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Melting Snow Causes Flooding In Kazakhstan

Flooding in the village of Zhaksybai in the West Kazakhstan region on April 3

NUR-SULTAN -- Melting snow has caused severe flooding in several regions of Kazakhstan, forcing hundreds of people to flee their homes and killing livestock.

Emergencies Minister Yury Ilyin said on April 6 that 185 residential buildings and 78 summer houses were affected by heavy flooding in the country.

Ilyin said that the most affected territories were in western Kazakhstan and the Aqtobe region, while the situation remains serious in Nur-Sultan, the capital, the Aqmola region surrounding it, as well as in the central Qaraghandy region.

Since late March, at least 600 people had to leave their homes in the western Kazakhstan region over the increasing floods. More than 100 domestic animals and cattle have been killed by the floods in the region.

In the northwestern region of Aqtobe, flooding disrupted communications between the regional capital, Aqtobe, and nearby towns and villages for several days last week.

Also last week, a 9-year-old child died in the floods in the Qaraghandy region. Dozens of residents of the town of Rabochy in the region were evacuated on April 5 as flooding reached their homes.

Ilyin said there was a danger that 285 towns and villages across the country may suffer heavy flooding in coming days as snow continues to melt quickly.

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EU Commissioner Urges Extension Of Ukraine Grain Import Ban

Janusz Wojciechowski (file photo)

The EU agriculture commissioner says it is necessary to extend Ukraine grain-import restrictions until at least the end of October, despite fierce opposition from Kyiv. The restrictions followed complaints from EU countries that surplus Ukrainian grain was driving down local prices and impacting local farmers. The EU made an agreement with the five states involved -- Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia -- to allow them to block the import of grain from Ukraine. Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski said at a press briefing May 31 that "we need to prolong, best to the end of the year but minimum to the end of October."

Former Senior Russian Police Officer Fined For Criticizing War Against Ukraine

Viktor Lavrentyev

A court in the Russian city of Tomsk has fined a retired police lieutenant colonel 1 million rubles ($12,350) in a case of alleged military "fakes" for anti-war posts he made on social media. The Oktyabrsky district court fined 60-year-old Viktor Lavrentyev and barred him from speaking publicly, including posting on social networks, for one year. Lavrentyev has repeatedly criticized the actions of the Russian army and Russian authorities over the invasion of neighboring Ukraine. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.

Kazakh Activists Cancel Event On Political Persecution After Detentions

Organizers said they would try again on September 27.

Activists in Kazakhstan have cancelled a planned parade on May 31 to mark the Day of Remembrance of Political Persecution, saying police had detained several of their colleagues and created other impediments to holding the event. Organizers said they would try again on September 27. Police did not comment but the Prosecutor-General's Office had warned people not to attend the rally, saying those who violated the law on peaceful assembly would face up to 25 days in jail. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, click here.

Woman Who Accused Biden Of Sexual Harassment Says She's Moving To Russia

An American woman who accused U.S. President Joe Biden of sexual harassment when she worked in his Senate office says she is moving to Russia. Tara Reade made the announcement on May 30 at an event sponsored by a Russian propaganda outlet. "I feel very surrounded by protection and safety," Reade said. She was joined at the live-streamed event by Maria Butina, a Russian who served nearly 18 months in a U.S. prison accused of being an unregistered foreign agent. Biden has repeatedly denied the accusations. Multiple media outlets investigated Reade's claims, but were unable to corroborate them.

Kosovo Olympic Committee Seeks IOC Disciplinary Proceedings Against Djokovic

Novak Djokovic plays in the first round of the French Open tennis tournament in Paris on May 29.

Kosovo Olympic authorities have asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to open disciplinary proceedings against Novak Djokovic, accusing him of stirring up political tensions by saying "Kosovo is the heart of Serbia" at the French Open. Djokovic wrote the message on a camera lens following his first-round win, the same day 30 NATO peacekeeping troops were hurt in clashes with Serbian protesters in the Kosovo town of Zvecan, where Djokovic's father grew up. Serbian authorities said 52 protesters were wounded in clashes after ethnic Albanian mayors took office in northern Kosovo's Serb-majority area following elections that were boycotted by the Serbs. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Zelenskiy Says 371 Children Deported By Russia Have Been Returned To Ukraine

A woman holds her daughter and son, who went to a Russian-organized summer camp from nongovernment-controlled territories and were then taken to Russia, after they returned via Belarus in Kyiv in April.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says 371 Ukrainian children have been returned to Ukraine after being deported by Russia during the war. Zelenskiy made the announcement as he launched the Center for the Protection of Children's Rights in Ukraine. The office also announced the Bring Kids Back UA plan, which combines the efforts of the Ukrainian authorities, partner countries, and international organizations to return the Ukrainian children deported by Russia. "The first step has been taken -- 371 children are at home in Ukraine," Zelenskiy said. Ukrainian authorities say almost 20,000 Ukrainian children have been documented as deported by Russia from occupied Ukrainian territories. (RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service)

To read the original story by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, click here.

Fighting Continues In Eastern Ukraine Amid Reports Of Fresh Drone Strikes Inside Russia

Emergency workers extinguish a fire in a parked car caused by falling debris from a Russian strike in Kyiv, Ukraine on May 30.

Fighting in Ukraine's eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk has continued over the past 24 hours, the Ukrainian military said early on May 31, as local officials reported more alleged drone strikes inside Russia.

Ukrainian forces repelled 22 Russian attacks in the east, the General Staff said in its daily update, although the intensity of Moscow's offensive in and around the Donetsk city of Bakhmut appeared to have subsided, according to Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar.

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.

Unsuccessful Russian assaults took place in the Kharkiv region's Kupyansk and Masyutivka areas, and in Novoselivske in the Luhansk region.

Malyar said that in Bakhmut, which has been the epicenter of the fighting in the east for months, Russian troops had not been conducting infantry operations, apparently regrouping their forces, but had been continuing shelling and air strikes on Ukrainian positions.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the chief of Russia's Wagner mercenary group, which has spearheaded the attacks on Bakhmut, last week announced he was withdrawing his fighters from the city and handing over to regular Russian forces.

Ukraine's Defense Ministry has confirmed that Wagner fighters have been leaving the Bakhmut suburbs but remain in the city itself.

Prigozhin has claimed that Bakhmut had fallen to his mercenaries, but his claim was rejected by the Ukrainian military, which said it has managed to occupy positions to the north and south of the devastated city.

Early on May 31, the governor of Russia's Krasnodar region, Venyamin Kondratyev, said an alleged drone attack caused a fire at an oil refinery.

The strike triggered a fire at one of the Afip refinery's distillation units, Kondratyev said, adding that there were no casualties and the fire had been extinguished.

Late on May 30, the governor of Russia's Belgorod region said that one person was killed and six were wounded in shelling of a temporary shelter for civilians. Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov blamed Ukrainian forces for artillery fire that hit the shelter, which he said housed displaced people, including elderly civilians and children.

There was no comment on the claims from the Ukrainian side.

Moscow-installed authorities in Ukraine's Luhansk region, which is almost completely occupied by Russia, said on May 31 that five people were killed and 19 wounded by Ukrainian shelling that hit a poultry farm in the village of Karpaty.

The information could not be independently confirmed and there was no immediate reaction from Ukraine.

On May 30, Russia launched a fresh wave of drone strikes on Kyiv -- the fourth attack in three days -- killing at least one person and wounding several others, but Ukrainian authorities said most of the drones were shot down by the capital's air defenses, while Moscow was subjected to a rare drone attack that damaged several buildings.

Bolstered by sophisticated Western-supplied equipment, Ukrainian air defenses have been adept at thwarting Russian air attacks -- both drones and aircraft missiles.

Russia has intensified missile and drone strikes on Ukraine, targeting military facilities and supplies with waves of attacks several times a week.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he continued to speak with Ukraine's Western partners about providing further air-defense systems to repel Russian attacks. This included a conversation on May 30 with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The same day Russia launched its intense drone attack on Kyiv, the Defense Ministry in Moscow said eight drones were shot down or jammed over the Russian capital in what it said was a "terrorist attack" by the "Kyiv regime."

Russia's Investigative Committee said no one was wounded.

WATCH: Ukrainian survivors of a Russian drone attack, the latest in a wave of at least 17 such strikes this month, described running for their lives on May 30 as their apartments burned and crumbled.

More Russian Drone Attacks Strike Kyiv Apartments
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Russian President Vladimir Putin was briefed on the attack, the Kremlin said. Putin was quoted later as saying that Ukraine sought to frighten Russians.

Ukrainian denied any involvement in the attack.

In Washington, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre reiterated the U.S. position that it does not support attacks inside of Russia.

The European Union condemned the attacks on Kyiv, with EU spokesman Peter Stano saying that such actions "indiscriminately terrorize" Ukrainian civilians.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP

Kosovo's Largest Serbian Party Vows To Continue Protests Until Demands Met

KFOR troops man the barricades in Zvecan on May 31.

Representatives of Serbian List (Srpska Lista), the largest party of ethnic Serbs in Kosovo, on May 31 said they will continue their protests until their demands that Kosovar Albanian mayors are removed from three Serb-majority municipalities in northern Kosovo and special police units are withdrawn from the area are met.

Amid a flurry of international efforts behind the scenes, Kosovo's police said that the situation in Zvecan, Leposaviq, and Zubin Potok was calm amid ongoing protests, although cars belonging to journalists from various media outlets, including RFE/RL, were targeted by several attacks on May 30, the Association of Journalists of Kosovo reported.

NATO has decided to deploy 700 more troops to Kosovo to help stop the violent protests and the United States has called on both Kosovo and Serbia to return to dialogue as Washington canceled Kosovo's participation in ongoing NATO exercises.

Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti has insisted that the new Albanian mayors elected in last month's elections that were boycotted by the majority Serbs have the legal right to take over municipal buildings where they were elected -- albeit by a very small number of voters.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on both Kosovo and Serbia to return to the European Union-mediated dialogue on the normalization of relations.

Blinken reiterated that the Kosovar government's decision to forcefully install new mayors in municipalities with a Serbian majority in the north escalated tensions "sharply and unnecessarily."

"Prime Minister Kurti and his government should ensure that elected mayors perform their interim duties from alternative locations, outside municipal buildings, and withdraw police forces from there," Blinken said in a statement.

" [The] President [of Serbia, Aleksandar] Vucic and the government of Serbia should downgrade the security status of the Serbian armed forces and call on the Kosovo Serbs to stop defying KFOR and refrain from further violence," Blinken added.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on May 30 that in addition to sending 700 more troops, another battalion had been put on standby.

Stoltenberg warned that NATO troops "will take all necessary actions to maintain a safe and secure environment for all citizens in Kosovo" after the clashes occurred on May 29.

Some 30 members of the KFOR forces were injured, KFOR said in a statement.

WATCH: NATO-led KFOR troops secured municipal buildings in northern Kosovo as standoffs between local ethnic Serbs and ethnic Albanian authorities continued on May 29.

Ethnic Serbs Clash With Security Forces In Northern Kosovo
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Stoltenberg did not say when the additional troops would be deployed but urged both sides to "take concrete steps to de-escalate the situation, refrain from further irresponsible behavior, and engage in the EU-facilitated dialogue, which is the only way to lasting peace."

The current peacekeeping force in Kosovo, a former province of Serbia, on May 30 sealed off the municipality building in Zvecan.

U.S. Ambassador to Kosovo Jeffrey Hovenier said the decision of Kosovar authorities to forcibly install Albanian mayors in the Serb-majority towns had had a negative impact on Kosovo's reputation and had reversed efforts to normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia.

Hovenier said that the cancelation of Kosovo's participation in the military exercise was the first consequence.

The NATO allies' largest military exercises in the Balkan region are being hosted by Kosovo. They began on May 21 and were set to last until June 2.

Kurti has defended his government's decision to send mayors to municipal buildings, calling it constitutional.

Mayors of the towns were sworn in despite a turnout of under 3.5 percent in the April 23 by-elections amid a boycott by local Serbs.

Ethnic Serbs earlier on May 30 gathered in front of town halls in Kosovo's north following the violence as EU officials scrambled to bring leaders of Serbia and Kosovo together.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on May 30 urged Kosovar authorities and ethnic Serb protesters to "immediately de-escalate" tensions, while sources told RFE/RL that the special representative of the European Union for dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, tried to organize a meeting between Vucic and Kurti.

The sources cautioned that it appeared unlikely either side was ready to meet or hold talks.

With reporting by Amra Zejneli of RFE/RL's Balkan Service, AFP, Reuters, dpa, and AP

IAEA Chief Outlines Principles To Prevent Nuclear Catastrophe At Zaporizhzhya

IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi (file photo)

UN nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi has urged Ukraine and Russia to adhere to five principles to prevent nuclear catastrophe at Ukraine's Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant.

Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), on May 30 outlined the principles to the UN Security Council in New York during a briefing on safety at the plant, which has been a concern since Russian forces seized it shortly after Moscow launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

"The nuclear safety and security situation at the Zaporizhzhya NPP...continues to be extremely fragile and dangerous. Military activities continue in the region and may well increase very considerably in the near future," he said in an apparent reference to Ukraine's expected counteroffensive.

Grossi told the Security Council that "there should be no attack of any kind from or against the plant" and said that it should not be used as storage or a base for heavy weapons such as multiple rocket launchers, artillery systems and munitions, and tanks, or for military personnel that could be used for an attack from the plant.

He also called for off-site power to the plant to remain available and secure, for all its essential systems to be protected from attacks or acts of sabotage, and for no action to be taken that undermines the principles.

"I respectfully and solemnly ask both sides to observe these five principles," said Grossi. "These principles are to no one's detriment and to everyone's benefit."

The IAEA intends to start monitoring the principles on-site, he added.

Russia said it would do all it could to protect the power plant, it did not explicitly commit to abide by Grossi's five principles.

"Mr. Grossi's proposals to ensure the security of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant are in line with the measures that we've already been implementing for a long time," Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya said.

Ukrainian Ambassador to the UN Serhiy Kyslytsya said the principles "must be complemented with the demand of full demilitarization and de-occupation of the station," a demand previously made by the United States.

In response to Grossi's statement, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said, "It is entirely, entirely within Moscow's control to avert a nuclear catastrophe and to end its war of aggression against Ukraine."

Grossi has been trying for months to establish an agreement to reduce the risk of a nuclear accident caused by military activity at Europe's biggest nuclear power plant.

The plant, which is not generating electricity, has been affected multiple times by shelling that has caused outages of electrical power, which the plant needs to maintain the cooling of its reactors.

The plant, located in the southeastern region of Zaporizhzhya, supplied around 20 percent of Ukraine's electricity before power production was halted late last year.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters

Russian Governor Says Ukrainian Artillery Fire On Shelter In Belgorod Region Kills One

Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov (file photo)

One person was killed and two injured in the Belgorod region of Russia as a result of shelling of a temporary shelter for civilians, the governor of the region said on May 30.

Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov blamed Ukrainian forces for artillery fire that hit the shelter, which he said housed displaced people, including elderly civilians and children.

"A security guard was killed and two people were injured," Gladkov said on Telegram, adding that the two injured people were hospitalized in serious condition.

Gladkov's post included images showing a damaged building, a hole in the ground apparently caused by the impact of a strike, and adults and children boarding buses.

The shelling occurred in the Shebekino district of the Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine and has experienced an increase in attacks in recent weeks, prompting residents to seek shelter in temporary accommodation centers.

Gladkov called the situation in the region "actually a war," using a word that Russian authorities have avoided when describing hostilities in Ukraine.

There has been no comment on the shelling from the Ukrainian side.

The Ukrainian government last week rejected Moscow's allegation that a Ukrainian "sabotage group" was responsible for clashes that erupted on the Russian-Ukrainian border.

Gladkov said then that eight people were injured on May 22 in the fighting, which he said spilled into the Graivoron district, which borders Ukraine, prompting most of the residents in Graivoron and neighboring villages to evacuate.

A group calling itself the Free Russia Legion, which claims to be made up of Russians cooperating with Ukrainian forces, took responsibility for that attack.

Moscow earlier on May 30 was the target of a drone attack as more Russian territory comes under fire amid expectations of a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Five of the eight drones that took part in the raid were shot down, the Russian Defense Ministry said, while three others were jammed and forced to veer off course. Three apartment buildings were lightly damaged in the assault. The information could not be independently verified.

With reporting by AFP

Iran Starts Retrial Of Journalist Who Covered Woman's Death In Morality Police Custody

Niloufar Hamedi (file photo)

A court in Iran on May 30 began the closed-door trial of a female journalist on charges linked to her coverage of a Kurdish-Iranian woman, Mahsa Amini, whose death in custody last year sparked months of unrest. Niloufar Hamedi, along with another female journalist, Elaheh Mohammadi, who went on trial on May 29, face several charges including "colluding with hostile powers" for their coverage of Amini's death. Hamedi's husband said the trial session "ended in less than two hours while her lawyers did not get a chance to defend her." To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Kosovo Tennis Federation Accuses Serbia's Djokovic Of Fueling Tension

Novak Djokovic plays a shot his first-round match of the French Open at Roland Garros stadium in Paris on May 29.

The Kosovo Tennis Federation has accused Serbia's Novak Djokovic of aggravating an already tense situation after the world No. 3 wrote that Kosovo was "the heart of Serbia" on a camera lens following his first-round win at the French Open. "Despite a general message against violence, the statement 'Kosovo is the heart of Serbia' and further statements after the match, made by such a public figure...directly result in raising the level of tension between the two states, Serbia and Kosovo," Kosovo Tennis Federation President Jeton Hadergjonaj said on May 30 in a statement. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

NATO Launches Arctic Maneuvers, Vowing To Protect Newest Member Finland

A British Warrior infantry fighting vehicle takes part in the Northern Forest exercises in Rovajarvi, Finland, on May 30.

NATO countries are in the middle of Arctic military maneuvers, vowing on May 30 to defend their newest member, Finland, which is hosting its first joint NATO exercise since becoming the 31st member of the Western alliance in April. Nearly 1,000 allied forces from the United States, Britain, Norway, and Sweden joined some 6,500 Finnish troops for the Northern Forest exercise at an artillery training ground above the Arctic Circle just a two-hour drive from the Russian border. U.S. Army Major General Gregory Anderson is overseeing the exercise, which continues through June 2. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Iranian Retirees Join Workers In Fresh Wave Of Protests Over Pensions, Living Conditions

Retirees from the telecommunications sector staged rallies in multiple cities across Iran to protest over economic woes on May 30.

A new wave of protests is sweeping across Iran as retirees and workers demonstrate against harsh living conditions and skyrocketing inflation in the country, which has been hit hard by international sanctions over the government's nuclear program and its suppression of human rights.

Demonstrations took place on May 29 in numerous provinces, including Khuzestan, Lorestan, Hormozgan, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari, Kermanshah, Kurdistan, Ilam, West Azerbaijan, Khorasan Razavi, Mazandaran, Fars, and Isfahan.

Telecommunications retirees were a large part of the protesters, while in the southern Iranian city of Bandar Abbas, workers from the Maad Koush factory, a critical supplier to the Hormozgan Steel Company production chain, joined in as they continued into the third day of their strike despite threats of dismissal and arrest.

Meanwhile, the Nepheline Syenite Complex workers' strike in the city of Kalibar, East Azerbaijan Province, extended into its second day.

Government officials have described the complex in Kalibar as the Middle East's sole nepheline syenite mineral-rock-processing unit, a critical material for aluminum, glass, plastic, and rubber ceramics production.

Worker representatives have warned officials that if their "indifference to workers' demands" continues, the government will be "responsible for any subsequent incident."

In recent weeks, social-security retirees and telecommunications retirees have held numerous gatherings to voice their anger over deteriorating living conditions, the issue of fixed pensions in a high-inflation environment, and the overall mounting costs of living.

The retirees also claim that part of their legitimate benefits, including the payment of welfare and supplies, have been cut off for some time without explanation. They are demanding they be fully compensated.

In the southwestern city of Ahvaz, protesters gathered outside Khuzestan Province's main Telecommunications Company building on May 29, voicing their grievances with slogans like "Injustice and oppression are enough, our tables have nothing on them."

Iran's economy has been ravaged by U.S. sanctions, leading to a surge of protests in several cities. A report from the Labor Ministry indicated a significant increase in Iran's poverty rate, growing 50 percent in 2021 compared to the previous year.

Unrest has rattled Iran since last summer in response to declining living standards, wage arrears, and a lack of welfare support. Labor law in Iran does not recognize the right of workers to form independent unions.

Adding to the dissent, the death in September of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly breathed new life into the demonstrations, which officials across the country have tried to quell with harsh measures.

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

Official Warns Iranian Film Industry Over Dissent After Cannes Festival

Cinema Organization chief Mohammad Khazaie (file photo)

The head of the Cinema Organization of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has warned the country's film industry that dissent will be dealt with harshly after several people from the sector participated in the Cannes Film Festival without obtaining permission from Tehran.

Mohammad Khazaie said on May 29 that the individuals who traveled to the French seaside resort for the festival earlier this month will be barred from operating in Iran's film industry, saying they cannot both "wear the coat of opposition" and work in Iranian cinema.

While only one Iranian film, Terrestrial Verses, was officially entered in the competition, dissident director Mohammad Rasolof, who was recently released from Tehran's notorious Evin prison, was asked to be a jury member. However, he was not granted permission to attend the event.

Still, several Iranian-born celebrities attended the festival and made statements calling for an end to oppression in the country and an end to state violence against dissent. One of the most notable statements came from Iranian model Mahlagha Jaberi, whose red-carpet dress featured a noose as the neckline.

Khazaie said he was also concerned over the underground production and distribution of films and noncompliance with religious issues.

"We will cut ties with anyone who, for any reason, works with smuggled and unlicensed films in Iran and abroad, and works against Iran," Khazaie warned.

This includes all elements of the film industry, from actors and producers to technical staff, he added.

Khazaie's comments were likely directed at the film Me, Maryam, The Children, And 26 Others, directed by Farshad Hashemi. The film was shown by the Independent Filmmakers Union of Iran at the Marche du Film (Cannes Film Market), despite being made in Iran without observing the Islamic republic's censorship laws, including the mandatory hijab for female actors.

Such acts of civil disobedience have increased in Iran -- where the law requires women and girls over the age of 9 to wear a head scarf in public -- since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the morality police on September 16 for an alleged hijab offense.

While the protests appear to be waning, resistance to the hijab is likely to increase, analysts say, as it is seen now as a symbol of the state's repression of women and the deadly crackdown on society.

Several Iranian cinematographers and prominent public figures have also been summoned by the police or arrested, including director Hamid Porazari.

Other celebrities, including prominent Iranian actresses Afsaneh Bayegan, Fatemeh Motamed-Arya, Katayoun Riahi, and Pantea Bahram, have been interrogated and faced legal action after they made public appearances without wearing the mandatory hijab to show support for the protesters.

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

IMF To Enable $900 Million Disbursement To Ukraine

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission has completed its first review of a $15.6 billion loan program for Ukraine, and the country has met the required conditions, paving the way for a payout of around $900 million, the IMF said on May 30. IMF staff have also raised their forecast for Ukraine's economic growth this year to a range entirely in positive territory from a previous prediction that was between -3 percent and +1 percent, the IMF said in a statement on the review of the four-year Extended Fund Facility Arrangement approved in March.

Norway Says Beluga Whale With Apparent Russian-Made Harness Swims South To Sweden

Hvaldimir the beluga whale in Hammerfest, Norway, in June 2019

Norwegian authorities say a beluga whale, which was first spotted in Arctic Norway four years ago with an apparent Russian-made harness and alleged to have come from a Russian military facility, has been seen off Sweden's coast nearly 2,000 kilometers to the south. "During the last few weeks, it has moved quickly and swam several hundred kilometers" before reaching waters off Sweden's west coast, Olav Lekve of the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries said. Whale-watchers in Norway have nicknamed it Hvaldimir, combining the Norwegian word for whale -- hval -- and the Russian first name Vladimir. To read the original story by AP, click here.

Bulgaria's Top Court Rejects Russian's Asylum Request

Aleksandr Stotsky fled Russia immediately after Moscow launched its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. (file photo)

Bulgaria's Supreme Court has rejected a request for political asylum by 27-year-old Russian Aleksandr Stotsky, who fled Russia immediately after the start of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. Stotsky, a supporter of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, requested political asylum, arguing that he risked being sent to fight in Ukraine upon returning to Russia. He staged an anti-war protest outside Russia's Embassy in Sofia. Stotsky's asylum request was rejected by Bulgaria's authority for refugees and a Sofia court, which ruled he was in no danger if he returned to his homeland. Stotsky is set to appeal the Supreme Court ruling. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service, click here.

More Than 150 Tajik Migrant Workers Detained By Moscow Police, Sources Say

Tajiks being arrested in the the town of Kotelniki last week. There have been several reports of Tajik migrants being rounded up or beaten in recent days by police in Russia.

More than 150 Tajik migrants workers have been detained by Moscow police, several of the laborers told RFE/RL, saying they were being held in the courtyard of a police station.

The men said they were woken up by police in the early morning on May 30 before being taken “in four buses” to the Mitino district police headquarters. Police gave no reason for their arrest, the men said.

“We are now at the police station...The officers didn’t tell us why we’re taken here,” a Tajik worker told RFE/RL by phone on condition of anonymity.

Contacted by RFE/RL, Tajikistan’s embassy in Moscow confirmed it is aware of the incident and trying to clarify the situation.

There have been no immediate public comments or statements from either Russian police or Tajik officials.

The workers said they temporarily live in converted railway cars near the construction site where they work in the Mitino district.

There have been several reports of Tajik immigrants being rounded up or beaten in recent days by police in Russia, a top destination for hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from Tajikistan.

Dozens of Tajik men were rounded up by police in two separate arrests in Moscow’s Mozhaysky district and the town of Kotelniki in Moscow Province last week.

Russian media reported that in at least one incident police had responded to calls from local residents. The residents allegedly complained that a group of Tajik men forced local school children to leave a neighborhood stadium so they could play soccer there themselves.

On May 24, Tajikistan’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian ambassador to Dushanbe, Semyon Grigoryev, over reports that some 100 Tajik students were detained and beaten by police in Russia's Far Eastern city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur.

According to the students, they were severely beaten by security officers who raided a dormitory housing Tajik students on May 19.

Lithuania Calls For Extra NATO Forces On Border

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda (file photo)

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda is urging a stronger NATO presence on the alliance's eastern flank as Russia's war on Ukraine continues. "This is a front line that needs to be very strong. We need air and missile defense and a greater presence of allied forces in the region," Nauseda said on May 30 after a meeting with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Vilnius. "Germany's long-term commitment to Lithuania's security is indispensable for NATO's entire eastern flank," he said. Currently, 760 German soldiers belong to a NATO combat unit in Lithuania led by Germany.

Pushkin Statue Removed From Latvian Park

The Pushkin statue ,which was removed from a Latvian park, will be transferred to a local art museum, according to reports. (file photo)

Authorities in Latvia's capital, Riga, have moved a statue of 19th-century Russian poet Aleksandr Pushkin from a downtown park to a warehouse, local media reported on May 30. The statue is to be transferred to a local art museum, reports said. The statue, made by Russian sculptor Aleksandr Tartynov, was erected in 2009 as a gift from the city of Moscow. However, Latvian authorities never gave official approval for the statue to be placed in Riga's Kronvalda Park. In August, authorities demolished a monument in Riga dedicated to the Red Army. In October, two monuments to Soviet soldiers were dismantled in the city of Daugavpils. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.


Russian Director, Writer Held In Detention Over Play

Russian theater director Yevgenia Berkovich in court (file photo)

A Moscow court on May 30 rejected requests by theater director Yevgenia Berkovich and playwright Svetlana Petriichuk have their pretrial detention changed to a different form of restraint such as house arrest. No reason for the decision was given and the two will remain in detention until at least July 4 on suspicion of justification of terrorism over the production of the play Finist -- The Brave Falcon. The play, written by Petriichuk, is about Russian women who married Muslim men and moved to Syria. Berkovich was the director of the production that sparked the charges. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

A Moscow court on May 30 rejected a request by theater director Yevgenia Berkovich to have her pretrial detention changed to a different form of restraint such as house arrest. No reason for the decision was given and Berkovich will remain in detention until at least July 4 on suspicion of justifying terrorism for her production of the play Finist -- The Brave Falcon. The production is about Russian women who married Muslim men and moved to Syria. Berkovich has pleaded not guilty. The author of the play, Svetlana Petriichuk, has also been detained. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Thousands Of Striking Romanian Teachers March In Bucharest For Higher Pay, More Investment

Teachers protest in Bucharest on May 30.

Tens of thousands of striking Romanian primary and secondary school teachers marched to the government building in downtown Bucharest on May 30, calling for better pay, more investment in education, and a reform of the country's education system. Union organizers have estimated that 15,000-20,000 teachers are attending the protest march, which will then head toward Cotroceni Palace to call for a meeting of their representatives with President Klaus Iohannis. Union leaders have rejected the government's compromise offers during several rounds of negotiations since the strike started on May 22. Health-care employees and railway workers have also signaled that they are preparing to go on strike. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Romanian Service, click here.

Japarov Says Former Kyrgyz Leader Bakiev To Be Arrested If He Returns

Former Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov

Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov says the government has no plans to invite former President Kurmanbek Bakiev to the country, but if he does try to come back he will be arrested given there is an outstanding criminal case against him.

Speaking in an interview with the state news agency Kabar on May 30, Japarov said a court sentence handed to Bakiev was still in effect and there was currently no legal basis to annul it.

“There is a decision by the court. He was sentenced to 30 years. That decision is still in force today. If he comes, of course, he will be arrested. We all must learn to live under the law,” Japarov said.

Bakiev, 73, fled Kyrgyzstan for Belarus with members of his family following anti-government protests in 2010. A Bishkek court sentenced him in absentia to life in prison after convicting him of involvement in the killing of almost 100 protesters during the uprising.

Former Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev (file photo)
Former Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev (file photo)

In Kyrgyzstan, many people see their former leaders as stained by corruption and, in some cases, with blood on their hands.

Japarov has moved recently to try and reconcile differences over the former leaders, including holding an unprecedented summit in February that saw all five of the country’s previous presidents since Kyrgyzstan regained independence 31 years ago meet with the current head of state in a bid to foster forgiveness and unity.

The summit has raised speculation that Japarov is looking to allow former leaders the freedom to return without facing legal consequences.

But inside the Central Asian nation, Bakiev, Kyrgyzstan’s second president, remains arguably the biggest pariah.

Japarov said in the interview with Karab that he feels the sentence should be annulled, but that’s not a decision he can make at the moment.

“I want to cancel the court's decisions. But I have no right either. I only have the right to grant or refuse clemency if Kurmanbek Bakiyev asks for mercy.,” Japarov said.

“I have to make a decision whether to grant it or not, taking into account the opinion of the people who suffered in 2010," he added.

Pro-Imran Khan Pakistani TV Journalist Returns Home After Being Freed

Pakistani journalist Sami Abrahim (file photo)

A prominent Pakistani television journalist who went missing last week, apparently because of his public support for former Prime Minister Imran Khan, returned home early on May 30 after being released by his captors, his family and his employer said. Sami Abrahim’s brother, Ali Raza, took to Twitter to confirm his release. BOL TV confirmed his release in a news announcement. Abrahim went missing last week when eight people in four vehicles intercepted his car on his way back home from work in the capital, Islamabad, and took him away, according to his family and BOL TV where Abrahim works.

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