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Kazakh President Steps Down As Ruling Party Chairman

Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev (file photo)
Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev (file photo)

NUR-SULTAN -- Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev has stepped down as chairman of the country's ruling party, Amanat (Ancestors' Legacy) as part of the constitutional changes he says will allow for greater political diversity.

Toqaev made the announcement on April 26 at a congress of the party, which until March 1 was known as Nur-Otan (Light of the Fatherland), which links back to his predecessor and former patron, Nursultan Nazarbaev.

Toqaev said that the ruling party's chairmanship will be transferred to Erlan Qoshanov, chairman of the parliament's lower chamber, the Mazhilis. The pro-government Adal (Honest) political party also announced at the congress that it will merge with Amanat.

The announcement comes less than two months after the ruling party changed its name from Nur-Otan to Amanat as Toqaev has sought to distance himself from Nazarbaev in the wake of deadly mass protests in early January that were sparked in part because of anger with the ruling party over the corruption and nepotism that stemmed from Nazarbaev's rule even after he stepped down in 2019.

The ruling party was initially called Otan (Fatherland) when it was established in 1998.

Later, as the former president's cult of personality turned into a mass phenomenon in the tightly controlled, oil-rich Central Asian state, the party, like many other organizations and state entities, changed its name to Nur-Otan, to associate it more closely with Nazarbaev.

While ruling for almost three decades, Nazarbaev installed relatives in key positions, enriching them at the expense of ordinary Kazakhs, who have failed to share in the country's vast energy wealth.

Many relatives and close associates of Nazarbaev have lost their posts in government, security agencies, and profitable energy groups since the unrest as Toqaev tries to distance himself from his predecessor.

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At Least Three Killed In Fresh Wave Of Russian Drone Strikes On Ukraine

Ukrainian firefighters work on the site of a burning building after a Russian attack in Odesa on February 23.
Ukrainian firefighters work on the site of a burning building after a Russian attack in Odesa on February 23.

Russia launched a new round of drone strikes on targets in Ukraine early on February 23, killing at least three people and wounding eight, the Ukrainian military and regional officials said. Ukrainian air defenses shot down 23 out of the 31 drones launched by Russia at the Odesa, Mykolayiv, Poltava, Dnipropetrovsk, and Kharkiv regions, the military said. In Odesa, the debris from a Russian drone fell on a building in the coastal area, killing three people, the military said. In Dnipro, a drone hit a high-rise apartment building, wounding eight people, Dnipropetrovsk region Governor Serhiy Lysak reported on Telegram. To read the original stories by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, click here and here.

Four Charged In Deaths Of Two U.S. Navy SEALs Boarding Ship Carrying Iranian-Made Weapons To Yemen

A U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer fires on Huthi missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles in the Red Sea. (file photo)
A U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer fires on Huthi missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles in the Red Sea. (file photo)

Four foreign nationals have been charged with transporting suspected Iranian-made weapons after U.S. naval forces interdicted a vessel in the Arabian Sea last month. Two Navy SEALs died during the mission. The criminal complaint released on February 22 alleges that the four defendants were transporting suspected Iranian-made missile components for the type of weapons used by Huthi rebel forces in recent attacks on ships in the Red Sea. The two Navy SEALS died when one of them slipped into the gap between the vessel and the SEALs' combatant craft and the other one jumped in to try to save him.

U.S. Announces Project To Protect Ukrainian State Archives

(illustrative photo)
(illustrative photo)

The U.S. State Department on February 22 announced a project to protect and digitize collections of the State Archival Services of Ukraine. The project aims to ensure that Ukrainian history, through its archives, will be safeguarded for generations to come. The $645,000 project includes training for archive staff in the management and digitization of archival records at risk of damage or destruction caused by Russia's full-scale invasion. The materials that will be preserved include archival records in the Ukrainian language that are central to Ukraine's identity and to understanding the country's history, the State Department said.

New U.S. Russia Sanctions To Target Banks, Weapons Components

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland (file photo)
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland (file photo)

Senior U.S. diplomat Victoria Nuland said on February 22 that the United States will impose "a crushing new package of sanctions" against Russia to mark the second anniversary of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine and respond to the death of Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny. Nuland said most of the sanctions will hit "Putin's war machine" and close gaps in existing sanctions regimes. They also will target countries that help Russia evade existing sanctions and banks that allow sanctions evasion.

Hacktivist Group Publishes Leaked Documents Showing Iran's Judiciary Targeting Journalists

The hack was done "with the aim of exposing the crimes of the regime against the oppressed people of Iran and with the help of our dear compatriots," the group said.
The hack was done "with the aim of exposing the crimes of the regime against the oppressed people of Iran and with the help of our dear compatriots," the group said.

Documents leaked by the hacktivist group Edalat-e Ali (Ali's Justice) appear to show clandestine actions against journalists of Persian-language media operating outside of Iran, including those affiliated with RFE/RL's Radio Farda, by the Iranian judiciary.

The leaked documents list 44 journalists and media activists who have been targeted for allegedly undermining the regime.

The findings were part of a broader expose by the hacker group -- which released more than 3 million documents -- shedding light on the judicial proceedings conducted in secrecy within Branch 26 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran.

"In this hack, we infiltrated the court case management system and managed to access millions of documents and files," the group said in a post on Telegram where many of the documents were posted.

Edalat-e Ali says it is composed of Iranians living and working inside Iran and its intent is to expose alleged human rights abuses in the country while seeking the release of political prisoners.

It added that the documents "reveal the true face of the Islamic republic."

The hack was done "with the aim of exposing the crimes of the regime against the oppressed people of Iran and with the help of our dear compatriots," the group said.

With regard to the documents revealing the actions aimed at the media, the disclosure highlights the judiciary's secretive issuance of rulings against journalists accused of engaging in "propaganda against the Islamic republic."

The group said that under the stewardship of Judge Iman Afshari, Branch 26 has been pivotal in adjudicating cases against a broad spectrum of individuals, from political dissidents to cultural figures, especially in the aftermath of the 2022 protests triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was arrested for allegedly wearing her mandatory hijab improperly.

The documents show the judiciary targeted personnel from Radio Farda and journalists associated with other prominent Persian-language outlets, including BBC Persian, Voice of America, Iran International, Manoto TV, and the GEM satellite network.

Analysts say the leak underscores the Iranian judiciary's long-standing practice of leveraging legal actions as a mechanism to silence opposition, a strategy that has seen mixed results in quelling dissent or curtailing the activities of journalists and civil society activists.

It also reveals the state's approach to various issues, from the enforcement of the mandatory hijab to the suppression of widespread protests in 2022, they said, adding the documents further corroborate the judiciary's susceptibility to influence from security and intelligence entities, casting a shadow over its independence and impartiality.

International human rights organizations have consistently ranked Iran as one of the world's top oppressors of journalists and free speech.

In December 2022, Iran's Foreign Ministry placed sanctions on several individuals and entities in the European Union, including RFE/RL's Persian-language Radio Farda.

The sanctions include visa bans, prohibiting the listed individuals from entering Iran, and the seizure of their assets within territories under the jurisdiction of the Islamic republic.

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

Stoltenberg Says NATO Allies Committed To Ensuring Ukraine 'Prevails'

"I always stress that this is not charity. This is an investment in our own security and and that our support makes a difference on the battlefield every day," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.
"I always stress that this is not charity. This is an investment in our own security and and that our support makes a difference on the battlefield every day," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says NATO allies are committed to doing more to ensure that Ukraine "prevails" in its battle to repel invading Russian forces, with the alliance having "significantly changed" its stance on providing more advanced weapons to Kyiv.

Speaking in an interview with RFE/RL to mark the second anniversary of Russia launching its full-scale invasion of its neighbor, the NATO chief said solidarity with Ukraine was not only correct, it's also "in our own security interests."

"We can expect that the NATO allies will do more to ensure that Ukraine prevails, because this has been so clearly stated by NATO allies," Stoltenberg said.

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.

"I always stress that this is not charity. This is an investment in our own security and and that our support makes a difference on the battlefield every day," he added.

Ukraine is in desperate need of financial and military assistance amid signs of political fatigue in the West as the war kicked off by Russia's unprovoked invasion nears the two-year mark on February 24.

In excerpts from the interview released earlier in the week, Stoltenberg said the death of Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny and the first Russian gains on the battlefield in months should help focus the attention of NATO and its allies on the urgent need to support Ukraine.

The death of Navalny in an Arctic prison on February 16 under suspicious circumstances -- authorities say it will be another two weeks before the body may be released to the family -- adds to the need to ensure Russian President Vladimir Putin's authoritarian rule does not go unchecked.

"I strongly believe that the best way to honor the memory of Aleksei Navalny is to ensure that President Putin doesn't win on the battlefield, but that Ukraine prevails," Stoltenberg said.

Stoltenberg said the withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from the city of Avdiyivka last week after months of intense fighting demonstrated the need for more military aid, "to ensure that Russia doesn't make further gains."

"We don't believe that the fact that the Ukrainian forces have withdrawn from Avdiyivka in in itself will significantly change the strategic situation," he said.

"But it reminds us of that Russia is willing to sacrifice a lot of soldiers. It also just makes minor territorial gains and also that Russia has received significant military support supplies from Iran, from North Korea and have been able to ramp up their own production."

Ukraine's allies have been focused on a $61 billion U.S. military aid package, but while that remains stalled in the House of Representatives, other countries, including Sweden, Canada, and Japan, have stepped up their aid.

"Of course, we are focused on the United States, but we also see how other allies are really stepping up and delivering significant support to Ukraine," Stoltenberg said in the interview.

On the question of when Ukraine will be able to deploy F-16 fighter jets, Stoltenberg said it was not possible to say. He reiterated that Ukraine's allies all want them to be there as early as possible but said the effect of the F-16s will be stronger if pilots are well trained and maintenance crews and other support personnel are well-prepared.

"So, I think we have to listen to the military experts exactly when we will be ready to or when allies will be ready to start sending and to delivering the F-16s," he said. "The sooner the better."

Ukraine has actively sought U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets to help it counter Russian air superiority. The United States in August approved sending F-16s to Ukraine from Denmark and the Netherlands as soon as pilot training is completed.

It will be up to each ally to decide whether to deliver F-16s to Ukraine, and allies have different policies, Stoltenberg said. But at the same time the war in Ukraine is a war of aggression, and Ukraine has the right to self-defense, including striking legitimate Russian military targets outside Ukraine.

Asked about the prospect of former President Donald Trump returning to the White House, Stoltenberg said that regardless of the outcome of the U.S. elections this year, the United States will remain a committed NATO ally because it is in the security interest of the United States.

Trump, the current front-runner in the race to become the Republican Party's presidential nominee, drew sharp rebukes from President Joe Biden, European leaders, and NATO after suggesting at a campaign rally on February 10 that the United States might not defend alliance members from a potential Russian invasion if they don’t pay enough toward their own defense.

Stoltenberg said the United States was safer and stronger together with more than 30 allies -- something that neither China nor Russia has.

The criticism of NATO has been aimed at allies underspending on defense, he said.

But Stoltenberg said new data shows that more and more NATO allies are meeting the target of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense, and this demonstrates that the alliance has come a long way since it pledged in 2014 to meet the target.

At that time three members of NATO spent 2 percent of GDP on defense. Now it’s 18, he said.

"If you add together what all European allies do and compare that to the GDP in total in Europe, it's actually 2 percent today," he said. "That's good, but it's not enough because we want [each NATO member] to spend 2 percent. And we also make sure that 2 percent is a minimum."

Zelenskiy, In Fox Interview, Pleads With U.S. Congress To Pass Aid, Says Cost Will Be Higher If It Doesn't

"Will Ukraine survive without Congress's support? Of course. But not all of us," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said. (file photo)
"Will Ukraine survive without Congress's support? Of course. But not all of us," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said. (file photo)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has called on the U.S. Congress to pass a $60 billion aid package to help his country defend against invading Russian forces, saying it will be a cheaper alternative than the consequences of a Russian victory.

Speaking with the conservative Fox News channel in an interview that aired on February 22 -- two days ahead of the second anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of its neighbor -- Zelenskiy warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin will push further into Eastern Europe if he conquers Ukraine.

"If they [Congress] want to be very pragmatic, the price we are asking less than it will be in the future if [Russia] will go into NATO countries," Zelenskiy said from a bombed-out building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, where he sat down for the interview as sporadic explosions were heard in the background.

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.

"Will Ukraine survive without Congress's support? Of course. But not all of us," he added, while inviting President Joe Biden and Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump to visit Ukraine and witness for themselves the situation at the front lines of "this tragedy."

After four months of debate, the U.S. Senate earlier this month passed a supplementary spending bill that allocates some $60 billion in aid to Ukraine, mainly for weapons and military equipment. However, a group of right-wing Republicans in the House of Representatives has been holding it up as they seek to tie it to contentious immigration reforms at home.

The delay is having significant consequences on the battlefield, as Ukrainian forces run low on ammunition and air defenses. Russian troops last week captured the eastern city of Avdiyivka, the first major victory for the Kremlin since May 2023. Military experts said a lack of manpower and firepower forced Ukrainian forces to retreat from the city.

By speaking with Fox News, Zelenskiy appealed directly to conservative Americans whose support for Ukraine has declined over the past year.

According to a recent poll by Pew Research Center, nearly half of U.S. citizens who identify as Republican or Republican-leaning say the United States is giving too much support to Ukraine. Only one in six people who identify as Democrat or Democrat-leaning held that same opinion.

"At the height of the Ukraine supplemental fight, President Zelenskiy is speaking to Republicans through the media outlet that conservatives watch most," Daniel Vajdich, president of Yorktown Solutions, a Washington-based lobby firm whose clients include Ukraine, told RFE/RL.

"Zelenskiy explains to conservatives and Congressional Republicans why U.S. funding for Ukraine is in fact a rational U.S. investment of its resources," he said.

Fox News is the top-rated U.S. cable channel by daily viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research, reaching 1.2 million people in a 24-hour period, as much as MSNBC and CNN combined.

Zelenskiy addressed concerns often voiced by right-wing Republicans over aid, corruption, elections, and a peace settlement.

He said U.S. aid -- Washington has been by far Kyiv's biggest donor -- goes for military needs, and not toward Ukrainian pensions. In fact, some Democrats have argued, most of the aid goes to American companies who receive the contracts to supply weapons to Kyiv.

Still, Zelenskiy said Ukraine's government was moving forward with Western-backed anti-corruption reforms and denied he was seeking to postpone elections to stay in power. Zelenskiy said the constitution does not allow elections to be held during wartime.

Ukraine's next round of presidential elections were scheduled for this year.

Despite few territorial changes to the 1,000-kilometer front line since 2023, Zelenskiy rejected the idea that the war had reached a stalemate. When asked about the prospects of peace negotiations, the Ukrainian leader said that Putin can't be trusted, adding the Russian leader will never give up trying to get full control of the country.

He said Putin's negotiating position will weaken with time as Russia suffers more losses on the battlefield. In the meantime, he said, Ukraine will prepare for another counteroffensive and promised Russia's forces in the south would get "some surprises."

The interview comes exactly two weeks after popular conservative commentator Tucker Carlson -- once one of Fox's most popular hosts -- aired his interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The authoritarian Kremlin leader claimed in the interview that Ukraine was a threat to Russia because it was seeking to join NATO. Western experts say Putin uses the NATO argument to camoflage his imperial ambitions.

Carlson has long questioned Washington's support for Kyiv. In May 2022, he claimed the Biden administration was arming Ukraine to punish Russia for its interference in the 2016 presidential election.

When asked about when the war will end, Zelenskiy said that depended on Western resolve. He said the West was afraid of what will happen to Russia -- the world's second-biggest nuclear power -- if it loses the war.

"We are doing everything possible for the war to end as soon as possible," Zelenskiy said.

"When the world will be ready to stop Putin? Well, let's be frank. The world is not really ready for Putin to be able to lose his power. The world is afraid of changes in [the] Russian Federation," he said.

Pakistan Blocks X For Sixth Straight Day As Activists Criticize Shutdown

In Quetta, members of Pakhtunkhwa National Awami Party protested against alleged fraud in th recent elections.
In Quetta, members of Pakhtunkhwa National Awami Party protested against alleged fraud in th recent elections.

Pakistan's media regulators again disrupted service on February 22 to the social-media platform X, formerly Twitter, affecting users across the country for the sixth day in a row.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and human rights organizations in Pakistan had previously expressed concern over the restrictions on X in several parts of the country.

The CPJ said in a statement that public access to the network was "restricted" for "the fifth day in a row” on February 21.

The CPJ added that Pakistani authorities should "ensure uninterrupted public access to social networks and allow independent sharing and dissemination of information."

There has been no comment on the outage by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), but Islamabad previously emphasized that it was committed to freedom of expression.

Human rights activists have demanded a full restoration of Internet services and access to social media, while U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller on February 21 expressed concerns over the outage and restrictions on the freedom of expression in Pakistan.

"We continue to call on Pakistan to respect freedom of expression and restore access to a social media that has been restricted," Miller said in a statement. "We have and will continue to emphasize the importance of respecting these fundamental freedoms during our engagements with Pakistani officials."

The Internet observatory NetBlocks in a statement on February 22 confirmed the restriction in Pakistan, saying it began on February 17.

"Metrics show X/Twitter has now been restricted in #Pakistan for over 120 hours, entering a sixth day of disruption as the nation joins a handful of countries that ban access to international social media platforms,” NetBlocks said.

The restrictions were imposed as disclosures relating to election fraud circulated on the platform, NetBlocks said, adding that the measure "significantly hinders the exercise of democracy and media freedom."

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e Insaf (PTI) party protested against alleged fraud in the elections on February 17.

Pakistan's caretaker government and the commission have repeatedly said that the February 8 election process was completely transparent and fair.

The government suspended mobile phone and Internet services on election day in many parts of the country. At that time, the Interior Ministry said that it was done to ensure security.

Khan's political rivals earlier this week announced details of a power-sharing agreement, naming Shehbaz Sharif as their candidate for prime minister.

The announcement followed days of talks among the leadership of the Pakistan Muslim League, the Pakistan People’s Party, and other parties that did not gain enough seats in the election to govern on their own. They said at a news conference that they had secured the required majority to form a coalition government.

In the vote, candidates backed by Khan, who was barred from running, won the most seats but short of a simple majority needed to form a government.

With reporting by AP

Biden Met With Navalny's Wife, Daughter, White House Says

U.S. President Joe Biden (center) meets with Yulia Navalnaya (right) and Dasha Navalnaya.
U.S. President Joe Biden (center) meets with Yulia Navalnaya (right) and Dasha Navalnaya.

U.S. President Joe Biden on February 22 met the wife and daughter of Aleksei Navalny in California "to express his heartfelt condolences," the White House said in a statement. During the meeting, Biden expressed his admiration for Navalny's "extraordinary courage and his legacy of fighting against corruption and for a free and democratic Russia in which the rule of law applies equally to everyone," the statement said. Biden also affirmed that the United States will announce major new sanctions against Russia on February 23 in response to Navalny's death, Russia's repression and aggression, and its war in Ukraine.


U.S. Charges Russian Oligarchs, State-Owned Bank CEO, And U.S.-Based 'Facilitators'

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) listens to VTB Bank Chairman Andrei Kostin during a meeting in Moscow on July 11, 2023.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) listens to VTB Bank Chairman Andrei Kostin during a meeting in Moscow on July 11, 2023.

The U.S. Justice Department on February 22 announced enforcement actions in five separate federal cases against sanctioned Russian oligarchs and networks supporting Russia.

The actions, timed to coincide with the second anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, include charges against Russian state-owned VTB Bank Chairman Andrei Kostin and two of his U.S.-based facilitators, the department said.

Charges were unsealed in New York against Kostin and facilitators Vadim Wolfson and Gannon Bond, who were arrested.

Kostin, who has been designated for sanctions by the United States, is the longtime president of VTB Bank, Russia's second-largest. He is charged with engaging in a scheme to evade sanctions and launder money to support two superyachts.

Kostin and the two facilitators are also accused of trying to evade sanctions related to a luxury home in Colorado.

Michael Khoo, a co-director of the Justice Department’s KleptoCapture task force, told reporters that the announcement was meant to send a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin that "we're not going away" and "we can play the long game as well," so long as the war continues.

Other actions announced on February 22 include the indictment in Florida of pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarch Serhiy Kurchenko on charges linked to a scheme to violate and evade U.S. sanctions.

Also in Florida, federal agents filed a civil-forfeiture complaint against two luxury condominiums owned by sanctioned Russian businessman Viktor Perevalov, the co-owner of a Russian-based construction company.

The Justice Department also announced an indictment charging Vladislav Osipov with bank fraud in connection with operating a yacht owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.

Osipov, a Russian national, lives in Switzerland.

The U.S. State Department announced a reward of up to $1 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Osipov, who allegedly served in senior positions in multiple companies belonging to or controlled by Vekselberg.

The 17-count criminal indictment of Osipov, unsealed in in Washington, identifies the superyacht as the Tango, and says it was the first belonging to a sanctioned Russian with close ties to the Kremlin to be seized at the request of the U.S. government following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The Justice Department also said Feliks Medvedev pleaded guilty earlier this month to helping launder more than $150 million through bank accounts he controls. Medvedev, a Russian citizen, lives in the U.S. state of Georgia.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement that the Justice Department "is more committed than ever to cutting off the flow of illegal funds that are fueling Putin's war and to holding accountable those who continue to enable it."

The actions announced on February 22 "bring prosecutions against and seize assets of sanctioned enablers of the Kremlin and Russian military," he said.

The KleptoCapture task force enforces the economic restrictions within the United States imposed on Russia and its billionaires. Over the past two years it has secured court orders for the restraint, seizure, and forfeiture of nearly $700 million in assets and has charged more than 70 people with violating sanctions and export controls.

With reporting by AP and Reuters

IMF Says Ukraine Needs 'Timely Support' From U.S., Other Donors

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (left) and IMF Director Kristalina Georgieva. meet in Washington in December.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (left) and IMF Director Kristalina Georgieva. meet in Washington in December.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on February 22 said that "timely support" for Ukraine is needed from the United States and other international donors to ensure the country's fiscal viability as it enters a third year battling Russia's invasion. An IMF spokeswoman said the global lender estimates that Ukraine will need about $42 billion of financing this year, including official donor support of about $31.9 billion. "Timely support from the international community, including the U.S., will be vital to ensure that the country remains on the path to fiscal and external viability," spokeswoman Julie Kozack said in Washington.


Navalny's Mother Says Allowed To See Body, Russian Officials Pressing For Secret Burial

Lyudmila Navalnaya said the authorities want her son to be buried "secretly, without a farewell ceremony." (file photo)
Lyudmila Navalnaya said the authorities want her son to be buried "secretly, without a farewell ceremony." (file photo)

Lyudmila Navalnaya, the mother of late opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, said on February 22 that investigators allowed her to see her son's body late on February 21 in the Arctic city of Salekhard.

In a video statement, Navalnaya said she signed a death certificate, but that the authorities continued to hold her son's body.

Navalnaya said she spent 24 hours in the directorate of the Investigative Committee in Salekhard and was brought to a morgue, where she saw her son's body for the first time since his death was made public on February 16.

Navalnaya said she was brought to the morgue "secretly" and signed the death certificate there, stressing that the authorities were breaking the law by not releasing her son's body to her and by "putting forward conditions on where, when, and how Aleksei should be buried."

The authorities in her presence "were receiving commands either from the Kremlin or from the Investigative Committee's central office," Navalnaya said.

"They want the burial to be held secretly without any farewell ceremonies," she added in the video. "They want to bring me to the edge of a cemetery and say to me, 'Here is where your son is resting.' I do not agree with that."

Navalnaya said she wanted her son's burial to be public, so that all his supporters can bid farewell to him.

"I am recording this video because they started threatening me. They look into my eyes and say that if I do not agree to the secret burial, they will do something bad with my son's body," she said. "I do not want any conditions. I just want everything to be done in accordance with the law. I demand my son's body to be given to me immediately."

WATCH: A Russian doctor who was involved in efforts to diagnose Navalny after he was poisoned in 2020 says traces of poison can be removed from a dead body. He also said there was no reason not to hand over the body.

Former Navalny Doctor Says Poison Could Be Removed From Body
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Navalnaya has been trying to get access to her son's body since his death in a special-regime prison, the harshest type of penitentiary in Russia, was announced. Prison officials said the 47-year-old died after he collapsed while on a daily walk out of his cell.

On February 21, Navalnaya filed a lawsuit in a Russian court demanding the release of her son's body. A closed-door hearing into complaint is scheduled to be held on March 4.

Navalnaya on February 20 posted a video on social media taken from outside the so-called Polar Wolf prison where Navalny had been held since December, pleading with President Vladimir Putin for his help, saying the "resolution of this matter depends solely on you."

U.K. Announces New Russia Sanctions To Mark Ukraine Invasion Anniversary

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron (file photo)
British Foreign Secretary David Cameron (file photo)

Britain has expanded its sanctions against Russian companies and individuals and entities outside Russia that are suspected of aiding in the circumvention of existing sanctions, the U.K. government said on February 22.

In a statement issued two days before the second anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Foreign Secretary David Cameron said the move adds more than 50 individuals and entities to its sanctions list as it seeks to restrict and weaken the Russian defense industry.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

The package also takes aim at companies in China, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and other countries accused of circumventing previously imposed sanctions.

"Two years on, we stand united in support for Ukraine. Our international economic pressure means Russia cannot afford this illegal invasion. Our sanctions are starving [Russian President Vladimir] Putin of the resources he desperately needs to fund his struggling war," Cameron said in a statement.

Cameron said the sanctions will disrupt Putin's ability to equip his military with high-tech equipment and weaponry and block him from "refilling his war coffers while Ukraine defends itself."

There are now more than 2,000 Russian individuals, companies, and groups on Britain's sanctions list.

One of the largest companies included in the update is the Novatek project Arctic LNG-2 for the production of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Sanctions were also imposed against Arctic LNG 2 and its general director, Oleg Karpushin, and other top managers of Novatek, the majority owner of Arctic LNG 2.

Britain said Arctic LNG-2 is one of the key links in Putin’s plan to make Russia a major LNG player.

The sanctions also target a Turkish company involved in the supply of electronics, three electronics companies based in China, Russia's state-run diamond giant Alrosa and its CEO, and companies active in Russia's oil and mining industries.

The sanctions come a day after the European Union approved its own package of expanded sanctions, including bans on nearly 200 entities and individuals accused of helping Moscow procure weapons or of involvement in kidnapping Ukrainian children.

U.S. President Joe Biden has said the United States will announce a package of tough new sanctions on February 23 against Russia over the death in prison of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny.

With reporting by Reuters

U.S. Says Growing Iran-Russia Military Ties 'Should Concern' World

Iran test-fires its home-built surface-to-surface Fateh 110 missile in 2010.
Iran test-fires its home-built surface-to-surface Fateh 110 missile in 2010.

The United States says increasing military cooperation between Tehran and Moscow is a "concern," amid reports that Iran has delivered multiple shipments of ballistic missiles to Russia.

Reuters reported on February 21 that Iran had supplied Russia with hundreds of missiles through four shipments since January, with an unnamed Iranian military official quoted as saying that there "would be more in the coming weeks."

While Ukrainian and Western officials have yet to publicly confirm the Reuters report, the development is consistent with U.S. warnings.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson told RFE/RL that while they were not able to comment directly on the report, the increasing military cooperation between Iran and Russia "is something that should concern the entire world."

"We have been warning for some time that Russia was in negotiations with Iran to acquire close-range ballistic missiles and that those negotiations were actively advancing," the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson attributed Tehran and Moscow's improving relations to Russia becoming "more isolated" since it launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said at a briefing on February 22 that the United States would impose additional sanctions on Iran in the coming days for its efforts to supply Russia with drones and other technology for the war against Ukraine.

"We have not seen any confirmation that missiles have actually moved from Iran to Russia," Kirby said, but said that at the same time, "we have no reason to believe that they will not follow through."

Kirby also issued a warning to Iran that providing ballistic missiles to Russia for use against Kyiv would be met with even more sanctions and actions at the United Nations.

On February 20, an Iranian Defense Ministry spokesman insisted that his country's military cooperation with Russia "has nothing to do with the Ukraine war" and predated the conflict.

Following its invasion of Ukraine, Russia was swiftly hit by a slew of Western sanctions, overtaking Iran as the most sanctioned country in the world in March 2022.

The two countries have grown close since the war started, expanding their economic and military cooperation.

Iran has been supplying Russia with its cheap but effective Shahed "kamikaze" drones, which Moscow has often used to target civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.

Iran has denied providing drones to Russia to use against Ukraine and insists that it sold a "limited number" of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Moscow before the war. Russia has also rejected reports that it is using Iranian drones in the war.

However, the Russian Defense Ministry in July 2023 appeared to confirm in its monthly journal Armeisky sbornik that its Geran-2 drone is, in fact, the Iranian-made Shahed-136 UAV.

Reuters said Iranian shipments included the Fateh-110 and Zolfaqar short-range ballistic missiles.

This comes after UN curbs on Iran's imports and exports of missiles expired in October 2023, though Britain and the European Union said they would continue to impose the sanctions on Iran.

A month earlier, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was shown around an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) weapons exhibition in Tehran by IRGC Aerospace Force commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh.

'Game Changer'

If confirmed, the delivery of Iranian missiles to Russia "would be a game changer, both militarily and politically," said John Krzyzaniak, a research associate at the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control.

Missiles are harder to defend against than drones, allowing Russia to carry out more devastating attacks at long range.

Krzyzaniak added that the trade would give cash-strapped Iran a windfall and a reputational boost, as well as "a bargaining chip in its other dealings with Russia."

There have been reports over the past year about Tehran finalizing an agreement with Moscow to obtain Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets to upgrade its aging air force. Observers have in the past suggested that one of Iran's objectives in supplying arms to Russia is to be able to acquire advanced warplanes.

Russia has started using North Korean missiles in the war with mixed results. However, Iran's short-range ballistic missiles have been battle-tested, says Nicole Grajewski, a fellow at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Nuclear Policy Program.

While the purported missile deliveries would further cement the growing military cooperation between Tehran and Moscow, it would be viewed as an escalation by the West, according to Grajewski.

"It would also be another nail in the coffin for the [Iran nuclear deal] and certainly would complicate any kind of parallel agreement on Iran's nuclear program -- even if those chances are dismal already," she added.

With reporting by Reuters

Ruling Party Nominates Head Of Hungary's Top Court For President

Tamas Sulyok is sworn in as president of Hungary's Constitutional Court in parliament in November 2016.
Tamas Sulyok is sworn in as president of Hungary's Constitutional Court in parliament in November 2016.

Hungary's ruling party will nominate Tamas Sulyok, president of the Constitutional Court, as next president to succeed Katalin Novak, who resigned earlier this month, Mate Kocsis, the leader of the governing majority's faction in parliament, announced on February 22. Novak, a longtime ally of conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban, resigned on February 10 after coming under mounting pressure for pardoning a man convicted of helping to cover up sexual abuse in a children's home. The scandal triggered a huge street protest last week.

Polish, Ukrainian Officials To Meet In Warsaw Next Month

Polish farmers have been blockading the border over complaints that Ukrainian imports are hurting their livelihoods.
Polish farmers have been blockading the border over complaints that Ukrainian imports are hurting their livelihoods.

Polish and Ukrainian government members will hold talks in Warsaw on March 28, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on February 22 after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called on Warsaw and members of the European Commission to meet with him and his government members at the Ukrainian-Polish border to address tensions caused by protests by Polish farmers over Ukrainian food imports. The farmers say a wave of goods are impacting prices of their own output. Poland's presidential spokesperson said earlier that President Andrzej Duda supported Zelenskiy's idea of a dialogue. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, click here.

Czech Ban On Visas, Residence Permits For Russians, Belarusians Extended

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said on February 21 his government had approved a move initiated by the Foreign Ministry to extend for an unspecified term a ban on issuing visas and residence permits to Russian and Belarusian citizens that was introduced in 2022 over Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine. The measure was set to expire on March 31. Russians and Belarusians with Czech residence permits, and those whose stay is "in the interest of the Czech Republic," are not targeted by the move. Relatives of Czech or EU citizens can also apply for Czech visas. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Idel.Realities, click here.

Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine Has Exacted 'Horrific' Cost On Civilians, UN Rights Chief Says

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk (file photo)
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk (file photo)

Russia's nearly two-year-old invasion of Ukraine has caused immense suffering, with civilians paying a horrendous price as tens of thousands were killed and wounded, while millions were displaced and subjected to bad treatment, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said.

In a statement issued on February 22, two days before the second anniversary of the launch of Moscow's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Turk said the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) had verified 30,457 civilian casualties during the war -- 10,582 killed and 19,875 injured, adding that the actual numbers were likely to be considerably higher.

"Russia's full-scale armed attack on Ukraine, which is about to enter its third year with no end in sight, continues to cause serious and widespread human rights violations, destroying lives and livelihoods," Turk said.

The invasion "has exacted a horrific human cost, inflicting immense suffering on millions of civilians," he added.

The HRMMU documented summary executions, widespread torture, and arbitrary detentions of civilians by Russian troops as well as forced disappearances and other human rights violations, the statement said.

Meanwhile, the United Nations migration agency said on February 22 that more than 14.6 million people, or 40 percent of Ukraine's population, depend on some type of humanitarian assistance this year, while millions of Ukrainian refugees abroad also require assistance.

The Geneva-based International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimated that 2.2 million refugees were currently in Ukraine's neighboring countries, while a total of nearly 6.5 million are refugees globally.

Some 3.7 million people have been displaced inside Ukraine, families are still separated, and children left homeless, the IOM said in a statement that also called on the international community to step up its efforts to help the Ukrainian civilians affected by the war.

"We count on increased support from donors and local partners to meet the challenges that lie ahead in providing a better life for Ukrainians," IOM Director-General Amy Pope said.

Brother, Associate Of Fugitive Ex-Customs Deputy Chief Give Up Seats In Kyrgyz Parliament

Iskender Matraimov (left to right), Raimbek Matraimov, Nurlan Rajabaliev (combo photo)
Iskender Matraimov (left to right), Raimbek Matraimov, Nurlan Rajabaliev (combo photo)

The Kyrgyz Central Election Commission on February 22 annulled the mandates of lawmakers Iskender Matraimov and Nurlan Rajabaliev at their own requests. The former is a brother and the latter a close associate of the former deputy chief of the Customs Service, Raimbek Matraimov, who was added to the wanted list last month on charges of abduction and the illegal incarceration of unspecified individuals. Raimbek Matraimov, who escaped imprisonment in 2021 by paying 2 billion soms ($22.4 million) to Kyrgyzstan's State Treasury, was hit with the new charges after Kyrgyz police shot dead criminal kingpin Kamchybek Kolbaev in October.
To read the original story by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, click here.

Jailed Kremlin Critic Kara-Murza's Suit Over Poisoning Investigation Rejected

Vladimir Kara-Murza (file photo)
Vladimir Kara-Murza (file photo)

A court in Moscow on February 22 rejected a lawsuit filed by imprisoned Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza that accused the Investigative Committee of inaction in investigating his suspected poisonings.

Kara-Murza fell deathly ill on two separate occasions in Moscow -- in 2015 and 2017 -- with symptoms consistent with poisoning.

Tissue samples smuggled from Russia to the United States by his relatives were turned over to the FBI, which investigated his case as one of "intentional poisoning."

U.S. government laboratories also conducted extensive tests on the samples, but documents released by the Justice Department suggest they were unable to reach a conclusive finding.

The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the incidents.

At the hearing on February 22, Kara-Murza pointed out that investigative reporters of Bellingcat, The Insider, and Der Spiegel had identified four Federal Security Service (FSB) agents -- Roman Mezentsev, Aleksandr Samofal, Konstantin Kudryavtsev, and Valery Sukharev -- who followed him secretly during both times when he fell ill.

Kara-Murza also said that the investigative report had concluded that some of the identified FSB officers also followed two opposition politicians -- Boris Nemtsov, before he was shot dead near the Kremlin in 2015, and Aleksei Navalny who was poisoned with a Novichok-type nerve agent in 2020.

Kara-Murza added that Navalny's assassination was accomplished last week. Navalny died in a remote prison in Russia's Arctic on February 16.

Wife Of Jailed Russian Politician Kara-Murza Says She Fears For His Life
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Kara-Murza, 42, who holds Russian and British passports, was initially arrested in April 2022 after returning to Russia from abroad and charged with disobeying a police officer.

He was later charged with discrediting the Russian military, a charge stemming from Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and a Kremlin push to stamp out criticism of the subject. He was later additionally charged with treason over remarks he made in speeches outside Russia that criticized Kremlin policies.

In April 2023, Kara-Murza was found guilty of all charges and sentenced to 25 years in prison. He and his supporters reject the charges as politically motivated.

With reporting by Sota

Kyrgyz Lawmakers Approve Second Reading Of Controversial Bill On 'Foreign Representatives'

Kyrgyz parliament (file photo)
Kyrgyz parliament (file photo)

The Kyrgyz parliament on February 22 approved on second reading a controversial bill that would allow authorities to register organizations as "foreign representatives" in a way that critics say mirrors repressive Russian legislation on so-called foreign agents. Dozens of nongovernmental organizations in Kyrgyzstan have called on lawmakers to reject the bill, insisting it merely substitutes the term "foreign representative" for "foreign agent" and would have a similarly chilling effect on their work. Russian authorities have used the law on foreign agents to discredit those labeled as such and to stifle dissent. To see the original story by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, click here.

Russia Adds Kyiv-Based Veteran Journalist Kiselyov To Terrorists Registry

Yevgeny Kiselyov is a former managing director of Russia's once-independent NTV television channel. He has openly condemned the war in Ukraine.
Yevgeny Kiselyov is a former managing director of Russia's once-independent NTV television channel. He has openly condemned the war in Ukraine.

Russian authorities have added a former prominent Russian journalist who currently works for the Kyiv-based Ukrayina 24 TV channel to their list of terrorists and extremists. Yevgeny Kiselyov's name appeared on the list of the Federal Financial Monitoring Service (Rosfinmonitoring) on February 22. Kiselyov is a former managing director of Russia's once-independent NTV television channel. Last year, Russian authorities added Kiselyov to their list of "foreign agents" and wanted list on unspecified charges. Kiselyov has openly condemned Russia's aggression against Ukraine. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Crimea.Realities, click here.

Kazakh Journalist Mukhammedkarim Starts Hunger Strike Demanding His Trial Be Public

The building of the Konaev court where the trial of journalist Duman Muhammedkarim is taking place on February 22.
The building of the Konaev court where the trial of journalist Duman Muhammedkarim is taking place on February 22.

QONAEV, Kazakhstan -- Independent Kazakh journalist Duman Mukhammedkarim, who is on trial for what he says are politically motivated charges of financing an extremist group and participating in a banned group's activities, has launched a hunger strike to demand that his court hearings be open to the public.

Mukhammedkarim's lawyer, Ghalym Nurpeisov, told reporters and his client's supporters on February 22 after the journalist's trial resumed in the southern town of Qonaev that Mukhammedkarim vowed to stop his hunger strike only after the judge retracts his previous decision to hold the trial behind closed doors.

The high-profile trial of the reporter known for his articles critical of the government started on February 12.

Dozens of Mukhammedkarim's supporters again gathered in front of the court's building, chanting "Freedom!"

Mukhammedkarim, whose Ne Deidi? (What Do They Say?) YouTube channel is extremely popular in Kazakhstan, was sent to pretrial detention in June 2023 over his online interview with fugitive banker and outspoken critic of the Kazakh government Mukhtar Ablyazov. Ablyazov's Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement was labeled as extremist and banned in the country in March 2018.

If convicted, Mukhammedkarim could be sentenced to up to 12 years in prison.

Domestic and international right organizations have urged Kazakh authorities to drop all charges against Mukhammedkarim and immediately release him. Kazakh rights defenders recognize Mukhammedkarim as a political prisoner.

Rights watchdogs have criticized the authorities in the tightly controlled former Soviet republic for persecuting dissent, but Astana has shrugged off the criticism, saying there are no political prisoners in the country.

Kazakhstan was ruled by authoritarian President Nursultan Nazarbaev from its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 until current President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev succeeded him in 2019.

Over the past three decades, several opposition figures have been killed and many jailed or forced to flee the country.

Toqaev, who broadened his powers after Nazarbaev and his family left the oil-rich country's political scene following the deadly, unprecedented anti-government protests in January 2022, has promised political reforms and more freedoms for citizens.

However, many in Kazakhstan consider the reforms announced by Toqaev cosmetic, as a crackdown on dissent has continued even after the president announced his "New Kazakhstan" program.


Russian Drone Strike On Odesa Sparks Fire After Separate Strike In Donetsk Kills One

Destroyed Russian tanks are seen near the village of Bohorodychne in the Donetsk region on February 13.
Destroyed Russian tanks are seen near the village of Bohorodychne in the Donetsk region on February 13.

A Russian drone attack targeted civil infrastructure in Odesa late on February 22, sparking a fire, the regional governor said.

Oleh Kiper said on Telegram there were injuries in the attack and numbers were being clarified. A video posted on social media showed a fire that appeared to have engulfed a number of buildings.

"As a result of the Russian attack by attack drones, a fire broke out at a civil infrastructure facility in Odesa. There is information about the injured people," Kiper said. "All relevant services are working at the scene.”

Earlier, the Ukrainian military reported that several groups of drones were attacking Ukraine from the east and south.

In the eastern Donetsk region, regional Governor Vadym Filashkin said at least one person was killed by Russian shelling. Nine people, including four young people, were injured, he said.

He said 13 shells had hit the village and published photos of destroyed houses.

Earlier, the Russian Defense Ministry said that it had captured Pobeda, a village located about 20 kilometers southwest of Donetsk, the regional capital. Before the war, Pobeda had a population of only a few dozen people.

The Ukrainian military has not commented on the Russian claim.

Russian military bloggers say that although the village is quite small, it allegedly has tactical significance in that it is located on the main road to Vuhledar in southern Donetsk.

Ukraine's military earlier acknowledged it struck a training ground in occupied Kherson where Russian troops were preparing for an assault on Ukraine's bridgehead at Krynka on the left bank of the Dnieper River, the second time this week a strike has killed scores of Russian personnel.

At the same time, Kyiv denied Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu's claim that Russian forces had captured the Ukrainian bridgehead at Krynka.

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.

"There were at least three strikes on the concentration of Russian troops at the training ground near Novaya Kakhovka," Nataliya Humenyuk, spokeswoman of the Defense Forces of Southern Ukraine, told RFE/RL on February 22.

"The Russian military was preparing to storm Krynka, which they claimed they had already been captured.... According to preliminary data, commanders of the Dnieper group [of Russian forces] were also there. The information is still being checked," Humenyuk said.

In a separate statement made to Suspilne, Humenyuk said at least 60 Russian soldiers were killed in the attack.

Ukrainian forces in November 2022 liberated Kherson city and the rest of the region on the right bank of the Dnieper forcing Russian troops across the river. Last year, Kyiv's troops managed to also establish a small bridgehead on the Dnieper's left bank, which has come under constant Russian attacks.

The purported Ukrainian strike on Russian forces in Kherson was the second in as many days in which a large number of Russian troops were reportedly killed.

On February 21, BBC Russian reported that a Ukrainian strike on a training ground in Moscow-occupied Donetsk had killed at least 60 Russian troops.

According to the report, Russian soldiers from the 36th Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade had been lined up and were waiting for the arrival of Major General Oleg Moiseyev, commander of the 29th Russian Army, when the strike occurred on February 20.

Neither Russia nor Ukraine has commented on the report. Pro-Russian social media outlets posted videos and photos purportedly showing dozens of uniformed dead bodies, accusing Moiseyev of making soldiers stand in line waiting for his arrival when they were hit.

Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat said on February 22 that since launching the invasion two year ago, Russia has launched more than 8,000 missiles and 4,630 drones -- of which 3,605 have been shot down -- at targets inside Ukraine.

In Moscow, former President Dmitry Medvedev boasted that after Ukrainian forces last week withdrew from the eastern city of Avdiyivka following a monthslong bloody battle, Russian troops would keep advancing deeper into Ukraine.

With the war nearing its two-year mark amid Ukrainian shortages of manpower, more advanced weapons, and ammunition, Medvedev signaled Moscow could again try and seize the capital after being pushed back decisively from the outskirts of Kyiv during the initial days of the invasion in February 2022.

"Where should we stop? I don't know," Medvedev, now deputy chairman of Russia's Security Council, said in an interview with Russian media.

"Will it be Kyiv? Yes, it probably should be Kyiv. If not now, then after some time, maybe in some other phase of the development of this conflict," he said.

Medvedev was once considered a reformer in Russia, serving as president to allow Vladimir Putin to be prime minister for four years to abide by term limits before returning to the presidency for a third time in 2012.

But the 56-year-old former lawyer has become known more recently for his caustic articles, social media posts, and remarks that echo the outlandish kind of historical revisionism that Putin has used to vilify the West and underpin the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Taliban Publicly Executes Two People For Murder

A Taliban fighter and onlookers witness the execution of three men in Ghazni Province in 2015.
A Taliban fighter and onlookers witness the execution of three men in Ghazni Province in 2015.

Taliban officials say two people were publicly executed on February 22 for murder at a soccer stadium in the southeastern Afghan city of Ghazni. The Taliban’s Supreme Court said in a statement that the execution of the two, whose names were withheld, was ordered by three courts and the Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada. Witnesses were ordered not to record the executions. The first confirmed public execution after the Taliban's return to power in August 2021 was carried out in December 2022 in Farah Province. In June 2023, the Taliban publicly executed a person for murdering five people in Laghman Province. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, click here.

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