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Exiled Belarusian Opera Singer's Parents Fined, Were Asked By Police To Make Video Against Her

Marharyta Lyauchuk (left) and Andrey Pavuk recorded several joint singing sessions critical of Lukashenka and his government and posted them on YouTube.

A well-known Belarusian opera singer and political activist says her parents have been fined for "disobeying police orders" after their house was searched and they refused to record a video calling on their daughter to stop her political activities.

Marharyta Lyauchuk said her parents were detained on May 26 in the western region of Brest and then ordered to pay 2,240 rubles ($660) each for what the judge said was refusing to follow police orders. It was not clear which orders they refused to follow.

Lyauchuk earlier told RFE/RL that before detaining her parents, police searched their house in the village of Stradzech in the western Brest region.

According to Lyauchuk, her parents' neighbor, who was present when officers searched her parents' house, told her that her parents were handcuffed and taken away.

Last July, Belarusian authorities launched a criminal case against Lyauchuk, accusing her of "desecrating the national flag." The charge stemmed from a video on Lyauchuk's YouTube channel.

Police also searched the home of Volha Pavuk, the former wife of noted opposition blogger and singer Andrey Pavuk, on May 26.

Pavuk, his former wife, and their children left the country in the wake of anti-government protests questioning the official results of an August 2020 presidential poll that handed a sixth consecutive term in office to strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

He was charged in absentia with publicly insulting a prosecutor and disclosing the personal data of a prosecutor’s aide. He denies the charges.

Lyauchuk and Andrey Pavuk recorded several joint singing sessions critical of Lukashenka and his government and posted them on YouTube.

Both are on the Interior Ministry's list of wanted persons.

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Federal Judge Dies After Apparent Fall From High-Rise Apartment In Russia's Tatarstan

A federal judge has died after apparently falling from his 12th floor apartment in Kazan, the capital of Russia's Republic of Tatarstan. The body of 42-year-old Artyom Bartenev was found early in the morning on June 8. Investigators say the man most likely had fallen from his apartment. Suicide has not been ruled out by investigators. Bartenev heard administrative and civil cases at the Kirov district court in Kazan. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Idel.Realities, click here.

Council Of Europe Envoy Calls Russian Rights Defender Oleg Orlov's Trial 'Travesty Of Justice'

Oleg Orlov

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic has called the trial of Oleg Orlov, a leader of the liquidated Memorial Human Rights Center in Moscow, over the alleged discrediting of Russian forces involved in Kremlin's ongoing invasion of Ukraine "a travesty of justice."

Orlov, whose trial began on June 8, was detained for questioning and charged with the repetitive discrediting of Russian armed forces after his home was searched in March. The charge stems from Orlov's online article condemning Russia's full-scale aggression against Ukraine. He faces several years in prison in convicted.

"Oleg Orlov's courage and dedication to human rights are crucial to speaking truth to power," Mijatovic said in a statement on June 7.

"Like many other activists serving time in prison or otherwise sanctioned on similar grounds, he should never have been charged in the first place. I stand in solidarity with Oleg Orlov and many other human rights defenders, independent journalists, and civil society activists in Russia who carry the torch of human rights in these challenging times," she added.

A member of the directorate of the German Sakharov Society, Peter Frank, also criticized Russian authorities for what he called "brutally acting" against Russians who have spoken out against the "aggression and war crimes related to it."

He added that the increased pressure and persecution of the country’s leading rights defenders indicate that Russia is sliding into a "new totalitarianism."

The Memorial Human Rights Center was shut down by a Moscow court decision in December 2021 at the request of Moscow prosecutors who accused one of the country's most-respected human rights organizations of violating the law on "foreign agents."

In a parallel case at the time, the Supreme Court ruled that Memorial International, a standalone group and the umbrella organization for many regional branches and the Memorial Human Rights Center, should be liquidated on the same charge.

Memorial and its supporters have called the move by the Russian authorities politically motivated.

Memorial was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year together with jailed Belarusian dissident Ales Byalyatski and Ukraine's Center for Civil Liberties.

Russian Human Rights Group's Websites Blocked For Unspecified Reasons

Police officers detain a man in St. Petersburg on September 24, 2022, following calls to protest against mobilization. OVD-Info focuses on the right to freedom of assembly and expression and combating political persecution in Russia.

Russian human rights group OVD-Info said on June 8 that its two websites had been blocked by the country's media watchdog, Roskomnadzor, without explanation. The group's main website was blocked by the authorities in 2021 but has been available outside Russia. The group said its websites can be accessed in Russia via VPN, adding that its accounts on social media are still functioning. OVD-Info monitors the detention of activists at rallies and provides politically persecuted citizens with legal assistance. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

EU Agency Calls For Longer-Term Prospects For Ukrainian Refugees

EU governments should make preparations to integrate refugees from Ukraine permanently, according to the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights. The current aid measures should be better aimed at the women and children who make up the majority of refugees, the agency said in its annual report in Vienna on June 8. The call comes as the Kremlin's full-scale war on Ukraine, launched in February 2022, rages on. Since then some 8.3 million people have fled Ukraine, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR. Of those, some 5.1 million have temporary protection under special arrangements without them having to apply for asylum in the EU, Switzerland, and Norway.

Pakistan's Imran Khan Appealing To Courts To Avoid Second Arrest

Police officers escort former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (center) as he arrives at the high court in Islamabad on May 12.

Ousted Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan was due to appeal to several courts for bail on June 8 on a growing list of charges against him in a bid to avert his arrest, which could risk a repeat of violent protests by his supporters. The 70-year-old former cricket hero, who became prime minister in 2018, has been embroiled in a confrontation with the powerful military since he was ousted in a no-confidence vote last year. Khan's May 9 arrest on corruption charges, which he denies, sparked protests by his supporters who ransacked military facilities.


Zelenskiy Visits Areas Hit By Flooding As Rescue Efforts Under Way In Southern Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (left) thanked rescuers on June 8 as he visited a crossing point for those evacuated from flooded areas in the southern region of Kherson.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has visited the southern region of Kherson where rescue teams are working to save thousands of people trapped by catastrophic flooding caused by the rupture of a major dam on the Dnieper River as Russian shelling nearby further frays residents' nerves.

Zelenskiy thanked rescuers and volunteers on June 8 as he visited a crossing point for those evacuated from flooded areas and discussed with authorities measures to alleviate the situation of the people affected and eliminate the consequences of the disaster.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

"It is important to calculate the damage and allocate funds to compensate residents affected by the disaster and develop a program to compensate for losses or relocate businesses within the Kherson region, Zelenskiy said on his Telegram channel.

"Our task is to protect lives and help people as much as possible. I thank the rescuers and volunteers! I thank everyone involved in this work!"

The rescuers' work has been hampered by additional dangers posed by continuing Russian shelling from across the river and land mines displaced by the floods.

Oleksandr Prokudin, governor of the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson, said on June 8 that the water level downstream had risen almost 6 meters (20 feet) with 600 square kilometers of the region under water, most of it on the Russia-occupied left bank of the Dnieper.

"This morning, the average level of the water is 5.61 meters. Some 600 square kilometers are under water, of which 32 percent is on the [Ukrainian-controlled] right bank and 68 percent on the [Russian-controlled] left bank," Prokudin said in a video message.

He said that as of 6 a.m. local time, almost 2,000 people had been rescued form the dangerous areas, most of them -- 1,495 -- from Kherson city's Korabel district.

The Kherson region comprises 28,461 square kilometers.

WATCH: Boat after boat of exhausted and stressed civilians arrived in the flooded streets of Kherson on June 7. Some of the people had made it here from Russian-occupied areas on the east bank of the Dnieper River.

Fleeing Floods, Ukrainians Make Perilous Boat Journeys To Safety
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As high water wreaked havoc downstream, state-owned hydroelectric power plant operator Ukrhydroenerho said the level of the huge reservoir upstream dropped by a meter over the past day as water continued to gush out through the breach in the dam.

Ukrhydroenerho chief Ihor Syrota said it would take about two months to repair the breach in the dam -- if the region is liberated from occupying Russian forces.

"We can do it and we will do it, we are already preparing today, but only after the deoccupation," Syrota told Ukrainian national television.

"It will take time -- approximately two months," he said.

It is still unclear what caused the breach, but Zelenskiy has pointed the finger at Russia as the perpetrator of an "absolutely deliberate" act.

Moscow has accused Ukraine of destroying the dam in an act of "deliberate sabotage" at the suggestion of the West. The dam had been under Russian control for more than a year when it was breached.

Russia accused Ukraine at the UN's top court June 8 of destroying the dam with artillery strikes and alleged Kyiv was led by neo-Nazis -- a claim Moscow has used to try to justify its invasion. Moscow's comments to judges at the International Court of Justice came as it denied wider allegations by Ukraine that Russia had breached terrorism laws by backing separatists in eastern Ukraine since 2014.

Ukrhydroenerho's Syrota said that such a large breach could only have been caused by powerful explosions in three different spots inside the dam.

"To blow up the dam you need to drop at least three bombs weighing half a ton in one place. This cannot be done with a single missile. It was a very powerful explosion in three places inside the station," Syrota said.

Russian forces have continued shelling Kherson and its surroundings from across the Dnieper River despite the catastrophic flooding caused by the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam upstream, Nataliya Humenyuk, head of the United Coordination Press Center of the Southern Defense Forces, said on June 8.

"Because of the continued rise in the water level, the enemy was forced to pull back 5-15 kilometers from their previous positions, and the shelling isn't so intense now, but the Beryslavskiy district (just east of Kherson city) continues to be targeted by shelling," Humenyuk told Ukrainian television.

Humenyuk also said that Russian forces jammed communications in the area around the time of the alleged blast in order to conceal it, and that some of their own troops may have been left to drown or isolated on rooftops. Her claims could not be independently verified.

On the Russia-occupied side of Kherson, the Moscow-appointed mayor of Nova Kakhovka, Vladimir Leontiev, said early on June 8 the death toll was already five people, and 41 people were injured.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters

NATO Officials 'Committed' To Ukraine Victory Ahead Of Alliance Summit Set To Discuss Enlargement

Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reaffirmed the NATO’s ultimate commitment to make Ukraine a member after the war. (file photo)

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and U.S. Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith said on June 7 that NATO funding will be a major topic at the military alliance's summit next month in Vilnius along with enlargement and security guarantees.

Smith and Stoltenberg, who took part virtually in a conference sponsored by the Center for New American Security, said members will discuss the 2 percent of GDP defense spending threshold and the need to recognize that it is a minimum for member states.

Smith vowed to continue U.S. pressure to ensure members are committing at least 2 percent of their GDP toward defense spending as agreed in the Defense Investment Pledge (DIP) created in 2014, which calls for countries to meet the 2 percent threshold by 2024.

Additionally, Smith said 2 percent “is a floor, not a ceiling,” and that future NATO plans may require further increases.

The United States is “planning roll out DIP 2.0” at the summit, Smith said, with continued pressure on NATO allies to meet and surpass the 2 percent threshold within the next few years.

The leaders of the 31 NATO countries, who are scheduled to gather July 11-12 in the Lithuanian capital, are expected also to hold critical conversations about the future of NATO, membership, and enlargement.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who has pressed NATO to allow Ukraine to join, is expected to attend the summit. He said earlier this week that Ukraine is "ready to join" and the alliance needs to make a decision about Ukrainian membership at the summit.

On NATO enlargement, Smith and Stoltenberg made it clear that there is a wide range of potential models for continued NATO contributions to Ukraine, but that the solution will likely be a compromise between the varied opinions among the allies.

“We are looking at an array of options to signal that Ukraine is advancing in its relationship with NATO,” Smith said.

Stoltenberg agreed that until Ukraine joins the alliance some discussion of security arrangements would be necessary, though he did not provide specifics on what the arrangements would be.

The NATO chief clarified that it is up to the allies and Ukraine to make the ultimate decision on when Ukraine should be allowed to join. However, he reaffirmed the NATO’s ultimate commitment to make Ukraine a member after the war.

“When this war ends, we have the framework in place to…prevent further attacks on Ukraine,” he said.

An additional area of focus at the summit will be the resource commitment for NATO allies.

The new DIP and new U.S. regional defense and deterrence plans expected to be on the summit's agenda would result in “a whole new world” for NATO allies’ clarity and level of responsibility, he said.

Both officials also emphasized the NATO commitment to Ukraine’s victory.

Asked about an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive, Stoltenberg said a Ukrainian victory as an independent, sovereign nation is a top priority of NATO, but he would not say more about Ukraine’s plans for the much-discussed counteroffensive beyond saying that the Ukrainians “have the capability to liberate Russian held lands.”

With reporting by Shelby Rayer in Washington, Reuters, and The Guardian

Belarusian Leader Pardons Russian Jailed After Forced Landing Of Commercial Flight

Sofia Sapega attends a court hearing in Hrodna in May 2022.

MINSK -- Authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka has pardoned Sofia Sapega, a Russian citizen who was serving a six-year prison term in Belarus on charges related to civil disturbances that followed a disputed 2020 presidential election.

Sapega was handed to a delegation from Russia's Far Eastern region of Primorye on June 7 after she was released from prison following Lukashenka's decree pardoning her, the BelTA state news agency said.

She thanked Lukashenka for pardoning her, allowing her to return home, and giving her a second chance, according to BelTA.

Earlier reports said the Russian and Belarusian authorities had agreed to allow Sapega to serve her prison term in Russia.

The Crisis In Belarus

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

Sapega and her then-boyfriend, dissident blogger Raman Pratasevich, were detained after their commercial flight from Athens to Vilnius was forced to land in Minsk in May 2021.

Sapega was accused of administering a channel on Telegram that published the personal data of Belarusian security forces. She was sentenced in May 2022.

Belarus said it had ordered the plane to land after an anonymous bomb threat. Evidence later revealed Belarusian officials conspired to fake the bomb threat as a pretense for diverting the plane so they could detain the two.

Pratasevich, who fled Belarus in 2019, worked as an editor at the Poland-based Nexta Live channel on Telegram that extensively covered the violent crackdown on unprecedented protests in Belarus following an August 2020 presidential election that the opposition and Western governments say was stolen by Lukashenka, who has run the country with an iron fist since 1994.

Last month, Pratasevich told journalists he had received a pardon from Lukashenka.

In early May, a Minsk court sentenced Pratasevich to eight years in prison, and his co-defendants, Stsyapan Putsila and Yan Rudzik, who were tried in absentia, to 20 years and 19 years in prison respectively, on charges stemming from their online coverage of the 2020 anti-Lukashenka protests.

Lukashenka has denied stealing the election and has since cracked down hard on the opposition, whose leading members were either jailed or forced to flee the country in fear of their safety.

With reporting by BelTA

Six Arrested In Romania, Germany, Bulgaria In Probe Of People-Smuggling Ring

Four of the arrests were made in searches of accommodation in Romania used to house migrants. (file photo)

Six people have been arrested in Romania, Germany, and Bulgaria in raids targeting a network alleged to have smuggled hundreds of migrants into Romania and Germany, officials said on June 7. Fifteen properties were searched, 11 of them in Romania, German federal police said in a statement. Four of the arrests were made in searches of accommodation in Romania used to house migrants. There was one arrest in Germany and one in Bulgaria. The suspects are accused of smuggling more than 560 people into Germany and more than 300 into Romania, according to German police.

Ukraine's Prosecutor To Provide ICC With Data On Kakhovka Dam Destruction

Local residents wait for an evacuation train at a railway station in Kherson on June 6.

Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Andriy Kostin on June 7 signed a decree on providing the prosecutor's office at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague with data related to the destruction of the Kakhovka dam. According to a statement by his office, Kostin also informed ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan about the situation caused by the dam breach. Ukrainian and Russian officials traded blame over the breach on June 6 of the Russian-controlled dam, which prompted the evacuation of thousands of local residents.

Former Kazakh President Nazarbaev's Office Being Canceled

President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev (left) and former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev in 2019

The office of former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, known as the office of the First President of Kazakhstan, will cease to exist within the next 45 days, the Central Asian nation's Finance Minister Erulan Zhamaubaev said on June 7.

According to Zhamaubaev, the closure of the office will free up to 3 billion tenges ($6,675,000) of state money, which will be used for other needs.

Zhamaubaev's statement came less than a week after the Justice Ministry said that parliament is poised to scrap an article in the Criminal Code that envisions punishment by up to five years in prison for insulting Nazarbaev.

President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev has taken a series of moves since January 2022 to push Nazarbaev, who ruled the tightly controlled former Soviet republic with an iron fist for almost three decades, further into the background following his resignation in 2019.

Though he officially stepped down as president, Nazarbaev retained sweeping powers as the head of the country's powerful Security Council. He also enjoyed substantial powers by holding the title of "elbasy."

Earlier this year, Kazakh lawmakers annulled the Law on the First President -- the Leader of the Nation (Elbasy).

Although the law was canceled, Nazarbaev himself continues to have immunity from prosecution in accordance with the law on presidents.

Even after Nazarbaev's resignation, many Kazakhs remained bitter over the oppression felt during his reign.

Those feelings came to a head in January last year when unprecedented anti-government nationwide protests were sparked by a fuel price hike.

The demonstrations unexpectedly exploded into deadly countrywide unrest over perceived corruption under the Nazarbaev regime and the cronyism that allowed his family and close friends to enrich themselves while ordinary citizens failed to share in the oil-rich nation's wealth.

Toqaev subsequently stripped Nazarbaev of his Security Council role, taking it over himself. Since then, several of Nazarbaev's relatives and allies have been pushed out of their positions or resigned. Some have been arrested on corruption charges, of whom some were handed prison terms.

On June 7, Kazakhstan's Anti-Corruption Agency said Nazarbaev's once powerful nephew, Qairat Satybaldy, who was sentenced to six years in prison in September after being found guilty of fraud and embezzlement, will hand over his property, including the Double Tree by Hilton Almaty hotel, as well as jewelry, automobiles, and cash to the state treasury to compensate damages caused by his crimes.

The agency added that investigations into Satybaldy's alleged tax evasion and money laundering activities are under way.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, KazTAG, and Tengrinews

Kazakh Opposition Politician Detained On Bribe-Taking Charge

Kazakh politician Nurzhan Altaev (file photo)

Nurzhan Altaev, the leader of Kazakhstan's unregistered El Tiregi (People's Pillar) party has been detained on a charge of taking a bribe, the Central Asian nation's Anti-Corruption Agency said on July 7. Altaev quit the ruling Nur-Otan (now called Amanat) party in 2021 and has been trying to register his party since then, accusing the Justice Ministry of refusing to do so. In April, a court in Astana sentenced Altaev to 15 days in jail on a charge of violating regulations on holding public gatherings after he openly supported protesting oil workers who demanded jobs. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, click here.

Russia Claims Ukrainian 'Saboteur' Group Blew Up Ammonia Pipeline, Kyiv Yet To Comment

The Tolyatti-Odesa pipeline is the world's largest conduit of ammonia. (file photo)

Russia's Defense Ministry claims a Ukrainian "saboteur group" blew up a segment of the Tolyatti-Odesa pipeline, the world's largest ammonia conduit, in Ukraine's Kharkiv region. Kyiv has not commented on the statement but previously it has said that the pipeline has come under repeated Russian shelling. Ammonia is a main ingredient in production of nitrate fertilizer, of which Russia is one of the world's leading producers.

Banks In Kazakhstan, Armenia, Hong Kong Block Payments For Electronics Deliveries To Russia

EU's special sanctions envoy, David O'Sullivan, had publicly questioned the final destination of many goods imported to Kazakhstan, Armenia, and several other nations. (file photo)

Banks in Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Hong Kong have started blocking payments for deliveries of electronics to Russia to avoid U.S. sanctions for helping Moscow evade Western penalties imposed over its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Kommersant newspaper cited sources as saying on June 7. In March, the United States said Russian companies evaded sanctions using intermediaries in other countries. The same month, the EU's special sanctions envoy, David O'Sullivan, publicly questioned the final destination of many goods imported to Kazakhstan, Armenia, and several other nations. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Siberia.Realities, click here.

Belgrade To Prod Ethnic Serbs In North Kosovo To Vote In Elections

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (file photo)

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said he will try to use his influence to persuade Serbs in northern Kosovo to take part in elections, the U.S. envoy for the Western Balkans, Gabriel Escobar, told journalists on June 7 in Belgrade.

Escobar was speaking after he and the EU's special envoy for dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, Miroslav Lajcak. held talks with Kosovar and Serbian leaders in Pristina and Belgrade.

The U.S. and EU envoys were trying to ease tensions in northern Kosovo over the installation of ethnic Albanian mayors that triggered clashes last week between ethnic Serbs and NATO peacekeepers, leaving dozens -- including the peacekeepers -- injured.

Kosovo Serb Blockade Turns Violent, KFOR Troops Injured
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The ethnic Albanian mayors were installed with the help of Kosovar police in three towns with an overwhelming ethnic Serbian majority -- Zvecan, Leposaviq, and Zubin Potok -- following by-elections in April with a turnout of under 3.5 percent amid a boycott by ethnic Serbs.

"We must immediately de-escalate the situation. This means that we hope the [ethnic Albanian] mayors will not try to [enter] the municipal buildings and [Kosovar] police units will withdraw -- but we want to be sure that [ethnic Serb] protesters will also withdraw," Escobar said.

The West has increased diplomatic pressure on Kosovo to reduce tensions in the northern part of the country and organize new local elections.

"If there are new elections, and we hope there will be, we want Serbs to participate in them without preconditions," said Escobar.

He added that the biggest challenge for the authorities in Belgrade is to convince the local Serbs in the north of Kosovo to return to the institutions, and that it must be ensured that the representatives of the Serbs who participate in the elections and institutions in Kosovo are "welcome."

The U.S. envoy also warned that Kosovo has to ensure that Serb-majority municipalities in its northern part enjoy greater autonomy if it wants to make progress toward eventual NATO and EU integration.

Kosovo is a majority ethnic Albanian former Serbian province. Kosovo declared independence in 2008, but Serbia as well as its traditional ally, Russia, has refused to recognize it.

With reporting by Reuters

Richard Branson Calls For Release From Prison Of Iranian Rapper Salehi

Imprisoned Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi (file photo)

Billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist Richard Branson has called for Iranian authorities to release popular rapper Toomaj Salehi, whose health has reportedly deteriorated since he was arrested during Tehran’s clampdown on nationwide anti-government protests in October. "As his life hangs in the balance after 8 months+ of imprisonment and torture, we all must give our voice to him and call for his release," Branson said in a tweet. In November, Iran’s judiciary charged Salehi with spreading “corruption on earth,” a charge that could see him sentenced to death. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Radio Farda, click here.

Local Official Throws Molotov Cocktails At Military Recruitment Center In Russia

A local official in the Russian city of Vladimir, 200 kilometers east of Moscow, was detained on June 7 after she threw Molotov cocktails at a military recruitment center. Media reports identified the woman as Zhanna Romanovskaya, a 55-year-old official from the local Architecture and Construction Ministry. Since Russia launched its ongoing unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, dozens of military recruitment centers have been targeted by arsonists, but Romanovskaya appears to be the first official to have done so. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

EU Launches Case Against Poland Over 'Russian Influence' Panel

The announcement of the infringement procedure came despite Polish President Andrzej Duda saying last week he would propose amending the law. (file photo)

The European Commission said on June 7 that it is launching legal action against Poland over its creation of a controversial body probing "Russian influence," which is seen as targeting the opposition. The announcement of the infringement procedure came despite Polish President Andrzej Duda saying last week that he would propose amending the law on the panel after criticism from the EU's executive and the United States.

Poland Deports Former FSB Officer To Russia After Rejecting His Asylum Request

Former FSB oofficer Emran Navruzbekov (file photo)

Poland has deported to Russia a former officer of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Emran Navruzbekov, who fled the country in 2017 and claimed the FSB fabricated terrorist cases against residents of the North Caucasus. The Vot Tak media project quoted Navruzbekov on June 6 as saying Polish authorities had handed him to Russian officials in the Kaliningrad exclave. Polish authorities rejected Navruzbekov’s asylum request, citing security issues. Navruzbekov's wife said earlier that she and the couple's children were granted political asylum in Poland. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Caucasus.Realities, click here.

Norway Rescues Russian By Helicopter Near North Pole

The dramatic Arctic Circle took place on June 6. (file photo)

Norway rescued a Russian in need of emergency medical assistance on board a scientific vessel stuck in ice near the North Pole in a spectacular helicopter operation, its rescue services said on June 7. The evacuation took place on June 6 in the evening from the Russian ship Severny Polyus located at the 86th parallel north, some 444 kilometers from the North Pole. "It's the extreme limit of what the helicopter can do" in terms of range, a Norwegian spokesman told the AFP news agency. The operation was carried out despite a deterioration of relations between the two countries since the start of Russia's war in Ukraine.

NATO Allies Prepare Unprecedented Air Deployment Exercise Over Europe In Show Of Force To Russia

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year has jolted NATO into preparing in earnest for the possibility of an attack on its territory. (file photo)

Germany is preparing to host the biggest air deployment exercise in NATO’s history, a show of force intended to impress allies and potential adversaries such as Russia, German and American officials said. Air Defender 23 exercise starting next week will see 10,000 participants and 250 aircraft from 25 nations respond to a simulated attack on a NATO member country. While the drill, which is being led by Germany, has been planned since 2018, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year has jolted NATO into preparing in earnest for the possibility of an attack on its territory. To read the original story by AP, click here.

Wife, Teenage Son Of North Korean Diplomat Go Missing In Russia's Far East

The woman and teenage boy reportedly went missing in the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok. (file photo)

Russia's Investigative Committee said on June 7 that it has started investigating the disappearance of the wife and teenage son of the North Korean Council Choi En Nam in the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok. Media reports quoted sources as identifying the missing persons as Kim Kum-Sun, 43, and Park Kwon-Chu, who went missing on June 4. Some investigators suggested that the woman and her son are on their way to defect to South Korea via China. Some reports say the two used a taxi to reach the city of Khabarovsk, from where they took a plane to the city of Krasnoyarsk. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Siberia.Realities, click here.

Another Resident Of Russia's Far East Detained On Treason Charge

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said on June 7 that a resident of the country’s Far East had been detained on a charge of high treason amid a growing number of such cases in recent months. According to the FSB, the suspect, whose identity was not disclosed, had allegedly passed classified information about law enforcement and military infrastructure to Ukrainian intelligence. In the last five months, 20 treason probes have been launched, while in 2022, the number of such cases launched in the country was 22. Almost half of the probes were launched against residents of Russia's Far East. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Siberia.Realities, click here.

Jury Finds Moscow Anti-War Activist Not Guilty Of Attempted Murder

Rusian activist Vitaly Koltsov (file photo)

A jury at the Moscow City Court has found 45-year-old Moscow activist, Vitaly Koltsov, not guilty of attempting to murder 12 Russian National Guard officers. However, the jury concluded on June 6 that Koltsov was guilty of an arson attack but recommended a lenient punishment. The charge against Koltsov, who went on trial on May 10, stems from his throwing two Molotov cocktails at a bus that was parked near Teatralnaya Square in Moscow after it brought National Guard troops to the site to prevent anti-government rallies a year ago. Koltsov was found guilty of deliberately setting fire to a police vehicle. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.


Ukraine Forced To Cope With Disastrous Flooding After Rupture Of Kakhovka Dam

Residents are evacuated from a flooded neighborhood in Kherson, Ukraine, on June 7.

Thousands of people sought shelter after escaping rising floodwater amid an unfolding humanitarian and ecological disaster caused by the rupture of a major dam on the Dnieper River in southern Ukraine.

Ukrainian rescue teams used boats on June 7 to rescue residents from their flooded homes a day after the collapse of the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam and the emptying of its reservoir.

It is still unclear what caused the breach, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy again on June 7 pointed the finger at Russia as the perpetrator of an "absolutely deliberate" act. Russia, in turn, has blamed Kyiv for the destruction.

"The situation in the occupied part of Kherson region is absolutely catastrophic," Zelenskiy said on Twitter. "The occupiers simply abandoned people in these terrible conditions. Without rescue, without water, just on the rooftops in flooded communities."

“I woke up several hours ago, and I realized that the first floor of my building is under water,” Volodymyr Barsak, 66, told RFE/RL as he stood meters away from a flooded district of Kherson city wearing only black swimming trunks.

Speaking after being rescued from his third-floor flat, Barsak was not sure what he would do next but said, “This is nothing compared to the oppressive atmosphere of Russian occupation.”

Mykola Blonskiy stood nearby with a puppy in his hand and a box of chirping yellow chicks. He left his dacha on an island in the river just moments earlier with his wife, Neonilla, who managed to take only a thick old Bible with her.

"We hoped the water wouldn't reach us, and we ended up climbing on a roof," he said.

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Hundreds of thousands of people have been left without normal access to drinking water, he said, adding that Ukrainian services are involved but can only help on the territory controlled by Ukraine.

Desperate residents of flooded Russian-occupied towns are begging for help, according to news reports describing the situation in Oleshkiy, opposite Kherson on the Dnieper River. Residents tried to flee immediately after the dam ruptured, but Russian troops blocked them and offered them "evacuation only to the territory of Russia," the head of the city's military administration said.

In comments to German and U.S. media, Zelenskiy expressed shock over what he said was the failure of the United Nations and the Red Cross to provide help, but he added that Russian soldiers were shooting from a distance while rescue attempts were in progress.

The Kakhovka dam -- which is 30 meters tall and 3.2 kilometers long -- is part a vital route for transport and irrigation, as well as supplying water to Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, located some 150 kilometers to the northeast.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that while water levels in had fallen in ponds that are crucial in supplying cooling water to the plant, "back-up options are available" and there is "no short-term risk to nuclear safety and security."

But IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi expressed concern over how the situation could play out in the next few weeks, telling Sky News in an interview that "in the worst case without cooling" there is a risk of an accident with tragic environmental consequences. The situation is serious, he said, because a nuclear power plant requires guarantees when it comes to cooling water.

Fears of a humanitarian disaster grew as more and more countries expressed concern over the fallout from the dam’s destruction. European Council President Charles Michel called it a "war crime" and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg condemned it as "outrageous."

French President Emmanuel Macron said France would send aid in response to the crisis and condemned the "atrocious act" of the dam's destruction.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who is on a visit to the United States, could not say definitively whether Russia was responsible for the destruction.

"If it does prove to be intentional, it will represent a new low. It's an appalling act of barbarism on Russia's part," Sunak told British broadcaster ITV.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said it was "very concerned" about social, economic, and environmental impact from destruction of dam.

Ukraine's Energy Ministry said on June 7 that as many as 20,000 people in the Kherson region had been left without electricity in the aftermath of the destruction of the dam. Two solar power plants were also flooded in the Mykolayiv region, the ministry added.

Oleksandr Kharchenko, a Kyiv-based energy analyst, told RFE/RL that the flooding had damaged electricity transmission lines and heating stations that supply residential buildings in the winter.

He said the damage to those pieces of critical infrastructure alone would likely total in the hundreds of millions of dollars, but a more precise estimate would only be possible in a few weeks after the water recedes.

Adding to the crisis, the Ukrainian Health Ministry on June 7 warned about the possible contamination of water in wells, rivers, and lakes in the flooded area.

"Chemicals, agents of infectious diseases from cemeteries, latrines, and landfills may end up in wells and open bodies of water in the flooded area," the ministry said on Telegram, also warning against the consumption of fish from the area.

Andriy Yermak, Zelenskiy's chief of staff, said the destruction of the dam had killed a huge number of fish in the Dnipropetrovsk region. Yermak tweeted a video showing what he said was an "ecocide" of fish that died after the dam ruptured.

There was no independent verification of the video.

Volodymyr Barsak, Kherson resident
Volodymyr Barsak, Kherson resident

In the Moscow-controlled part of Kherson, Russian-installed authorities imposed a state of emergency on June 7, the TASS news agency reported.

The Russian-installed mayor of Nova Kakhovka, Vladimir Leontyev, said that "thousands of animals" at the Nizhnedniprovskiy National Nature Park had been killed in the flooding, along with other domesticated and farm animals in the region.

WATCH: Boat after boat of exhausted and stressed civilians arrived in the flooded streets of Kherson on June 7. Some of the people had made it here from Russian-occupied areas on the east bank of the Dnieper River.

Fleeing Floods, Ukrainians Make Perilous Boat Journeys To Safety
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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres labeled the destruction of the dam a "monumental humanitarian, economic, and ecological catastrophe" in a statement but stopped short of blaming Russia directly.

The UN's humanitarian agency said it was gravely concerned about the destruction of the dam and the severe humanitarian impact on hundreds of thousands of people on both sides of the front line.

UN aid chief Martin Griffiths told an emergency UN Security Council meeting late on June 6 that thousands of people in southern Ukraine were facing "the loss of homes, food, safe water, and livelihoods."

Russia has denied it carried out the attack, with the Kremlin instead calling it "deliberate sabotage" by Kyiv.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 7 accused Ukraine of destroying the dam at the suggestion of the West despite the dam having been under Russian control when it ruptured.

With reporting by By Aleksander Palikot in Kherson, AP, Politico, and Reuters

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