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EU Plans To Push Central Asian States Harder On Human Rights

The EU will "further enhance its efforts to address the serious challenges to human rights in the region," the document says.
The EU will "further enhance its efforts to address the serious challenges to human rights in the region," the document says.

BRUSSELS -- The European Union plans to step up efforts to address "serious challenges to human rights" in Central Asia, according to a strategy document seen by RFE/RL.

The EU Strategy For Central Asia, set to be endorsed by EU foreign ministers when they meet in Luxembourg on June 22, updates a 2007 document outlining the union's general policy goals in several fields in relation to the five former Soviet republics in the region: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Although short on concrete actions on human rights, the document says EU priorities in Central Asia include promotion of respect for the freedoms of assembly, association, expression, and religion or belief, as well as encouraging the rights of women, children, and minorities.

There is also a pledge to support efforts to eradicate torture.

The EU will "further enhance its efforts to address the serious challenges to human rights in the region," the document says.

Like the United States, the 28-country EU has long struggled to pursue close ties with governments in energy-rich, strategically located Central Asia without taking its eye off persistent concerns about human rights abuses and a lack of democracy in the region, where three of the countries' authoritarian leaders have been in power for more than 20 years.

The document says that human rights defenders in Central Asia deserve special attention and EU support, and calls for greater involvement of civil society organizations in its "human rights dialogue" with the five countries.

The dialogues, held annually on a diplomatic level, are among only a few forums in which Brussels can raise human rights cases with the Central Asian states. Critics say there has been little noticeable impact so far.

According to the strategy document, another priority is cooperation on the rule of law: The EU is considering linking budget-support programs to specific anticorruption measures in the Central Asian states, it says.

On security, the paper says the region faces a number of challenges such as foreign fighters, radicalization, drug trafficking, and water and border disputes. It says the EU aims to further develop both bilateral and regional security dialogues with the Central Asian countries, ensuring stronger involvement of Afghanistan -- which borders Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.

Another idea is to have a dialogue with EU companies investing in Central Asia to discuss how the five countries can become more attractive to investment from EU businesses and how the EU can promote responsible business conduct and corporate governance.

There is little mention of what the EU specifically wants to achieve in its bilateral relations with the Central Asian states.

The bilateral cooperation is regulated through Partnership and Cooperation Agreements (PCA) that have entered into force with four of the states. Kazakhstan and the EU initialed an enhanced PCA in January, meaning that Astana now has the closest ties with the EU of the five, while the PCA with Turkmenistan is yet to enter into force.

In the updated strategy, EU member states underline that the PCA with Turkmenistan would help develop the full potential of EU's relationship with the country.

The European Parliament has delayed voting on the matter, however, after its foreign affairs committee recently expressed reservations over the human rights situation in Turkmenistan.

Regional powers Russia and China, both of which have been seeking to increase their influence in Central Asian, are not mentioned by name in the paper.

It states that the "the EU should continue to enhance its efforts to promote dialogue with neighbors of the Central Asian countries and other states active in the region," and that the EU will "take into account existing regional synergies and links with neighboring countries in implementing its strategy."

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Iranian Nobel Laureate Ebadi Says Raisi's Death Means He Will Evade Justice

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi (file photo)
Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi (file photo)

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi has said that the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was regrettable because he will evade justice for his alleged crimes.

Raisi, who died in a May 19 helicopter crash in northwestern Iran, has been accused of serving as a prosecutor on an "execution committee" that sent thousands of political prisoners and regime opponents to their deaths in the late 1980s.

His presidency, which began in 2021, is also infamous for its stricter enforcement of Iran's draconian hijab law and brutal crackdown on mass demonstrations for women's rights.

"If we haven't forgotten, which tragically is not easily forgotten, there was the painful incident of the mass execution of political prisoners by the execution committee," Ebadi said of Raisi in a May 20 interview with RFE/RL's Radio Farda. "The people of Iran had hoped to see him brought to justice, to witness how he would struggle and plead for his own exoneration. He did not deserve such an easy death."

The rights watchdog Amnesty International has said that at least 4,500 people were executed in the mass killing ordered by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1988 for "waging war against God."

The leftist Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization, which was accused of treachery for its role in carrying out an invasion deep into Iranian territory after a cease-fire ended the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, says that up to 30,000 people were executed.

Many of the victims were buried in secret.

During a court trial in Stockholm in 2022 in which a former prison guard for the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps faced testimony from hundreds of survivors and their relatives, Raisi was named as belonging to the three-member execution committee that determined the fate of prisoners.

Ebadi, 76, was a prominent human rights lawyer for years in Iran before she was forced into exile in 2009. From her home in Britain, she has continued to criticize the Iranian authorities for their crackdown on virtually any form of dissent.

Ebadi said that some in the foreign media expressed surprise that some Iranians were celebrating Raisi's death, including by lighting fireworks and dancing in videos shared on social media.

"Are people truly this happy about the death of one person?" Ebadi said she was asked. "Regrettably, I told them that [hard-liners'] actions had made their deaths a cause for celebration."

Ebadi said that now that the 63-year-old Raisi is dead, it is unlikely he will posthumously face prosecution.

"Generally, and legally, once a person passes away, any criminal actions they committed are no longer prosecuted," Ebadi said. "However, they will remain in people's memories and be recorded in history, particularly in the annals of human rights."

Court Rejects Kyrgyz Politician's Appeal Against Cancellation Of His Mandate

Adakhan Madumarov (file photo)
Adakhan Madumarov (file photo)

A Bishkek court on May 20 rejected the appeal of Adakhan Madumarov, the leader of the United Kyrgyzstan opposition party, against a decision by election authorities to annul his parliamentary mandate over his fraud conviction. Two weeks earlier, another court rejected Madumarov's appeal against his conviction. In March, Madumarov was convicted of financial fraud and ignoring Kyrgyzstan's interests while signing a Kyrgyz-Tajik border deal in 2009 when he led the country's Security Council. The court did not sentence Madumarov due to the statute of limitations. Madumarov has called the accusations “ungrounded.” To read the original story on RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, click here.

YouTube Blocks 4 Videos At Russia's Request

(file photo)
(file photo)

The YouTube online video-sharing platform has blocked four videos after a request from Russia's Roskomnadzor media watchdog, Agentsvo Telegram channel reported on May 20. Videos of the channels -- Dozor v Volgograde, Shkola prizyvnika, OVD-Info, and an unspecified independent online media outlet -- contained information about ways to evade mobilization to the war in Ukraine and avoid military recruitment. Roskomnadzor reportedly claimed that the videos in question violated Russia's law on information. According to OVD-Info's spokesman Dmitry Anisimov, it is the first case where YouTube has blocked videos at Russia’s request and not because of violations of the platform's terms of service. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Trial Of Theater Director Berkovich, Playwright Petriichuk Starts In Moscow

Playwright Svetlana Petriichuk (left) and theater director Yevgenia Berkovich (file photo)
Playwright Svetlana Petriichuk (left) and theater director Yevgenia Berkovich (file photo)

A military court in Moscow has started the trial of theater director Yevgenia Berkovich and playwright Svetlana Petriichuk, who are charged with justifying terrorism. The two women reiterated their innocence as the trial began on May 20. They were arrested in May 2023 following a production of the play Finist -- The Brave Falcon. The play is about Russian women who married Muslim men and moved to Syria. The play, first performed in December 2022, won Russia's Golden Mask national theater award. If convicted, the women face up to five years in prison each. To read the original story by RFE/RL, click here.

Appeal By Woman Imprisoned For Killing Pro-Kremlin Blogger Rejected

Daria Trepova at court in St.Petersburg, Russia, earlier this year.
Daria Trepova at court in St.Petersburg, Russia, earlier this year.

A military appeals court in St. Petersburg on May 20 rejected a motion filed by Darya Trepova against the 27-year prison term she was handed in January after she was found guilty for her role in the killing of prominent pro-Kremlin blogger Vladlen Tatarsky, a fervent proponent of Russia's war in Ukraine.

Trepova was convicted of helping carry out "a terrorist act with an organized group that caused intentional death."

While Trepova filed an appeal against the sentence, prosecutors countered by asking the court of appeals to extend Trepova's sentence by one year.

The court decision on May 20 leaves the 27-year prison sentence in place with no change.

Trepova, who pleaded not guilty to the terrorism charge but entered a guilty plea to a charge of document forgery, was arrested after an explosion in a restaurant in St. Petersburg in April 2023, which killed Tatarsky, whose real name was Maksim Fomin. The blast wounded 52 other people.

Tatarsky was talking to people who had previously attended a meeting with him when a woman presented him with a box containing a small bust of him that blew up, killing him, according the Russian media reports.

Trepova, 27, admitted giving Tatarsky the box, but said at the trial that she did not know there was an explosive device inside.

Trepova's co-defendant, Dmitry Kasintsev, in whose apartment Trepova was detained, was sentenced to one year and nine months in a general regime correctional colony.

Kasintsev pleaded guilty to the charge of failing to report a crime, but rejected the charge of covering up a crime.

In May last year, Russia's Interior Ministry issued an arrest warrant for Ukrainian citizen Yuriy Denisov, saying that he was suspected of organizing the deadly attack.

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said at the time that Denisov and Trepova had decided to assassinate Tatarsky.

The Ukrainian-born Tatarsky was known for his support of Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine launched in February 2022 and Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region.

Georgian Parliament Set To Overrule Presidential Veto On 'Foreign Agent' Law

Georgian parliamentary Speaker Shalva Papuashvili (file photo).
Georgian parliamentary Speaker Shalva Papuashvili (file photo).

TBILISI -- Georgian parliamentary Speaker Shalva Papuashvili said lawmakers, as expected, will overrule President Salome Zurabishvili's veto of the so-called "foreign agent" bill targeting media and NGOs that are funded by foreign governments.

Papuashvili said on May 20 that he expects parliament, where his ruling Georgian Dream party has the numbers, will overrule the veto at a session next week.

Zurabishvili vetoed the controversial bill on May 18 following weeks of mass protests by Georgians who see the legislation as a way for the government to stifle civil society -- a similar law in Russia has been used to crack down on dissent -- and believe it endangers the country's path toward EU integration.

Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze said on May 20 that Zurabishvili's move to veto the bill is "blocking room for a healthy discussion" of the legislation in question.

The law would require media and NGOs to register as "pursuing the interests of a foreign power" if they receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad.

U.S. media reports on May 19 said that U.S. Congressman Joe Wilson, who represents South Carolina, is working on a bill that would impose sanctions, including visa bans on Georgian government officials responsible for pushing through the foreign agent bill.

Zurabishvili said she considered the law "unacceptable" and "inconsistent" with the country's EU path. She has also warned that the legislation endangers the very existence of the Georgian state.

Zurabishvili also said the Georgian Dream party, together with several opposition members of parliament, turned a deaf ear to the tens of thousands of Georgians who took to the streets to oppose any shift away from a pro-Western course back toward Russia.

The "Law On Transparency Of Foreign Influence," the bill's full name, has been condemned by the United States, the European Union, and rights watchdogs, and prompted weeks of unrest, which was often quelled through violent means by authorities.

Opponents have pointed to the similarity to legislation used by President Vladimir Putin to crush dissent in Russia and stifle independent institutions, prompting Georgians to refer to the measure as "the Russian law."

Slovak PM Fico 'Stable,' But Will Not Be Moved To Bratislava Yet

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico (file photo)
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico (file photo)

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico's condition is stable and he is improving, doctors treating him said on May 20, as he recovers from being hit by four bullets in an assassination attempt last week. "After today's medical board meeting, the patient's condition is stable," the hospital in the central Slovak city of Banska Bystrica said in a statement. Deputy Prime Minister Robert Kalinak said on May 19 that Fico's condition was still too serious for him to be moved to a hospital in the capital, Bratislava. Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok said an investigation team had been set up to look into whether the suspect had acted alone.

Updated

ICC Prosecutor Seeks Warrants For Top Israeli, Hamas Leaders

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is among those for whom arrest warrants are being sought by the ICC chief prosecutor.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is among those for whom arrest warrants are being sought by the ICC chief prosecutor.

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced on May 20 that he is seeking arrest warrants for Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and senior figures in Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.

Prosecutor Karim Khan said he believes Netanyahu, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and three Hamas leaders — Yehya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif, and Ismail Haniyeh — are responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip and Israel.

In a statement, Khan said he has “reasonable grounds” to believe Netanyanhu and Gallant “bear criminal responsibility” for alleged crimes including “starvations of civilians as a method of warfare,” “willfully causing great suffering,” “intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population,” and “other inhumane acts.”

The three Hamas leaders were accused of responsibility for “extermination,” “taking hostages,” “rape and other acts of sexual violence,” “torture,” and “other inhumane acts.”

The court’s three pretrial judges will determine whether there is sufficient evidence to issue warrants.

“Karim Khan’s decision to seek arrest warrants for five people for grave international crimes committed in Israel and Palestine since October 7 in the face of pressure from U.S. lawmakers and others reaffirms the crucial role of the [court]," said Louis Charbonneau, United Nations director at Human Rights Watch, referring to the October 7 cross-border attack Hamas carried out that sparked the current war.

Some 1,200 Israeli citizens were killed in the attack, while another 240 were taken hostage, some of whom are still being held by Hamas in Gaza.

"Victims of serious abuses in Israel and Palestine have faced a wall of impunity for decades. This principled first step by the prosecutor opens the door to those responsible for the atrocities committed in recent months to answer for their actions at a fair trial," he added.

Israel is not a member of the ICC, and, even if the warrants are issued, it is unclear whether Netanyahu and Gallant would face prosecution. But Khan’s announcement does increase international pressure against Israel over its conduct of the conflict.

The Rome Statute, the 1998 treaty establishing the International Criminal Court, has been signed by 124 countries.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz called the decision "outrageous" and an "an unrestrained frontal assault on the victims of October 7th and our 128 [remaining] hostages in Gaza."

Sinwar and Dief are believed to be in Gaza, while Haniyeh is reportedly based in Qatar.

"The Hamas movement strongly condemns the attempts of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to equate the victim with the executioner by issuing arrest warrants against a number of Palestinian resistance leaders," the group said in a statement.

In a report supporting the arrest warrant applications, a panel of legal experts Kahn put together as advisers said they were unanimous in determining the court has jurisdiction over the case and that there were reasonable grounds to believe war crimes had been committed by all of the figures named.

"It is important to understand that the charges have nothing to do with the reasons for the conflict. The charges concern waging war in a manner that violates the long-established rules of international law that apply to armed groups and the armed forces in every state in the world," the six-member panel wrote in an opinion article for the Financial Times on May 20.

Israel has denied committing war crimes during the 7-month-old conflict.

Israel’s far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich likened Khan’s announcement to “Nazi propaganda” and said all Israelis should feel indicted. He called on Israel’s allies to push for disbanding the ICC.

Israeli War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz also condemned the announcement, calling it “a crime of historic proportions.”

“Drawing parallels between the leaders of a democratic country determined to defend itself from despicable terror to leaders of a bloodthirsty organization is a deep distortion of justice,” Gantz said.

A senior Hamas official also dismissed the ICC prosecutor’s statement, saying it “equates the victim with the executioner.”

The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza says at least 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war, without distinguishing between civilians and combatants. About 80 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million population has been displaced.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, and dpa
Updated

Iran Declares Mourning Period As President, Foreign Minister Killed In Helicopter Crash

Bodies Recovered As Iranian TV Announces President's Death
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Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared five days of mourning after the bodies of President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian were found at the site of a helicopter crash in northwest Iran.

Iranian state television on May 20 said the helicopter had crashed due to poor weather conditions. It was unclear how many people were on board the helicopter when it went down.

Khamenei also named First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber as interim president. Iranian law stipulates that if the president dies, power is transferred to the first vice president.

A council consisting of the speaker of parliament, the head of the judiciary, and the first vice president must arrange for a new president to be elected within 50 days.

Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Baqeri Kani was appointed acting foreign minister, Iranian state media reported.

Iran's state-run IRNA news agency said the governor of East Azerbaijan Province and other unspecified officials and bodyguards were aboard the ill-fated aircraft.

Mohammad Mokhber
Mohammad Mokhber

Foreign governments on May 20 issued expressions of condolence and solidarity. Lebanon announced three days of mourning to honor Raisi. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian were both "true, reliable friends of our country."

Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, issued a statement of condolence and thanked Raisi for his “tireless efforts in solidarity” with the Palestinian people.

European Council President Charles Michel issued a statement of “sincere condolences,” adding “our thoughts go to the families.”

Search-and-rescue teams, aided by several foreign governments, had been frantically searching for the helicopter after it went down in bad weather conditions in a mountainous area of the country late on May 19.

Some activists criticized the EU for assisting in the rescue operation of a leader who has been accused of overseeing major human rights abuses.

But EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic defended the move on May 20, saying that by providing satellite mapping services to Tehran, Brussels was acting "upon request for facilitating a search and rescue operation" and was not "an act of political support to any regime or establishment."

"It is simply an expression of the most basic humanity," he added in a post on X.

Raisi's helicopter was on its way to the city of Tabriz when it went down near the city of Jolfa in what state television said was a "hard landing," but several news reports quoted government sources as saying the helicopter crashed as it crossed a mountainous and forested area.

The bodies from the helicopter that crashed were severely burned, but not beyond recognition, according to the head of Iran's Crisis Management Organization, Mohammad Hassan Nami. He said DNA tests were not needed to confirm the identities of those killed in the crash.

He added that Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Al-e Hashem, who served as Khamenei's representative in East Azerbaijan Province, survived the crash initially and remained alive for about an hour before he died.

Nami said that, during that time, Al-e Hashem had made contact with Raisi's chief of staff by phone. He did not reveal any further details.

The Iranian government said the helicopter was one of three flying in a convoy, and the other two reportedly landed safely in Tabriz.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (center) with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian late last year.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (center) with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian late last year.

The ultraconservative Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian had been in Azerbaijan earlier on May 19 to inaugurate a dam with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who said on X that Azerbaijan was "profoundly troubled" by the news that Raisi's helicopter had gone down.

Raisi was elected president in 2021 and has since tightened many restrictions on Iranians through enforcement of morality laws and a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests spurred by the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody for allegedly violating the code on head scarves.

He has also pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers while also allowing the country to markedly increase its uranium enrichment program.

Some 1,200 Pakistani Students Leave Kyrgyzstan Fearing For Their Safety

Demonstrators protest in Islamabad on May 18, demanding safety for Pakistani students in Kyrgyzstan.
Demonstrators protest in Islamabad on May 18, demanding safety for Pakistani students in Kyrgyzstan.

BISHKEK -- Following unprecedented mob violence targeting foreign students from South Asia in Kyrgyzstan, around 1,200 Pakistani students at the Bishkek-based Kyrgyzstan International University have left the Central Asian nation.

University Rector Asylbek Aidaraliev told reporters on May 20 that mainly first-year and second-year students had left the country, though some students remain in Kyrgyzstan and have joined talks on the situation.

Deputy Education Minister Rasul Abazbek-uulu called the mass attacks on Pakistani and Indian students in Bishkek over the weekend "a shameful" situation that "damages Kyrgyzstan's image."

WATCH: Parents of Pakistani students in Kyrgyzstan held a protest following attacks on foreign students there, demanding the Kyrgyz government provide security for their children.

Parents Of Pakistani Students Protest After Mob Attack On Foreigners In Kyrgyzstan
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The violence on May 18 was triggered by the appearance on social media of a video purportedly showing a group of "people of Asian appearance" harassing foreign students on the night of May 13 and then pursuing them to their dormitory, where at least one foreign student was assaulted by several men and dragged along the floor.

"The situation is stable now, the foreign students started walking around. It is up to us if the students who left Kyrgyzstan decide to return in the fall. For that, all state entities must work together to persuade them that it is safe to return," Abazbek-uulu said.

Students Leave Kyrgyzstan In Wake Of Anti-Foreigner Mob Violence
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Bishkek city police said a probe had been launched into mass disorder and the incitement of ethnic and racial hatred.

In his first public comment on the situation concerning Pakistani students, Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov said on May 20 that "all of the perpetrators who attacked foreign students will for sure be punished."

"We have managed to build a state based on the rule of law. Therefore, we will support order," Japarov said.

The ministry said four foreign nationals had also been detained on hooliganism charges, while police are searching for two Kyrgyz men suspected of being involved in harassing the foreign students.

Kyrgyzstan’s Health Ministry said on May 18 that 29 people were injured during the violence, of whom 15 had been taken to the Bishkek City Emergency Hospital and the National Hospital. Others received medical assistance on the spot.

The Kyrgyz government over the weekend vowed to pursue those responsible for the violence and rejected what it said were "insinuations aimed at inciting intolerance toward foreign students."

Still, it appeared to lay the blame for the violence on illegal migrants, saying authorities had been taking "decisive measures to suppress illegal migration and expel undesirable persons from Kyrgyzstan."

Just three days before the violence, Kyrgyzstan's State Committee for National Security detained 28 Pakistani nationals for "working illegally" in a sewing shop in Bishkek.

The same day, Bishkek city police shut down delivery services conducted by more than 400 foreign students, mostly from Pakistan, on motorcycles and scooters, citing traffic safety concerns.

Russian Anti-War Activist Gets 25 Years In Prison On Treason Charge

Ilya Baburin appears in court.
Ilya Baburin appears in court.

A court in Siberia on May 20 sentenced anti-war activist Ilya Baburin to 25 years in prison on a high-treason charge that stemmed from allegations that the 24-year-old planned to set several military recruitment centers on fire. Baburin, who was also found guilty of carrying out an arson attack on a music school and participating in the activities of the Ukrainian far-right Azov armed group, rejected all of the charges. Baburin's prison term is the longest one handed to an anti-war activist in Russia amid the government's recent crackdown on charges related to arson attacks on military recruitment centers. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Siberia.Realities, click here.

Ukraine Thwarts Russian Drone Attack In Kharkiv

Russia launched Iranian-made kamikaze drones against Ukraine's Kharkiv region. (file photo)
Russia launched Iranian-made kamikaze drones against Ukraine's Kharkiv region. (file photo)

Ukraine says it downed all 29 Shahed-type kamikaze drones launched by Russia against Kharkiv in the early hours of May 20. The Ukrainian armed forces added that Russia had also launched an Iskandar-M ballistic missile but did not say whether it had been intercepted. The drones were shot down over Odesa, Mykolayiv, Poltava, and Lviv, the armed forces said. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, click here.

Islamic State Claims Attack In Afghanistan That Killed 3 Spaniards

Bamiyan statues (file photo)
Bamiyan statues (file photo)

The Islamic State militant group on May 19 claimed responsibility for an attack by gunmen on tourists in Afghanistan's central Bamiyan Province. Three Spanish tourists were killed and at least one other was injured in the May 17 attack, the Spanish Foreign Ministry said. Abdul Matin Qane, spokesman for the Taliban-led government’s Interior Ministry, said four people had been arrested over the attack. In addition to the three foreign tourists, one Afghan citizen was killed, and four foreigners and three Afghans were injured, according to Qane. Bamiyan is home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the remains of two giant Buddha statues that were blown up by the Taliban during its previous rule in 2001.

Updated

Official Says 'No Signs Of Life' Found At Crash Site Of Iranian President's Helicopter

Iran Releases Footage Of Rescuers Searching For President's Helicopter
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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is feared dead after rescue teams reached the remote site in northwestern Iran where a helicopter he and other government officials, including Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, were travelling in crashed.

The head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, Pir Hossein Kolivand, told state television early on May 20 that rescuers had seen the downed helicopter and upon arrival, the situation was "not good."

“With the discovery of the crash site, no signs of life have been detected among the helicopter's passengers,” he said.

Search-and-rescue teams, aided by several foreign governments, had been frantically searching for the helicopter after it went down in bad weather conditions in a mountainous area of the country late on May 19.

Raisi's helicopter was on its way to the city of Tabriz when it went down near the city of Jolfa in what state television said was a "hard landing," but several news reports quoted government sources as saying the helicopter crashed as it crossed a mountainous and forested area.

The Iranian government said the helicopter was one of three flying in a convoy, and the other two reportedly landed safely in Tabriz. The massive search for more than 12 hours before a Turkish drone with night vision that was aiding the search identified a source of heat "suspected to be the wreckage of the helicopter carrying Raisi." According to the Turkish Anadolu news agency, Ankara immediately "shared its coordinates with Iranian authorities."

Frantic Search For Crashed Helicopter With Iranian President
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Reports of the crash sparked several countries, including Iraq, Turkey, Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, into action to help in the search effort, while the European Union activated its Copernicus satellite mapping service at Iran's request.

The ultraconservative Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian had been in Azerbaijan earlier on May 19 to inaugurate a dam with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who said on X that Azerbaijan was "profoundly troubled" by the news that Raisi's helicopter had gone down.

Raisi was elected president in 2021 and has since tightened many restrictions on Iranians through enforcement of morality laws and a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests spurred by the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody for allegedly violating the code on head scarves.

He has also pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers while also allowing the country to markedly increase its uranium enrichment program.

With growing dissent among many Iranians over an array of political, social and economic crises, Iran's clerical rulers.

Hours after the search began, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a brief statement late calling for prayers and assuring Iranians "the country's affairs will not be disrupted." He has not commented publicly since reports of the burned wreckage were found.

State TV showed people praying at the Imam Reza Shrine in the city of Mashhad, one of Shi'ite Islam's holiest sites, as well as in Qom and other locations across the country.

Raisi, 63, is a hard-liner who won Iran's 2021 presidential election after leading the country's judiciary. He is viewed as a protege of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

He has been sanctioned by the United States in part over his involvement in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988 at the end of the bloody Iran-Iraq War.

Some reports have noted that because of international sanctions it has been difficult for Iran to obtain parts for its aging helicopter fleet.

Iranian law stipulates that if the president dies, power is transferred to the first vice president. A council consisting of the speaker of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, the head of the judicial power, and the first vice president must arrange for a new president to be elected within 50 days. The current first vice president of Iran is Mohammad Mokhber.

Slovak PM's Condition Upgraded To Positive Prognosis Following Assassination Attempt

Slovak PM Robert Fico greets people in Handlova, Slovakia where he was shot on May 15.
Slovak PM Robert Fico greets people in Handlova, Slovakia where he was shot on May 15.

Slovakia’s populist prime minister, Robert Fico, remained in serious condition on May 19 but has been given a positive prognosis four days after he was shot multiple times in an assassination attempt that has sent shock waves across the deeply polarized European Union nation, the defense minister said. "The worst of what we feared has passed, at least for the moment. But his condition remains serious," Robert Kalinak told reporters outside the hospital where Fico is being treated. "His condition is stable with a positive prognosis."

Updated

Pakistan Evacuates Students Following Bishkek Attacks On Foreigners

Pakistani Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi (left) greets a student injured in the Bishkek attacks, at Lahore airport on May 18. The Pakistani Embassy in Bishkek announced special flights to bring students home over the next few days.
Pakistani Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi (left) greets a student injured in the Bishkek attacks, at Lahore airport on May 18. The Pakistani Embassy in Bishkek announced special flights to bring students home over the next few days.

Top officials from Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan have met after mob violence in Bishkek against foreign students injured at least 29 people, including several foreigners, and triggered diplomatic tensions with Pakistan and India.

Kyrgyz Deputy Foreign Minister Avazbek Atakhanov held talks on May 19 in the Kyrgyz capital with Hassan Ali Zaigham, Pakistan’s ambassador to Kyrgyzstan.

Atakhanov said the situation was under control and added that Kyrgyz authorities had launched a probe into the incident, allegedly sparked by an unclear dispute days earlier involving migrants.

Kyrgyz Deputy Prime Minister Edil Baisalov and Ali Zaigham visited the hostel where most of the violence took place and met with international students. Baisalov apologized on behalf of the Kyrgyz government and the Kyrgyz people for failing to protect the students.

Meanwhile, Pakistani officials said a planned visit to Bishkek by a Pakistani delegation, including Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar, had been canceled after Kyrgyz officials had assured them the situation was now calm.

Students Leave Kyrgyzstan In Wake Of Anti-Foreigner Mob Violence
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About 140 students and 40 other Pakistanis flew out of Bishkek late on May 18. The students were received by Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi at Lahore International Airport, Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) officials told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal.

The Pakistani Embassy in Bishkek informed Radio Azattyk on May 19 that special flights have been arranged to repatriate Pakistani students for the next few days.

A Pakistani student told Radio Mashaal he had spent the night at Bishkek’s international airport waiting to fly out.

“Our university arranged transport last night.... There were three vans…. We were brought to the airport and here we are completely safe. Our flight is scheduled for today. It is a direct flight from Bishkek to Islamabad. We spent the night without any trouble and there was no attack," Hasnain Ali, a student of medicine at Ala-Too International University in Bishkek, told Radio Mashaal.

Another described how foreign students were being told not to venture outside.

Protests In Pakistan Over Mob Attack On Foreigners In Kyrgyzstan
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"We are also getting messages from the university that things are normal, but one can't believe it. It is not fully normal because they are asking us that if you want to go out, do it only in groups of three or four, but not alone. We are restricted to our hostel,” explained Syed Shah Rukh Khan.

RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service also spoke with people at the VIP Hostel in Bishkek, which was the epicenter of the mob attacks.

"The students who are here only came to study. And now the students are really scared. I know that no country is bad. But, thanks to some bad people and their behavior, the students are scared. They are someone's children. They came here only to study, and they [the mob] came in and beat them," said Ahmed Faiz, a student from Pakistan at Kyrgyzstan’s International University.

Ahmed Umer, another Pakistani student at Kyrgyzstan’s International University, described some of the violence at the hostel.

"Some locals went into our hostel, and they harassed women. Also, they broke windows, everything. They stole things from us," he told RFE/RL.

Sajjad Ahmad, head of the VIP Hostel, said faculty from Kyryzstan's International University were helping students cope with the aftermath.

"They have been sleeping here since yesterday. They have been calming down the students. Now, the students are calm.... Of course, the situation is scary. They will now head home. We are [arranging] plane tickets and flights," Ahmad said.

An estimated 500 people live at the hostel, and Ahmad said all of them were expected to leave.

"They didn't expect such a thing to happen here. The atmosphere was very good in Kyrgyzstan. Now they are saying that they urgently need to [leave]," Ahmad told RFE/RL, adding that their course work would continue online.

"Let's see if they come back. Then they will continue their education here," he said.

Meanwhile, three foreign nationals injured in the unrest in Bishkek remain in a stable condition on May 19, according to Health Ministry spokesman Jyldyz Aigerchinova, who spoke to RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service.

The Health Ministry said on May 18 that 15 of the 29 people injured had been taken to the Bishkek City Emergency Hospital and the National Hospital and the rest were treated on the spot.

The Kyrgyz government said earlier that four foreign nationals born between 1993 and 2003 had been arrested following the violence. It said they were placed in a temporary detention facility as part of a criminal case for hooliganism without stating their nationalities or the circumstances of their arrests.

Those found guilty will be punished, the Kyrgyz government said in a statement, rejecting what it said were "insinuations aimed at inciting intolerance toward foreign students." But it appeared to lay the blame for the violence on illegal migrants, saying authorities had been taking "decisive measures to suppress illegal migration and expel undesirable persons from Kyrgyzstan."

The Kyrgyz Interior Ministry said in a statement on May 18 that the violence was triggered by the appearance on social media of a video purportedly showing a group of "persons of Asian appearance" harassing foreign students on the night of May 13 and then pursuing them to their dormitory, where at least one foreign student was assaulted by several men and dragged on the floor.

Updated

Russian Strikes Kill At Least 11 Civilians In Ukraine's Eastern Kharkiv Region

A woman cries as police officers inspect the site of a Russian missile attack that hit a recreation area killing five and injuring 16 on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on May 19.
A woman cries as police officers inspect the site of a Russian missile attack that hit a recreation area killing five and injuring 16 on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on May 19.

Russian air strikes in eastern Ukraine killed at least 11 people amid Moscow's renewed offensive in the Kharkiv region, government officials said on May 19, while Russia said it came under a drone attack.

The air strikes killed at least five and injured nine others near the city of Kupyansk in the Kharkiv region, regional Governor Oleh Synyehubov said. Three men aged 58, 64, and 65, and two women aged 56 and 72 died, in the attack, Synyehubov said. Five men and four women were injured, he said on Telegram.

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Police in the Kharkiv region said the shelling occurred in the morning of May 19.

Russian forces also struck a lakeside recreation center near Kharkiv, killing six people and injuring 27, the Prosecutor-General's Office said in a statement. Two of the injured people were police officers, the statement said.

It added that the fate of one employee of the recreation center who was fishing at the time of the attack was unknown.

Earlier on May 19, Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-installed governor of Ukraine's partially occupied Kherson region in southern Ukraine, said that one person died and 16 were wounded when a Ukrainian drone hit a minibus.

Ukrainian troops are fighting to halt Russian advances in the Kharkiv region that began late last week.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on May 17 during a visit to China that Moscow’s offensive in the Kharkiv region aims to create a buffer zone but that there are no plans to capture the city.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said that the activity of Russian military forces in the area around Kharkiv had been "somewhat slowed down," adding that eight combat clashes took place there on May 19. The assessment said the Russian forces were still trying to break through the defenses near Vovchansk, Starytsya, and Lyptsi.

In addition, there were 13 attacks in the area around the city of Kramatorsk.

Further south in the area around the city of Kurakhiv in the Donetsk region, the General Staff said Russian troops doubled the number of attacks to 10.

"The situation at the front remains difficult, but at the same time it is controlled by the Defense Forces of Ukraine," it said in its evening assessment. "Our defenders firmly hold their positions, beat the enemy, and destroy their equipment."

The Ukrainian military's commander in chief, Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskiy, said on May 17 that the combat zone had expanded by some 70 kilometers in a move meant to force Kyiv, already at a troop disadvantage on the battlefield, to concentrate more soldiers in the area and stretch it thin elsewhere.

Earlier, Ukrainian Air Force officials said air defenses shot down all 37 Russian drones launched at sites across the country overnight.

Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry said several regions of the country plus occupied Crimea came under an intense drone and missile attack early on May 19.

Russian air defenses shot down nine U.S. ATACMS missiles over Crimea along with 57 drones over Russia's Krasnodar region and three drones over the Belgorod region, the ministry said.

Local officials said six drones crashed onto the territory of an oil refinery in Slavyansk-on-Kuban in Russia's southern Krasnodar region, forcing it to halt work.

News outlet Astra published videos appearing to show an explosion at the refinery as it was hit by a drone. The videos could not be independently verified.

A source who wished to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to comment officially on the situation told RFE/RL that in addition to the oil refinery a Russian airfield also was hit, adding that Russians complained on social media about a series of explosions and fires.

"At this airport there were dozens of different planes that attack Ukrainian positions at the front -- Su-34, Su-25, Su-27, MiG-29. The management of the Slavyansk Refinery said that after several noisy flights, the plant stopped its work, and they are now assessing the damage," the source said.

The source did not provide any other details about the possible destruction caused by the impact.

EU's Michel Says Georgian President's Veto Of 'Foreign Agent' Bill Offers 'Moment Of Reflection'

European Council President Charles Michel called the veto an "opportunity" to "ensure Georgia stays on the European course the population supports."
European Council President Charles Michel called the veto an "opportunity" to "ensure Georgia stays on the European course the population supports."

European Council President Charles Michel says a veto by Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili of a bill targeting media and NGOS that receive foreign funding "offers a moment for further reflection" on the controversial legislation that has sparked weeks of protests in Georgia and concern in the West.

"I call on all politicians and leaders in Georgia to make good use of this window of opportunity and ensure Georgia stays on the European course the population supports," Michel wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

The law would require media and NGOs to register as "pursuing the interests of a foreign power" if they receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad.

The EU offered Georgia candidate status last December but said at the same time that Tbilisi needed to fulfill policy recommendations for its membership bid to move forward. Among other things, Brussels urged Tbilisi to ensure that elections remain free and fair, to fight disinformation "against the EU and its values," and to safeguard the independence of public institutions such as the central bank and anti-corruption bodies.

In announcing her decision on May 18, Zurabishvili, who has increasingly feuded with the ruling Georgian Dream party since it endorsed her candidacy in 2018, said the legislation contradicts Georgia’s constitution and "all European standards," and added that it "must be abolished."

The ruling party, Georgian Dream, has a majority sufficient to override Zurabishvili’s veto and is widely expected to do so in the coming days. Georgian Dream was founded by Russian-friendly billionaire and ex-Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili.

In his post on X, Michel said he would continue to monitor developments in Georgia.

On May 14, Michel said that if Georgians "want to join the EU, they have to respect the fundamental principles of the rule of law and the democratic principles."

Zurabishvili said the Georgian Dream party together with several opposition members of parliament voted through the legislation in defiance of protesters who oppose any shift away from a pro-Western course back toward Russia.

The Law On Transparency Of Foreign Influence has been condemned by the United States, the European Union, and rights watchdogs, and prompted weeks of protests that were repeatedly cracked down on violently by authorities.

On May 15, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell issued a statement in support of the Georgian protesters, condemning what he described as a wave of violence against opposition politicians, activists, journalists, and their families.

Earlier on May 18 opponents of the law were attacked by Georgian Dream supporters outside Tbilisi State University, where they were waiting for the arrival of Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze, who teaches a course at the university on Saturdays.

Kobakhidze has accused the protesters of "following the agenda of the political minority" and charged that they were showing a "great irresponsibility" toward their country.

Opponents have pointed to the similarity to legislation used by President Vladimir Putin to crush dissent in Russia and stifle independent institutions, prompting Georgians to refer to the measure as "the Russian law."

Zurabishvili used that description in a briefing after announcing her veto.

"This law is a Russian law in essence and spirit, which contradicts our constitution and all European standards. Thus, it represents an obstacle on our European path," she said. "This veto is completely legal and will be delivered to the parliament today."

The law is not subject to any change or improvement, she said, adding that the move is simple veto indicating the draft law "should be repealed."

However, Georgian Dream's parliamentary majority will allow it to easily override the presidential veto.

Russian Court Seizes Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank Assets As Part Of Lawsuit

(file photo)
(file photo)

A Russian court has ordered that Deutsche Bank's and Commerzbank's assets, accounts, property and shares be seized in Russia as part of a lawsuit involving the German banks, court documents showed. The banks were among the guarantor lenders under a contract for the construction of a gas processing plant in Russia with Germany's Linde, which was terminated due to Western sanctions. The lawsuits were filed by St Petersburg-based RusChemAlliance, a joint venture 50 percent owned by Russian gas giant Gazprom which is the operator of the project.

Zelenskiy Says Fighting 'Difficult' As Ukrainian Forces Repel Russian Assault On Chasiv Yar

Seizing Chasiv Yar would allow Russia to threaten Kostyantynivka and its rail and roadway and crack the door toward Kramatorsk to the north, and Slovyansk, both large population centers and redoubts of Ukrainian troops and supplies.
Seizing Chasiv Yar would allow Russia to threaten Kostyantynivka and its rail and roadway and crack the door toward Kramatorsk to the north, and Slovyansk, both large population centers and redoubts of Ukrainian troops and supplies.

Russian forces shelled the border regions of Sumy and Kharkiv on May 18, wounding civilians, while pitched battles took place near the cities of Kramatorsk, Pokrovsk, and Kurakhiv, military and civilian officials said.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that the fighting "is difficult, but the Armed Forces are giving a worthy rebuff to the occupier."

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Speaking in his evening address, Zelenskiy said the Ukrainian military repelled a Russian assault in the area of Chasiv Yar in the Donetsk region. Ukrainian soldiers destroyed more than 20 units of armored vehicles of the occupier, he claimed, thanking “the guys who repelled the Russian assault on Chasiv Yar.”

The village lies on high ground that Russia has been fighting desperately to capture. Ukrainian forces have repelled the effort so far.

Seizing Chasiv Yar would allow Russia to threaten Kostyantynivka and its rail and roadway and crack the door toward Kramatorsk to the north, and Slovyansk, both large population centers and redoubts of Ukrainian troops and supplies.

In the Chernihiv region on May 18 one person was wounded by shelling, according to the press services of the local regional military administrations.

According to information from the Sumy regional military administration, Russian forces as of 9 p.m. local time on May 18 shelled border territories and settlements in the region 46 times, wounding one person. It said 284 explosions were recorded.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said seven of 77 combat clashes during the day were still ongoing in the evening, the "hottest" being in the Pokrovsk direction.

According to the military, Ukrainian aviation on May 18 struck 18 areas of concentration of Russian forces and two of their anti-aircraft missile systems.

Ukrainian soldiers carried out assaults four times with the aim of knocking the enemy out of the occupied positions, the General Staff said.

Ten clashes took place in the Kharkiv area during the day after Russian forces carried out an air strike on a residential area of the city of Kharkiv using two guided aerial bombs.

Ukrainian prosecutors said they were investigating the air strike, which wounded five civilians, including a 13-year-old girl and 16-year-old male, as a potential war crime.

Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry said its forces captured the village of Starytsya in the Kharkiv region on May 18.

It was not possible to verify either side’s battlefield claims.

Russian troops began shelling border settlements in the Kharkiv region on May 10 and launched a ground offensive in the area of Vovchansk. On May 16, Russian units appeared to have entered Vovchansk, about 5 kilometers from the border, and the site of the fiercest fighting in the north.

Earlier on May 18, a Russian missile attack on Ukraine's southern Black Sea port city of Odesa killed one person and wounded eight others, regional Governor Oleh Kiper said on Telegram.

Ukraine's Emergency Situations Service reported that the strike hit a warehouse and a fire broke out on an area of 800 square meters, which firefighters were extinguishing.

Poland To Spend Around $2.5 Billion On Securing Eastern Border, Tusk Says

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk (file photo)
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk (file photo)

Poland will invest 10 billion zlotys ($2.55 billion) in a program to secure its eastern border, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on May 18. Tusk did not provide specifics but said the program would include fortifications and landscaping that will make the border impossible for a “potential enemy" to pass through. Poland's border with Belarus has been a flashpoint since migrants started flocking there in 2021 after Minsk began encouraging Middle Eastern migrants to travel to Belarus and then use the new route into Europe. Warsaw and the European Union accused Minsk and Moscow of sending migrants to the border as part of an effort to destabilize Poland.

U.S. Military Cargo Plane Arrives In Moldova To Take Part In Emergency Response Training

A C-17 military transport aircraft of the U.S. Air Force (file photo)
A C-17 military transport aircraft of the U.S. Air Force (file photo)

A U.S. C-17 military aircraft landed on May 18 in Chisinau to support an exercise called Shield of Peace, the U.S. Embassy in Moldova said in a statement. On board the cargo plane were 35 military personnel from the North Carolina Air National Guard and the U.S. Air Force in Europe, according to the embassy. They will collaborate with Moldovan government ministries “to implement response tactics aimed at ensuring the best protection of Moldovan citizens in the event of civil emergencies.” The aircraft also delivered medical and defense equipment to be donated to the Moldovan Defense Ministry of as part of U.S. grant assistance. To read the full story on RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, click here.

Final Text Of UN Resolution On Srebrenica Genocide Agreed

Bosnia-Herzegovina Ambassador to the UN Zlatko Lagumdzija (file photo)
Bosnia-Herzegovina Ambassador to the UN Zlatko Lagumdzija (file photo)

Bosnia-Herzegovina’s ambassador to the United Nations has announced that the final text of a resolution on the Srebrenica genocide has been agreed.

Zlatko Lagumdzija announced the agreement on X, formerly Twitter, late on May 17, saying that changes proposed by Montenegro had been considered in the last few days and were largely implemented in the text of the resolution.

The latest revisions "led us to an even better 'refined' text with two amendments that became an integral part of the document," Lagumdzija said.

The agreed final version of the resolution will be presented to the General Assembly for a vote on May 23, Lagumdzija said.

He added that the discussion of the Srebrenica genocide in recent months represents "the fight for justice, truth, reconciliation, learning, prevention of genocide, and ultimately -- a symbol of the fight against the denial of genocide. No one can 'escape' from that anymore," Lagumdzija added.

In July 1995, more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were rounded up and killed by Bosnian Serb forces in Potocari near the eastern town of Srebrenica in the worst mass killing in Europe since World War II.

The massacre has been deemed genocide by various verdicts of both the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The UN resolution, which would declare July 11 as the International Day of Remembrance for the Genocide in Srebrenica, was initiated by Germany and Rwanda and is co-sponsored by the United States, France, Bosnia, and other countries. If the resolution passes, the day of remembrance would be observed starting on July 11 next year, the 30th anniversary of the genocide.

The final draft condemns any denial of the Srebrenica genocide as well as actions that glorify convicted war criminals and perpetrators of crimes against humanity and genocide.

It also highlights the importance of completing the process of finding and identifying the remains of victims of the genocide and calls for the continued prosecution of its perpetrators that have yet to be brought to justice.

The leaders of Bosnia's Serb entity, Republika Srpska, and Serbia have voiced angry opposition to the resolution, which they claim would label Serbs as a “genocidal nation.”

Milorad Dodik, Republika Srpska's Russian-friendly leader, has repeatedly threatened that if the resolution is adopted, the entity "will withdraw from the decision-making process in Bosnia."

Dodik, who has been sanctioned by the United States and Britain over his efforts to undermine the Dayton peace accords, has regularly reiterated his denial of the Srebrenica genocide.

Dodik told supporters at a rally in Banja Luka on April 18 that the actions of the Republika Srpska Army in Srebrenica in 1995 were "a mistake that left the crime," but again denied it was genocide.

Lagumdzija in a separate post on X on May 17 said the resolution includes language that "breaks out the arguments of false patriots who promote the nonexistent guilt of 'genocidal peoples'!"

The text reads: "We repeat that criminal responsibility under international law for the crime of genocide cannot apply to any ethnic, religious, or other community as a whole."

Serbia's nationalist president, Aleksandar Vucic, said the resolution should be subjected to a vote in the UN Security Council, not the General Assembly.

Unlike resolutions presented to the General Assembly, those put to a vote in the Security Council can be vetoed by any of its five members, therefore allowing Russia and China to sink it.

Russia’s UN ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, has dismissed the resolution as “one-sided” and “politically charged.” Nebenzya said on April 30 that the move would not promote reconciliation among Bosnia’s two entities.

Georgia's President Vetoes 'Foreign Agent' Law As Protesters Attacked In Tbilisi

Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili speaks at a joint news conference in Tbilisi on May 15.
Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili speaks at a joint news conference in Tbilisi on May 15.

TBILISI -- Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili has vetoed the so-called foreign agent bill targeting media and NGOs that are funded by foreign governments following weeks of mass protests by Georgians who see the bill as endangering the country's path toward EU integration.

The law would require media and NGOs to register as "pursuing the interests of a foreign power" if they receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad.

Zurabishvili said earlier in the week that she considered the law "unacceptable."

Zurabishvili, who has increasingly feuded with the ruling Georgian Dream party since it endorsed her candidacy in 2018, previously expressed her intention to veto the bill, which was approved by parliament on May 14.

Protesters rally outside Tbilisi State University on May 17.
Protesters rally outside Tbilisi State University on May 17.

She said earlier in the week that she considered the law "unacceptable" and "not consistent" with the country's path toward integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions. She also warned that the law endangers the very existence of the Georgian state.

Zurabishvili said the Georgian Dream party together with several opposition members of parliament voted through the legislation in defiance of protesters who oppose any shift away from a pro-Western course back toward Russia.

The Law On Transparency Of Foreign Influence has been condemned by the United States, the European Union, and rights watchdogs, and prompted weeks of protests that were repeatedly cracked down on violently by authorities.

Opponents have pointed to the similarity to legislation used by President Vladimir Putin to crush dissent in Russia and stifle independent institutions, prompting Georgians to refer to the measure as "the Russian law."

Zurabishvili used that description in a briefing after announcing her veto.

"This law is a Russian law in essence and spirit, which contradicts our constitution and all European standards. Thus, it represents an obstacle on our European path," she said. "This veto is completely legal and will be delivered to the parliament today."

The law is not subject to any change or improvement, she said, adding that the move is simple veto indicating the draft law "should be repealed."

However, Georgian Dream's parliamentary majority will allow it to easily override the presidential veto.

Earlier on May 18 opponents of the law were attacked by Georgian Dream supporters outside Tbilisi State University, where they were waiting for the arrival of Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze, who teaches a course at the university on Saturdays.

One of the organizers of the rally, Niko Managadze, said a group of people confronted the protesters in front of the university and began to physically attack them.

Managadze told RFE/RL's Echo of the Caucasus that the move was meant to allow Kobakhidze to safely enter the building without having to face the protesters.

"We decided to gather in front of the university and protest, although as you could see, the others have mobilized and came into direct physical contact with us," Managadze said. "There was no adequate reaction from the police. They just stood next to us."


The attackers, who were said to be members of the youth wing of Georgian Dream, came to the university building dressed in black and wearing masks -- apparel similar to that worn by what appeared to be riot police who violently and repeatedly attacked protesters against the law earlier in the week before its adoption.

The incident outside Tbilisi State University came a day after top officials from the ruling party joined senior Orthodox clerics and conservative religious groups in rallies across the country on May 17 to mark a new holiday known as Family Purity Day, including a march in central Tbilisi, the scene of weeks of protests against the bill.

In Georgia, Church-Led 'Family Purity Day' Forces Out LGBT Events
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A procession attended by thousands began at the Holy Trinity Cathedral attended by Kobakhidze, Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze, who is also Georgian Dream's secretary-general, and parliament speaker Shalva Papuashvili.

The attention given by Georgian Dream to the event appeared to be an attempt to tamp down the impact of the weeks of massive protests against the contentious "foreign agent" bill approved by parliament amid the violent crackdown on protesters.

Kobakhidze has accused the protesters of "following the agenda of the political minority" and charged that they were showing a "great irresponsibility" toward their country.

Georgian Dream was founded by Russian-friendly billionaire and ex-Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Updated

Suspected Would-Be Assassin Ordered Detained As Slovak PM's Condition Is Stable

The 71-year-old suspect was detained after shooting Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico after a government meeting in Handlova, Slovakia, on May 15.
The 71-year-old suspect was detained after shooting Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico after a government meeting in Handlova, Slovakia, on May 15.

The man accused of attempting to assassinate Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was ordered to remain behind bars on May 18, while Fico remains in serious but stable condition, officials said. Slovakia’s Specialized Criminal Court ordered the detention of the suspect after prosecutors said they feared he could flee or carry out other crimes if set free, a court spokesperson said. Fico, 59, was shot multiple times as he greeted supporters following a government meeting on May 15, officials said. Unconfirmed media reports say the suspect is a 71-year-old retiree known as an amateur poet. Though he doesn’t belong to any political groups, allies of Fico have said the attack was politically motivated.

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