Former Belarusian Professor Says Political Prisoners Abused For Anti-War Protest
A former Belarusian professor who was arrested for 15 days for allegedly taking part in an anti-war protest in Minsk says detainees were mistreated, including being crammed into a cold cell.
Belarus, an ally of Russia, has banned criticism of Moscow's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
Natalya Dulina, who taught at the Linguistics University, said she was placed into a two-person holding cell at the notorious Akrestsina detention center with 16 other people and not fed until her hearing three days later.
She slept on the floor, she told RFE/RL in an interview following her release.
RFE/RL could not immediately confirm her account but it resembles stories told by former inmates who were held at the same detention center for participating in the political protests that erupted following the disputed 2020 presidential elections.
Dulina said she was detained on February 28 outside a Minsk train station where a protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine was to be held.
Dulina said she was getting ready to take a train to a Minsk suburb when she saw police violently detain a young man who arrived to join the protest.
She said she flew into a rage, yelled at the police, and was taken into custody on charges of participating in a rally that had yet to take place.
While the police did release some detainees who could show they had a train ticket, Dulina said they kept her because she had previously been detained for taking part in political protests.
Dulina was among the thousands of Belarusians arrested during the series of demonstrations that followed the August 2020 presidential election.
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.
Authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has ruled Belarus since 1994, claimed he won the election in a landslide, triggering the largest wave of protests in the country since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
In their February 28 protocol detailing her detention at the train station, Belarusian police accused Dulina of chanting "No to war" and "Glory to Ukraine," something she vehemently denies.
She said a "witness" took the stand at her hearing three days later who could neither recall where she was standing at the train station or who was next to her. The judge, nonetheless, sentenced her to 15 days in jail.
Dulina said she was then transferred to a six-person cell that contained 24 other women.
While most were other political prisoners, the group did include a homeless person and a woman accused of murder, she said.
Dulina said the window on the prison door was kept shut and it was hard to breathe inside the cell.
Inmates were denied packages from family except prescription drugs, she said.
Dulina recalled a guard banging one prisoner's head against a wall after she made requests for medicine and toiletry.
She said "nonpolitical" prisoners were treated better. They were given mattresses with sheets, were allowed to leave the cell for walks in fresh air, and permitted to take showers.
Political prisoners were subjected to roll calls at 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., she said, disrupting their sleep.
Dulina said she and others in her cell caught a severe cold by the end of their 15-day sentence due to the poor conditions.
The U.S. State Department in December slapped visa bans on two heads of the Akrestsina detention center for their involvement in "gross violations" of human rights following the 2020 presidential election.
In a statement, the State Department accused Ihar Kenyukh and Yauheni Shapetska of involvement in "the torture and/or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment of detainees" during Lukashenka's brutal crackdown on dissent after the August 2020 vote.
Thousands Of Striking Romanian Teachers March In Bucharest For Higher Pay, More Investment
Tens of thousands of striking Romanian primary and secondary school teachers marched to the government building in downtown Bucharest on May 30, calling for better pay, more investment in education, and a reform of the country's education system. Union organizers have estimated that 15,000-20,000 teachers are attending the protest march, which will then head toward Cotroceni Palace to call for a meeting of their representatives with President Klaus Iohannis. Union leaders have rejected the government's compromise offers during several rounds of negotiations since the strike started on May 22. Health-care employees and railway workers have also signaled that they are preparing to go on strike. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Romanian Service, click here.
Russian Drone Attack Damages High-Rise Apartment Building In Kyiv
At least one person was killed, several wounded, as Russia launched a fresh wave of drone attacks on Kyiv in the pre-dawn hours of May 30. According to authorities, 29 out of 31 Iranian-made drones were shot down by air defenses; however, falling debris caused fires in several districts of the Ukrainian capital, including a high-rise apartment block. Its upper floors were decimated, windows shattered throughout, and parked cars damaged below.
Japarov Says Former Kyrgyz Leader Bakiev To Be Arrested If He Returns
Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov says the government has no plans to invite former President Kurmanbek Bakiev to the country, but if he does try to come back he will be arrested given there is an outstanding criminal case against him.
Speaking in an interview with the state news agency Kabar on May 30, Japarov said a court sentence handed to Bakiev was still in effect and there was currently no legal basis to annul it.
“There is a decision by the court. He was sentenced to 30 years. That decision is still in force today. If he comes, of course, he will be arrested. We all must learn to live under the law,” Japarov said.
Bakiev, 73, fled Kyrgyzstan for Belarus with members of his family following anti-government protests in 2010. A Bishkek court sentenced him in absentia to life in prison after convicting him of involvement in the killing of almost 100 protesters during the uprising.
In Kyrgyzstan, many people see their former leaders as stained by corruption and, in some cases, with blood on their hands.
Japarov has moved recently to try and reconcile differences over the former leaders, including holding an unprecedented summit in February that saw all five of the country’s previous presidents since Kyrgyzstan regained independence 31 years ago meet with the current head of state in a bid to foster forgiveness and unity.
The summit has raised speculation that Japarov is looking to allow former leaders the freedom to return without facing legal consequences.
But inside the Central Asian nation, Bakiev, Kyrgyzstan’s second president, remains arguably the biggest pariah.
Japarov said in the interview with Karab that he feels the sentence should be annulled, but that’s not a decision he can make at the moment.
“I want to cancel the court's decisions. But I have no right either. I only have the right to grant or refuse clemency if Kurmanbek Bakiyev asks for mercy.,” Japarov said.
“I have to make a decision whether to grant it or not, taking into account the opinion of the people who suffered in 2010," he added.
Pro-Imran Khan Pakistani TV Journalist Returns Home After Being Freed
A prominent Pakistani television journalist who went missing last week, apparently because of his public support for former Prime Minister Imran Khan, returned home early on May 30 after being released by his captors, his family and his employer said. Sami Abrahim’s brother, Ali Raza, took to Twitter to confirm his release. BOL TV confirmed his release in a news announcement. Abrahim went missing last week when eight people in four vehicles intercepted his car on his way back home from work in the capital, Islamabad, and took him away, according to his family and BOL TV where Abrahim works.
Borrell Urges Kosovo To 'Immediately De-Escalate' Situation After Violence In North
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has urged Kosovar authorities and ethnic Serb protesters to "immediately de-escalate" tensions in Kosovo's north following a day of violence that led to the intervention of KFOR forces, prompting dozens of injuries among troops and protesters.
Kosovo police meanwhile said that the situation in the ethnic Serb majority towns of Zvecan, Leposaviq, and Zubin Potok was calm on the morning of May 30 but local ethnic Serbs have warned that the protests will continue.
"We recorded no incidents. The police are performing their duties according to the commitments they have," Veton Elshani from the Kosovo police told RFE/RL.
"The EU urges Kosovo authorities and the protesters to immediately and unconditionally de-escalate the situation. We expect the Parties to act responsibly and find a political solution through the Dialogue immediately," Borrell wrote on Twitter on May 30.
On May 29, NATO-led KFOR troops dispersed ethnic Serb demonstrators who had ignored warnings to move away from the municipal headquarters in Zvecan as violent clashes broke out in the standoff between majority local Serbs and ethnic Albanian authorities, leading to dozens of injuries among troops and protesters.
Some 25 members of KFOR were injured during the "containment of protesting demonstrators," the peacekeeping force said in a statement.
"Unprovoked attacks on NATO units are unacceptable and KFOR will continue to fulfill its mandate impartially," the statement quoted the commander of the KFOR mission, General Angelo Michele, as saying.
NATO condemned the attack in a statement and urged all sides to "refrain from actions that further inflame tensions, and to engage in dialogue."
Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said in a tweet that 11 Italian soldiers were injured, three seriously, and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni condemned the attacks on KFOR troops.
Hungary's Defense Minister said that more than 20 Hungarian soldiers were injured.
Zvecan, a town of some 16,500 people, is one of three hotspots in northern Kosovo where authorities from Pristina have attempted to install ethnic Albanian mayors following boycotted elections that raised the ire of local ethnic Serb communities and neighboring Serbia.
The mayors were all sworn in despite a turnout of under 3.5 percent in the April 23 by-elections in those four areas amid a Serb boycott.
Crowds of several hundred people had gathered outside municipal headquarters in Zvecan, Leposavic, and Zubin Potok, with alarm sirens sounding and pepper spray and bottles flying, as local and international pressure mounted for Kosovar officials to de-escalate the situation.
KFOR soldiers are attempting to maintain cordons to keep the two sides apart in the three municipalities and to prevent the crowds from overrunning the buildings where the so-called “parallel” administrations backed by neighboring Serbia operate.
Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti called for calm on May 29 and suggested that both Pristina and Belgrade need to get back to their commitments expressed in a three-month-old verbal agreement to travel on a "path to normalization" between the Balkan neighbors that reportedly included refraining from threats or the use of force.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, whose country doesn’t recognize Kosovo and who has put Serbia’s military on high alert, said in a national address late on May 29 that he would hold a meeting with representatives of the so-called Quint group early on May 30.
U.S. and EU envoys have condemned Kosovo’s decision to forcibly install the mayors in northern Kosovo to try to calm the situation to avoid further turbulence in Europe at a time when Russia is waging war against Ukraine.
U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo Jeffrey Hovenier emerged from a meeting on May 29 with Kosovar President Vjosa Osmani citing a "shared concern of the prospect of violence and the need to de-escalate."
He said "we're deeply concerned" and expressed a willingness to meet with Kurti "at his convenience."
Ethnic Serbs compose around 5 percent of Kosovo’s 1.8 million residents but are the dominant majority in the four northern regions.
With reporting by AFP, dpa, and AP
Russia Launches New Deadly Air Strikes On Kyiv; Drones Hit Moscow Buildings
Russia launched a fresh wave of drone attacks on Kyiv early on May 30, killing at least one person and wounding several others, Ukrainian authorities said, adding that the most of the drones were shot down by Ukraine's air defenses.
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The mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, said on Telegram that fires broke out in several districts of the capital, and falling debris set a high-rise building on fire in Kyiv's Holosiyivskiy district.
"One person died. In total, four victims were hospitalized in the Holosiyivskiy district. Medics provided help on the spot," Klitschko wrote, adding that 20 people were evacuated.
The acting head of Ukraine's National Police, Ivan Vyhivskiy, said on Telegram that 13 people were wounded in the attack on Kyiv and its surroundings in addition to the person who died -- a young woman.
"Nine people were wounded in Kyiv, and a 33-year-old woman died. Four citizens were injured in the Kyiv region," the press service of the National Police quoted Vyhivskiy as saying.
The Ukrainian military said the attack solely consisted of Iranian-made drones and it lasted from shortly before midnight until 4:30 a.m. local time.
"A total of 31 kamikaze drones attacked from the north and south. The air defense forces destroyed 29 drones," the military said.
Almost all drones were shot down on the outskirts of Kyiv and above the capital.
Bolstered by sophisticated Western-supplied equipment, Ukrainian air defenses have been adept at thwarting Russian air attacks -- both drones and aircraft missiles.
Russia has intensified missile and drone strikes on Ukraine after a lull of nearly two months, targeting military facilities and supplies with waves of attacks several times a week.
The capital's military administration said only Iranian-made drones were involved in the May 30 attack -- the 17th on Kyiv this month.
Meanwhile, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin reported on his Telegram channel that a drone attack took place in the Russian capital on the morning of May 30.
"Several buildings suffered minor damage" in the attack, Sobyanin said. "No one has been seriously wounded," he added.
Telegram channels report that more than 10 drones were shot down in the Moscow region on the morning of May 30.
An emergency services representative told RIA Novosti that drones hit two residential buildings in Moscow. The information could not be independently verified.
Russia's Investigative Committee said no one was injured.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak told the "Breakfast Show" YouTube channel on May 30 that the country had nothing to do with the drone attack.
"Of course we are pleased to watch and predict an increase in the number of attacks. But, of course, we have nothing directly to do with this," he said. Ukraine has denied similar attacks in the past.
The latest attack on Kyiv came a day after Russian forces carried out rare daytime air strikes on the Ukrainian capital on May 29.
Eyewitnesses said they heard at least 10 explosions in Kyiv, as the sky above the city filled with blast clouds and smoke trails.
The city’s military administration said that air defenses shot down all 11 Iskander missiles launched in the daytime attack. The claim could not be independently verified.
Speaking to RFE/RL near a metro station in Kyiv’s Podil district, several locals said air raids have become the reality of their everyday lives since the war began.
“These attacks are yet another problem we have to deal with because of this war," pensioner Ivan Chihir said.
A military officer who didn’t want to give his name told RFE/RL that the latest Russian attack on Kyiv was a “failure” because Ukraine’s defense system managed to repel it completely.
"It's Russia's last breath," he said.
Elsewhere, the governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine’s Kharkiv Province, said on May 29 that Ukrainian forces were shelling several border settlements.
Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Telegram that two industrial facilities in the border town of Shebekino had been shelled and four employees had been wounded.
Several villages were left without electricity in the aftermath of the shelling, he added.
Belgorod has repeatedly come under attacks from Ukrainian forces since the Russian invasion began in February 2022.
With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP
Drone Attack Causes 'Minor Damage' In Moscow, Says Mayor
A drone attack took place in Moscow on the morning of May 30, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on his Telegram channel. As a result of the attack, "several buildings suffered minor damage," Sobyanin said. "At the moment, no one has been seriously wounded," Sobyanin added. Telegram channels report that more than ten drones were shot down in the Moscow region on the morning of May 30. An emergency services representative told RIA Novosti that drones hit two residential buildings in Moscow. According to him, there were no casualties. The information could not be independently verified. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.
Belarus Has No Immediate Plans To Adopt Russian Currency, Lukashenka Says
Belarus and Russia have no plans to adopt a joint currency in the near future, Belarus's strongman leader announced on May 29. Alyaksandr Lukashenka, speaking at a meeting with the head of Russia's central bank, said that introducing the Russian ruble in Belarus would not be "an easy process," and that the authorities in Minsk had no intentions so far of doing so. "When it comes to creating a single currency and so on, this is not an easy process and, probably, not [one] for today," Lukashenka said during talks with Bank of Russia chief Elvira Nabiullina. To read the original story by AP, click here.
Zelenskiy Pays Tribute To Americans Who Fought For Ukraine In Memorial Day Message
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on May 29 thanked U.S. citizens who have fought for Kyiv following Russia's full-scale invasion of February 2022. Speaking in English in a video address marking the U.S. Memorial Day holiday, Zelenskiy said it was important to remember the price paid by many to "give light to freedom." "We Ukrainians will always be grateful to the U.S. and every American for extraordinary support which helps us [fight] Russian tyranny." An unknown number of Americans have volunteered along with other foreign nationals to fight alongside Ukrainian soldiers. Casualty figures are not known.
Kosovo Ex-President Thaci, On Trial For War Crimes, Allowed To Visit Sick Mother
Former Kosovar President Hashim Thaci, who is on trial in The Hague on 10 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, was in Kosovo on May 29 to visit his sick mother, the court said. The Kosovo Specialist Chambers said that "due to compelling humanitarian grounds...the Trial Panel has instructed the Registry to manage a custodial visit to Kosovo for Hashim Thaci to meet family." Thaci remained in the custody of the Specialist Chambers, it added. Local media reported that Thaci, 55, who has been in custody since November 2020, was in the village of Buroje at his mother's house. To read the original story by AP, click here.
Ukrainian Lawmakers Approve Sanctions On Iran For 50 Years
Ukrainian lawmakers on May 29 approved a bill proposed by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to impose sanctions on Iran for 50 years. The sanctions, among other restrictions, include a complete ban on trade with Iran, investments, and transferring technologies. The restrictions also forbid Iranian transit across Ukrainian territory as well as the use of its airspace and prevents the withdrawal of Iranian assets from Ukraine. The bill has already been approved by the National Security and Defense Council. Kyiv has accused Tehran of providing Moscow with military drones for use in Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which Iran has vehemently denied. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, click here.
Iran Wants To Upgrade Syria's Air Defense
Iran wants to boost Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's military by upgrading the country's air-defense system, the Fars news agency reported on May 29. In an interview with the news agency, Iranian General Said Hamzah Kalandari said that although Syria had its air-defense capabilities, the "Syrian brothers" will be supported with equipment and tactical upgrades. The general, who is active in the Defense Ministry, said the aim was to contain Israeli attacks. Along with Russia, Iran is Assad's most important ally. Iran has been expanding its political and military relations in the region since the 1990s.
House Arrest Of Orthodox Metropolitan Pavlo Extended In Kyiv
A court in Kyiv on May 29 extended until at least July 1 the pretrial house arrest of Metropolitan Pavlo of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), a former abbot at the famed Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery. Pavlo, who is accused of inciting religious enmity and denying Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine, was sent to house arrest for at least two months on April 1 after Ukraine's Security Service searched his residence. Although the UOC officially cut its traditional ties with the Russian Orthodox patriarch in Moscow, it has been accused of maintaining links to Russia. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, click here.
Ukrainian Lawmakers Move Victory Day From May 9 To May 8
In another move to distance their country from Russia, Ukrainian lawmakers on May 29 approved a bill proposed by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to set May 8 as the Day of Remembrance and Victory over Nazism in World War II, instead of the Soviet-inherited celebrations of Victory Day on May 9. Most European countries celebrate Victory in Europe Day on May 8 to mark the anniversary of Nazi Germany's defeat in 1945. May 9 will be a working day in Ukraine but marked as the Day of Europe. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.
Poland Puts Sanctions On 365 Belarusians Over Journalist's Jailing
Poland has imposed sanctions on a further 365 Belarusian citizens over the imprisonment of a journalist of Polish origin in Belarus, the Interior Ministry said on May 29, amid rising tensions between Warsaw and Minsk. Poland has been an important refuge for opponents of authoritarian Belarusian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka. On May 26, a Belarusian court upheld an earlier decision to sentence journalist Andrzej Poczobut to eight years in prison. Poczobut was jailed on charges of encouraging actions aimed at harming the national security of Belarus, trying to rehabilitate Nazism, and inciting ethnic hostility. Poland says the charges are unjust and politically motivated. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Iranian Women Reveal Degrading Tactics Employed By Security Authorities
Several female Iranian activists are following the lead of women's rights leader Mojgan Keshavarz by speaking out about degrading and dehumanizing methods -- including sexual harassment -- being employed by staff at the country's prisons.
Keshavarz revealed on social media on May 28 that she had been forced to undress completely after being arrested in 2019 and forced to spread her legs and sit and stand at the direction of guards under the pretense of ensuring she had not concealed a mobile phone inside her body. During the ordeal, she said she was photographed.
Keshavarz's narrative was echoed soon afterward on social media by other women who said they had been subjected to similar acts.
Zeynab Zaman, a civil activist who was recently detained, disclosed that she was forced to completely undress twice -- once at the detention center and once at the court -- to supposedly ensure she wasn't smuggling anything.
"The most ridiculous, illogical, and stupid reason for normalizing the suffering of others, is to say that it is the same everywhere! Wherever suffering is imposed on a human being, it's wrong, it's inhumane, it's filthy, it's a crime," she wrote of her experience.
Several political and civil prisoners have repeatedly reported inhumane and illegal behavior toward prisoners in Iran and have called for institutions and international organizations to devote attention to the situation in Iranian prisons.
The number of females detained in Iran has grown since the death of Mahsa Amini in September while in police custody for an alleged head scarf offense.
Women have been at the forefront of the unrest that Amini's death unlocked in Iran, posing one of the biggest challenges to authorities since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Gender equality activist Nasibeh Shamsaei described similar experiences, saying security officials forced her to undress at a time when she was menstruating, describing the tactics as "humiliation" and "psychological torture."
Prominent Iranian actress Mahnaz Afshar said the tactics are not new.
Afshar said that several years ago, she was summoned to an intelligence office following the release of a video featuring a "naked" girl, falsely identified as her. A female agent at the office forced Afshar to strip completely for photographs to prove it wasn't her. Afshar described the ordeal as a "violation of my spirit and psyche."
She added that she fears others will be like her, hiding the experience while feeling "shame" and being gripped by the fear that the pictures of her would be misused.
Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda
Families Of Executed Iranian Protesters Say The Government Continues To Pressure Them
The family of executed protester Majid Kazemi says Iranian authorities have launched a campaign against it, suspending Kazemi's father's retirement benefits and firing his sister from her job just 10 days after his death sentence was carried out.
Mohammad Hashemi, Kazemi's cousin, also revealed on Twitter on May 29 that Kazemi's brothers, Mehdi and Hossein, remain in the custody of the Islamic republic's security institutions after speaking out and pleading for a stay of the death penalty prior to his May 19 execution.
According to a correspondent for RFE/RL’s Radio Farda, Amir Kazemi, another cousin of Majid, confirmed that the family remains in the dark about the whereabouts and condition of Majid's brothers. Amir Kazemi suggested that the arrest of these family members -- his sister was also detained but later released -- was an attempt to prevent a memorial service for Majid Kazemi.
Following the execution of Kazemi and two other young protesters, the government has ratcheted up pressure on their families. The executions sparked widespread public outrage, with rights groups and several governments criticizing the authorities for conducting hasty trials, forcing "confessions," and denying the accused due process.
Majid Kazemi, Saleh Mirehashemi, and Saeed Yaqoubi were arrested for the alleged killing of two Basij paramilitary force members and a law enforcement officer during protests in November 2022.
However, based on a picture of the court verdict made public by the defendants' families, the death sentences for the three were not issued for murder, but instead for "waging war against God," a crime often applied to political dissidents.
The Basij members died at the height of widespread protests ignited by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September 2022 while she was in police custody for allegedly breaking rules concerning the Islamic head scarf, known as a hijab. All three said they were innocent of the charges and were being made scapegoats for the deaths.
Saleh Mirehashemi's mother released an audio file on social media three days after the executions saying her husband had been handcuffed by government forces and prevented from holding a ceremony honoring their son. Videos have also emerged showing security forces stationed around Saeed Yaqoubi's house in recent nights.
Authorities warned for months after unrest broke out following Amini's death that they would react harshly to any dissent. Lawmakers have pushed the judiciary to render the death penalty in trials for those arrested during the protests, which are seen as one of the biggest threats to the Islamic leadership since it took power in 1979.
So far, Iranian authorities have followed through with their threats by executing at least seven protesters, including the three on May 19.
Human rights activists say authorities in Iran are using the executions to try to instill fear in society rather than to combat crime.
Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda
Navalny Group's YouTube Anchor Says Barred From Entering Turkey
Irina Alleman, an anchor of the Popular Politics YouTube Channel of jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny's team, was refused entry to Turkey. Alleman said on Telegram on May 29 that her trip to Turkey to cover the runoff presidential poll did not take place, as Turkish border guards informed her at the airport in Istanbul on May 25 that she had been barred from entering the country for five years due to "national security" issues. It remains unclear what prompted the decision. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.
Toqaev 'Appreciates' Lukashenka's 'Joke' Proposal For Kazakhstan To Join Russia-Belarus Union
Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev has called a proposal by the authoritarian ruler of Belarus, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, for Kazakhstan to join the so-called Russia-Belarus Union State a "joke" that has no resonance in the Central Asian country, given its commitments to other international treaties.
Toqaev said on May 29 while meeting with farmers of the North Kazakhstan region that he "duly appreciated the joke" by Lukashenka that he expressed in a televised interview with a Russian journalist over the weekend that Kazakhstan should join the union, which was created on paper in the 1990s and has been negotiated off and on since, but "there is no need" to join.
"Because there are other integration groupings, first of all the Eurasian Economic Union," Toqaev said.
He also touched on Russia's controversial plans to place tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, which borders NATO members Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland.
"As for the nuclear weapons, we do not need them because we joined the Nonproliferation Treaty and the Partial Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. We remain loyal to our obligations defined by these two international documents," Toqaev said.
Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Ukraine gave up their nuclear weapons in the 1990s after they joined the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
The three former Soviet republics also signed the Budapest Memorandum in 1994 -- as did Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom -- which barred the superpowers from threatening or using military force or economic coercion against the three.
However, Russian authorities have repeatedly raised the specter of the potential use of nuclear weapons since launching the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, with the frequency of the warnings increasing as Moscow's aggression against Ukraine continues.
Last week, Toqaev said at a Eurasian Economic Union (EES) meeting in Moscow that integration within the group was different from the controversial Russia-Belarus Union State.
"I am sorry, even nuclear weapons are being shared by the two," Toqaev said as he tried to emphasize that other EES states such as Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan were attempting to stay away from getting involved in Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
In a televised interview aired on May 28, Lukashenka commented on Toqaev's statement at the EES session regarding the nuclear weapons "shared" by Belarus and Russia, saying that former Soviet republics, including Kazakhstan, longing to own nuclear weapons can join Russia-Belarus Union State as well.
With reporting by Tengrinews, Inbusiness.kz, and Rossia TV
Family Of Missing Pakistani Journalist Fears For His Life
The family of a prominent TV anchor and YouTuber who has gone missing amid political turmoil in Pakistan fears for his life as the authorities remain clueless about his whereabouts. "We are extremely worried and fear for his life," Usman Riaz Khan, brother of the missing journalist, told dpa on May 29. Riaz Khan, known for his support of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, was arrested on May 11 at Punjab's Sialkot Airport during a crackdown on Khan's party for violent protests over his arrest. Police told the family he was subsequently released.
Putin Signs Law Allowing Elections In Russian-Occupied Ukrainian Regions
Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 29 signed into law a bill legalizing elections planned for later this year on Ukrainian territories that Moscow took over during its ongoing invasion. Putin had announced martial law in parts of four regions of Ukraine that are under Russian control, but previously Russian law did not allow for holding elections during such conditions. The new law allows elections during martial law with the approval of defense and security organs.
Polish President To Sign Russian Influence Bill, Despite Opposition Protests
Poland's president said on May 29 that he would sign a bill authorizing a panel to investigate Russian influence, despite opposition criticism that it creates a witch hunt against government opponents in an election year. The ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party says the liberal opposition Civic Platform (PO) party allowed Poland to become dangerously dependent on Russian fossil fuels when it was in government from 2007 to 2015, raising questions about whether PO members were under Moscow's sway. Duda said he would ask the Constitutional Tribunal to look at the law after it takes force due to criticism it is unconstitutional. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
HRW Urges Vigilance On Cluster Munitions, Chides Russia For Usage In Ukraine
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for greater global efforts to ensure an international treaty banning cluster munitions achieves its goal of ending the usage of such weapons, which it says are being used "repeatedly" by Russia in its war against Ukraine.
HRW said in a report released on May 29 that the Convention On Cluster Munitions, adopted on May 30, 2008, in Dublin, "is being tested as never before.”
The report details how cluster munitions are being used in several conflict areas of the world, including by Russia, which HRW says has "repeatedly" used them since launching its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, causing hundreds of civilian casualties and damaging civilian objects, including homes, hospitals, and schools.
"A single Russian cluster munition attack on a train station in Kramatorsk on April 8, 2022, killed at least 58 civilians and wounded 100 others. The stigma created by the convention has led to widespread international condemnation of these attacks," the report says, noting Ukrainian forces have also used cluster munitions on several occasions.
Russia and Ukraine are not signatories of the treaty.
WATCH: Award-winning Ukrainian journalist Andriy Dubchak barely escaped with his life as he and his son came under cluster-bomb attack. The weapons are widely banned, but both Russia and Ukraine are accused of using them. The attack blew out his car's windows, ripped through the vehicle, and fragments even tore through his trousers.
HRW also said that the Syrian-Russian military alliance used cluster munition rockets in attacks on camps for internally displaced people in Syria's Idlib Province in November, killing and wounding civilians.
Cluster munitions are launched by artillery, rockets, missiles, and aircraft. The weapons open in midair and disperse dozens or hundreds of submunitions, also called bomblets, over a wide area.
Many submunitions fail to explode on initial impact, leaving duds that can indiscriminately wound and kill, like land mines, for years until they are cleared and destroyed.
The Convention On Cluster Munitions bans the use, production, acquisition, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster munitions and requires the destruction of stockpiles.
HRW said there have been no reports of new use, production, or transfers of cluster munitions by the 123 nations that have signed or ratified the convention.
However, a handful of countries outside the treated have produced or used cluster munitions, the group said.
Former Chief Of Navalny's Team In Bashkortostan Calls Her Trial Politically Motivated
UFA, Russia -- Lilia Chanysheva, the former leader of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny's team in the Republic of Bashkortostan, has told a court that her trial on charges of extremism is politically motivated.
In her final statement, published online by Navalny's team on May 29, Chanysheva said that she does not consider herself a defendant because she is a politician and the case against her is political.
"I am a politician, a woman who is being persecuted by male opponents, whose names are [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and [Head of Bashkortostan] Radiy Khabirov. Politics is a profession as well. Therefore to plead guilty for me is the same as for a teacher to plead guilty to being a teacher or for a physician to plead guilty to being a physician," Chanysheva said.
"Putin has been eradicating dissent for a long time, creating hatred among people and the government with a single goal -- to stay in power after the 2024 [presidential election]. But Putin means corruption, low salaries, and pensions, a falling economy and price hikes. Putin means war! It has affected each and every one now," Chanysheva stated, adding that many opposition politicians and rights defenders have been jailed since her arrest.
Chanysheva, 41, was arrested in November 2021 and later charged with the organization of an extremist community, public calls for extremist activities, and propagating the activities of a noncommercial organization that encroaches on citizens' privacy and rights.
Chanysheva's trial, which started on March 1, is being held behind closed doors.
She headed the local unit of Navalny's network of regional campaign groups until his team disbanded them after a Moscow prosecutor went to court to have them branded "extremist."
The request was accepted, effectively outlawing the group.
Chanysheva's defense team said at the time that her arrest was the first since the movement was banned. The charges appear to be retroactive since the organization she worked for disbanded before it had been legally classified as extremist.
Amnesty International has urged Russian authorities to release Chanysheva "immediately," insisting that the extremism charges are "false" and should be dropped.
Navalny himself has been in prison since February 2021, after he was arrested the month prior upon returning to Russia from Germany, where he had been undergoing treatment for a near-fatal poisoning with a Novichok-type nerve agent that he says was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Kremlin has denied any role in Navalny's poisoning.
Several of the opposition leader and Kremlin critic's allies have been charged with establishing an extremist group. Many of Navalny's close associates have fled the country amid pressure from the Russian authorities.
Ukrainian Forces Shell Settlements In Russia's Belgorod Border Region, Says Governor
The governor of Russia's Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine, said on May 29 that several frontier settlements were being shelled simultaneously by Ukrainian forces. In a statement published on the Telegram messaging app, Vyacheslav Gladkov said two industrial facilities in the border town of Shebekino had been shelled and four employees had been wounded. Several settlements were left without electricity, he added. Belgorod, which borders Ukraine's Kharkiv region, has repeatedly come under attack from Kyiv's forces since the beginning of the full-scale conflict in Ukraine in February 2022. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
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