Accessibility links

Breaking News

News

Bulgaria Faces Uncertainty After Election Of Pro-Russia President

Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev (right) speaks with President-elect Rumen Radev during their meeting at the Bulgarian Presidency office in Sofia on November 14.

Bulgaria faces political uncertainty following the resignation of the country's prime minister after results showed his party losing badly in the country's presidential runoff.

Boiko Borisov's move early on November 14 came after official results showed pro-Moscow Socialist candidate Rumen Radev, a former air force commander with no political experience, winning the November 13 poll.

"We accept the will of the people and we congratulate those who have the support of the majority of the voters," said Borisov late on November 13 hours after polls closed.

Nearly complete election results announced early on November 14 showed Radev winning 59.4 percent of the vote, compared to 36.2 percent for the candidate of the ruling center-right GERB party, Tsetska Tsacheva.

GERB has dominated Bulgarian politics over the past decade. Borisov himself was reelected in 2014.

Radev called the result "a negative vote for the government that leads to a new political situation."

Radev won the first round of voting, held on November 6, with 25.44 percent, but failed to secure an overall majority.

Prime Minister Boiko Borisov announces his resignation.
Prime Minister Boiko Borisov announces his resignation.

Analysts said Radev was able to tap into anger among average Bulgarians over corruption among the country's political class.

He also called for tough measures to prevent an influx of migrants amid a wave of Euroskepticism across Central and Eastern Europe.

During his election campaign, the 53-year-old Radev called for better ties with Russia, potentially putting the Black Sea state at odds with its European Union and NATO allies.

Radev, who once studied at the U.S. Air War College in Alabama, has pledged to maintain Bulgaria's place in NATO but also has said "being pro-European doesn't mean being anti-Russian."

Nonetheless, Radev's calls to lift EU sanctions on Russia for the Kremlin's actions in Ukraine, including its support of separatists there and its illegal annexation of Crimea, have many analysts wondering whether Bulgaria will now move closer to Moscow.

'No Shortage Of Drama'

In his victory speech, Radev reiterated his support for scrapping the sanctions and also praised U.S. President-elect Donald Trump for "seeking more dialogue" with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"It gives strong hope for a peaceful solution of the conflicts in Syria and in Ukraine, and reducing confrontation," Radev added.

"General Radev's victory represents the unfolding of a pro-Russian scenario in Bulgaria so that the country supports Russian interests in the EU and NATO," political analyst Antoniy Galabov told the AFP news agency.

Outgoing President Rosen Plevneliev, a vocal Kremlin critic, warned on November 13 that Russia was trying to "destabilize Europe" by financing anti-EU ultranationalists in eastern states like Bulgaria.

In nearby Moldova, a pro-Russia candidate declared victory in that country's presidential election, also on November 13. Igor Dodon has pledged to restore trade and political relations with Moscow, which became strained after Moldova signed a trade association agreement with the European Union.

ALSO READ: Pro-Moscow Candidate Claims Moldova Presidency

Despite promised reforms, graft and poverty still plague Bulgaria, the EU's poorest member state. At the same time, public anger has also grown over thousands of migrants currently stranded in in the country.

"Bulgaria needs a new face, someone who defends national interests instead of always saying 'Yes' to the European Union and the United States," businessman and Sofia resident Assen Dragov, 39, told AFP.

The Bulgarian president's role is largely ceremonial but the incumbent is nonetheless a respected figure and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

Radev is due to take office on January 22 for a five-year term. His first job will likely be to call early elections this spring.

Political analyst Dimitar Bechev told AP that "there will be no shortage of drama in Bulgaria over the coming months, to be sure, but it will be driven by local forces, not the geopolitical contest between Russia and the West."

With reporting by AFP and AP

More News

Belarusian Activist Gets 12 Years In Prison On Charges Called 'Politically Motivated'

Yana Pinchuk appears in court on June 6.

Belarusian rights activist Yana Pinchuk, who was extradited to Minsk from Russia in August 2022, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison on charges rights groups say are politically motivated.

Judge Tatsyana Falkouskaya of the Minsk City Court sentenced Pinchuk on June 6 after finding her guilty of inciting social hatred, creating an extremist group, involvement in the creation of a terrorist group, calling for the disruption of the constitutional order, and harming national security.

Rights watchdogs insist that the charges are politically motivated to punish Pinchuk for joining protests after Belarusian authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka was declared the winner of an August 2020 presidential election despite allegations of widespread voter fraud that triggered Western sanctions.

Police in Russia's second-largest city, St. Petersburg, arrested Pinchuk in early November 2021 at the request of Minsk. She was later extradited to Belarus and went on trial on April 10.

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.

Belarusian authorities accuse Pinchuk of administering the Vitsebsk97% Telegram channel, which was critical of Lukashenka's regime and has been labeled as "extremist" in Belarus.

Pinchuk has rejected all of the charges, saying she immediately closed the Telegram channel after it was officially designated extremist.

She is one of many Belarusians who have faced multiple charges linked to the mass protests following Lukashenka's contested reelection.

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 NGOs 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 crackdown.

Iran Showcases What It Says Is First Hypersonic Missile

Aerospace forces' chief Amirali Hajizadeh was quoted as saying the missile had a range of 1,400 kilometers and could reach a speed of 15,500 kilometers per hour.

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) on June 6 unveiled what it said was the first domestically produced hypersonic ballistic missile, state media reported. The missile, named Fattah, is capable of "penetrating through all missile-defense systems," the IRGC's aerospace forces said, without offering evidence for the claim. Aerospace forces' chief Amirali Hajizadeh was quoted as saying the missile had a range of 1,400 kilometers and could reach a speed of 15,500 kilometers per hour. Western military experts say that Iran sometimes give exaggerated figures for the capabilities of its weapons. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Radio Farda, click here.

EU, U.S. Diplomats Urge Kosovo To Hold New Elections Amid Tensions In North

U.S. envoy Gabriel Escobar (left) and EU envoy Miroslav Lajcak meet with Kosovo's Albin Kurti (right) on June 5.

The European Union envoy for dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, Miroslav Lajcak, and the U.S. envoy for the Western Balkans, Gabriel Escobar, have told Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti he needs to calm the situation in the north of Kosovo, hold new municipal elections, and return to dialogue with Serbia on normalizing relations. The two diplomats met with Kurti late on June 5 in Pristina. Tensions over the seating of ethnic Albanian mayors sparked clashes between ethnic Serbs and NATO peacekeepers last week, leaving dozens injured. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Balkan Service, click here.

Deputy Governor Of Northern Afghan Province Killed In Car Bombing

The deputy governor of Afghanistan's northern Badakhshan Province was killed by a car bomb on June 6, the provincial spokesman said. "Nissar Ahmad Ahmadi, with his driver, has been killed and six civilians were injured," said the head of the provincial information office, Mahzudeen Ahmadi. It was not clear who was behind the attack, which was the first known major blast in Afghanistan in several weeks. The Taliban administration has been carrying out raids against members of Islamic State, which has had claimed several major attacks in urban centers, including Kabul. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Updated

Ukraine Says Russia Blows Up Major Dnieper Dam In Act Of 'Ecocide,' Orders Mass Evacuation

Dnieper Dam Breach Unleashes Floods In Southern Ukraine
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:02:24 0:00

Ukraine has accused Russia of blowing up a major dam on the Dnieper River in a Moscow-occupied area in the south, sending millions of liters of water cascading through the region in what President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called an act of "terror."

Ukrainian authorities said tens of thousands of people were being evacuated from areas threatened by massive flooding downstream in the Kherson region after the attack in the early hours of June 6. Within hours, water levels had already risen by 10 meters, they added.

With the Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant in possible peril, Zelenskiy called an emergency meeting of the country's National Security and Defense Council to discuss the situation.

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.

"Russian terrorists," Zelenskiy wrote on Twitter, where he posted a video of the broken dam and the water rapidly flowing through the huge breach.

"The destruction of the [Nova] Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant dam only confirms for the whole world that they must be expelled from every corner of Ukrainian land. Not a single meter should be left to them, because they use every meter for terror.... The terrorists will not be able to stop Ukraine with water, missiles or anything else," Zelenskiy wrote, adding that all services were working.

Russia has denied it carried out the attack, instead blaming Ukraine.

While the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it was monitoring the situation, Ukraine's nuclear energy agency warned that the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam could pose a danger for the safety of the Zaporizhzhya plant -- Europe's biggest nuclear plant -- which uses water from the reservoir for the cooling process.

"Water from the Kakhovka reservoir is necessary for the station to receive power for turbine capacitors and safety systems. Now the station's cooling pond is full: as of 8 a.m., the water level is 16.6 meters high, which is enough for the station's needs," Enerhoatom, the plant's operator, said.

Natalia Humenyuk, military spokeswoman for Ukraine's southern forces, told RFE/RL that Russian forces had blown up the Nova Kakhovka dam, following videos that surfaced on social media of the destruction of the dam close to the city of Kherson.

"I can confirm the detonation," she told RFE/RL.

European Council President Charles Michel expressed "shock" over the attack, saying Russia should be held accountable for the "war crime" of destroying civilian infrastructure.

"Shocked by the unprecedented attack of the Nova Kakhovka dam. The destruction of civilian infrastructure clearly qualifies as a war crime -- and we will hold Russia and its proxies accountable," Michel said.

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly also put the blame squarely on Moscow for the destruction of the dam, saying that while it was "too early" to make any kind of meaningful assessment of the details, "it's worth remembering that the only reason this is an issue at all is because of Russia's unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine."

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the destruction of the dam was an "outrageous" act that put people and the environment in danger.

"The destruction of the Kakhovka dam today puts thousands of civilians at risk and causes severe environmental damage. This is an outrageous act, which demonstrates once again the brutality of Russia's war in Ukraine," Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter.

Officials continue to scramble to move residents out of the area, with Oleksandr Prokudin, the governor of the Kherson region, saying water levels will reach a "critical level" in the early afternoon.

"I specifically appeal to the residents on the left bank [of the Dnieper]: do everything possible to protect yourself and save your life -- immediately leave the dangerous areas," Prokudin said earlier on Telegram.

"As of 7:30 a.m., the following settlements are completely or partially flooded: Tyahynka, Lviv, Odradokamyanka, Ivanivka, Mykilske Tokarivka, Ponyativka, Bilozerka, and the Ostriv microdistrict of the city of Kherson. Other settlements will be flooded, we're prepared," he told national television.

The evacuation of approximately 16,000 people from the threatened area on the right bank of the Dnieper was already under way, Prokudin added.

Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine's presidential administration, accused Russia of "ecocide" in a message on Telegram.

"Another war crime by Russian terrorists. The president convenes the National Security Council. This is ecocide," Yermak wrote.

Officials in Russian-occupied parts of Kherson rejected the accusation, blaming the damage on Ukrainian strikes in the contested area.

The Moscow-installed mayor of Nova Kakhovka, Vladimir Leontyev, said Ukrainian strikes on the dam destroyed its valves, and "water from the Kakhovka reservoir began to uncontrollably flow downstream."

The dam, built in 1956 has a height of 30 meters and a length of 3.3 kilometers. Its primary purposes are electricity generation, irrigation, and navigation.

The dam, which underwent modernization works in 2019, also supplies water to the Moscow-occupied Crimean Peninsula.

With reporting by AP and Reuters

UN Expert Assails Serbia For Using Mass Killings To 'Stir Up Hatred,' Attack Rights Defenders

People attend a protest by Serbia's opposition parties in reaction to two mass shootings in the same week, in Belgrade on June 3.

Irene Khan, UN special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, expressed concerns over the rise in hate speech in Serbia following two mass-killing incidents in the Balkan nation. “Serbia must take immediate and effective measures against hateful and divisive rhetoric in public discourse which fuels violence in society,” a UN statement said. “The shootings have traumatized the entire country. It is unconscionable to use this tragedy as yet another occasion to stir up hatred, demonizing and vilifying independent media, human rights defenders, political opponents, and others critical of the government.” To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Balkan Service, click here.

Robert Hanssen, FBI Agent Who Spied For Soviet Union, Russia, Dies In Prison Cell At Age 79

Former FBI agent Robert Hanssen, one of the most damaging spies in U.S. history, was found dead in his prison cell in the U.S. state of Colorado on June 5, prison officials said. The 79-year-old Hanssen was arrested in 2001 and pleaded guilty to selling highly classified material to the Soviet Union and then Russia. He was serving a life sentence. Hanssen began spying in 1979.

Ten Arrested In North Macedonia In People-Smuggling Raids

Migrants wait to board a train to Serbia near the town of Gevgelija. (file photo)

Authorities in North Macedonia on June 5 said 10 men were arrested as suspected members of an international people smuggling ring following an investigation that lasted nearly two years. In a statement, police described the group as a sophisticated criminal organization that operated routes between Greece and Hungary as well as from Bulgaria and Serbia to various destinations in the European Union, charging each migrant $2,140-$4,280. Police raided 11 locations in three towns. The arrested suspects as well as their alleged associates were charged with people-smuggling offenses that carry a minimum prison sentence of five years. To read the original story by AP, click here.


Biden Praises Denmark For 'Standing Up' For Ukraine In War with Russia

U.S. President Joe Biden makes an address on June 5.

U.S. President Joe Biden thanked Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on June 5 for Denmark’s role in a Western alliance "standing up" for Ukraine as it tries to fend off Russia’s 15-month-old invasion. The Oval Office visit kicked off the first of a pair of critical meetings Biden is holding with European allies this week that will focus heavily on what lies ahead in the war in Ukraine -- including the recently launched effort to train, and eventually equip, Ukraine with American-made F-16s fighter jets. Biden on June 7 will meet with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. To read the original story by AP, click here.

IAEA Chief Calls On Iran To Follow All Nuclear Commitments

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi attends a news conference during an IAEA board of governors meeting in Vienna on June 5.

Iran has not sufficiently implemented commitments to more transparency regarding its nuclear program, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, said in Vienna on June 5. In March, Grossi and the leadership in Tehran had agreed on increased surveillance of nuclear facilities and investigations into formerly secret nuclear sites. Since then only "a fraction of what we envisaged" has been implemented, Grossi said during an IAEA board meeting. The IAEA chief conceded that some surveillance cameras and devices had been installed. "Some progress has been made, but not as much as I had hoped," he said.

Updated

U.S. Places Sanctions On Seven Russians For Attempt To Destabilize Moldova

Protesters, in a rally organized by the Sor Party in Moldova, took to the streets of Chisinau in November 2022 against the Western-leaning government.

The United States has imposed sanctions on seven leading members of a Russian influence group with links to intelligence services for their role in Moscow's campaign to destabilize Moldova and instigate an insurrection.

In a statement issued on June 5, the Treasury Department accused the individuals of provoking, training, and overseeing protesters in Moldova with the aim to topple President Maia Sandu and a newly appointed Western-leaning government earlier this year.

The statement said Konstantin Sapozhnikov, one of the sanctioned individuals, led the group and also organized the plot to destabilize the Moldovan government. The other members designated were Yury Makolov, Gleb Khloponin, Svetlana Boyko, Aleksei Losev, Vasily Gromovikov, and Anna Travnikova.

In February and March, several thousand people took to the streets in the Moldovan capital, Chisinau, against Sandu and the pro-Western government with many in the crowd linked to the Russian-friendly Shor Party.

The protesters demanded Sandu's resignation and called on the government to pay citizens' utility bills following a spike in energy prices caused by Russia's decision to slash natural-gas exports to Europe.

Ilan Shor, the tycoon who founded the Shor Party, fled Moldova following Sandu's election in 2019.

"Russia's attempted influence operations exploit the concerns of the citizens of these countries, to destabilize legitimately elected governments for Moscow’s own interests. The United States remains committed, along with the EU, to target individuals who engage in such activities against the government of Moldova," Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in the statement.

Sandu and the government want Moldova, an impoverished former Soviet republic, to join the European Union and escape Moscow's orbit. The Kremlin opposes Moldova's tilt to the West and has used its energy resources as a tool to punish Chisinau.

Russia has denied any involvement in a covert plot to destabilize Moldova.

Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu, in a Facebook post, said that "we welcome today's decision by the United States Treasury Department to sanction seven more individuals with foreign citizenship who tried to destabilize the internal situation in the Republic of Moldova. This measure is an important step in our joint efforts to maintain stability and public order in our country.'

It is not the first time the United States has placed sanctions on Russian individuals for undermining democracy in Moldova.

In October 2022, the Treasury Department designated Yury Gudilin, Olga Grak, and Leonid Gonin for their coordinated action in 2020 and 2021 to influence the outcome of Moldova's elections. The EU has also sanctioned several Russian and Moldovan individuals for activities against the government in Chisinau.

In its June 5 statement, the Treasury Department said Sapozhnikov and his group did not limit their actions to Moldova. They also targeted Ukraine, Balkan countries, the EU, Britain, and the United States.

"These malign influence operatives analyze countries vulnerable to exploitation and stoke fears that undermine faith in democratic principles in the targeted countries," the statement said.

The Treasury's decision to place sanctions on Sapozhnikov and his cohorts freezes any U.S. assets in their possession, including U.S. dollar bank accounts at foreign institutions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

British Army Completes Training Of Ukrainian Military Chaplains

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With reporting by TASS and RIA Novosti

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

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

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

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

The logo of the International Labor Organization

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Belarusian Poet Sarokin Dies In Police Custody

Dzmitry Sarokin

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

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

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

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

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

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Load more

XS
SM
MD
LG