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Egypt Activist Summoned For Criticizing Military

A prominent Egyptian activist has been summoned for questioning by the country's military rulers over comments criticizing their human rights record.

Hossam el-Hamalawy, 33, said he was ordered to appear before military prosecutors on May 31 after he charged that the head of the military police was responsible for reported abuses against activists.

He spoke on a popular TV program on a private station.

He said the TV presenter, Reem Maged, was also summoned for questioning.

Egypt's governing Armed Forces Supreme Council has been coming under increasing pressure from the protest movement and political groups for its management of the transitional period following the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak on February 11.

compiled from agency reports

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Ukraine Freezes Assets Under Name Of Wife Of Pro-Russian Politician Medvedchuk

Oksana Marchenko (file photo)

KYIV -- A court in Ukraine has frozen the assets of Oksana Marchenko, the wife of pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk.

The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) said on March 24 that the assets, estimated at 440 million hryvnyas ($11.9 million), are related to a 6.8 percent stake Marchenko owns in the Dniprospetstal steelworks in the city of Zaporizhzhya.

"The freezing of these assets will prevent their re-registration under other fake names and will allow them to be transferred for our state's needs," the SBU statement said.

Last month, another court ruling froze and impounded assets and property in Ukraine held by Marchenko with an estimated value of 5.6 billion hryvnyas ($152.5 million). The court said Marchenko used some of her companies and businesses under her name "to carry out sabotage against Ukraine."

Marchenko's husband, Viktor Medvedchuk, is a longtime Ukrainian political fixture and reportedly a godfather to Russian President Vladimir Putin's daughter.

Medvedchuk was one of Ukraine's wealthiest individuals, with a fortune estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars, including energy assets in Russia.

Ukraine placed sanctions on Medvedchuk in February 2021, freezing his assets, and took three television stations it said belonged to him off the air for promoting Russian propaganda.

He was arrested in 2021 on charges of treason and terrorism financing and later placed under house arrest on bail.

Shortly after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in late February 2022, Medvedchuk escaped house arrest, but was rearrested in April while trying to flee to Russia.

In June, a court in Ukraine banned the Medvedchuk-led pro-Russian Opposition Platform -- For Life (OPZZh) political party.

In September, Ukrainian authorities handed the 68-year-old politician over to Russia in a prisoner exchange.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has since stripped Medvedchuk and three other pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians of their Ukrainian citizenship.

Prigozhin Rejects Report Wagner To Shift Attention Away From Ukraine

Yevgeny Prigozhin has called the Bakhmut offensive a "meat grinder" and has clashed with Russian military officials over ammunition supplies while reportedly taking heavy casualties, depleting his forces.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the owner of the mercenary group Wagner, has rejected a report saying he plans to scale back his military operations in Ukraine and instead concentrate on Africa, where Wagner was previously involved in local conflicts and businesses.

Responding to a March 23 report by Bloomberg, which cited its sources saying ammunition and personnel shortages had prompted Prigozhin to reconsider Wagner's role in Ukraine, the man known as "Putin's chef" said in a post on Telegram. " I do not know what Bloomberg is reporting about."

"Apparently, they know better than myself what we will do further. As long as we are needed by our nation, we will fight on the territory of Ukraine," he added.

For several months, Russia and Ukraine have been locked in intense trench warfare along a front line of more than 120 kilometers in Ukraine's Donbas region, including the cities of Bakhmut, Avdiyivka, and Maryinka.

Prigozhin has called the Bakhmut offensive a "meat grinder" and has clashed with Russian military officials over ammunition supplies while reportedly taking heavy casualties, depleting his forces.

The Bloomberg report said that Russia's top military officials consider Prigozhin a threat and discontinued his practice of recruiting inmates from Russian penitentiaries to reinforce his ranks. It also said some officials see Wagner as an incapable group that has been unable to take Bakhmut.

Prigozhin himself in recent days has issued pessimistic statements warning of a likely Ukrainian counterassault.

Bloomberg said there had been no confirmation of Wagner forces being transferred to Africa, though it noted that online advertisements for potential Wagner contractors offer six-month tours of duty in Ukraine or for 9-14 months in Africa.

Prigozhin became known as "Putin's chef" because of his company's catering operations for the Russian leader.

Members of the Wagner mercenary group, thousands of whom were recruited from correctional institutions across Russia, have been actively involved in Russia's ongoing unprovoked invasion of Ukraine launched in February last year.

Several countries have declared Wagner a terrorist organization.

Estonia Expels Russian Diplomat For 'Spreading Propaganda' In Favor Of Moscow's Military Actions

The Russian Embassy in Tallinn

Estonia has declared a staff member of Russia's Embassy in Tallinn persona non grata for "directly and actively undermining Estonia's security and constitutional order, spreading propaganda that justifies Russia's military action and causing divisions in Estonian society," the Baltic country's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on March 24. The unnamed diplomat must leave Estonia by March 29, the statement said. Estonia is one of the most outspoken supporters of Ukraine in the face of Russia's unprovoked aggression.

Updated

South Korean Cryptocurrency Fugitive Charged With Forgery In Montenegro

Do Kwon is escorted to a court in Podgorica on March 24.

Montenegro has charged South Korean citizen Do Kwon, the former CEO and co-founder of cryptocurrency company Terraform Labs, with forgery after police confirmed his identity and that of another South Korean, who was also charged.

Do Kwon and his business partner, Hon Chang-joon, were being questioned by the Basic State Prosecutor's Office in Podgorica, the Montenegrin Interior Ministry said on March 24, after they were detained the day before while trying to flee to Dubai with falsified documents.

Do Kwon is suspected in the loss of investments worth more than $40 billion, Interior Minister Filip Adzic said.

Do Kwon is wanted by the United States, South Korea, and Singapore for what the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) called "orchestrating a multibillion-dollar crypto-asset securities fraud."

"We allege that Terraform and Do Kwon failed to provide the public with full, fair, and truthful disclosure as required for a host of crypto-asset securities, most notably for Luna and Terra USD," SEC Chairman Gary Gensler said in a statement in February.

RFE/RL has sent an inquiry to U.S. authorities about whether they will seek the two South Koreans' extradition.

Terra USD was a crypto-asset security referred to as an "algorithmic stablecoin" that supposedly maintained its peg to the U.S. dollar by being interchangeable with Luna, another of Kwon's crypto-asset securities, the SEC said.

"We also allege that [Terraform and Kwon] committed fraud by repeating false and misleading statements to build trust before causing devastating losses for investors," he added.

An arrest warrant was issued by South Korea in September 2022 after Terraform Labs and its cryptocurrency crashed in May.

The arrest warrants named several people linked to the Terra USD and Luna cryptocurrencies, the BBC reported.

South Korean prosecutors previously asked Interpol to issue a red notice for Kwon, saying he refused to cooperate with their probe into the crash.

Many investors lost their life savings when Luna and Terra USD collapsed, falling to a value of near zero. The fallout from the collapse of Terraform Labs also affected the wider cryptocurrency market.

With reporting by AFP

Hearing Into Appeal By U.S. Investor Calvey Of Russian Embezzlement Conviction Postponed

Michael Calvey (left) and Philippe Delpal attend a court hearing in Moscow in October 2019.

The Moscow City Court has postponed a hearing into appeals filed by U.S. investor Michael Calvey and his associate, French national Philippe Delpal, against their 2021 convictions on embezzlement charges that they reject.

The court was initially scheduled to start the hearing on March 24, but has now moved it to April 21 for unspecified reasons.

Russian news agencies cited the businessmen's lawyers as confirming earlier reports that Calvey and Delpal are currently in the United States and France, respectively.

According to the lawyers, their clients are ready to be present at the hearings into their appeals if they obtain Russian visas.

Calvey, Delpal, and five Russian businesspeople were handed suspended prison terms in August 2021 and ordered not to leave Russia without permission.

Calvey was handed a 5 1/2-year suspended prison term, while Delpal received 4 1/2-year suspended prison term. Other defendants also received suspended prison terms. All have maintained their innocence.

In January 2022, a court lifted the ban on leaving Russia, after which Calvey and Delpal immediately returned to their homelands.

Calvey, the founder of the Russian-focused private equity group Baring Vostok, and his associates were charged in 2019 with defrauding Vostochny Bank of 2.5 billion rubles ($32.7 million).

Baring Vostok was once a major shareholder in Vostochny Bank. The defendants claimed the case was aimed at pressuring Baring Vostok as part of a business dispute over control of Vostochny Bank.

The case has rattled the investment community and prompted several prominent officials and businesspeople to voice concerns about the treatment of the executives.

Baring Vostok is one of the largest and oldest private-equity firms operating in Russia. It was founded in the early 1990s and manages more than $3.7 billion in assets.

The company was an early major investor in Yandex, Russia's dominant search engine.

With reporting by Interfax, RIA Novosti, and TASS

FSB Officer Who Sought Asylum In Kazakhstan Jailed In Siberia

Mikhail Zhilin and Yekaterina Zhilina

A court in the Siberian city of Barnaul has sentenced an officer with Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) who was deported from Kazakhstan, where he unsuccessfully sought political asylum, to 6 1/2 years in prison.

The Second Eastern Military District Court said on March 24 that Mikhail Zhilin was sentenced after he was found guilty of desertion and illegal border crossing. The court also stripped Zhilin of his military rank of major.

After Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military mobilization to support Russia's armed forces involved in the ongoing invasion of Ukraine in September, Zhilin sent his family to Kazakhstan.

The 36-year-old FSB officer followed afterward, having to cross the border illegally after hiking through forests because as an FSB officer he was not allowed to leave the country and did not have a passport.

He sought political asylum in Kazakhstan, but his request was denied. After Russia put him on the international wanted list, Kazakh authorities arrested him and deported him to Russia in late December.

Human rights groups have challenged Kazakhstan's decision, as Zhilin officially asked for political asylum within 24 hours after entering the country, which, according to Kazakh law, absolved him of responsibility for illegally crossing the border. Kazakh law also does not allow the return of asylum seekers to the country they fled from.

Zhilin was a shift supervisor in the special communications and information department of the FSB in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk and was responsible for Putin's communications with regions in the Siberian Federal District.

He was detained on September 26 by border guards in the Kazakh region of Abai as Astana followed through on its statement that it would extradite Russians wanted for evading mobilization if they were put on the international wanted list at home.

Zhilin's wife, Yekaterina Zhilina, told RFE/RL in January that she and the couple's children were currently in France, where she has applied for political asylum.

Thousands of Russian citizens fled the country following the September mobilization for Kazakhstan, Armenia, Georgia, Mongolia, and other neighboring countries.

Migrants From Afghanistan, Pakistan Found In Truck In Serbia

Serbia lies at the heart of the so-called Balkan land route that refugees and migrants use to try to reach Western Europe. (illustrative photo)

Serbia's customs authorities said on March 24 they discovered nine migrants hiding among aluminum rolls in a truck headed to Poland from Greece. Customs officers on Serbia's border with North Macedonia spotted the migrants on March 22 during a scan that showed human silhouettes in the back of the truck, a statement said. The migrants were young men from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria, the statement added. Serbia lies at the heart of the so-called Balkan land route that refugees and migrants use to try to reach Western Europe and start new lives there. To read the original story by AP, click here.

OSCE To Examine Human Rights Situation In Belarus

Belarus's authoritarian ruler, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, was declared the winner of an August 2020 presidential election despite allegations of widespread voter fraud.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will establish an expert mission to examine the human rights situation in Belarus after a request by the United States and 37 other countries, the U.S. State Department said on March 23. "The expert mission will have a mandate to assess Belarus's adherence to its OSCE commitments and how the Lukashenka regime's actions may have adversely affected Belarus's civil society, press freedoms, the rule of law, and the ability of democratic processes and institutions to function," State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said in a statement.

Russian Blogger Varlamov, Human Rights Lawyer Chikov Listed As 'Foreign Agents'

Pavel Chikov (file photo)

Russia's Justice Ministry has added blogger Ilya Varlamov and lawyer Pavel Chikov of the Agora legal defense organization to the "foreign agents" registry. The ministry said Varlamov and Chikov disseminated "inaccurate information about decisions made by public authorities and their policies." It said Varlamov received "support from foreign sources" while Chikov is accused of "participation in the creation and distribution of materials of foreign agents." The initial law listed as a "foreign agent" anyone who received financial assistance from abroad, but it was amended in December to include anyone who is "under foreign influence." To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Updated

Russian Strike Hits Civilian Shelter As Fighting Rages In Eastern Ukraine

Rockets launched from Russia's Belgorod region streak across the sky at dawn in Kharkiv, Ukraine, early on March 24.

A Russian strike on the town of Kostyantynivka in the eastern region of Donetsk killed at least five people on March 24, Ukraine's emergency service reported, as an air-raid alert was declared in several regions overnight while heavy fighting continued in and around the eastern city of Bakhmut.

A missile fired from an S-300 antiaircraft system hit a local so-called "invincibility point" -- a humanitarian support center -- in Kostyantynivka, the Prosecutor General's Office reported, killing five people.

Of those, at least three of them were women taking shelter at a "invincibility point" set up to provide a place with basic services such as electricity, water, and heating for those displaced by the fighting in the region.

Russia also launched a drone attack overnight on the city of Kryviy Rih in Ukraine's south-central region of Dnipropetrovsk, the region's governor said on March 24.

Five Iranian-made drones were launched on Kryviy Rih at night but there were no casualties, Serhiy Lysak said on Telegram, adding that one Shahed drone and several Russian missiles were downed.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

Moscow has repeatedly denied targeting civilians since the start of its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

In the east, Russian forces pressed on with their offensive, launching 79 assaults on Bakhmut and the surrounding areas over the past 24 hours, despite some reports of signs of exhaustion among Moscow's troops, Ukraine's General Staff said in its morning summary on March 24.

Most of Russia's assaults targeted Bakhmut, the largely destroyed city in the Donetsk region that has been the epicenter of Moscow's efforts for months.

The enemy continued to launch unsuccessful attacks in other areas of Donetsk -- Lyman, Avdiyivka, Maryinka, and Shakhtarsk, the General Staff said, adding that fighting was also under way in parts of the Zaporizhzhya and Kherson regions.

General Oleksandr Syrskiy, commander of Ukraine's ground forces, said on March 23 that the Russians' relentless push in Bakhmut was beginning to take its toll on their strength, and that the Ukrainians were preparing to take advantage of their enemy's perceived weakness "very soon."

But Serhiy Cherevatiy, a spokesman for the Eastern Group of Ukraine's forces, cautioned that Bakhmut was still seeing intense combat.


On March 23, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy implored European leaders to speed up and increase the supply of weapons, including long-range missiles and fighter jets.

Zelenskiy, who earlier in the day, visited the Kherson region, said delays in the delivery of long-range missiles and fighter jets could extend the war.

"Time is of the essence. Not just months and weeks, but days. The sooner we act together, the more lives we save," Zelenskiy said.

"If Europe hesitates, the evil may have time to regroup and prepare itself for years of war," he added, speaking in a video address on March 23 to European leaders that he recorded as he traveled by train to Kherson, which was recaptured by Kyiv in November.

Speaking at a press conference after the meeting, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said any new sanctions against Russia would mostly crack down on evasion of previously imposed sanctions.

She also said the EU would work with other organizations to find Ukrainian children deported to Russia and press for their return.

"It is a horrible reminder of the darkest times of our history...to deport children. This is a war crime," she said.

The International Criminal Court last week issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, a Russian children's rights official, for the illegal deportation of Ukrainian children.

Zelenskiy also welcomed the endorsement by EU foreign and defense ministers of a plan for sending Ukraine 1 million rounds of artillery ammunition within the next 12 months.

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who is now deputy chairman of Russia's Security Council, said in an interview on March 24 with Russian news agencies that Moscow's troops may have to capture Kyiv or Lviv to destroy the Ukrainian state, which he referred to as "this infection."

He said that while Russia did not want a direct war with NATO, any Ukrainian move to liberate its Crimea region, illegally annexed by Moscow in 2014, would give Russia a green light to use "absolutely any weapon" in retaliation, including "those provided for by the basic doctrine of nuclear deterrence."

Medvedev, once seen as a moderate politician, has used increasingly inflammatory rhetoric since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and dpa

Athletics Council Stymies Russian Path To Olympics Due To War In Ukraine

Maria Lasitskene of Russia competes in the women's high jump during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in August 2021.

Track and field leaders have signaled that it will be nearly impossible for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in track and field at the Paris Olympics next year if the war in Ukraine continues. The World Athletics Council, in a decision announced on March 23, kept its ban on Russian athletes in international events in place "for the foreseeable future," a move that goes directly against the International Olympic Committee's efforts to find a way for Russian athletes to compete as neutrals in upcoming events. To read the original story by AP, click here.

Blinken Tells Congress Funds Approved For Ukraine In December Should Last Through 2023

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies at a Senate subcommittee hearing on his department's proposed budget request for fiscal year 2024 in Washington on March 22.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has reassured members of Congress that the billions of dollars already approved for Ukraine should last for much of 2023.

Congress passed a spending bill in December that included $45 billion in new emergency aid for Ukraine.

Blinken, testifying on March 23 before the House of Representatives Appropriations subcommittee, would not say exactly when the administration might need to ask for more funds but said the recent funding "carries us through much of this year."

The hearing focused on the State Department's budget request for fiscal year 2024, which is an 11 percent increase over the current fiscal year.

Some Republican lawmakers have questioned the amount of money sent to Kyiv, given budget deficits and talk of cuts in U.S. domestic programs.

"The budget will sustain our security, our economic and energy and humanitarian support for Ukraine, so that we ensure that President [Vladimir] Putin's war remains a strategic failure," Blinken told members of the committee.

Blinken also told the subcommittee that measures were in place to ensure money sent to Ukraine is well spent.

"I have 45 people at our embassy in Ukraine whose job is to oversee the expenditure of these monies," Blinken said.

He also addressed concerns that the United States is carrying too much of the burden.

Thus far, the United States has committed $32 billion of security assistance for Ukraine, while other countries have committed $22 billion, Blinken said. Washington has provided about $15.5 billion in economic support, while other countries have sent $24 billion, he added. The breakdown on humanitarian assistance is $2 billion sent by Washington and $3.5 billion sent by other countries.

"We do have real burden-sharing when it comes to Ukraine," he said, also noting that European countries have taken in about 8 million refugees.

Blinken also suggested there was a role for diplomacy in determining Ukraine's future borders but said decisions are for Ukraine to make.

While Blinken has dismissed the near-term prospects for peace talks, saying Russia is not serious and would only use a cease-fire to resupply and rearm its forces, he appeared to accept that Ukrainian forces would not be able to win back all their territory on the battlefield.

"I think there's going to be territory in Ukraine that the Ukrainians are determined to fight for on the ground; there may be territory that they decide that they'll have to try to get back in other ways," Blinken said.

He made the comment in response to a question from Representative Chris Stewart (Republican-Utah), who asked if the United States backed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's goal to take back Crimea.

"If our commitment and our agreement with Mr. Zelenskiy is we will support you whatever you want to achieve, including no Russian presence at all in Crimea, then we're asking for a world of hurt," he said.

The United States and its European allies have refused to recognize Moscow's illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Blinken stressed that decisions about Crimea and others regarding territory "have to be Ukrainian decisions about what they want their future to be...in terms of the sovereignty, the territorial integrity, the independence of the country."

Bosnian Serbs Approve Measure On 'Foreign Agents' Mirroring Controversial Russian Law

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik says the legislation will require foreign-financed organizations active in Republika Srpska -- the entity of Bosnia-Herzegovina that Dodik leads -- to report "everything they are doing" and has predicted it will pass.

The government of Republika Srpska has adopted a draft law that would require nonprofit organizations funded from abroad and active in the Bosnian Serb entity to register and report on their work.

The draft law, which is backed by Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, was approved on March 23 by the government.

Dodik says the legislation will require foreign-financed organizations active in Republika Srpska -- the entity of Bosnia-Herzegovina that Dodik leads -- to report "everything they are doing" and has predicted it will pass.

A communique issued after the government approved the measure said existing law on associations and foundations funded from abroad regulate the founding, registration, inner organization, and cessation of their work, but not their transparency.

The communique said their political activity, the publication of financial reports, and the "supervision of the legality of their work and other provisions" are among the things that have not been regulated.

The government claims this gap in regulation creates a situation that could lead to "the collapse of the legal system and constitutional framework of [Republika Srpska], while harmful consequences are caused for the institutions and organizations of [Republika Srpska]."

The draft law now moves to the National Assembly of Republika Srpska for debate. This is to be followed by a two-month period for public discussion. An adapted version of the law would then return to the National Assembly for more discussion and a vote. If it passes, it would take effect with the signature of the president.

Dodik, leader of the largest political party in Republika Srpska, the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), has previously said that the draft law is based on the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

A similar "foreign agents" law in Russia has proved controversial and has been used to disrupt the work of media organizations, including RFE/RL. Russia also claimed its law was in response to FARA.

U.S. officials have argued that Russia uses its "foreign agents" law to silence dissent and discourage the free exchange of ideas and have said there is there "no equivalence" between Russia's "foreign agents" law and the U.S. FARA.

Civil society organizations in Republika Srpska claim that the proposed law has more in common with the Russian law than the U.S. FARA. They also said is about "establishing supervision and total control over the work of civil society."

According to the registry of associations and foundations, Bosnia has about 25,600 NGOs, including 7,500 based in Republika Srpska. There is no data on how many of them are financed from abroad.

With reporting by Goran Katic

Bulgarian President Balks At Delivery Of Bulgarian-Made Ammunition To Ukraine

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev speaks on arrival for an EU summit at EU headquarters in Brussels on March 23.

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev on March 23 objected to the delivery to Ukraine of ammunition that Bulgaria sells to other European Union states. Radev confirmed to journalists that Bulgaria would engage only in the production of ammunition for other EU members. "Bulgaria does not support and is not part of the general order for the supply of shells to Ukraine," Radev said. "Our country will support European diplomatic efforts to restore peace." Radev made the comment before EU foreign and defense ministers meeting in Brussels endorsed a plan to send Ukraine 1 million rounds of artillery ammunition. To read the full story by RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service, click here.

Fugitive Sought In Collapse Of Cryptocurrency Arrested In Montenegro

Terra USD was a crypto asset security referred to as an "algorithmic stablecoin" that supposedly maintained its peg to the U.S. dollar by being interchangeable with Luna, another of Do Kwon's crypto asset securities. (illustrative photo)

The former CEO and co-founder of cryptocurrency company Terraform Labs has been captured in Montenegro, the country's interior minister said on March 23.

Do Kwon, who is suspected in the loss of investments worth more than $40 billion, was detained at the Podgorica airport with falsified documents, Interior Minister Filip Adzic said.

"Montenegrin police have detained a person suspected of being one of the most wanted fugitives, South Korean citizen Do Kwon, co-founder and CEO of Singapore-based Terraform Labs," Adzic said on Twitter. "We are waiting for official confirmation of identity."

Do Kwon is wanted by the United States, South Korea, and Singapore, Adzic said.

He stands accused of "orchestrating a multibillion-dollar crypto asset securities fraud," according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

"We allege that Terraform and Do Kwon failed to provide the public with full, fair, and truthful disclosure as required for a host of crypto asset securities, most notably for Luna and Terra USD," SEC Chairman Gary Gensler said in a statement in February.

Terra USD was a crypto-asset security referred to as an "algorithmic stablecoin" that supposedly maintained its peg to the U.S. dollar by being interchangeable with Luna, another of Kwon's crypto-asset securities, the SEC said.

"We also allege that [Terraform and Kwon] committed fraud by repeating false and misleading statements to build trust before causing devastating losses for investors," he added.

An arrest warrant was issued by South Korea in September after Terraform Labs and its cryptocurrency crashed in May.

The arrest warrants named several people linked to the Terra USD and Luna cryptocurrencies, the BBC reported.

South Korean prosecutors previously asked Interpol to issue a red notice for Kwon, saying he refused to cooperate with their probe into the crash.

Many investors lost their life savings when Luna and Terra USD collapsed, falling to a value of near zero. The fallout from the collapse of Terraform Labs also affected the wider cryptocurrency market.

With reporting by AFP

Russian Suspected Of Evading Sanctions Escapes From House Arrest In Italy While Awaiting Extradition To U.S.

Artyom Uss was arrested in October at a Milan airport at the request of the United States. Shortly after he was detained, a court in Moscow issued an arrest warrant for Uss, accusing him of money laundering. (illustrative photo)

Artyom Uss, the son of a Russian regional governor who was set to be extradited from Italy to the United States to face charges of violating an embargo against Venezuela and bank fraud, has escaped from house arrest near Milan, Italian media reported on March 23.

Uss disappeared after he removed an electronic bracelet, reports by La Republica, La Stampa, and ANSA said, adding that police are looking for him.

Italian officials have yet to make a statement on the situation.

Two days earlier, a court in Milan approved a motion to extradite Uss to the United States, where he would face decades behind bars if convicted.

Uss was arrested in October at a Milan airport at the request of the United States. Shortly after he was detained, a court in Moscow issued an arrest warrant for Uss, accusing him of money laundering. The move appeared aimed at heading off his extradition to the United States.

Uss, whose father, Aleksandr Uss, has served at the governor of Russia's Krasnoyarsk Krai region since 2018, asked to be handed to the Russian authorities in January. The court in Milan rejected his request and on March 21 approved his extradition to the United States on charges of violating an embargo against Venezuela and bank fraud.

But the court ruled against handing him over on charges of smuggling military technology to Russia and money laundering. The judges wrote in a statement that they refused extradition due to a lack of evidence for the first charge and the issue of double jeopardy for the second.

U.S. prosecutors said in October that another suspect in the case against Uss, Yury Orekhov, was arrested in Germany.

A 12-count indictment was unsealed on October 19 in a federal court in Brooklyn, New York, charging the two men along with three other Russian nationals -- Svetlana Kuzurgasheva, Timofei Telegin, and Sergei Tulyakov. In addition, two Venezuelan nationals -- Juan Fernando Serrano Ponce and Juan Carlos Soto -- were charged for brokering illicit oil deals for a Venezuelan energy company.

According to the statement, Uss and Orekhov owned Nord-Deutsche Industrieanlagenbau GmbH (NDA GmbH), which bought U.S. military technologies and dual-use technologies, including semiconductors and microchips that are used in military jets, missile systems, modern ammunition, radars, and satellites. Kuzurgasheva served as the company's executive director.

The items bought in the United States by the company in question were then passed on to Russian companies -- Radioavtomatika, Radioexport, and Abtronix -- owned by Telegin and Tulyakov.

The U.S. Attorney General’s Office said the items were discovered in Russian military vehicles and in equipment captured by Ukrainian forces during Russia's ongoing full-scale aggression against Ukraine.

According to the indictment papers, Uss and Orekhov also used NDA GmbH to illegally smuggle hundreds of millions of tons of oil from Venezuela to companies in China and Russia, including one that might be linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who is under U.S. and European Union sanctions over Russia’s war in Ukraine.

With reporting by Reuters, La Republica, La Stampa, and ANSA

Lawmakers In Iceland Recognize Soviet-Era Famine In Ukraine As Genocide

A statue commemorating the Holodomor famine in central Kyiv. (file photo)

Iceland's lawmakers have recognized the Holodomor -- the 1932-33 famine caused by the policies of the Soviet government in Ukraine -- as genocide. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy expressed gratitude to Iceland on March 23, calling the move "a clear signal that such crimes do not go unpunished and do not have a statute of limitations." Earlier this month, lawmakers in Belgium and Bulgaria also recognized the Holodomor as genocide. The Holodomor took place as communist leader Josef Stalin's police units forced peasants in Ukraine to join collective farms by requisitioning their grain and other foodstuffs. Historians say the failure to properly harvest crops in Ukraine in 1932 under Soviet mismanagement was the main cause of the famine.

EU Leaders Endorse Joint Ammunition Purchases For Ukraine

(file photo)

European Union leaders have endorsed a plan for sending Ukraine 1 million rounds of artillery ammunition within the next 12 months to help the country counter Russia’s invading forces. EU foreign and defense ministers approved the plan for a fast-track purchasing procedure earlier this week, and the leaders of the bloc’s 27 member nations gave it their political blessing at a summit in Brussels on March 23. “Taking into account the security and defense interests of all member states, the European Council welcomes the agreement...to deliver ground-to-ground and artillery ammunition to Ukraine and, if requested, missiles,” a statement at the conclusion of the meeting said. To read the original story by AP, click here.

Iranian National Soccer Team's Assistant Coach Fired For Supporting Protesters Online

Rahman Rezaei (third right at back) poses with Iran's national soccer team in 2006.

An assistant coach with Iran's national soccer team has been fired amid a campaign by hard-liners to oust him over social media posts he made criticizing the government's response to protests sparked by the death of a young woman while in police custody.

Rahman Rezaei, a former star player on the Iranian men's national soccer team, had come increasingly under fire after being named last week as an assistant coach for his comments online about the regime's crackdown on demonstrators, including one last October where he said, "Enough is enough. You should be tried in the nation's courts."

On March 20, an official of the Sports Ministry wrote on Twitter: "Do you think that someone who insults the Islamic republic so brazenly can be trusted to serve honestly under the holy flag?"

Soon after, the semiofficial Fars News Agency, which is close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, announced Rezaei's dismissal.

FIFA, world soccer's governing body, has repeatedly warned the Iranian Football Federation over government interference in national team affairs. There was no immediate comment by FIFA.

Since the start of nationwide protests following the death of Mahsa Amini in September while in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly, numerous Iranian celebrities and sports personalities have been interrogated and had their passports confiscated after voicing support for the protests.

The unrest has put women's rights in Iran and the lack of freedoms in general in Iran in the spotlight.

Authorities have responded to the unrest with a wave of brutal and often deadly repression.

Another Iranian professional soccer player, Amir Nasr-Azadani, has been sentenced to 16 years in prison for "assisting in waging war against God." Nasr-Azadani had faced a potential death sentence.

Ali Karimi, a former soccer player with Bayern Munich and once the captain of Iran's national soccer team, has also been a target of the government for his support of the protesters and his posts on social media, including on Instagram, where he has nearly 15 million followers.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has described efforts by celebrities to support the protesters as "worthless" and has called for judicial action against them.

Since Amini's death, more than 500 people have been killed in the police crackdown, according to rights groups. Thousands more have been arrested, including many protesters, as well as journalists, lawyers, activists, digital rights defenders, and others.

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

Kyrgyz Activist Fined For Inciting Hatred Calls Ruling Politically Motivated, Plans To Appeal

Civil rights activist Aijan Myrsalieva is known for her harsh online criticism of Kyrgyz authorities. (file photo)

A court in Bishkek on March 23 fined a noted civil rights activist, Aijan Myrsalieva, 100,000 soms ($1,145), after finding her guilty of inciting hatred. Myrsalieva told RFE/RL that she considers the ruling politically motivated, adding that she will appeal it. Myrsalieva, who is also known as Myrsan, was charged in July. She is known for her harsh online criticism of Kyrgyz authorities. International and domestic rights watchdogs have accused the Kyrgyz government of increasing pressure on independent journalists and bloggers in recent months. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, click here.

Pretrial Detention For Former Kyrgyz Kumtor Gold-Mine Manager Upheld

Kumtor had been the target of financial and environmental disagreements for years before turning into the subject of a control battle between the Kyrgyz state and Centerra Gold. (file photo)

BISHKEK -- A Bishkek court has upheld a lower court's decision to keep in pretrial detention the former interim manager of Kyrgyzstan's Kumtor gold mine, Tengiz Bolturuk, who is being held on charges of financial misdeeds that he has rejected.

The court announced its decision on March 23. The same day, Bolturuk's wife, Ilmira Alpysbaeva, said she was ending a hunger strike she started several days earlier to demand her husband's transfer to house arrest.

"I have children. My hunger strike does not bring any results. My husband is innocent," Alpysbaeva said.

On March 10, the Oktyabr (October) district court rejected Bolturuk's request for a transfer to house arrest even though Alpysbaeva was insisting her husband's health condition had dramatically worsened since his arrest in September.

The State Committee for National Security (UKMK) arrested Bolturuk and two of his associates -- Aisha-Gul Janalieva and Ryspek Toktogulov.

They were fired in late August after the UKMK launched a probe against them, saying the auditing chamber found financial violations in their activities.

The UKMK said at the time that Bolturuk and his assistants allegedly caused financial damage to the State Treasury assessed at 1 billion soms ($11.4 million).

Bolturuk has rejected the charges.

Kyrgyzstan and the Kyrgyz state-owned gold mining company regained full control of the Kumtor gold mine earlier last year under the terms of a deal with the Canadian company Centerra Gold signed in April 2022.

Bolturuk, who previously represented Kyrgyzstan at the Centerra Gold, was the interim manager of Kumtor at the time.

Kumtor had been the target of financial and environmental disagreements for years before turning into the subject of a control battle between the Kyrgyz state and Centerra Gold.

The Kyrgyz government has insisted Centerra's operations endangered human lives and the environment, which the company denied.

In May 2021, the Canadian firm said it had "initiated binding arbitration to enforce its rights under long-standing investment agreements with the government."

Many Kyrgyz lawmakers have expressed concern about an alleged lack of transparency at Kumtor since the Kyrgyz government took control of the gold mine.

Slovakia Sends First Four MiG-29 Fighter Jets To Ukraine

Russian-made MiG-29 fighter jets fly in formation over the Malacky Air Base in Slovakia in August 2022.

Slovakia has delivered the first four of a total of 13 Soviet-made fighter jets promised to Ukraine, the Slovak Defense Ministry said on March 23. "The first four MiG-29 fighter jets have been safely handed over to the Ukrainian Armed Forces," the ministry said in a statement, adding that the transfer was carried out by Ukrainian pilots. "In the coming weeks, the rest of the planes will be handed over to Ukraine," the statement said. Slovakia’s government approved the transfer of its fleet of Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets last week.

NHL Team Will Not Wear Pride-Themed Jerseys Due To Russian LGBTQ Law

Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Nikita Zaitsev

The Chicago Blackhawks will not wear Pride-themed warmup jerseys before their Pride Night game against Vancouver because of security concerns involving a Russian law that expands restrictions on activities seen as promoting LGBTQ rights in the country. The decision was made by the NHL following discussions with security officials within and outside the franchise, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke to the AP on March 22 on condition of anonymity. Chicago defenseman Nikita Zaitsev is from Moscow, and there are other players with family in Russia or other connections to the country. To read the original story by AP, click here.

Sweden To Seek Explanation From Hungary On NATO Delay

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson (file photo)

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said on March 23 that he would seek an explanation from Hungary as to why its parliament is delaying ratification of Sweden's NATO bid but not Finland's. "I'm going to ask why they are now separating Sweden from Finland. These are signals we have not received before, so I'm absolutely going to raise this with [Prime Minister Viktor] Orban today," Kristersson told public broadcaster Sveriges Radio. To read the original story by AFP, click here.

Iran Sentences Five To Death For Alleged Spy Operations With Israel

A man who identified himself as Mansur Rasuli admitted he wanted to assassinate an Israeli diplomat working in the country's consulate in Istanbul, as well as a U.S. general stationed in Germany and a journalist in France. (video grab)

Five Iranians -- four men and one woman -- in the northwestern Iranian city of Urmia have been sentenced by a court to death for allegedly engaging in intelligence cooperation and espionage activities that benefited Israel.

Hengaw, a Norway-based group that monitors rights violations in Iran's Kurdish regions, said one of those sentenced to death is Mansur Rasuli, whose interrogation by Mossad agents in Iran made headlines last year.

At least five other people have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms in the case, the report added.

Last year, Israeli media reported that agents for the Mossad security service captured and interrogated a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps inside Iran.

Later, a video was released in which a person who identified himself as Rasuli admitted he wanted to assassinate an Israeli diplomat working in the country's consulate in Istanbul, as well as a U.S. general stationed in Germany and a journalist in France.

Iran and Israel have been engaged in a years-long shadow war. Tensions have been nearing a boiling point in recent years.

In November, the semiofficial Mehr News agency reported that Iran sentenced to death four people accused of collaborating with Israel. The four were accused of having interrogated people in Iran with intelligence cooperation from Mossad, the Israeli secret service.

Tensions have also flared between the two countries as negotiations aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers remain deadlocked. In the absence of a deal that would curb Iran's sensitive nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of U.S. sanctions, Tehran has reduced its commitments and expanded its nuclear activities.

Iran has been roiled in recent months by nationwide protests sparked by the death of a young woman while she was being held in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly.

Tehran has blamed Israel, the United States, and other Western countries for the unrest, which has seen security forces kill more than 500 people, according to human rights groups, including dozens of minors.

Officials have not shown any evidence to back up their accusations that the West has been involved in the anti-government uprising.

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

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