Facebook, Twitter Face Grilling In U.S. Congress Over Election-Meddling Issue
Facebook and Twitter executives will testify before the U.S. Congress on September 5 on their efforts to root out Russian operatives and other agents who are trying to influence the upcoming congressional elections.
Congress has sharply criticized the social-media companies over the last year as evidence has emerged that they were at the forefront of Russia's alleged efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Thirteen Russians were indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller earlier this year on charges of involvement in an alleged plot to disrupt the 2016 election by creating fake accounts that pushed divisive issues on Facebook and Twitter.
Ahead of the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said in a Washington Post opinion article on September 5 that his company was engaged in an "arms race" with sophisticated hackers who want to harm democracy.
"Companies such as Facebook face sophisticated, well-funded adversaries who are getting smarter over time, too," Zuckerberg said. "It's an arms race, and it will take the combined forces of the U.S. private and public sectors to protect America's democracy from outside interference."
The committee also invited Larry Page, the CEO of Google's and YouTube's parent company, Alphabet, but the company said it would send a lower-ranking executive instead. The committee rejected that offer, and plans to have an empty chair at the hearing for Page.
Committee Chairman Richard Burr said that Google didn't "understand the problem" if it doesn't want to work with the government to find solutions.
Burr said he believed Facebook and Twitter do understand the problem, despite taking several months last year to acknowledge they had been manipulated by Russian operatives.
Facebook's No. 2 executive, Sheryl Sandberg, in prepared remarks detailed many ways the company is addressing the matter, but acknowledges that the company was slow to spot it.
Based on reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters
Iran To Reopen Its Embassy In Riyadh In Sign Of Further Thawing Of Relations
Iran will reopen its embassy in Saudi Arabia’s capital on June 6, Iranian sources told the semiofficial Fars news agency, months after Tehran and Riyadh agreed to end years of hostility. In March, Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to reestablish relations after years of hostility between the regional rivals that had threatened stability and security in the Middle East and helped fuel regional conflicts from Yemen to Syria. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Poisonous Cider Kills Eight People In Russia's Ulyanovsk And Samara Regions
Russia's Investigative Committee said on June 5 that eight people have died and several others have been hospitalized in the Ulyanovsk and Samara regions in the Volga federal district after they drank cider bought in local shops. Poisonings with surrogate alcohol are common in Russia as people look to save money on cheaper drinks. In 2021, 34 people were killed by surrogate alcohol in the Urals region of Orenburg. In December 2016, 78 people died in the Siberian region of Irkutsk after drinking a scented herbal bath oil, which contained methanol, a highly poisonous type of industrial alcohol. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Idel.Realities, click here.
Kyrgyz Police Said To Be Rounding Up Suspects Who Were Allegedly Preparing A Coup
Several sources in Kyrgyz law enforcement entities told RFE/RL on June 5 that people suspected of allegedly preparing to seize power are being detained across the Central Asian nation. According to the sources, at least 10 suspects have been detained by the State Committee of National Security (UKMK). The UKMK has yet to comment on the reports. Internet users placed videos online showing security forces entering an unspecified private house and an unidentified man being handcuffed. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, click here.
Budget For Afghanistan Aid Plan Revised Down To $3.2 Billion
The United Nations and humanitarian agencies have revised the budget for Afghanistan's aid plan for 2023 to $3.2 billion, down from $4.6 billion earlier in the year, the UN humanitarian office said on June 5.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement that a "changing operating context" in the wake of Taliban administration restrictions on female aid workers had contributed to the revised plan.
Taliban authorities have issued several orders barring many Afghan female NGO and United Nations employees from work, which aid agencies have warned would severely hamper delivery in the religiously conservative nation.
To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Jailed Mother Of Chechen Opposition Bloggers Hospitalized
Zarema Musayeva, the jailed mother of three self-exiled outspoken Chechen opposition activists, has been hospitalized as her health state has dramatically worsened since her arrest.
Abubakar Yangulbayev, who along with his brothers, Ibragim and Baisangur, now lives abroad, said on June 5 that his mother’s diabetes has progressed, her eyesight has worsened, and she has started having pains in her back, since being detained after Chechen police snatched her in January last year from her apartment in the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod, some 1,800 kilometers (1,080 miles) from Chechnya.
She has since been transferred to Chechnya, where she is currently on trial on charges of fraud and the assault of a law enforcement officer. Critics insist that the charges are politically motivated.
Abubakar Yangulbayev added that his mother is unable to walk, with jail guards now taking her for daily one-hour walks in a wheelchair.
Abubakar and Ibragim have been known for their online criticism of Kremlin-backed Chechen head Ramzan Kadyrov. Musayeva's youngest son, Baisangur, was added to Russia's federal wanted list on unspecified charges last month.
In November, Russian authorities added him to the list of extremists and terrorists without explanation.
All three brothers are currently out of Russia. The activists' father, retired federal judge Saidi Yangulbayev, and a sister also fled Russia following threats.
Kadyrov, other Chechen officials, and a member of the Russian Duma from Chechnya have publicly vowed to kill all members of the Yangulbayev family, calling them "terrorists."
Journalists, rights activists, and other Russians have urged the government to punish those who issued the threats.
Ibragim and Abubakar Yangulbayev say they faced years of pressure from Chechen authorities over their criticism of Kadyrov and the rights situation in Chechnya.
Russian and international human rights groups have for years accused Kadyrov of overseeing grave human rights abuses, including abductions, torture, extrajudicial killings, and the persecution of the LGBT community.
Kremlin critics say Putin has turned a blind eye to the abuses because he relies on the former rebel commander to control separatist sentiment and violence in Chechnya.
Kremlin Says U.S. Statement On Nuclear Arms Control Is 'Positive'
The Kremlin said on June 5 that a statement by U.S. national-security adviser Jake Sullivan calling for bilateral arms control discussions was "positive", and that Russia remained open for dialogue. Sullivan said on June 2 that the United States would abide by the nuclear weapons limits set in the New START treaty, the last remaining nuclear arms reduction pact between the two Cold War rivals, until it expired in 2026 if Russia did the same. President Vladimir Putin suspended Moscow's participation in the treaty in February.
Poland Receives Draft EU Regulation Extending Ban On Ukrainian Food Imports
Poland's agriculture minister, Robert Telus, says he has received a draft regulation from the European Commission extending a ban on Ukrainian grain imports until September 15. The EU on May 2 set restrictions until June 5 on imports of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed, and sunflower seed to ease the excess supply of the grains in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia. Those countries had complained that cheaper Ukrainian grain was making domestic production unprofitable and had asked the EU to extend the ban. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Belgium Investigating Whether Its Weapons Were Used In Russia
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said on June 5 that his government will ask Ukraine for clarification on reports that rifles made in Belgium had been used by pro-Ukrainian forces to fight Russian troops inside Russia's western border. The Washington Post reported on June 3 that anti-Kremlin fighters who launched a cross-border attack from Ukraine into the Russian Belgorod region last month used tactical vehicles originally given to Ukraine by the United States and Poland and carried rifles made in Belgium and the Czech Republic. De Croo declined to comment on possible consequences if the reports were confirmed. (Reuters)
To read the original story by Reuters, click here. https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/belgium-investigating-whether-its-weapons-were-used-russia-pm-says-2023-06-05/
Papal Peace Envoy To Visit Kyiv On June 5-6, Vatican Says
Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, tasked by Pope Francis to carry out a peace mission to try to help end the war in Ukraine, will visit Kyiv on June 5-6, the Vatican said in a statement. "This is an initiative whose main purpose is to listen in-depth to the Ukrainian authorities on the possible ways to reach a just peace and support gestures of humanity that may help ease tensions," it said. Since the war started in February 2022, Francis and the Vatican have tried to offer themselves as a possible peace brokers, but to date, their efforts have not been successful. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Russia's Baltic Fleet Starts Naval Drills In Baltic Sea
Russia's Baltic Fleet started naval exercises in the Baltic Sea on June 5 the Russian military's press service said. Around 3,500 soldiers and up to 40 ships and boats will take part in the drills, which are scheduled to last until June 15, the military said. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
U.S. Navy Says Iranian Fast-Attack Boats 'Harassed' Ship In Strait Of Hormuz
The U.S. Navy said on June 5 that its sailors and the U.K. Royal Navy came to the aid of a ship in the crucial Strait of Hormuz after Iran's Revolutionary Guards “harassed” it. Three fast-attack vessels with armed troops aboard approached the merchant ship at a close distance in the afternoon on June 4, the U.S. Navy said in a statement. The U.S. Navy's guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul and the Royal Navy's frigate HMS Lancaster responded to the incident, with the Lancaster launching a helicopter. To read the original story by AP, click here.
Russia Says It Thwarted 'Large-Scale' Ukrainian Offensive; Kyiv Calls Claim 'Fake'
Russia says its forces have repelled a multipronged "large-scale" Ukrainian offensive in the eastern Donetsk region, but Kyiv rejected the report, calling it an attempt at disinformation while denying it had launched its long-awaited counterattack to reclaim territory lost since Moscow invaded in February 2022.
Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine
RFE/RL's Live Briefing gives you all of the latest developments on Russia's full-scale invasion, Kyiv's counteroffensives, Western military aid, global reaction, and the plight of civilians. For all of RFE/RL's coverage of the war in Ukraine, click here.
The Russian claim on June 5, which came after President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told The Wall Street Journal two days earlier that Ukrainian forces were ready for the counteroffensive, could not be independently verified and was rejected by the Ukrainian military.
"In order to demoralize Ukrainians and mislead the public, including their own, Russian propagandists are spreading false information about a counteroffensive, its directions, and the losses of the Ukrainian Army, even though there is no counterattack," the military said in a statement.
It said that Russia used old videos and pictures "as well as other fake materials" in its report about the alleged counteroffensive, in which Russian officials said Ukraine suffered heavy losses.
Earlier on June 5, the Russian Defense Ministry released a video statement saying that Ukrainian forces attacked five points in Donetsk using six mechanized and two tank battalions but their action "had no success."
The statement said that the chief of the Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov, personally supervised the Russian defense.
General Oleksandr Syrskiy, the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, said on June 5 that Ukrainian forces kept advancing near Bakhmut, the city that has been at the epicenter of the monthslong battle for control of Ukraine's Donetsk region. But he made no mention of a counteroffensive.
Separately, the Ukrainian military said fresh fighting took place in eastern and southern Ukraine over the past 24 hours as more incursions from Ukraine into Russia's region of Belgorod were reported.
For its part, the Ukrainian military said on June 5 that its forces had detected and repelled an attempt by Russia to infiltrate a "sabotage and reconnaissance" group in the eastern Kharkiv region.
"On the Siverskiy and Slobozhanskiy directions over the past day, the enemy made an unsuccessful attempt to penetrate the state border of Ukraine in the area of the Zelene settlement of the Kharkiv region," the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported in a message early on June 5.
The Kharkiv Region borders Russia's Belgorod region, where fighting was reported repeatedly in recent days.
For months, Ukrainian officials have spoken about preparing a counteroffensive to drive Russian forces back.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published on June 3 that his country was ready to launch the action, saying "I don't know how long it will take," and admitting that it could come at a heavy cost.
Western assessments have said the offensive will be larger and more complicated than any other effort Ukraine has conducted since the launch of the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022.
Ukraine’s newest units, plus all of its regular and irregular units, will go into their offensive with more than $32 billion in weapons and security assistance from U.S. arsenals, plus billions more from European allies.
Russia, meanwhile, has been digging in and expanding its defensive lines -- minefields, trenches, anti-tank “dragon’s teeth” -- across the roughly 1,200-kilometer front that stretches from Ukraine’s Luhansk region, in the Donbas, southwest to the mouth of the Dnieper River and its eastern banks in the Kherson region.
With reporting by AFP and Reuters
Russia Says It Stopped An Attack By 'Saboteurs' From Ukraine In Belgorod Region
The Russian Ministry of Defense says its forces managed to repel an attempt by a "sabotage and reconnaissance group of Ukrainian terrorists" to enter the settlement of Novaya Tavolzhanka in Russia's Belgorod region near the border with Ukraine. "An artillery strike was carried out on the enemy. The enemy was dispersed and retreated," the ministry said in a statement on June 4. Earlier, fresh skirmishes were reported on the Russian side of the Ukrainian border. Belgorod governor Vyacheslav Gladkov acknowledged on June 4 that fighting was taking place in his region. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.
Ukraine Says It Thwarted Infiltration Attempt By Russia In Kharkiv Region
The Ukrainian military said its forces had detected and repelled an attempt by Russia to infiltrate a "sabotage and reconnaissance" group in Ukraine's Kharkiv region. "On the Siverskiy and Slobozhanskiy directions over the past day, the enemy made an unsuccessful attempt to penetrate the state border of Ukraine in the area of the Zelene settlement of the Kharkiv region," the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported in a message early on June 5. The Kharkiv region borders Russia's Belgorod region, where fighting was reported repeatedly in recent days. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, click here.
Official: Almost 80 Schoolgirls Poisoned, Hospitalized In Northern Afghanistan
Nearly 80 girls were poisoned and hospitalized in two separate attacks at their primary schools in Sar-e Pul Province in northern Afghanistan, a local education official said on June 4. It is thought to be the first time this kind of assault has happened since the Taliban swept to power in August 2021 and began their crackdown on the rights and freedoms of Afghan women and girls. Girls are banned from education beyond sixth grade. The education official said the person who orchestrated the poisoning had a personal grudge but did not elaborate. To read the original story by AP, click here.
Popular Singer Zemfira Spotted In Russian Player's Box At French Open
Popular Russian singer Zemfira, who left the country because of her opposition to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, was spotted at the French Open on June 4 sitting in the player's box of her compatriot Daria Kasaktina. Zemfira was placed on a Russian Justice Ministry list of "foreign agents" in February on the grounds that she supported Ukraine and criticized the invasion, which Russia calls a "special military operation." An ethnic Volga Tatar born in the central Russian region of Bashkortostan, Zemfira began performing in 1998 and gained popularity in Russia and other ex-Soviet states.
- By AFP
German Jailed In Iran's Life 'In Danger,' Fellow Prisoner Says
The life of a German-Iranian detained in Iran is in danger and she is in such pain she can barely move, a fellow prisoner who is a prominent rights activist said on June 4. Nahid Taghavi, 68, was sentenced to 10 years and eight months in jail in August 2021 after being arrested at her Tehran apartment in October 2020, and is being held in solitary confinement at Tehran's Evin prison. "The life of Nahid Taghavi, a political prisoner, is in danger," her fellow inmate, the prize-winning campaigner Narges Mohammadi, wrote on an Instagram account run by family in France.
No Breakthrough In NATO-Turkey Talks Over Sweden After Stoltenberg, Erdogan Meet
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg made no breakthrough on June 4 in talks about Sweden's membership in the military alliance with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with officials from the two countries to meet on June 12 to try to bridge their differences. NATO wants to bring Sweden into the fold by the time U.S. President Joe Biden and other allied leaders meet in Lithuania on July 11-12, but Turkey and Hungary have yet to endorse the move. All 31 member countries must ratify a candidate's accession protocol for it to join the transatlantic alliance. To read the original story by AP, click here.
Rublev's Trinity Icon Transferred To Russian Cathedral Despite Protests Of Museum Community
Russia's most famous icon -- the Trinity by Andrei Rublev -- was moved from the Tretyakov Gallery Arts Museum to Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral despite protests by the museum community. The icon will be in the cathedral for a service starting on June 4, the Culture Ministry said. Museum officials and scientists opposed the transfer of the icon, saying the historic artifact will be damaged by the change in microclimate and vibrations during the transfer. Created by the Russian painter in the early 15th century, it has been at the Tretyakov since the 1920s. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.
Pakistani Ex-PM Openly Accuses Military Of Trying To Destroy His Party
Pakistan's embattled former Prime Minister Imran Khan has accused the powerful military and its intelligence agency of openly trying to destroy his political party, saying he had "no doubt" he would be tried in a military court and thrown in jail. Khan has hinted previously at the military's hand in a crackdown on his Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI) party but his comments in an interview at his Lahore home on June 3 were the most blunt yet. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Ukrainian Minister In 'Disbelief' At Closed Kyiv Bomb Shelters
A senior Ukrainian government official expressed "disbelief" on June 4, warning that nearly half of Kyiv's bomb shelters inspected during an initial audit were closed or unfit for use. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy ordered an inspection of all Ukrainian shelters on June 2, a day after three people were killed in Kyiv when they were unable to access one during a Russian air strike. Oleksandr Kamyshin, Ukraine's minister of strategic industries, said that out of 1,078 shelters examined on the first day, 359 were unprepared and another 122 locked, while 597 were found to be usable.
Russian Governor Urges Residents Of Village Near Ukraine To 'Temporarily' Evacuate Amid Uptick In Shelling
Russian authorities on June 4 called on residents of an area on the Ukrainian border to leave their homes "temporarily." The town of Shebekino in the western Belgorod region has been hit by shelling, with casualties reported. In a Telegram post on June 4, regional Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov urged residents to cooperate with the authorities and leave the area. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.
Drone Shot Down In Crimea's Dzhankoy, Moscow-Installed Official Says
A drone was shot down in Dzhankoy in Crimea, a Russian-installed official in the region that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014 said on June 4. "There is damage to windows in several houses in a residential district" from the overnight incident, Oleg Kryuchkov, an adviser in the Moscow-installed administration of Crimea, posted on the Telegram messaging app. "All services are working. Official information -- in the morning," he said. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
- By RFE/RL
Dozens Of Supporters Detained As Kremlin Foe Navalny Turns 47 In Prison
Aleksei Navalny, the Kremlin's biggest foe and Russia's most prominent political prisoner, marks his 47th birthday on June 4 in solitary confinement in prison, as supporters held rallies and individual protests to highlight his plight, leading to dozens of arrests and detentions.
Navalny is serving sentences that add up to 11 1/2 years for violating the terms of a parole, contempt of court, and embezzlement through fraud that he and his supporters have repeatedly rejected as politically motivated and designed to silence him.
He is currently in a punitive solitary confinement at a prison in the Vladimir region east of Moscow.
"As always, on my birthday, I want to thank all the people I've met in my life. The good ones for having helped and still helping me. The bad ones for the fact that my experience with them has taught me something. Thanks to my family for always being there for me!" Navalny wrote on Twitter.
"But the biggest thank you and biggest salute I want to give today goes to all political prisoners in Russia, Belarus, and other countries. Most of them ...have it much harder than me. I think about them all the time. Their resilience inspires me every day," he added.
Risking their own detention amid President Vladimir Putin's crackdown on any dissent, supporters held individual pickets in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and elsewhere in the country.
A heavy security presence was seen in central Moscow, with National Guard troops stationed near Pushkin Square.
According to OVD-Info, an independent human rights defense and media group, several people were detained in the capital for holding signs in support of the activist, including a woman identified as Yekaterina Lubyanaya, who was holding a balloon with "Happy birthday!" written on it.
OVD-Info said that more than 100 people had been detained in 23 cities at rallies and individual pickets by late on June 4. At least four detainees were minors and one journalist was held, it said, adding that some were eventually released from custody.
Demonstrations were also reported in several European cities and in Japan and Australia.
Navalny has been in prison since February 2021 following his arrest one month earlier after he returned from Germany, where he was treated for a near-fatal poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin, which has denied any involvement.
He and his team have said the charges against him are trumped up for his efforts to expose corruption in the Russian government.
WATCH: Russia's most famous political prisoner spends most of his time in a 2.5-by-3-meter isolation cell. Supporters of Aleksei Navalny have created a traveling exhibition complete with a mock-up of the cell.
A Moscow court has set a June 6 date for a hearing for a new trial for Navalny on a charge of extremism, which could keep him in prison for 30 years. He also said an investigator told him that he would also face a separate military court trial on terrorism charges that potentially carry a life sentence.
On June 2, Navalny released excerpts of his correspondence with prison administrators detailing sarcastic demands for outlandish things such as a bottle of moonshine and a pet kangaroo.
Prison officials denied all of his requests, according to the correspondence, often in stilted, bureaucratic Russian.
"When you are sitting in a punishment isolation cell and have little entertainment, you can have fun with correspondence with the administration," Navalny said on Twitter in a series of tweets posted on June 2, apparently by his team.
Among the items he requested was a megaphone to be given to the prisoner in a nearby cell "so he can yell even louder." Another was a request for an inmate who "killed a man with his bare hands" to be awarded with the highest rank in karate.
"The question of awarding eastern martial-arts qualifications is not handled by the administration," the prison wrote back on April 28.
Prison officials also turned down requests for moonshine, tobacco for rolling cigarettes, a balalaika, and the kangaroo.
In response to his wish for a pet kangaroo, the prison wrote: "The animal identified in your request relates to the double-crested marsupial.... Your request is left without satisfaction."
In mock outrage over the refusal, Navalny said he would continue to fight for his "inalienable right to own a kangaroo." The politician said inmates can have a pet if the prison administration allows it.
With reporting by Current Time, Reuters, and AP
Taliban Claims Attack In Northwest Pakistan, Two Soldiers Killed
The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for an attack in northwestern Pakistan that left two soldiers and two militants dead. The army said in a statement that militants opened fire on a security checkpoint in the evening on June 3 in the Jani Khel area of Bannu district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, leading to a shoot-out with Pakistani troops. A search operation was under way to track the militants behind the attack. To read the original story by AP, click here.
Satellite Imagery Captures New Defensive Fortifications In Belarus Near Ukrainian Border2
Kyiv Using 'Ukrainian Storks' For Reconnaissance Over Bakhmut3
Zelenskiy Says Ukraine Ready To Launch Its Long-Awaited Counteroffensive4
Moscow Does Not Believe In Drones: Why Are Military-Grade Drones Flying Over The City And Who's Behind It?5
Ukrainian Analysts Studying Downed Russian Missiles, Drones6
'Z' Marks The Trouble Spot: Russia's Symbol Of War Appears In Northern Kosovo7
Live Briefing: Russia Invades Ukraine8
Then And Now: The Rebirth Of Bucha9
Pashinian Says Armenia Is Not Russia's Ally In Moscow's War With Ukraine10
Soviet Icarus: The Supersonic Airliner Crash That Shook The World