets wrote on Telegram on December 2 that the video showed that the Ukrainian soldiers were disarmed with their hands raised and that they clearly posed no threat.
Ukrainian Human Rights Commission Dmytro Lubinets wrote on Telegram on December 2 that the video showed that the Ukrainian soldiers were disarmed with their hands raised and that they clearly posed no threat.

Ukraine's military has decried the apparent killing of two surrendering Ukrainian troops by Russian forces and said it considers the incident evidence of a war crime.

Drone footage of the incident that appeared on social media on December 2 showed apparently unarmed Ukrainian soldiers leaving their shelter, lying on the ground, and then being shot by people in darker uniforms.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

The alleged execution reportedly took place near the village of Stepove, which is located a few kilometers from the eastern Ukrainian town of Avdiyivka where heavy fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces is taking place.

RFE/RL was unable to independently confirm the authenticity of the video or the date or location of the apparent killings.

On December 2, Ukrainian military spokesman Oleksandr Shtupun said on Telegram that the drone footage "published in the media depicts the killing of two Ukrainian prisoners of war."

"All evidence will be handed over to the responsible international institutions dealing with war crimes," Shtupun said.

Ukrainian Human Rights Commission Dmytro Lubinets wrote on Telegram on December 2 that the video showed that the Ukrainian soldiers were disarmed with their hands raised and that they clearly posed no threat.

"The execution of those who surrender is a war crime," Lubinets wrote.

Lubinets said he will report the incident to the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations.

"The Russian Federation must be punished for every such case of the execution of Ukrainian soldiers who surrender," Lubinets said, adding that the alleged incident was not the first in which Ukrainian prisoners of war had been killed by Russian forces.

Russia has widely been accused of committing war crimes and human rights violations in Ukraine, including the targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure, the use of cluster munitions, and the torture of Ukrainian prisoners of war.

Russia has denied committing war crimes in Ukraine.

Hundreds Of Ukrainian Monuments Threatened Or Damaged By War Documented

The Transfiguration Cathedral in Odesa was damaged by a Russian missile strike on July 23.
The Transfiguration Cathedral in Odesa was damaged by a Russian missile strike on July 23.

Scientists from the German cities of Marburg and Hanover, along with Ukrainian photographers, have documented 250 architectural monuments that have been threatened or damaged by the Russian war in Ukraine. Since the start of the project in October 2022, the photographers have taken a total of around 3,700 exterior and interior photographs of historically and culturally significant buildings in cities, including Kyiv, Odesa, and Zaporizhzhya, Christian Bracht, director of the German Documentation Center for Art History (DDK), told dpa. These include the Transfiguration Cathedral in the historic center of Odesa, which was damaged in Russian attacks this summer.

Updated

Pakistan Arrests 17 Suspects In Connection To Bus Shooting That Killed 10

Police in Pakistan have arrested at least 17 suspects in relation to a bus shooting that left 10 people dead and 25 others wounded, authorities said on December 4.

Security forces raided several areas in the northern Gilgit-Baltistan region -- where the attack took place on December 2 -- and made the arrests, the local police chief said.

The bus was carrying passengers from Gilgit to the city of Rawalpindi when it was shot at, causing the driver to lose control and crash into a truck, which in turn caught fire.

While no group has claimed responsibility for the late-evening attack, the injury to the cleric led Interior Minister Shamsul Lone to suggest on December 3 that the aim was "to breed religious hatred."

Lone said the militants fired on the two vehicles from nearby hills as they traveled on the Karokoram Highway to the Punjab Province city of Rawalpindi. The highway, which connects Pakistan to China and also passes through the restive Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province.

Security forces were accompanying the passenger bus due to recent tensions between local Sunnis and Shi'a, Lone said.

Interim Prime Minister Anwar ul-Haq Kakar said in a statement that "anti-state elements would not be allowed to sabotage the peace of Gilgit-Baltistan," and vowed to continue fighting "against terrorists."

Authorities in Gigit-Baltistan said that a special investigative team has been formed to look into the attack.

Muhammad Khorasani, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan and active in the region, denied any link with the shooting.

Local and central government officials have requested that religious scholars work to lessen Sunni-Shi'a tensions that have risen since summer after scholars on both sides accused each other of insulting their respective branches of Islam.

In September, a joint committee of Shi'ite and Sunni leaders was formed with the aim of preventing conflicts.

Following the December 2 attack, the committee condemned the violence and called on people to remain calm.

Gilgit-Baltistan lies along China's One Ring One Road initiative and is the sight of a dam project being built with the help of Beijing.

Interior Minister Lone said there was a possibility the attack was carried out in an effort to scare investors.

With reporting by AP

Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Plant's Grid Connection Cut In Another Reminder Of 'Precarious' Safety Situation

The IAEA confirmed in a statement on December 2 that the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine lost offsite power overnight and temporarily relied on emergency diesel generators.
The IAEA confirmed in a statement on December 2 that the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine lost offsite power overnight and temporarily relied on emergency diesel generators.

Ukraine and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said two power lines connecting the Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant to the country’s electricity grid were cut overnight, again highlighting the risk of an accident at the plant.

The IAEA confirmed in a statement on December 2 that the plant in southern Ukraine lost offsite power overnight and temporarily relied on emergency diesel generators.

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The plant, which stopped supplying electricity to the Ukraine's grid in September 2022, has been rocked by repeated shelling and drone attacks since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Although its six reactors have been shut down, it still needs power to operate cooling systems and other safety features.

The Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant "lost the connection to both of its external power lines," IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said in a statement, adding that this is the eighth time since the start of the war that the plant, Europe’s largest, suffered a complete offsite power outage.

The IAEA team at the site reported that the connection to its sole back-up 330 kilovolt power line was cut around 10:26 p.m. local time on December 1 due to "an external grid fault," Grossi said. This was followed around five hours later by the loss of the plant’s sole 750 kilovolt line -- its main supplier of external electricity.

The cause appeared to be in the outside grid far away from the plant, Grossi said.

"The most recent external power outage is yet another reminder about the precarious nuclear safety and security situation at the plant, which can be affected by events far away from the site itself," Grossi said.

The safety situation at the plant has been a source of concern since it was captured by Russian forces last year, and the two sides have accused each other of compromising its safety.

Enerhoatom, Ukraine's nuclear energy operator, said in its statement that due to the outage the plant switched to 20 diesel generators.

The IAEA said these generators automatically started operating and the staff at the plant, which includes a team of IAEA experts, then reduced the number in operation to eight, which is enough to ensure that the plant’s reactors have enough power for cooling.

The affected 750 kilovolt power line was reconnected shortly after 8 a.m. local time on December 1, and the eight diesel generators were being gradually shut down.

Enerhoatom said the plant was on "the verge of a nuclear and radiation accident" before off-site power was restored.

"The situation was actually saved by the prompt actions of Ukrainian specialists who restored power supply to the plant from the Ukrainian power grid," it said.

It was not possible to verify Ukraine's claims.

With reporting by AFP

Ukraine's Security Service Cancels Former President's Trip To Meet With Orban

Petro Poroshenko, who was Ukrainian president from 2014 to 2019, said he had planned a number of high-level meetings abroad but the trip had to be canceled because he was turned away at the border on December 1.
Petro Poroshenko, who was Ukrainian president from 2014 to 2019, said he had planned a number of high-level meetings abroad but the trip had to be canceled because he was turned away at the border on December 1.

Ukrainian border guards prevented former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko from leaving the country on what Poroshenko described as a business trip that the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said was to start with a meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The SBU said on December 2 that it believes Russia intended to use the meeting, as well as other meetings of Ukrainian politicians with foreign officials, to spread a pro-Russian narrative.

Poroshenko's party, European Solidarity, pointed the finger back at the SBU, saying in a statement that it had "spread a false message" that the cancellation was related to the meeting with Orban. It also said that the "theoretical use of the conversation by Russian special services" was surprising.

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Poroshenko, who was president from 2014 to 2019, said he had planned a number of high-level meetings abroad but the trip had to be canceled because he was turned away at the border on December 1.

The SBU said in a statement that Poroshenko was turned back due to his planned meeting with Orban, whom the SBU said "systematically expresses an anti-Ukrainian position."

The SBU said it had received information indicating that Moscow planned to use the meeting "in its information and psychological operations against Ukraine." The purpose of such "provocations," it said, is to "reduce the support of foreign partners and try to split Ukrainian society."

Russia is trying to "change the mood in the partner countries" and encourage politicians to "declare narratives about the need for a negotiation process" with Russia, the statement added.

"According to the received counterintelligence data, it is in this context that information regarding the planned meeting of [Orban], who systematically expresses an anti-Ukrainian position, is a 'friend of Putin,' and calls for the lifting of sanctions from the Russian Federation," the SBU statement said.

After receiving the information, the SBU said it appealed to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's office, the government, and the parliament proposing that this information be taken into account during the process of approving foreign missions of Ukrainian delegations.

Poroshenko said on the morning of December 1 that he was not allowed to leave Ukraine despite an order from the chairman of the Verkhovna Rada that clearly stated that the international business trip was from December 1-8.

Poroshenko said he had planned meetings at the highest level with representatives of the U.S. Congress and the Polish parliament. European Solidarity said in a statement that Poroshenko planned visits to only to the U.S. and Poland.

The party said it is surprising that the Ukrainian government would "justify the actual disruption of opposition leader Petro Poroshenko's visit to Washington with counterintelligence information from the SBU about the likelihood of a meeting between [Poroshenko and Orban]."

The SBU "spread a false message that the cancellation of the travel order signed by the head of the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) and the travel ban on Poroshenko on December 1 were related to the meeting with Orban," European Solidarity said.

The statement said that Poroshenko's position that there is no question of negotiations with Russia remains unchanged.

It also said that the actions of the SBU create "artificial additional tension" with Hungary, which as an EU member will soon vote on the start of accession talks between Ukraine and the EU in Brussels.

With reporting by AFP

Iran Says Two Revolutionary Guards Killed In Israeli Attack In Syria

Two Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps members who served as military advisers in Syria have been killed in an Israeli attack, Iranian state media reported on December 2, in the first reported Iranian casualties during the ongoing war in Gaza. A Revolutionary Guards statement did not give details of the attack. Syria earlier said its air defenses repelled an Israeli rocket attack against targets in the vicinity of Damascus early on December 2.

Updated

Russian Shelling, Drone Strikes Cause Death, Damage In Ukraine's Donetsk, Kherson, And Odesa Regions

Aftermath of Russian shelling of the Donetsk region of Ukraine on November 30.
Aftermath of Russian shelling of the Donetsk region of Ukraine on November 30.

At least two civilians were killed in Ukraine's Donetsk and Kherson regions in shelling by Russian troops that also caused damage to infrastructure and property, regional officials said on December 2.

"One person died in Horlivka [in Donetsk], and six private homes plus three high-rise buildings and an industrial facility were damaged," the region's military administration said in its report, adding that two more people were wounded.

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In the southern region of Kherson, one civilian was killed and another one was wounded by Russian shelling and missile strikes. "Kherson region was struck 82 times with mortars, artillery, Grad missiles, tanks, aircraft and drones," regional Governor Oleksandr Prokudin said on Telegram, adding that Russian troops targeted residential areas and an educational facility.

Russian troops also attacked the border region of Chernihiv, injuring civilians in the town of Semenivska in northern Ukraine, the regional military administration said in a statement.

A man suffered shrapnel wounds and was treated at a local hospital, the military administration's press service said.

His daughter, age 4, was injured and transported to a hospital where she will undergo an operation, the administration added. A 4-year-old grandson was not injured.

The heads of the Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhya, Dnipropetrovsk, Sumy, and Mykolayiv regions also reported that civilian settlements in their region were hit by Russian shelling, but no civilians were wounded.
https://www.radiosvoboda.org/a/news-obstrily-za-dobu-zahybli/32710974.html


The heads of the Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhya, Dnipropetrovsk, Sumy, and Mykolayiv regions also reported civilian settlements in their region were hit by Russian shelling but no civilians were wounded.

Earlier on December 2, Russian troops attacked the southern region of Odesa with 11 Iranian-made kamikaze drones, the Ukrainian Air Force Command reported. Ukrainian air defense shot down 10 drones over Odesa and a guided missile in Dnipropetrovsk region, the Command said on Telegram, adding that the drones had been launched from Cape Chauda in Russia-occupied Crimea.

Oleh Kiper, the governor of Odesa region, said no one was wounded but the drone attack caused damages.

"Unfortunately, an infrastructure objective was hit. A fire broke out, which was quickly extinguished by rescuers," Kiper wrote on his Telegram channel, without elaborating.

Inclement weather compounded by Russian attacks on infrastructure facilities have left almost 500 settlements in western Ukraine without electricity, the country's Energy Ministry said in a statement on December 2.

On the battlefield, Ukrainian forces fought 84 close-quarters battles over the past 24 hours, the General Staff of Ukraine's military said on December 2.

It said the fiercest clashes took place around the industrial hub of Avdiyivka in Donetsk, which Russian troops have been attempting to encircle for weeks.

General Oleksandr Tarnavskiy, the Ukrainian commander near Avdiyivka, which is under his group's responsibility, said Russian forces have reduced the use of aviation in the area.

"The enemy has reduced the activity of aviation [and] artillery and the total number of combats. Russian forces continue to try to advance with infantry," he said, estimating losses at nearly 500 soldiers.

The battlefield claims could not be independently confirmed.

With reporting by AFP

Iranian Rapper's Violent Rearrest For Comments In Video Sparks Outrage

Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi appeared in a video on November 26 in which he talked about the torture and beatings he suffered while in prison.
Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi appeared in a video on November 26 in which he talked about the torture and beatings he suffered while in prison.

The rearrest of Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi has triggered a wave of outrage after reports that armed security agents beat the dissident while taking him into custody even though he is still recovering from being tortured during his previous prison time.

Police detained Salehi, a prominent voice in Iran's recent social and political movements, on November 30 on a street in Babol, northern Iran.

The Mizan News Agency, which is affiliated with Iran's judiciary, confirmed Salehi's rearrest, alleging it was for "spreading lies and unverified statements on social media," a charge of disturbing public opinion.

Salehi had only been out for 12 days after enduring 252 days in solitary confinement and a total of one year and 21 days in prison on charges that his supporters said were based on his music and participation in protests during the past year over the death of Mahsa Amini in September 2022.

Ye-One Rhie, a German parliamentarian and Salehi's political sponsor, criticized the "violent abduction," linking it to Salehi speaking out about his prison experience. Salehi has said he needs surgery because of injuries sustained from beatings and torture while he was incarcerated.


"When I say he was arrested, I mean he was kidnapped. He was kidnapped without any without any warning, without any identification, without any reasons given why he was beaten and why he was taken so violently," she said.

"To say that he used his time as a free man after he was released on bail to spread false rumors and to spread lies just because he was talking about his time in prison and his time in solitary confinement, that doesn't hold against any rule of law," the German lawmaker added.

Salehi was initially arrested in November 2022 after a period in hiding. His detention then immediately sparked significant attention and demands for his release, both domestically and internationally.

He was sentenced to more than six years in prison but released on November 18 after the Supreme Court, responding to an appeal, found “flaws in the original sentence.” It sent the case back to a lower court for a reexamination and possible retrial.

Once out, Salehi produced a video where he described being injected with a substance, likely adrenaline, to prevent unconsciousness during torture. He recounted the severe beatings he endured, leading to broken hands and feet.

He also said in the video that he filed a complaint against the General Directorate of Intelligence in Isfahan, a claim disputed by the Mizan News Agency. However, Salehi's lawyer, Amir Raesian, contradicted Mizan's statement, affirming that a complaint had been filed over his treatment and was under consideration.

Nazanin Boniadi, an actress and prominent opponent of the Islamic republic, condemned Salehi's violent rearrest, calling it "devastating."

Salehi has gained prominence for his lyrics that rail against corruption, widespread poverty, state executions, and the killing of protesters in Iran. His songs also point to a widening gap between ordinary Iranians and the country's leadership, accusing authorities of "suffocating" the people without regard for their well-being.

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

Congress Must Pass Aid For Ukraine To Avoid Interruption Of U.S. Support, White House Says

White House national-security spokesman John Kirby said Washington plans to send more weapons systems but for this Congress needs to pass a package with additional funding.
White House national-security spokesman John Kirby said Washington plans to send more weapons systems but for this Congress needs to pass a package with additional funding.

The U.S. Congress should act swiftly to provide aid to Ukraine before the end of the month to avoid an interruption in support provided by the United States, White House national-security spokesman John Kirby said.

"We need that assistance immediately so we can provide them assistance in an uninterrupted way," Kirby said on December 1 at a news briefing.

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"We have been consistently providing Ukraine with a truly unprecedented level of security support for over a year and a half. And we were able to provide this with incredible speed," Kirby said.

U.S. aid so far has amounted to $40 billion, and Kirby said Washington plans to send more weapons systems but for this Congress needs to pass a package with additional funding.

President Joe Biden last month submitted to Congress a request for more than $105 billion in defense aid, which included $61.4 billion in aid to Ukraine and $14.3 billion in aid to Israel, but the measure remains blocked.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (Democrat-New York) told reporters on November 28 that the U.S. Senate next week will begin consideration of a package that includes aid for Israel and Ukraine and he hopes it will achieve bipartisan support.

Schumer said the aid bill is needed even if there is no agreement on funding for border security measures that Republican lawmakers have demanded.

Kirby said every package provided by the U.S. and other countries to Ukraine thus far has been prepared based on comprehensive consultations with the Ukrainian military regarding their needs for its counteroffensive.

In response to a request for comment on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's assessment in an AP interview that "Ukraine did not get all the weapons it wanted," Kirby said, "Ukraine's desire to obtain more weapons is fully justified."

With reporting by Reuters

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