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Ex-German Chancellor Schroeder To Replace Nazarbaev Son-In-Law On Gazprom Board

Timur Kulibaev is one of several people connected to Nursultan Nazarbaev who have been forced out of top jobs in the Kazakh energy sphere recently. (file photo)
Timur Kulibaev is one of several people connected to Nursultan Nazarbaev who have been forced out of top jobs in the Kazakh energy sphere recently. (file photo)

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who is considered a friend of President Vladimir Putin, is expected to replace former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev's son-in-law Timur Kulibaev on the board of directors of Russian energy giant Gazprom.

Gazprom said on February 4 that its annual general shareholders meeting in late June will chose the board of directors, with the list of candidates already approved.

Schroeder, the chairman of the shareholders committee of Nord Stream AG, is on the list to replace Kulibaev, the chairman of the Kazenergy company.

Gerhard Schroeder (file photo)
Gerhard Schroeder (file photo)

Last month, Kulibaev, who has been a member of Gazprom's board since 2011, left the post of chairman of Kazakhstan's National Chamber of Entrepreneurs, Atameken, following the deadly anti-government protests in the oil-rich Central Asian country in January that were blamed in part on the legacy of corruption that stemmed from Nazarbaev's regime.

Two other sons-in-law of Nazarbaev, Qairat Sharipbaev and Dimash Dosanov, have also been pushed out of top jobs at major state energy companies, QazaqGaz and KazTransOil, respectively, in the wake of the protests.

Several other Nazarbaev relatives have also lost top positions in the tightly controlled former Soviet republic.

Protests in the remote town of Zhanaozen in early January over a sudden fuel-price hike quickly spread across the country and led to violent clashes in the largest city, Almaty, and elsewhere.

The protesters' economic discontent was quickly followed by broader popular calls against corruption, political stagnation, and widespread injustice.

Much of their anger appeared directed at Nazarbaev, who had ruled Kazakhstan since 1989 before handing over power to current President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev in 2019. However, he was widely believed to remain in control behind the scenes.

In his first-ever public criticism of Nazarbaev, Toqaev said that under his predecessor's leadership, many lucrative businesses and extremely rich people had appeared in Kazakhstan and that it was now time for ordinary people to receive what they deserved.

After the protests, Toqaev announced a new slogan -- "Let's build a new Kazakhstan together!" -- promising democratic reforms, higher salaries, affordable education, social allowances, and jobs.

On February 4, Energy Minister Bolat Aqsholaqov said Kazakhstan had asked foreign companies operating in its main oil fields to supply the domestic market so it can boost its refining industry and tackle the rising fuel prices that led to the deadly violence.

Kazakh officials say 227 people, including 19 law enforcement officers, were killed during the unrest across the country.

Human rights groups insist that that number may be much higher, as scores of people remain missing, and that many peaceful demonstrators and people who had nothing to do with the protests were killed by police and military personnel following Toqaev's "shoot-to-kill-without-warning" order.

With reporting by Interfax, TASS, Tengrinews, and Reuters

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Moscow Teacher Fined For Reportedly Writing 'Glory To Ukraine' On Blackboard

Moscow's Khoroshevsky District Court has fined computer science teacher Sergei Averyanov 40,000 rubles ($450) for writing on the blackboard during class a slogan "aimed at discrediting" Russia's military, the court's press service reported on November 28. Pro-Kremlin Telegram channel Mash reported that Averyanov allegedly wrote “Glory to Ukraine! Death to Russian idiots” on the blackboard and drew a swastika. Mash said that after publishing its report, Averyanov was taken away by police for interrogation. Averyanov has been suspended from his position at Gymnasium No. 1619 in Moscow's Strogino district, the school's headmaster told the media. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.

Russians Banned From Leaving Country Will Have Passports Confiscated

(file photo)
(file photo)

Russians banned from traveling abroad must hand in their passports within five days of the date when they were notified of the travel ban, according to a government decree from November 22 published on the official portal of legal documents. The measure is due to come into force on December 11. Authorities can impose foreign travel bans on conscripts, Federal Security Service employees, people with access to state secrets and “information of special importance” as well as on convicted persons. A conscript will get their passport back only upon producing proof that they completed their military duty or alternative service, the decree says. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.

Latvia's Chief Diplomat Pursues NATO's Top Job, Saying Clear Vision On Russia Is Needed

Latvian Foreign Minister Krisjanis Karins (file photo)
Latvian Foreign Minister Krisjanis Karins (file photo)

Latvian Foreign Minister Krisjanis Karins has staked his claim to the top job at NATO, saying that the alliance needs a consensus builder who is committed to higher defense spending and has a clear vision of how to deal with Russia. Karins told reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels on November 28 that the alliance needs a leader who "can work with any and all allies, to move everyone forward in the same direction.” NATO is likely to name a new secretary-general at its next summit in Washington in July.

Ex-Rosneft Chief Says He Owns Seized Yacht, Seeks To Block Forfeiture

Former Rosneft CEO Eduard Khudainatov (file photo)
Former Rosneft CEO Eduard Khudainatov (file photo)

A former chief executive of Russian state oil company Rosneft has claimed ownership of a yacht seized by U.S. authorities last year as part of a crackdown on alleged sanctions violations. Eduard Khudainatov's lawyers said on November 28 in a filing with federal court in New York that he has always been the ultimate owner of the yacht and is not sanctioned by the U.S. government. The filing says the yacht therefore is “not forfeitable, as it neither constitutes nor is derived from any unlawful activity." The Justice Department says the yacht is owned by sanctioned Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov.

Updated

Ukraine Says Its Air Defenses Downed 21 Russian Drones, Two Missiles

A Ukrainian soldier surveys positions on the front line in the Donetsk region. (file photo)
A Ukrainian soldier surveys positions on the front line in the Donetsk region. (file photo)

Russian shelling of Ukraine's Donetsk and Kharkiv regions caused casualties among civilians and damage to infrastructure, regional officials said on November 29, despite Ukrainian air defenses repelling a large drone attack on several parts of Ukraine.

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.

Seven civilians were wounded in Donetsk overnight, the acting head of the region, Ihor Moroz, said on November 29. Five residents were wounded in the industrial city of Toretsk and two in Severniy, Moroz said on Telegram.

In the Kharkiv region, Russian shelling caused extensive damage overnight to infrastructure, residential areas, administrative buildings, businesses, and educational facilities, Governor Oleh Synyehubov said. The cities of Kharkiv, Chuhuyiv, and Kupyansk bore the brunt of the Russian bombardment, Synyehubov said. No casualties were immediately reported, he added.

Russia also unleashed a fresh wave of drones on Ukraine overnight, launching 21 Iranian-made unmanned aerial vehicles and three Kh-59 guided missiles, the Ukrainian Air Force said in a statement early on November 29.

"All the enemy's attack drones were destroyed above the Odesa, Dnipropetrovsk, Kyiv, Kherson, Zaporizhzhya, and Khmelnytskiy regions. Also, two guided missiles were destroyed in the Mykolaiyv region. A third one did not reach its target," the air force said. No casualties or damage was immediately reported.

On the battlefield, Ukrainian forces were engaged in 87 close-quarter battles over the past 24 hours, the General Staff of Ukraine's Military said in its daily report on November 29.

Heavy fighting continued in Kharkiv and in the Donetsk region, where Russian forces have been incessantly attacking Ukrainian positions in the industrial city of Avdiyivka, which Moscow's troops have been unsuccessfully trying to encircle for several weeks, at the cost of heavy losses of manpower and equipment.

The military said that Ukrainian marines continue to hold beachheads on the left bank of Dnieper River after landing there earlier this month. The report could not be independently confirmed.

Russian troops one year ago withdrew eastwards from Kherson city in the face of Ukrainian advances, crossing the Dnieper, but continuing to shell the city and its surroundings from the left bank.

On November 19, the Ukrainian military said it had pushed Russian forces some “3 to 8 kilometers” eastwards from the bank of the Dnieper River as its forces secured bridgeheads on the eastern side of the waterway.

Meanwhile, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on November 29 that Russia's air defenses shot down a Ukrainian drone heading toward the Russian capital, adding that the drone was downed over Podolsk, some 45 kilometers south of Moscow. No damage or casualties were immediately reported at the site where the debris fell, Sobyanin said.

The Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed Sobyanin's announcement, but the information could not be independently verified.

Four Residents Of Kazakhstan's Northern City Of Petropavl Get Prison Terms On Separatism Charge

The city court in Kazakhstan’s northern city of Petropavl (file photo)
The city court in Kazakhstan’s northern city of Petropavl (file photo)

A court in Kazakhstan’s northern city of Petropavl handed prison terms to four residents on November 28 on charges of separatism and calls to change the country's constitutional order. Vyacheslav Zuderman was sentenced to nine years, while three co-defendants -- Yelena Boldyreva, Madina Qaparova, and Olga Berezhnova -- received seven years each. The four were arrested in March after they called themselves People's Council and publicly announced that they promote "our independence and sovereignty" and "the territorial integrity of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic" -- Kazakhstan’s name when it was part of the Soviet Union. To read the original story of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, click here.

EU Special Envoy Says Kazakhstan Significantly Reduced Reexport Of Dual-Purpose Items To Russia

David O'Sullivan, the European Union's special envoy for the implementation of sanctions, met with Kazakh officials in Astana on November 28.
David O'Sullivan, the European Union's special envoy for the implementation of sanctions, met with Kazakh officials in Astana on November 28.

David O'Sullivan, the European Union's special envoy for the implementation of sanctions, met with Kazakh officials in Astana on November 28 and said the Central Asian nation had significantly reduced the reexport of dual-purpose goods to Russia but increased other exports to its northern neighbor. O'Sullivan stressed that the EU believes the sanctions imposed on Russia by the West over its ongoing invasion of Ukraine will not stand in the way of its cooperation with Kazakhstan. O'Sullivan is expected to visit Uzbekistan on November 29 to focus on the same issue. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, click here.

Afghan Women Activists Seek Taliban ICC Trial Over Rights Abuses

The letter argues that the treatment of Afghan women under the Taliban constitutes a gender apartheid because "they are systematically deprived of basic freedoms and human and citizenship rights."
The letter argues that the treatment of Afghan women under the Taliban constitutes a gender apartheid because "they are systematically deprived of basic freedoms and human and citizenship rights."

Afghan women's rights activists are demanding the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecute Afghanistan's Taliban rulers for systemic violations of human rights.

In an open letter sent to the ICC on November 27, they accused the Taliban, who seized power in August 2021 as international troops withdrew from the country, of consistently violating the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

"They must be prosecuted," said one activist who requested anonymity because of security fears.

"The Taliban has imposed a gender apartheid in Afghanistan by excluding women from the society through employment and education bans while also persecuting rights activists," she added.

She is one of dozens of signatories to the letter.

The letter argues that the treatment of Afghan women under the Taliban constitutes a gender apartheid because "they are systematically deprived of basic freedoms and human and citizenship rights."

The letter also highlights the persecution of Afghan women's rights activists.

Since the Taliban returned to power, the Taliban has put down, often violently, protests by Afghan women over their lack of rights. Hundreds of women have been imprisoned after their protests were declared illegal.

"Such letters can help the international community to fulfill its obligation toward the Afghan women," Maryam Maarouf Arvin, an Afghan women's rights activist, told RFE/RL's Radio Azadi.

Five women's rights activists -- Neda Parwani, Zholya Parsi, Manijeh Sediqi, Bahare Karimi, and Parisa Azadeh -- are currently in Taliban custody.

Since returning to power, the hard-line Islamist Taliban has banned women and teenage girls from education in Afghanistan. It has also banned them from employment in most sectors and discouraged them from leaving their homes.

On November 26, global rights watchdog Amnesty International launched an online petition saying the Taliban has started "a new era of human rights abuse and violations" that has put the country "at the brink of irreversible ruin."

"Not only [have] the Taliban de-facto authorities...broken their promise of protecting Afghan people's rights, especially women's rights, they have resumed the cycle of violence and committed a litany of human rights abuses and violations with full impunity," the petition says.

"Human rights are under attack on all fronts. It must be stopped," it added.

Several Families Fear For Detained Relatives, Accuse Iranian Officials Of Rights Abuses

Ali Babaei, Dawood Shiri, and Yorush Mehrali Biglo are among the civil activists arrested in Iran.
Ali Babaei, Dawood Shiri, and Yorush Mehrali Biglo are among the civil activists arrested in Iran.

The families of 13 Iranian political and civil activists detained in East Azerbaijan Province have accused Iranian authorities of failing to grant access to lawyers for their relatives while charges remain unclear.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Radio Farda, Ayoub Shiri, brother of detained activist Davoud Shiri, said that since his brother's arrest outside his Tabriz home on September 22, the family has only received three brief phone calls.

Shiri expressed frustration over the lack of clarity regarding his brother's charges.

"We have no news. They did not tell us the subject of the accusation, and every time we go to follow up, they say the same thing. Then the authorities provide a different explanation each time they are in contact," he said.

Yilmaz Mehr Ali Biglu, whose brother Ayat (Yurosh) was arrested in Jolfa on November 7, said his family is experiencing a similar situation.

He said his brother managed only a brief call with his wife after being arrested and the family suspects he is being held at the Tabriz Intelligence Detention Center.

"The judiciary is not independent enough for us to follow up. When we approached the Tabriz judiciary, they didn't respond and said,'Your brother is our guest for four months,'" Yilmaz Mehr Ali Biglu told Radio Farda.

Some of the families say their concerns extend beyond the lack of information on the legal aspects of the situation and on to the health and well-being of the detainees.

Reports have emerged about the deteriorating physical condition of Hamed Yeganepor, who was arrested in Maragheh. Despite a heart condition requiring medical attention, Yeganepor is reportedly receiving insufficient care and was returned to the detention center after a brief hospital visit.

The situation highlights growing anxiety among the families of detainees, who fear for their loved ones, especially those feared being held in solitary confinement.

The government has yet to provide any official explanation or comment on the arrests of these activists, further deepening the concerns of their families and human rights observers.

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

Kazakh Citizen Gets More Than Six Years In Prison For Joining Wagner Mercenary Group

The District Criminal Court of the city of Qaraghandy
The District Criminal Court of the city of Qaraghandy

The Qaraghandy regional court in central Kazakhstan told RFE/RL on November 28 that a local resident, Aleksei Shompolov, had been sentenced to six years and eight months for joining Russia's Wagner mercenary group and fighting against Ukrainian forces in May in Bakhmut, where he was injured. The 34-year-old, who pleaded guilty, was arrested after arriving back in Kazakhstan, which makes it a crime to serve as a mercenary abroad. Shompolov's sentence was upheld on November 15, the court said, adding that his payment from Wagner -- 205,590 rubles ($2,300) -- was confiscated. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, click here.

Updated

Finland To Close Entire Border With Russia To Stem Flow Of Asylum Seekers

A general view of the Raja-Jooseppi border station in Lapland, northern Finland, on November 27.
A general view of the Raja-Jooseppi border station in Lapland, northern Finland, on November 27.

Finland will close its entire border with Russia to travelers for the next two weeks in a bid to halt a flow of asylum seekers that Helsinki says are being funneled to the border by Russia to sow instability in the Nordic nation.

Finland last week shut all but one of its border crossings to travelers from Russia, keeping open only the Raja-Jooseppi crossing (Lotta on the Russian side) -- the northernmost crossing on Finland's 1,340-kilometer border with Russia, which is also the European Union's external border.

The Finnish government announced in a statement on November 28 that this crossing will close overnight on November 29, joining all the others in allowing only the transport of goods.

The closures will remain in effect until December 13, the statement said, adding that it will not be possible to submit applications for asylum at any border crossing points on the land border between Finland and Russia.

Finland has seen a recent influx of asylum seekers arriving at its eastern border and blames a change in Russian border protocol that Moscow made subsequent to Finland's entry into NATO. Moscow denies the charge.

According to the Finnish Border Guard, some 900 asylum seekers entered Finland from Russia in November, an increase from less than one per day previously. The countries of origin include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, the Border Guard said.

Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said on November 27 that Finland if necessary would take further measures to stem the flow. He warned Russia again on November 28.

"Russia is enabling the instrumentalization of people and guiding them to the Finnish border in harsh winter conditions. Finland is determined to put an end to this phenomenon," Orpo said in the statement.

He told reporters that Finland has reason to suspect that "Russia's influencing operations" are behind the increase in the number of asylum seekers.

"We don't accept any attempt to undermine our national security. Russia has caused this situation, and it can also stop it," Orpo said.

Interior Minister Mari Rantanen said in the statement that it is necessary to close the entire eastern border "to protect Finland's national security against this Russian hybrid operation."

The government said it concluded that "these are very exceptional circumstances" that require the short-term total closure of the eastern border "to put an end to this phenomenon and to limit the serious consequences that it has for national security and public order."

With reporting by Reuters

Azerbaijan Summons Western Diplomats Over Support For Arrested Journalists

Abzas Director Ulvi Hasanli and chief editor Sevinc Vaqifqizi
Abzas Director Ulvi Hasanli and chief editor Sevinc Vaqifqizi

Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry said on November 28 it summoned the U.S., French, and German envoys to protest what it called "illegal financial operations" by organizations located in the three countries to support the independent Abzas news website -- an investigative outlet whose leaders were arrested on suspicion of foreign currency smuggling, a charge the journalists reject. Abzas's director, Ulvi Hasanli, and chief editor Sevinc Vaqifqizi were arrested last week after police claimed they found 40,000 euros ($43,800) in cash in Abzas's offices. The journalists insist the case against them is trumped up in retaliation for reports about corruption among officials.

Siberian LGBT Activist Sinko Detained While Holding Solo Picket

Alexandra Sinko protesting in St. Petersburg
Alexandra Sinko protesting in St. Petersburg

Police in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk detained an LGBT activist, Aleksandra Sinko, while she was holding a single-person picket, which does not require advance permission from the authorities. She was protesting a request filed by the Justice Ministry earlier this month to recognize the international LGBT rights movement as an extremist group. Sinko, who is an openly trans woman, was holding a poster on November 28 with text saying LGBT persons are not extremists. She was charged with "propagating untraditional sexual relations" -- a charge that carries a fine or up to 15 days in jail. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Siberia.Realities, click here.

Updated

U.S. Senate Leader Will Push For Vote On Aid For Ukraine, Israel As Soon As Next Week

Newly elected U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson enters a session of U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C., on October 25.
Newly elected U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson enters a session of U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C., on October 25.

The U.S. Senate will begin considering a package including aid for Israel and Ukraine as soon as next week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (Democrat-New York) told reporters on November 28.

"I'm gonna put them on the floor next week, hopefully with bipartisan support, because that's the only way you can get it done," Schumer said at his weekly news conference. "We hope to have a vote next week. Yes, that's the plan."

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.

Schumer said the aid bill is needed even if there is no agreement on funding for border security measures that Republican lawmakers have demanded.

President Joe Biden last month submitted to Congress a request for more than $105 billion in defense aid, which included $61.4 billion in aid to Ukraine and $14.3 billion in aid to Israel, but the measure remains blocked, raising concerns that funds for Ukraine might never pass, especially after the Republican-led House of Representatives recently passed a bill including assistance for Israel but not Ukraine.

The combined aid request is likely to face more difficulty in the House, but Speaker Mike Johnson (Republican-Louisiana) said he remains "confident and optimistic" Congress will be able to pass aid for Israel and Ukraine before the holiday season.

"I think all of that will come together in the coming days. I’m confident and optimistic that we’ll be able to get that done -- get that over the line," he said on November 27 at an event in Florida, according to Politico. He added that in Congress there is "a sense of urgency" to provide aid to both Ukraine and Israel.

"Of course, we can't allow [Russian President] Vladimir Putin to march through Europe, and we understand the necessity of assisting there," he said. "What we've said is that if there is to be additional assistance to Ukraine -- which most members of Congress believe is important -- we have to also work on changing our own border policy."

Johnson said a lot of "thoughtful negotiation" has taken place on providing assistance to Ukraine and changing U.S. policy regarding its southern border but acknowledged this is an approach that links Ukraine’s military assistance to one of the most divisive domestic political issues.

"I think most of our Senate colleagues recognize that those two things need to move together because we owe that to the American people," he said.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said earlier on November 28 he expects the United States to continue its support of Ukraine in its fight to repel invading Russian forces despite opposition from some Republican lawmakers who have cast doubt on Washington's aid to Kyiv.

Speaking at a meeting of foreign ministers from the alliance's 31 members, Stoltenberg said that the allies have provided Ukraine with an unprecedented level of military support since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022.

That support has allowed Ukraine "to inflict heavy losses on Russian forces," he said. "Therefore, we must continue to support them."

Commenting on whether U.S. support will continue despite a political impasse in Washington, Stoltenberg voiced confidence aid from the United States -- which so far has topped $40 billion -- will continue to flow.

"I am confident that the United States will continue to provide support because it is in the security interest of the United States to do so," Stoltenberg said.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and Politico

Russian Gets 12 Years In Prison On Charge Of Joining Ukrainian Far-Right Group

Yevgeny Kazantsev (file photo)
Yevgeny Kazantsev (file photo)

A court in Russia's western city of Kursk on November 28 sentenced a native of St. Petersburg, Yevgeny Kazantsev, to 12 years in prison on a charge of joining the Right Sector, a Ukrainian far-right group. Kazantsev was found guilty of extremism, illegally joining an armed group abroad, and illegal weapons possession. Investigators say Kazantsev joined Right Sector in 2015 and fought against Moscow-backed separatists in Ukraine's east. In March 2022, Russian forces reportedly captured Kazantsev while armed in Ukraine's Chernihiv region. Kazantsev pleaded not guilty. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.

Stickers Demanding Return Of Husbands From War In Ukraine Pop Up On Vehicles Across Russia

Stickers demanding Russian husbands be returned from fighting in the Kremlin's war against Ukraine appeared on cars across Russia on November 28. The stickers, which used Latin letters "Z" and "V" -- signs of support for Russia's aggression against Ukraine -- translated into English as "Return my husband. I am f**ked up," and "Return my son-in-law." The pictures of the cars appeared on the Way Home Telegram channel. A day earlier, hundreds of women in Russia signed a petition calling President Vladimir Putin's September 2022 partial mobilization "a big mistake." To read the original story by Current Time, click here.

Slovak Truckers Threaten Ukraine Border Blockade From December 1

Trucks wait in line at the Polish-Ukrainian border at Hrebenne, southeastern Poland, on November 27.
Trucks wait in line at the Polish-Ukrainian border at Hrebenne, southeastern Poland, on November 27.

Slovak truckers are threatening to block the country's main border crossing with Ukraine from December 1 unless steps are taken to limit competition from Ukrainian hauliers, the head of the country's truckers association UNAS said. The threat on November 28 comes after action by Polish truckers who have been blocking several crossings with Ukraine for three weeks to demand tougher conditions for Ukrainian peers. Polish and Slovak truckers complain they offer cheaper prices for their services and also transport goods within the European Union, rather than just between the bloc and Ukraine.

Belarusian Police Search Homes Of Self-Exiled Opposition Figures

Paval Latushka (file photo)
Paval Latushka (file photo)

Police in Belarus searched the homes of several self-exiled opposition figures on November 28 amid an ongoing crackdown on dissent. A leading member of the People's Anti-Crisis Directorate based abroad, Paval Latushka, wrote on Telegram that the searches were held simultaneously at homes and apartments of several self-exiled members of the group, but that they will not affect the group's activities "to bring to justice" the representatives of authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime. Police also searched homes of self-exiled members of the opposition Coordination Council of Belarus. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Belarus Service, click here.

Updated

Officials Say Wife Of Ukrainian Military Intelligence Chief Budanov, Others Poisoned

Kyrylo Budanov (file photo)
Kyrylo Budanov (file photo)

KYIV -- Ukrainian officials say they have confirmed reports that Marianna Budanova, the wife of the chief of the country's military intelligence service, had been poisoned with "heavy metals" and is in hospital for treatment, in what appears to represent the most serious targeting of a family member of Ukraine's leadership since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

Andriy Yusov, an official at the GUR military intelligence agency, confirmed earlier media reports on November 28 that Budanova, the wife of Kyrylo Budanov, had fallen ill and is under treatment for poisoning.

"Marianna Budanova was indeed poisoned by heavy metals. She is now undergoing a course of treatment, which is already coming to an end," Yusov told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service.

Local media, quoting unnamed military intelligence officials, reported that several intelligence officials also appear to have been poisoned with "substances" that "are not used in everyday life or for military purposes and their presence may indicate a premeditated attempt to poison a concrete person."

Budanov has been one of the more high-profile Ukrainian officials for his efforts to design and enact plans by operatives to carry out strikes against Russian targets.

A Moscow court on April 21 issued an arrest warrant for Budanov on the charge of creating a terrorist group, a terrorist act, and illegal possession of explosives and firearms. Media reports cited sources close to law enforcement as saying the arrest warrant was linked to an explosion that damaged a Russian-built bridge that connects Russia to Ukraine's Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula in October 2022.

Budanov has said that his wife lives with him at his office, although she does not work at the GUR. Since June 2021, however, she has been working as an adviser to Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko.

According to reports, there have been at least 10 attempts on Budanov's life since 2014, including one during the full-scale invasion by Russia into Ukraine when a rocket attack was carried out on the building of the State Administration of Ukraine in Kyiv.

Russian Journalist Arrested In Absentia On Charge Of Justifying Terrorism

Anna Loiko (file photo)
Anna Loiko (file photo)

A Moscow court on November 28 ordered the arrest of journalist Anna Loiko in absentia for at least one month on a charge of "publicly justifying terrorism." Loiko, who currently resides in Georgia, works for the online media outlet SOTA. The charge stems from Loiko's 2021 article about the Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamic group, which is banned as "terrorist" in Russia. Last month, police searched Loiko's Moscow apartment and briefly detained her mother for questioning. Loiko has insisted the story in question has nothing to do with justifying terrorism and is about abuse of Russian citizens' rights by the authorities.

Kyrgyz Governor's Adviser Arrested On Extortion Charge

The arrested official, whose identity was not disclosed, is accused of extorting $200,000 from a local businessman.
The arrested official, whose identity was not disclosed, is accused of extorting $200,000 from a local businessman.

A court in Kyrgyzstan has sent an adviser of the southern Batken region's governor to pretrial detention for at least two months on extortion charges. The arrested official, whose identity was not disclosed, is accused of extorting $200,000 from a local businessman. The Central Asian country's State Committee for National Security announced the man's detainment on November 24. The suspect was sent to a pretrial detention center in the country's second-largest city, Osh, on November 26. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, click here.

Six Teenagers Go On Trial In France Over Teacher's Killing By Chechen Refugee In 2020

A woman holds a picture of Samuel Paty at a rally in Lille on October 18, 2020, two days after he was beheaded by an attacker who was shot dead by policemen.
A woman holds a picture of Samuel Paty at a rally in Lille on October 18, 2020, two days after he was beheaded by an attacker who was shot dead by policemen.

Six teenagers went on trial in Paris on November 27 over the killing of teacher Samuel Paty in 2020 by an 18-year-old refugee from Russia's Chechnya who was shot dead at the crime scene. The defendants are accused of having identified Paty to the killer in exchange for promises of money. The deadly attack took place after messages on social media said the teacher had shown his class cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad from the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo while talking about freedom of speech. Eight adults implicated in the case will go on trial next year. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Caucasus.Realities, click here.

Kazakh Police Close High-Profile Investigation Of Attack On Journalist

Diana Saparqyzy (file photo)
Diana Saparqyzy (file photo)

Police in the central Kazakh town of Shakhtinsk have closed a high-profile case investigating an attack on noted journalist Diana Saparqyzy. The KazTAG news agency reporter's lawyer told RFE/RL on November 28 that the police ruled that "there were no elements of a crime" in the case, which was being investigated as obstruction of journalistic activities. The case was closed almost three weeks ago, police said. Saparqyzy's lawyer said the journalist was attacked in August by five unknown men who forcibly removed her from the grounds of a mining operation in Shakhtinsk, where she was reporting on a deadly accident. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, click here.

Kyrgyz Security Chief Says Almost 20 Ex-Officials Held Responsible In Kumtor Gold Mine Case

Kamchybek Tashiev (file photo)
Kamchybek Tashiev (file photo)

The chief of Kyrgyzstan's State Committee of National Security, Kamchybek Tashiev, said on November 28 that almost 20 former top officials, including "two ex-presidents, four former prime ministers, and two former parliament speakers," had been held responsible for their roles in the high-profile Kumtor gold mine case. He did not specify the names. According to Tashiev, the probe "helped to nationalize Kumtor." Kyrgyzstan regained full control of Kumtor last year under the terms of a deal with the Canadian company Centerra Gold following years of financial and environmental disagreements. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, click here. https://www.azattyk.org/a/32702822.html

Updated

Bulgaria Approves Lavrov's Flight To OSCE Meeting, Sparking Boycott

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (file photo)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (file photo)

Bulgaria's Foreign Ministry gave permission to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's plane to cross its airspace en route to North Macedonia's capital, Skopje, so he can attend a meeting of the Council of Ministers of the OSCE this week, sparking an immediate outcry from Ukraine and other nations who will boycott the gathering.

The European Union, of which Bulgaria is a member, imposed a blanket flight on Russian planes over the bloc's territory on February 27 last year, three days after Moscow began its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Bulgaria's decision, announced late on November 27, came at the request of North Macedonia, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the OSCE.

Less than 24 hours later, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko said Foreign Minister "Dmytro Kuleba will boycott the OSCE ministerial meeting over the decision to allow Lavrov to attend" the November 29-December 1 event.

Soon after that, the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania said in a joint statement that they would not take part in the annual meeting in Skopje as well because of the Lavrov decision.

"We deeply regret the decision enabling the personal participation of Russian Foreign Minister S. Lavrov at the 30th Session of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Skopje. It will only provide Russia with yet another propaganda opportunity," the statement said.

"Lavrov’s attendance at the OSCE Ministerial also risks legitimizing aggressor Russia as a rightful member of our community of free nations, trivializing the atrocious crimes Russia has been committing, and putting up with Russia's blatant violation and contempt of the OSCE fundamental principles and commitments," it added.

In June, several Balkan nations refused to open their airspace to Lavrov, forcing him to cancel a trip to Serbia.

Lavrov, who has been placed under sanctions by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and Canada, called the move "unthinkable."

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