Accessibility links

Breaking News

News

China Protests Japan War Shrine Visit

Japanese Prime Minister Visits Controversial War Shrine
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:01:17 0:00

WATCH: Japanese Prime Minister Visits Controversial War Shrine

China has summoned Japan's ambassador and delivered a "strong protest" after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a controversial shrine.
The official Xinhua news agency quoted China's Foreign Ministry as saying the visit glorified Japan's history of militaristic aggression.
Yasukuni is believed to be the repository of around 2.5 million of Japan's war dead, including several high-level officials executed for war crimes after World War II.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Foreign Minister Wang Yi conveyed the Chinese government's solemn condamnation and strong protest.

"The Chinese government expresses strong outrage and protest and solemnly condemns Japanese leaders ruthlessly trampling the feelings of Chinese people and people of other war-affected Asian countries and bluntly challenging historical justice and human conscience," Qin said.
Gang urged Japan to "correct its error" immediately.
"We solemnly urge Japan to abide by its commitment to reflect on its history of aggression, take measures to correct its error, eliminate the adverse effects, and take concrete actions to win the trust of its Asian neighbors and the international community," he said.
Abe's visit to the Yasukuni shrine -- the first by an incumbent Japanese prime minister since 2006 -- further raised tensions which are already high over disputed islands in the East China Sea.
South Korean government spokesman Yoo Jin-ryong also said Seoul "cannot withhold its regret and anger" over the visit. Korea was occupied by Japan during the war.

"Despite concerns and warnings from neighboring countries and the international community, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday, December 26, made a visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, which beautifies the historical colonization and invasive war as well as enshrines the war dead. We cannot withhold regret and anger over the visit," Yoo said.
China, Japan, and South Korea are engaged in a number of territorial disputes in the East China Sea.
The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo issued a statement expressing disappointment "that Japan's leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan's neighbors."
Based on reporting by AFP and AP

More News

Updated

Former Iranian Prison Official, Swedish EU Diplomat Released In Prisoner Exchange

Hamid Nouri was convicted by a Swedish court of human rights violations in Iran against political prisoners. (file photo)
Hamid Nouri was convicted by a Swedish court of human rights violations in Iran against political prisoners. (file photo)

A former Iranian prison official who was sentenced to life in a Swedish prison for crimes committed during the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988 was released by Sweden, officials said, in a prisoner swap that also saw Tehran release a EU diplomat.

A third man, a dual Iranian-Swedish citizen, was also released as part of the June 15 deal , which was hailed as a breakthrough in long-strained relations between Tehran and Stockholm.

Hamid Nouri was arrested at a Stockholm airport in 2019 and was charged with the mass execution and torture of political prisoners at Iran's notorious Gohardasht prison. The killings targeted members of a political-militant organization known as the MKO that advocated the overthrow of Iran's clerical regime.

The IRNA news agency said Nouri would return to Iran sometime later on June 15.

Sweden's prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, meanwhile, said in a video posted to social media that Johan Floderus and Saeed Azizi were en route to Sweden "and will soon be reunited with their families."

The exact conditions or circumstances of the swap were not immediately clear, although it appeared to have been negotiated with the help of the Gulf state of Oman, according to a statement published by the Oman state news agency.

Floderus, a Swedish national, had been visiting Iran in the spring of 2022 on a private trip. He was detained at Tehran airport on April 17, 2022, as he prepared to leave the country. He was later accused by Iranian prosecutors of espionage.

He had been employed as a diplomat with the EU's External Action Service, the bloc's foreign policy arm.

Azizi, a dual Swedish-Iranian national, was taken into custody on November 12, 2023, at his residence in Tehran shortly after arriving from Sweden.

Iran Installing, Starting Cascades Of Advanced Centrifuges, Says UN Watchdog

A student looks at Iran's domestically built centrifuges in an exhibition of the country's nuclear achievements in Tehran in February 2023.
A student looks at Iran's domestically built centrifuges in an exhibition of the country's nuclear achievements in Tehran in February 2023.

The UN nuclear watchdog said Iran has started up new cascades of advanced centrifuges and planned to install others in the coming weeks. The June 14 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was met with strong criticism by the United States and other Western nations. "We remain committed to a diplomatic solution preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon," the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement cosigned by Germany and Britain. The IAEA said its inspectors verified that Iran had begun feeding uranium into three cascades of advanced centrifuges at its Natanz enrichment facility. Its report, however, did not include any suggestion Iran planned to go to higher enrichment levels.

Sweden Says Russian Tactical Bomber Violates Airspace, Intercepted By Jets

A Russian Su-24 Bomber in the sky over the Black Sea during 2021 Sea Breeze exercises
A Russian Su-24 Bomber in the sky over the Black Sea during 2021 Sea Breeze exercises

Sweden’s military said a Russian tactical bomber was intercepted by fighter jets after the bomber briefly violated Sweden's airspace. The June 14 incident occurred roughly three months after Sweden shed its decades-old neutrality policy and joined the NATO. In a statement released on June 15, Swedish Air Force chief Jonas Wikman said two Gripen jets were sent to meet the Su-24 after it failed to respond to radio warnings near the Baltic Island of Gotland. Russia’s military made no immediate statement about the incident.

EU Considering Visa Restrictions, Sanctions In Response To Georgian 'Foreign Agent' Law

Tbilisi has been roiled by street protests for weeks by people opposed to the proposed "foreign agent" law.
Tbilisi has been roiled by street protests for weeks by people opposed to the proposed "foreign agent" law.

The European Union will consider reimposing visa requirements for Georgians, according to a leaked document, in response to a widely criticized "foreign agent" law passed by parliament despite street protests and international warnings.

In addition to suspending the visa-free EU regime in place since 2017, the document, seen by RFE/RL’s Georgian Service, also calls for considering sanctions on top Georgian government officials, the suspension of financial assistance and other measures.

Georgian government officials could not be immediately reached by RFE/RL for comment.

Georgia's parliament, which is controlled by the Georgian Dream party, last month gave final passage to the so-called foreign agent law, overriding a veto by President Salome Zurabishvili.

The law requires nongovernmental organizations and media groups that receive at least 20 percent of their funding from outside the country to register as organizations "pursuing the interests of a foreign power."

Violations could result in fines of the equivalent of more than $9,000.

Georgian Civil Activist Bruised And Bloodied, Opposition's Homes, Offices Vandalized
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:03:09 0:00

The law is modeled on a similar measure in Russia, which was initially passed in 2012 and has been gradually expanded and toughened to encompass civil society groups, human rights activists, media organizations, and others. The law has forced the closure of dozens of organizations and individuals in Russia, and forced activists and reporters to flee the country.

RFE/RL, its Russian-language TV network Current Time, and specific parts of its editorial services were designated foreign agents by the Russian Justice Ministry in 2017. RFE/RL closed its Moscow bureau in 2022.

In Georgia, lawmakers pushed through the legislation in the face of increasingly dire warnings from the European Union and the United States.

Protesters staged near nightly demonstrations outside parliament building in Tbilisi, often clashing with riot police.

According to the document, the European Commission, the EU's executive body, will consider initially reimposing visa rules on Georgian government officials and diplomats.

In case of "further deterioration of the situation," such as "use of violence against protesters" or "intimidation or major irregularities in the electoral process," the document proposes other harsher measures, including imposing visa rules for all Georgians.

The initial measure will be considered more seriously later this fall ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for the end of October. Georgian Dream will be seeking to hold onto or expand its hold in parliament.

The additional measure will be considered "in case of election falsification and serious misconduct of the electoral process," according to the document.

World Leaders Converge For Ukraine Summit Shadowed By Putin's Hard-Line Demands

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (center is welcomed by Swiss Ambassador to Ukraine Felix Baumann (left) and Deputy Head of Swiss Protocol Manuel Irman (right) as he arrives at Zurich airport on June 14 ahead of the summit.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (center is welcomed by Swiss Ambassador to Ukraine Felix Baumann (left) and Deputy Head of Swiss Protocol Manuel Irman (right) as he arrives at Zurich airport on June 14 ahead of the summit.

Dozens of world leaders were converging on the Swiss town of Lucerne to try and find a way to end the more than 2-year-old war in Ukraine, but the absence of Russian and Chinese officials dampened prospects for a major breakthrough.

A day before the June 15 opening of two-day summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin called on Kyiv to drop its NATO ambitions and hand over the entirety of four provinces claimed by Moscow.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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


The proposal, which Kyiv called "manipulative," "absurd," and tantamount to surrender, signaled Putin’s determination to continue the conflict, casting a further shadow over the meeting.

More than 90 countries and international organizations are participating in the meetings, being held at a mountaintop resort in central Switzerland.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and the leaders of France, Germany, Canada, Italy, Britain, and Japan are among those due to attend. India, Turkey, and Hungary, which maintain friendlier relations with Russia, are also expected to join.

Switzerland agreed to host the summit at the behest of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, seeking to pave the way for a future peace process that includes Russia.

But Moscow was not invited to attend the gathering that Ukrainian officials have billed as a peace summit. Even before Putin's June 14 remarks at the Foreign Ministry in Moscow, Russian officials had dismissed the event as futile.

That prompted China, which is a stalwart trading partner of Moscow and supports many of Moscow's positions on the global stage, to also decline to participate.

"What can [Zelenskiy] hope for out of it?" Daniel Woker, a former Swiss ambassador, told Reuters. "Another small step forward in international solidarity with Ukraine as the victim of Russian aggression."

Ukraine Seeks Path To Peace At Summit Without Russia
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:04:35 0:00

Russia’s all-out war on Ukraine, launched in February 2022, shows no sign of abating. Despite suffering what U.S. officials say is at least 350,000 killed and wounded troops, Russia’s military has continued to push forward.

Last month, Russia launched a small-scale offensive in the northern Kharkiv region, seeking to stretch Ukraine's outgunned and outmanned forces across the roughly 1,200-kilometer front line. The effort has slowed, as Ukraine rushed new units to the area, and reinforced positions.

But a lack of weaponry from the United States -- whose supplies stalled for months due to congressional infighting -- gave Russia a battlefield advantage, along with Ukraine’s inability to bring large numbers of fresh troops into the fight.

Ukraine’s casualties are believed to be comparable to Russia’s.

The Swiss talks were expected to focus on broader concerns triggered by the war, such as food and nuclear security, and freedom of navigation, according to a draft document seen by RFE/RL. The exchange of prisoners of war and the return of Ukrainian children taken by Russia -- an issue that has resulted in International Criminal Court charges against Putin -- is also expected on the agenda.

Ahead of the summit, leaders from the Group of 7 major industrial nations announced a $50 billion loan package for Kyiv that will leverage interest and income from the more than $260 billion in frozen Russian assets.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Zelenskiy this week signed a security agreement that commits the United States over 10 years to continued training of Ukraine’s armed forces.

Biden, who will not be attending the summit despite pleas from Zelenskiy, also has approved sending Ukraine another Patriot missile system.

The White House also eased restrictions that kept Ukraine from using American weaponry to strike inside Russia, allowing strikes into Russia for the limited purpose of defending Kharkiv.

Analysts say that is a contributing factor for Ukraine’s recent efforts in halting the Russian offensive there.

With reporting by AP, Reuters

Ukraine's Military Claims Hits On Concentrated Russian Troops; Moscow Says 5 Dead In Belgorod

Ukrainian troops fire a BM-21 Grad multiple-launch rocket system toward Russian troops on the front line in the Donetsk region.
Ukrainian troops fire a BM-21 Grad multiple-launch rocket system toward Russian troops on the front line in the Donetsk region.

Ukraine fired missiles and artillery at 15 areas where Russia troops were concentrated on June 14 as Russia tried to use its advantage in manpower, equipment, and air support to seize territory in eastern Ukraine, Kyiv's General Staff said.

"Despite the intense enemy onslaught, the Ukrainian soldiers fought back hard and effectively," the General Staff said in its late summary of the day's fighting.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

The Ukrainian military said there were 81 combat clashes during the day, while the Russian military said its troops seized about a dozen settlements, and the governor of the Belgorod region said five people were killed in attacks on the region.

In the area around Kharkiv, Russian forces supported by air power, tried to storm the positions of Ukrainian units in the Vovchansk and Tykhoy districts three times. All enemy attacks were repelled, Kyiv said.

At the same time, 10 combat clashes took place near Kupyansk, and Russian forces also tried to improve their positions in several towns in the Dnipropetrovsk region. The Ukrainian military said all enemy assaults near Sinkyvka were repulsed, while battles were still going on elsewhere.

Russian troops also attacked towns near Lyman in the Donetsk region. The General Staff described the situation as under control, saying four clashes had ended, while five were still ongoing.

The armed forces also noted that the Russian Army was "intensively" attacking in the Pokrovskiy area, where Ukrainian defenders repelled 17 attacks. At least a dozen other clashes were ongoing.

"The situation is difficult, but controlled by the defense forces," the General Staff said. Ukrainian soldiers "are making efforts to prevent the enemy from advancing deep into Ukrainian territory."

The claims could not be independently verified.

In the Russian region around the city of Belgorod, regional Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said Ukrainian attacks killed five people on June 14.

Gladkov said on Telegram that two bodies had been pulled from an apartment building hit by Ukrainian shelling in the border town of Shebekino.

Emergency services, quoted by news agencies, said a third body was later found in the rubble after shelling caused a stairwell to collapse.

A drone also struck a car in a village near Shebekino, killing the driver, and a woman was killed in her home when it was struck by rocket fire in the village of Oktyabrsky.

With reporting by Reuters

G7 Leaders Hammer Out Details Of Loaning Ukraine Billions Using Profits From Frozen Russian Assets

U.S. President Joe Biden (center), Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni (left), and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attend a working session during the G7 summit hosted by Italy.
U.S. President Joe Biden (center), Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni (left), and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attend a working session during the G7 summit hosted by Italy.

Group of Seven (G7) leaders affirmed their decision to make available around $50 billion to Ukraine by using frozen Russian assets as they wrapped up their two-day summit in Italy on June 14.

The leaders said in their final communique that by leveraging "the extraordinary revenues" of Russian assets frozen in Europe, they are sending "an unmistakable signal" to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"We are working together and with others to address the pressing challenges of our time," the G7 leaders said in the communique, noting their solidarity with Ukraine as well as support for a deal that would lead to an immediate cease-fire and release of hostages in Gaza, investment in sustainable infrastructure in Africa, and commitments to address climate change and migration.

A senior U.S. administration official, meanwhile, provided details about the sovereign-assets deal, telling reporters on a conference call on June 14 that the proceeds will flow to Ukraine through multiple channels.

Every G7 country -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States -- will do its part in the deal, the senior U.S. official said.

The United States has committed to loan up to $50 billion while Canada has committed to loan $5 billion, the official said, adding that the European Union and Japan were considering whether to join the loan syndicate.

As part of its deliberations, the Europe Union is currently discussing a loan that would be up to $25 billion, the official said.

Britain is considering guaranteeing repayment of loans, while the European Union is expected to provide the income generated from some $280 billion in frozen Russian foreign exchange reserves in the bloc, most of it in Belgium.

Those assets, which are generally invested in short-term government bonds of Western governments, are generating income amounting to a few billion dollars a year.

The senior U.S. administration official said Ukraine will not have to pay back anything and the loan would not change Ukraine's debt-to-GDP ratio, which financial agencies like Moody's use to assign ratings to government debt.

The lenders will be repaid from the profits accrued on the frozen Russian assets or through the countries that guarantee the loans.

Before the EU can take part in the loan syndicate or disperse the profits it must get all 27 members to commit to the continued freeze on the Russian reserves.

"We fully expect the EU27 will meet this moment [and] authorize continued immobilization of Russia’s sovereign assets," the senior U.S. official said, citing comments made by the leaders of Italy, France, and Germany as well as senior EU officials as encouraging.

G7 leaders turned their attention on June 14 to other matters, including discussions on migration, artificial intelligence, economic security, and the Indo-Pacific region, stressing their determination to meet global challenges "at a crucial moment in history."

Pope Francis also became the first pontiff to address a G7 summit, delivering a speech on artificial intelligence.

With reporting by AP

Flight To Chisinau Makes Emergency Landing In Bucharest After Alleged Bomb Scare

A FlyOne plane (file photo)
A FlyOne plane (file photo)

A plane en route from Moscow to Chisinau made an emergency landing in Bucharest on June 14, Moldovan authorities and a pro-Russian member of parliament said.

Romanian press reports said the plane made the emergency landing because of a bomb threat.

One report said a suspicious package was found, while another said a call was placed to the emergency-response number advising that a bomb was on the aircraft.

After the emergency landing at Bucharest's international airport in Otopeni, the Romanian SRI intelligence service checked the aircraft and determined that the bomb threat had been a false alarm, Romanian media reported.

Vladimir Cebotari, founder of FlyOne, the low-cost carrier that operated the flight, also said the bomb alert was false. Cebotari told ProTV Chisinau that several people were detained.

There was a different story, however, from Moldova's Civil Aviation Authority, which said on Facebook that the airline failed to notify aviation authorities about flight schedule changes three days in advance, as required by law.

As a result, the flight did not receive the necessary approval from Moldova and was diverted.

There were more than 170 passengers on board the aircraft, most of them Moldovan citizens, according to a Moldovan media report.

Lawmaker Marina Tauber of the Shor Party said that the plane was carrying members of the Moldovan opposition political bloc Victory and that the flight originated in Moscow.

"Chisinau airport refused to allow a flight from Moscow via Yerevan carrying participants in the congress of the Moldovan opposition political bloc 'Victory' to land," she said on Telegram. "The aircraft was diverted to Bucharest."

Moldovan pro-Russian opposition parties gathered in Moscow in April to announce the formation of the Victory political bloc ahead of the presidential election and an EU membership referendum in October.

The pro-Moscow Shor Party was founded by oligarch Ilan Shor, who fled Moldova following pro-Western President Maia Sandu's election in 2020.

Moldovan authorities confirmed on May 16 that Shor had obtained Russian citizenship and identity documents. Moldovan authorities said Russia failed to officially notify Chisinau that Shor, a fugitive wanted in Moldova, had become a Russian citizen.

Shor was sentenced in Moldova to 15 years in June 2023 for his role in a $1 billion bank fraud and other illicit schemes.

Also in June 2023, the Shor Party was declared unconstitutional by Moldova's Constitutional Court and dissolved after it organized months of anti-government protests.

With reporting by AFP

Hungarian, Slovak Embassies In Sarajevo Vandalized After UN Srebrenica Resolution

The number 8,372 was scrawled on the buildings of the Hungarian and Slovak embassies in Sarajevo in apparent reference to the number killed in the 1995 Srebrenica genocide.
The number 8,372 was scrawled on the buildings of the Hungarian and Slovak embassies in Sarajevo in apparent reference to the number killed in the 1995 Srebrenica genocide.

Red graffiti reading 8,372 -- the official number of victims of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina -- has been scribbled on the walls of the Hungarian and Slovakian embassies in Sarajevo.

The graffiti appeared on June 14, three weeks after the United Nations approved a resolution to commemorate the Srebrenica genocide. Hungary was among 19 countries that joined Serbia in voting against the resolution adopted by the General Assembly on May 23. Slovakia was among the 68 countries that abstained from the vote.

The resolution designates July 11 as the International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the 1995 Genocide in Srebrenica, establishing an annual day of commemoration for the massacre of 8,372 local Bosnian Muslim men and boys.

The Sarajevo Canton police on June 14 confirmed to RFE/RL that its investigation into the graffiti scrawled on the two embassies had been completed and that the incident had been classified as vandalism.

Police also carried out an investigation on June 14 into the word "genocide" written in red letters on a residential building not far from the Serbian Embassy in Sarajevo, Sarajevo Canton police confirmed to RFE/RL.

The law enforcement authority in charge of securing diplomatic missions in Bosnia barred RFE/RL from photographing the graffiti, but photos of it were published online by the Public Service of Republika Srpska.

Graffiti indicating the number of people killed in the genocide in Srebrenica appeared on the buildings of the Hungarian and Slovak embassies in Sarajevo.
Graffiti indicating the number of people killed in the genocide in Srebrenica appeared on the buildings of the Hungarian and Slovak embassies in Sarajevo.

Neither embassy would comment on the incident.

"We do not want to comment. You have seen the pictures. Of course we noticed, but we have no comment," the Hungarian Embassy said in response to RFE/RL's request for comment.

The nonbinding UN resolution sparked protests and a lobbying campaign by Serbia's president and the Bosnian Serb leadership to block it.

The resolution condemns any denial of the Srebrenica genocide as a historical event and condemns actions that glorify those convicted of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide by international courts.

The genocide was carried out by members of the Republika Srpska Army and was labeled in 2007 as a genocide by the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

More than 50 people were sentenced in connection to the genocide. Among them were the wartime president of Republika Srpska, Radovan Karadzic, and the commander of its army, Ratko Mladic.

Putin Lays Out Already Rejected Conditions For Talks On Eve Of Ukraine Peace Summit

Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded a commitment from Ukraine to abandon plans to join NATO. (file photo)
Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded a commitment from Ukraine to abandon plans to join NATO. (file photo)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered an immediate cease-fire with Ukraine, setting out conditions that Kyiv has already rejected just a day before a peace summit in Switzerland from which he was excluded.

During a speech at the Foreign Ministry in Moscow on June 14, Putin laid out the terms of his proposal: the withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from its territories of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya, which Russia has claimed, and an end to Kyiv's NATO aspirations.

“We will do it [end Russia's offensive] immediately,” Putin said.

The terms Putin laid out, which have been mooted by Russian officials several times in the past, were once again rejected by Ukraine, while NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg slammed the conditions as a path to "more aggression, more occupation."

"There is no novelty in this, no real peace proposal, and no desire to end the war," Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said in a post on X.

"But there is a desire not to pay for this war and to continue it in new formats. It's all a complete sham. Therefore -- once again -- get rid of illusions and stop taking seriously the 'proposals of Russia' that are offensive to common sense."

Putin presented his conditions ahead of a June 15-16 Ukraine peace summit in Switzerland, to which he was not invited.

Leaders and representatives of more than 70 countries are scheduled to meet in the Swiss resort of Burgenstock to chart a way forward to end the war in Ukraine.

Ukraine hopes to win broad international backing for its vision of the terms needed to end the war with Russia.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

A draft of a communique for the peace summit seen by RFE/RL says future peace negotiations should involve "representatives of all parties" in the conflict.

The United States will be represented by Vice President Kamala Harris and national-security adviser Jake Sullivan, while French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will also attend the summit.

Russia has dismissed the significance of the summit, saying it “makes no sense” to hold discussions on ending the hostilities without Moscow.

"This is not a proposal made in good faith," Stoltenberg said of Putin's offer following a meeting of defense ministers in Brussels on June 14. "This is a proposal that actually means that Russia should achieve their war aims by expecting that Ukrainians should give up significantly more land than Russia has been able to occupy so far."

Putin also restated a demand for Ukraine's demilitarization and said an end to international sanctions must be included in a peace deal.

He also repeated his call for Ukraine's "denazification," a nod to his often voiced but baseless slur against Kyiv's leadership.

Russia has blamed Ukraine's preliminary steps to joining NATO as one of the main reasons it launched what it calls a "special military operation" against Ukraine in February 2022.

NATO leaders will hold a summit in Washington next month, though Kyiv is not expected to receive a full invitation to join the alliance.

The alliance stated in the final declaration of last year's summit in Vilnius that "Ukraine’s future is in NATO," though U.S. President Joe Biden has Ukraine will not join NATO while it is at war.

Italian Police Reportedly Arrest Russian In Connection With 2023 Artyom Uss Escape

The United States has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Artyom Uss.
The United States has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Artyom Uss.

Italian authorities say they have arrested a Russian businessman living in Switzerland in connection with the March 2023 escape of Artyom Uss, a Russian man who fled Italian house arrest just prior to extradition to the United States.

The arrest of the man, identified by Italian media as Dmitry Chirakadze, 54, is the latest twist in the winding mystery of how Uss, the son of a powerful former Russian governor, managed to elude Italian authorities and secretly return to Russia.

Italian prosecutors previously identified six people as being accomplices in Uss's escape; three are in custody in Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia. The man held in Croatia, Vladimir Jovancic, is awaiting his own extradition to the United States.

Chirakadze was arrested on June 14 as he arrived at Rome's Fiumicino airport from Sardinia, according to Italian media.

Milan prosecutors and police did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Italian media identified Chirakadze as the founder of a Russian legal-services website called Pravo.ru and married to a Russian woman named Lyubov Orlova.

He's reportedly the owner of a a luxury resort in Sardinia and a hunting estate in Krasnoyarsk, the Siberian region where Uss is from originally. Uss's father was the governor of Krasnoyarsk until resigning last year, around the time that Uss escaped.

He also served as former deputy governor of Kemerovo, located in the heart of Russia's coal-mining Kuzbas region.

Uss was indicted by a U.S. grand jury in 2022, charged as part of an alleged scheme to smuggle dual-use technologies to Russia, evading Western sanctions imposed in punishment for Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

He was arrested at the Milan airport in October 2022, and ordered held, pending hearings to decide on his extradition to the United States.

Italian authorities agreed to let him wait out the proceeding under house arrest, with an electronic monitoring bracelet -- a decision that was publicly criticized by U.S. officials.

In March 2023, Uss escaped from the villa in Milan's southern suburbs, breaking off his monitoring bracelet, and driving east. About three weeks later, he announced his presence back in Russia.

The incident embarrassed the Italian authorities and even drew criticism from Italy's prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, who said the decision to release him from house arrest had "anomalies." One Italian lawmaker said Italy had "embarrassed itself internationally."

The United States later announced a $5 million reward for information leading to Uss's arrest.

After Uss's return, his father Aleksandr publicly thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for his help in securing his son's release.

Kyrgyz Activists Protesting Border Deal With Uzbekistan Acquitted

Tears And Joy As Kyrgyz Court Acquits 27 Activists Charged Over Protest
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:01:15 0:00

A court in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, has acquitted all members of a group facing 20 years in prison for protesting a border deal with Uzbekistan. The judge ruled on June 14 that were was insufficient evidence to convict the 27 activists. Earlier this week, prosecutors asked for lengthy sentences for each member of the group for protesting a deal that saw Kyrgyzstan hand over the Kempir-Abad reservoir to Uzbekistan. On June 12, several international rights groups demanded the immediate release of the protesters and said the request for lengthy sentences for each activist "compounds an already shocking miscarriage of justice." To read the full story by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, click here.

Updated

Ammunition Flowing To Ukraine Through Czech Initiative, Foreign Minister Says

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky speaks to RFE/RL in Prague.
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky speaks to RFE/RL in Prague.

PRAGUE -- Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky said the first shipments procured under a Czech initiative to increase supplies of badly needed ammunition in Ukraine are now arriving and will continue to flow.

"This year we will be able to procure and continuously deliver quite a lot of ammunition -- Czech-supplied through different channels -- more than a million of shells to Ukraine so far," Lipavsky said on June 13 in an interview with RFE/RL.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

The Czech Republic has been working for months on a plan to procure artillery shells from countries outside the European Union and provide them to Ukraine, whose troops in recent months have suffered from a debilitating shortage.

Under the initiative, Czech government officials and private companies have worked to source ammunition rounds from around the world.

The leaders of five European NATO states said in a joint statement on May 28 that 15 EU and NATO states have pledged around 1.6 billion euros ($1.7 billion) to fund the project.

Lipavsky said the total number of countries that have pledged to participate in the initiative is 20, including five countries that have already sent money only to finance purchases.

The total number grew to 21 on June 14, Czech Defense Minister Jana Cernochova said, when Luxembourg joined the inititative with a pledge to make financial contributions. She did not say how much Luxembourg would contribute.

"We are now able to make deals and to bring ammunition from different countries and then send it to Ukraine so it can…rightfully defend itself from Russian aggression," Lipavsky said in the interview.

He declined to provide specifics, saying it’s up to the individual countries to announce that deals have been fulfilled.

He said deals are currently being completed in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Portugal, and Canada -- the five countries that have agreed to finance the purchases.

Asked about financial issues in some countries, Lipavsky said he hopes to “move from pledges and sympathies” to getting deals signed and financed.

“We know that the Ukraine needs a lot of large-caliber ammunition, and there's...a big opportunity,” he said. “So we hope that we will be [striking] more of the deals.”

The top Czech diplomat also spoke about the peace summit on Ukraine taking place this weekend in Switzerland, saying it is part of the bigger task of securing Ukraine and Europe as a whole.

“We have to strive for peace,” he said.

Czech Foreign Minister Working To Curb Movement Of Russian Diplomats
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:02:17 0:00

Czech President Petr Pavel will be joined at the summit by the head of the Czech National Nuclear Safety Authority "because nuclear and radiation safety is one of our priority [topics]," he said.

Lipavsky acknowledged that some countries have said there can be no progress without Russia's participation, but he noted that the peace summit wouldn't be necessary if there had been no Russian aggression in the first place.

At this point, he said he sees “no will to stop the horrendous attacks on Ukraine, which are continuing daily and nightly.”

“Every war ends with negotiations and with diplomacy. That's what we know for sure,” he said. “If Russia is ready to acknowledge that the aggression won't be successful, then probably they will be ready to come to the negotiation table.”

It also must change from seeking the total destruction of Ukrainian statehood and the removal of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and acknowledge that Ukraine is a sovereign state with international recognized borders, he added.

The foreign minister also said that the European Union must show Russia that its efforts to increase hybrid threats -- those involving both cyberspace and disinformation campaigns -- won’t be tolerated.

He said foreign ministers from eight EU countries have sent a letter to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell asking him to curb Russian diplomats' movements in the Schengen Area over their concern that the free movement of the diplomats facilitates "malign activities."

The measure is needed because the movement of Russian diplomats and their family members lays the groundwork for threats in cyberspace and other "sabotages and subterfuges," he told RFE/RL.

"These hybrid threats were increasing, and the European Union needs to show Russia that this won’t be tolerated,” he said.

Iran Detains 1 For Allegedly Insulting Late President Raisi

President Ebrahim Raisi and other top officials were killed in a helicopter crash on May 19.
President Ebrahim Raisi and other top officials were killed in a helicopter crash on May 19.

An unnamed person was arrested on June 13 in Iran’s central city of Qom for allegedly insulting the late President Ebrahim Raisi following his death in a helicopter accident last month. The police accused the individual of “having ties” to the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad and of “collaborating” with foreign-based opposition media. No evidence was provided for the claims. Iranian authorities often accuse critics of working with foreign intelligence agencies and opposition outlets. To read the full story in Persian by RFE/RL’s Radio Farda, click here.

Russian Airline Pilot Convicted Of Treason Dies In Prison

Igor Pokusin was accused of trying to defect to Ukraine to fight against Russia's invasion.
Igor Pokusin was accused of trying to defect to Ukraine to fight against Russia's invasion.

Retired Russian airline pilot Igor Pokusin, whose opposition to his country’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine landed him in prison, has died at the age of 61. Pokusin, who had two prosthetic joints and a stent implanted in his heart, was sentenced to eight years in January on a charge of trying to volunteer in the Ukrainian Army. Sources on June 14 told RFE/RL’s Siberia.Realities that Pokusin died in prison on June 11. The cause of death was not immediately clear. Pokusin was born in the Ukrainian port city of Odesa but lived most of his life in Abakan, the capital of Russia’s Republic of Khakassia. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Siberia.Realities, click here.

Updated

U.S. Denies Role In Ukrainian NGO's Research On Those Opposing Aid For Kyiv

The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv
The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv

The United States says the State Department played no role in a project by a Ukrainian NGO, Data Journalism Agency, which says it has come under pressure after publishing research on individuals who have campaigned to end aid to Ukraine.

Data Journalism Agency, also known as Texty, published on June 6 what it said was an analysis of the political, media, and expert environment in the United States that is "influencing decisions" on further support for Ukraine in the Russian-Ukrainian war.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

The project was done "independently and solely with the support of our readers," it said, noting Texty was supported by leading journalists and news outlets from the Ukrainian media association Mediarukh.

Since the publication of its research, the agency said it had come under "unprecedented pressure, manipulation, slander, demands to strip us of donor funding, and threats of physical violence that we have faced following the publication of our research."

Amid the backlash, several conservative media outlets said Data Journalism Agency had created a "hate list" of U.S. citizens and that the agency was affiliated with the U.S. government.

U.S. Senator J.D. Vance (Republican-Ohio) and Representative Matt Gaetz (Republican-Florida) called on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to send information about the Ukrainian NGO by June 28.

They also asked the House Appropriations Committee to end any possible U.S. support being received by the Data Journalism Agency.

A statement issued late on June 14 by the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv ruled out any role of the State Department in the project.

"The State Department did not have any role or participation in the mentioned project," the statement given to RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service said.

The Data Journalism Agency currently has a U.S.-funded subgrant through the National Democratic Institute (NDI). The Data Journalism Agency is also currently a subcontractor under the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and United Kingdom Agency for International Development (UKAID).

The two agencies fund the Transparency and Accountability in Public Administration and Services (TAPAS) program, USAID told RFE/RL in an e-mail response to a question.

TAPAS is an eight-year, $53 million anti-corruption program in Ukraine to develop online tools that improve government transparency and accountability in the area of procurement of goods and public services -- areas that have historically been rife with corruption.

TAPAS is the largest investor in the IT infrastructure of the e-procurement system Prozorro, an electronic public-procurement system through which state and municipal customers announce tenders to purchase goods and services, and through which businesses compete to become a state supplier.

Some U.S. Republican lawmakers have complained about corruption in Ukraine and cited that as one reason for holding back aid.

Eurasia Foundation, a partner of TAPAS, said TAPAS rapidly redesigned its project to meet wartime needs after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukaine in 2022.

The NDI said in a statement to RFE/RL it had worked with the Data Journalism Agency on projects related to Ukrainian media but was not aware of the Roller Coaster Project -- the report published on June 6 -- until it was published.

Paulina Chavez Alonzo, a spokeswoman for NDI, said the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that has supported democratic institutions and practices around the world "did not provide any funds or support" for the creation, development, or publication of the report.

Debate over aid to Ukraine, which has been fighting to repel invading Russian troops since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022, has raged in the United States for months, with a November presidential election looming.

Republican lawmakers in Washington -- most of whom are allied with former President Donald Trump, the party's presumed nominee for the election -- for months stalled the approval of a $61 billion aid package while demanding domestic security matters be addressed as well.

Data Journalism Agency said it analyzed the arguments made by organizations and individuals in the United States who oppose supporting Ukraine and compared them with common Russian disinformation narratives, and "debunked these narratives with evidence and source references."

"We do not label the subjects of this research as enemies of Ukraine, nor do we dispute or condemn their right to freedom of expression. We merely state the fact that they oppose support for Ukraine and that many of their arguments resonate with Russian propaganda narratives about Ukraine," Data Journalism Agency said.

"We value and respect freedom of speech, a prerequisite for a democratic society. We reserve the right to present evidence, state facts, debunk false arguments, and compare them with those propagated by Russian propaganda worldwide."

Popular right-wing American political commentator Glenn Beck, who was one of those mentioned in the research, alleged that Data Journalism Agency co-founder Anatoliy Bondarenko had attended a State Department public diplomacy program "to foment" revolutions in other countries and has ties to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), an independent agency of the U.S. government that administers civilian foreign aid and development assistance.

The Data Journalism Agency defended its right to analyze information that is in the public domain.

"We view this campaign as an attack on freedom of speech and a display of chauvinism against the citizens of Ukraine," the agency said.

Georgian Legion Fighting For Ukraine Designated As 'Terrorist' Group In Russia

Members of the Georgian Legion are wanted in Russia. (file photo)
Members of the Georgian Legion are wanted in Russia. (file photo)

Russia’s Southern District Military Court on June 14 designated the Georgian Legion that is fighting for Ukraine as a “terrorist” organization. A report by Russia’s intelligence service alleged that members of the group have tortured Russian military personnel and killed civilians. Set up in 2014, the Georgian Legion is made up of former Georgian military and police officers as well as foreign fighters. Members of the Georgian Legion are wanted in Russia on charges of illegally recruiting mercenaries and participating in the war in Ukraine against Russia's invasion. To read the full story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Prominent Tajik Lawmaker Detained For Allegedly Plotting To Overthrow Government

Saidjafar Usmonzoda has been a lawmaker for nearly a decade. (file photo)
Saidjafar Usmonzoda has been a lawmaker for nearly a decade. (file photo)

Saidjafar Usmonzoda, a prominent member of the Tajik parliament, was detained on June 14 for allegedly “plotting to overthrow the government.”

Prosecutor-General Yusuf Rahmon accused Usmonzoda of collaborating with the foreign-based opposition group National Pact of Tajikistan and of speaking with its leader, the self-exiled Sharofiddin Gadoev.

Gadoev fled Tajikistan in the early 2010s and established the Movement for Reforms and Development of Tajikistan and co-founded the National Alliance, a coalition of opposition groups abroad.

Parliament on June 14 stripped Usmonzoda of his immunity as a lawmaker.

A member of parliament since 2015, Usmonzoda was one of handful of lawmakers accessible to the media and frequently took part in programs by Radio Ozodi, as RFE/RL’s Tajik Service is locally known.

Neither Usmonzoda nor people close to him have commented on his detention. It is unclear if he has legal representation.

A former chairman of the Democratic Party of Tajikistan, Usmonzoda was expelled from the party last month for his perceived “unsatisfactory” performance as a party member.

Shaboz Abror, who had led the party conference that resulted in Usmonzoda’s expulsion, was recognized as the party’s new chairman on May 31 by the Ministry of Justice.

However, Usmonzoda maintained in an interview with Radio Ozodi earlier this month that he was the legitimate leader of the party.

Founded in 1990, the Democratic Party of Tajikistan has experienced divisions and scandals since its inception.

In 2013, the party split into two factions, with Masoud Sobirov and Rahmatullo Valiev claiming leadership positions. However, the Ministry of Justice recognized Usmonzoda as the party's leader.

In the 2013 presidential election, Usmonzoda ran against Emomali Rahmon, the longtime president who has since consolidated his grip on power.

Rahmon, who has run the Central Asian nation since 1992, has been criticized by international human rights groups over his administration's alleged disregard for independent media, religious freedoms, civil society, and political pluralism.

Updated

Ukraine's Record Power Imports Continue Due To Energy Infrastructure Damage

A municipal worker repairs a power line after a Russian missile attack on the northeastern Ukrainian city Kharkiv. (file photo)
A municipal worker repairs a power line after a Russian missile attack on the northeastern Ukrainian city Kharkiv. (file photo)

Ukraine is set to continue to import record amounts of power to make up for a shortfall caused by Russia's targeting of energy infrastructure, which has decimated output.

Ukraine's power grid operator Ukrenerho said on June 14 that it would import 31,904 megawatt hours (MWh) of power, breaking the previous record of 29,796 MWh set earlier this week.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

The announcement comes a day after the Ukrainian government said that Group of Seven (G7) member states had agreed to provide more than $1 billion to support Ukraine’s energy sector.

Russia has ramped up its missile and drone attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure since March, causing frequent blackouts in many regions. Kyiv has been forced to import electricity from the European Union to keep the lights on.

Ukraine and Russia exchanged drone attacks overnight into June 14 as the Group of Seven (G7) agreed on a $50 billion loan to Ukraine using frozen Russian assets as collateral.

The Ukrainian armed forces said air defenses had struck down all 17 Shahed-type drones launched by Russia over seven regions.

Russia also fired 17 cruise and ballistic missiles, half of which were intercepted, according to the Ukrainian Air Force.

In Donetsk, nine people were wounded as a result of Russian shelling, according to local administration head Vadym Filashkin. Ukraine’s emergency services said homes and vehicles had caught fire in the Kharkiv Oblast.

In Sumy, a bus carrying more than 20 people was targeted by a Russian drone, local authorities said, injuring at least three women.

Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry said its armed forces had shot down 87 Ukrainian drones across five regions as well as the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula.

The debris disrupted power supply in the Rostov region and damaged fuel tanks at an oil depot in Voronezh, according to local authorities.

Hours earlier, the G7 leaders in Italy agreed to provide a $50 billion loan to Ukraine. The agreement will leverage interest and income from more than $260 billion in frozen Russian assets, largely held in Europe, to secure a $50 billion loan from the U.S. and additional loans from other partners.

Speaking to reporters via teleconference, a senior U.S. administration official said the agreement “is a signal from the leading democracies of the world that we're not going to fatigue in defending Ukraine's freedom and that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is not going to outlast us.”

Separately, U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy signed a 10-year security agreement on the sidelines of the G7 summit, hailing it as a milestone in relations between their countries.

Biden said the goal "is to strengthen Ukraine's defense and deterrence capabilities.”

He said the United States has received commitments from five countries that he did not name to provide Patriot missile and other air defense systems to Ukraine.

Zelenskiy called the security agreement a "bridge to Ukraine's accession to NATO" and said it was important for all Ukrainians and Europeans to know that there will be no security deficit in Europe to tempt aggressors to wage war and make the future uncertain.

With reporting by Reuters

Armenia Denies Attacking Azerbaijani Troops In Naxcivan

Armenia and Azerbaijan have a border cease-fire agreement in place. (file photo)
Armenia and Azerbaijan have a border cease-fire agreement in place. (file photo)

The Armenian military on June 14 denied Azerbaijan’s claim that Armenian forces had opened fire on Azerbaijani troops in Baku's Naxcivan exclave. A day earlier, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry had accused Armenian troops of targeting Azerbaijani positions in the village of Khavush in the Sharur region, the village of Nurgut in the Ordubad region, and Guney Gyshlag village in the Shahbuz region. Baku said it had responded. Armenia and Azerbaijan have a border cease-fire agreement and are negotiating a peace deal. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Armenian Service, click here. To read the full story by RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service, click here.

Media Groups Condemn Armenian Police For Injuries During Clashes

Antigovernment activists clash with Armenian police officers during a protest in Yerevan on June 12.
Antigovernment activists clash with Armenian police officers during a protest in Yerevan on June 12.

Armenia's leading media associations have strongly condemned riot police for injuring at least a dozen journalists during clashes in Yerevan with protesters demanding Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian's resignation.

"We condemn the police's use of brute force against media representatives, and unprofessional, uncalculated actions that led to serious consequences," said a joint statement released on June 13 by nine Armenian press freedom groups.

"From a number of videos as well as a photo by the Photolur news agency, it is clear that stun grenades were also directed at journalists and operators standing in a place where media cameras were concentrated," it said.

Fresh Protests In Armenia As Activists Claim Police Brutality At Earlier Rally
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:03:14 0:00

Security forces hurled dozens of stun grenades into the crowd during clashes on June 12, injuring at least 83 people. According to law-enforcement authorities, 18 policemen were also hurt.

Vazgen Yetumian, a cameraman with the News.am online news service, suffered a broken leg, and two other cameramen, Narek Hayrian of Civilnet and Hovsep Hovsepian of Armlur.am, were injured.

Hayrian told RFE/RL that several explosive devices went off right next to him.

"I had a vision blackout and felt unwell," he said. "My leg got hit and I fell down."

Journalists were injured during another clash at the same location earlier on June 12. They included ABC Media reporter Nane Hayrapetian and her cameraman Arman Gharibian. Doctors suspect that they suffered concussions.

"Ignoring the fact that I had a 'press' inscription on my shirt and ABC written on my back and my cameraman carried a badge and a camera, the police literally trampled us underfoot," said Hayrapetian.

The ABC Media crew that replaced the duo was injured in subsequent stun grenade explosions.

The nine press freedom organizations that signed the statement expressed serious concern over Pashinian and his allies' unequivocal defense of the police actions "without waiting for the results of their analyses."

They demanded the Interior Ministry investigate those actions and "hold accountable the officers who abused their powers."

The ministry had announced no such inquiry as of the evening of June 13.

Echoing Pashinian's statements, Armenia's Investigative Committee blamed the protesters for the "mass disturbances" and said it has identified 40 people involved. An opposition-linked lawyer said earlier in the day that 28 protesters arrested during the violence remain in custody and risk criminal charges.

Czech Official Says Letter To EU's Borrell Asks To Curb Moves Of Russian Diplomats

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky. (file photo)
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky. (file photo)

PRAGUE -- Foreign ministers from eight EU countries have sent a letter to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell asking him to curb Russian diplomats' movement in the Schengen area over their concern that the free movement of the diplomats facilitates "malign activities."

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky confirmed in an interview on June 13 with RFE/RL that the letter was sent to Borrell. He said the measure was needed because the movement of Russian diplomats and their family members in the Schengen zone "creates the infrastructure" for illicit activities.

The letter says that "intelligence, propaganda, or even preparation of sabotage acts are the main workload for a large number of Russian 'diplomats' in the EU," according to AFP, which obtained a copy of the letter.

It calls on Borrell to urgently propose restrictive measures, AFP reported on June 13.

In his interview with RFE/RL, a full version of which will be published on June 14, Lipavsky said the movement of Russian diplomats lays the groundwork for threats in cyberspace and other "sabotages and subterfuges" amid concern over Moscow’s attempts to sow divisions within the EU. He said these hybrid threats were increasing and the European Union needs to show Russia that this won’t be tolerated.

He cited the Voice of Europe, a Prague-based news website that the Czech Republic in March added to its sanctions list after it was determined that it trying to carry out influence operations to Moscow’s benefit on Czech territory. Since then, more and more disinformation operations have been discovered, he said.

The letter sent to Borrell was “gladly signed” by the Netherlands, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania, Lipavsky said.

The letter, dated June 11, calls for a measure that "will significantly narrow operational space for Russian agents." It said the European Union should restrict the movement of Russian diplomats and their family members to the territory of the state of their accreditation.

“We are providing Russian diplomats…[the] possibility to travel…all over the Europe. I don't understand why,” Lipavsky told RFE/RL. Russia limits the travel of EU diplomats, “so we should remove this asymmetry for the sake of our national security,” he added.

The Czech Republic and Poland recently arrested arson suspects who claimed their crimes had been incited by Russia. Lithuania in turn is grappling with Russia's drive to unilaterally expand its maritime border at its expense.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on June 13 that Russia will respond to any restrictions imposed by European countries on the movement of its diplomats.

Zakharova told reporters the West was infected by Russophobia and Moscow would take retaliatory measures if any limits were introduced.

EU countries have dramatically reduced the number of Russian diplomats allowed to remain in their countries since the Russian invasion of Ukraine started in February 2022. Moscow has responded by expelling diplomats from Russia.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters

Iranian Dissident Sepehri Sentenced To Further 18 1/2 Years For Comments About Israel

Fatemeh Sepehri (file photo)
Fatemeh Sepehri (file photo)

Fatemeh Sepehri, a prominent critic of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been sentenced to an additional 18 1/2 years in prison for "supporting Israel," a thinly veiled reference to her condemnation of an October 7 attack by Hamas -- designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and EU -- on Israel that killed some 1,200 people, mainly civilians.

Asghar Sepehri, the dissident's brother, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Mashhad convicted Fatemeh Sepehri on multiple counts: seven years for supporting Israel, seven years for conspiring against internal security, three years for insulting the supreme leader, and one year and six months for propaganda activities against the regime.

He said that with the new sentences, Fatemeh Sepehri, who suffers from a heart ailment, now faces a cumulative punishment of 37 1/2 years.

Sepehri was originally arrested in September 2022 as protests erupted across the country over the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was taken into custody by the morality police for allegedly violating the country's hijab law and died while in detention.

In an exclusive interview with Radio Farda, Asghar Sepehri denounced the new charges and sentences against his sister as baseless, arguing that her imprisonment invalidated the claims of conspiracy and assembly.

He further noted that the accusation of insulting Khamenei lacks substance, given that her communications are heavily monitored, restricting even basic contact with family.

The crackdown on the Sepehri family extends beyond Fatemeh, as her brothers Mohammad-Hossein and Hossein Sepehri also received prison sentences on similar charges.

Mohammad-Hossein was handed eight years for conspiracy, assembly, and insulting the supreme leader, while Hossein faces a total of two years and 11 months for related offenses.

The Sepehri siblings' previous attorney, Khosrow Alikordi, has also been imprisoned, leading to the appointment of Javad Alikordi as their new legal representative.

However, the court has refused to recognize him, insisting that only attorneys approved by the judiciary are eligible to defend such cases, a condition the Sepehri family has not accepted.

Concerns about Fatemeh Sepehri's health were highlighted by her brother, who told Radio Farda that she was not physically capable of enduring further imprisonment due to multiple health issues.

He called on the authorities to immediately release her.

Fatemeh Sepehri is one of 14 activists in Iran who have publicly called for Khamenei to step down. She has been arrested and interrogated several times in recent years.

Sepehri and the other activists have also called for a new political system within the framework of a new constitution that would secure dignity and equal rights for women.

Criticism of Khamenei, who has the final say on almost every decision in the country, is considered a red line in Iran, and his critics often land in prison, where political prisoners are routinely held in solitary confinement and subjected to various forms of torture.

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

Imprisoned Russian Blogger Gets Additional Term Shortly Before Release

Russian blogger Vladislav Sinitsa (file photo)
Russian blogger Vladislav Sinitsa (file photo)

A Russian court on June 13 sentenced blogger Vladislav Sinitsa to an additional 2 1/2 years in prison on extremism charges just ahead of his scheduled release on July 1. Investigators say Sinitsa, who was serving a five-year prison term he was handed in 2019 on charges of inciting violence against children of National Guard officers online, opened an account on the X social media platform while in prison and used it to condemn Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Sinitsa denied any relation to the X account in question. The Memorial rights group has recognized Sinitsa as a political prisoner. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Kara-Murza Appeal Hearing Postponed, Kremlin Critic's Whereabouts Unknown

Vladimir Kara-Murza
Vladimir Kara-Murza

A Moscow court on June 13 postponed until July 1 a hearing into imprisoned Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza's appeal after the administration of a correctional colony in Siberia said he is no longer at the penitentiary. He was appealing against police inaction in the investigation of his alleged poisonings in 2015 and 2017. Kara-Murza's current whereabouts are unknown. His lawyer, Maria Eismont, says she has not been informed about a move for her client to another prison. Kara-Murza was sentenced to 25 years in prison in April 2023 on charges of high treason and discrediting Russia's military. He and his supporters reject the charges as politically motivated. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Load more

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

If you are in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine and hold a Russian passport or are a stateless person residing permanently in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine, please note that you could face fines or imprisonment for sharing, liking, commenting on, or saving our content, or for contacting us.

To find out more, click here.

XS
SM
MD
LG