Washington Urges Pyongyang To Release U.S. Citizen
Merrill Newman was taken off a plane in Pyongyang on October 26 after a 10-day visit.
On November 30, North Korean official media claimed Newman, who fought in the Korean War, had apologized for alleged crimes during the conflict.
U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden says that given Newman's age and health -- he's on heart medication -- North Korea should release him so he can be reunited with his family.
North Korea has detained at least six Americans since 2009, including two journalists accused of trespassing and others, some of whom are of Korean ancestry, accused of spreading Christianity.
Based on reporting by AP and Reuters
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FIFA Announces Probe Into Conduct Of Serbian Team, Fans At World Cup
World soccer's governing body, FIFA, has announced a probe into alleged misconduct by Serbian players, team officials, and fans during Serbia’s World Cup loss to Switzerland last week.
The disciplinary action, which was announced on December 5, comes after complaints from the Football Association of Kosovo about offensive chants against two Swiss players who have ethnic Albanian roots and family ties to Kosovo. Serbia was eliminated from the tournament in the 3-2 defeat on December 2.
A statement from FIFA said its disciplinary committee has opened proceedings against the Football Association of Serbia "due to potential breaches of articles 12 (misconduct of players and officials), 13 (discrimination) and 16 (order and security at matches) of the FIFA Disciplinary Code" related to incidents during the match.
It is the second time that FIFA has launched disciplinary proceedings against the Serbian team during the 2022 World Cup. The first occurred after a flag showing Kosovo as part of Serbia allegedly was displayed in the Serbian locker room after the match on November 26 with Brazil.
Serbian team manager Dragan Stojkovic, speaking at a press conference on December 5 after the national team returned from Qatar, said he had no comment on the latest actions by FIFA.
The Football Association of Kosovo had complained to FIFA about the alleged incidents, judging them to be nationalistic.
"It's good that FIFA dealt with this and that it took it seriously," Agim Ademi, the president of the Football Association of Kosovo, told RFE/RL.
The Football Association of Serbia and the Serbian Sports Ministry did not respond to RFE/RL's request for comment about the disciplinary charges.
The Football Association of Kosovo had demanded a reaction from FIFA, due to "severe insults by the coach of Serbia and racist actions of Serbian fans" during the match against Switzerland, which was captained by Granit Xhaka, and in which Xherdan Shaqiri scored the opening goal. Both players have roots in Kosovo.
Serbia does not recognize Kosovar sovereignty more than a decade after the mostly ethnic Albanian province declared independence. Kosovo has been a member of FIFA and UEFA, soccer’s European governing body, since 2016.
FIFA’s announcement said that "racist calls against Albanians were heard during the entire match" and "slogans with political messages” were also heard.
Several Serbian players also encroached onto the field when the referee didn't use a video review to study a claim for a penalty kick in the second half.
FIFA gave no timetable for the disciplinary case. Any punishments could apply when Serbia next plays competitive games in March in a European Championship qualifying group.
The Football Association of Kosovo demanded investigation and sanctions against the Football Association of Serbia “so that once and for all fascist chants disappear from football stadiums and events such as the World Cup."
The association said in a statement that teams and fans “with behavior and a philosophy of hatred should not have a place at such important sports events as the World Cup in Qatar."
With reporting by AP
International Criminal Court's Prosecutor Opposes EU Plan For Special Ukraine Tribunal
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has denounced a European Union proposal to create a UN-backed special tribunal to prosecute crimes in Ukraine, saying his court was capable of effectively dealing with war crimes committed there. On December 5, Karim Khan pushed back against the plan that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced last week to establish a special court to prosecute Russia’s invasion. The Hague-based ICC has launched an investigation into war crimes in Ukraine but cannot prosecute the crime of aggression because Russia is not a signatory to the treaty that created the court. To read the original story by AP, click here.
Automobile Traffic Reopens On Part Of Bridge Linking Russia To Crimea
Two-way traffic has been restored on a Russian-built bridge that connects Russia to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014. An explosion believed to be from a truck bomb caused heavy damage to road and railway sections of the bridge in October. The attack infuriated the Kremlin. Ukrainian officials have not said who carried it out. Russian state television channel Rossia-24 showed video of President Vladimir Putin driving a vehicle across the bridge. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.
Russian Prosecutor Seeks 9-Year Prison Term For Politician Ilya Yashin Over YouTube Posts
Russian prosecutors have asked a Moscow court to sentence opposition politician and Kremlin critic Ilya Yashin to nine years in prison for purportedly spreading false information about the Russian military amid its ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Yashin, who was arrested in July, is one of the few prominent opposition politicians still in Russia. The charge against him stems from his YouTube posts about alleged crimes committed by the Russian military in the Ukrainian city of Bucha. Yashin's trial started on November 23. The maximum sentence for such an offense is 10 years. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.
Iranian Official Appears To Admit To Killing Of Women And Children on Audio File
A leaked audio file from the Iranian pro-regime Coalition Council of Islamic Revolution Forces, appears to show the secretary of the council admitting to the accidental killing of women and children during a bloody crackdown in the southeastern city of Zahedan on September 30.
The document was published on December 4 after the hacktivist group Black Reward announced that it had succeeded in hacking the hard-line Fars news agency, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The group released dozens of documents and videos it said were prepared by the news agency.
In the meeting involving the alleged admission of random killings, Reza Davari, the secretary of the Coalition Council of Islamic Revolution Forces, said that an agent who was on top of the police station "mistakenly" targeted an area where a number of people, including women and children, were killed.
"They were not even part of the protests," Davari added.
Almost 100 people were killed and hundreds injured by security forces in the incident, which came during protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the morality police and the alleged rape of a 15-year-old girl by a local police commander.
Last month, Molavi Abdolhamid, a spiritual leader for Iran’s Sunni Muslim population, said senior officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, were "responsible" for the killing of protesters during the so-called "Bloody Friday" massacre in Zahedan. He also called for an immediate referendum with the presence of international observers to "change policies based on the wishes of the people."
Earlier, another leaked document from the Fars agency published by Black Reward shows Khamenei telling security and military officials to try and disgrace Molavi Abdolhamid, who is a vocal critic of the government, instead of arresting him.
Anger over Amini's death has prompted thousands of Iranians to take to the streets nationwide to demand more freedoms and women's rights. The widespread unrest represents the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.
The activist HRANA news agency said that, as of November 29, at least 459 protesters had been killed during the unrest, including 64 minors, as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent.
Sunni Muslims make up the majority of the population in Sistan-Baluchistan Province in southeastern Iran where Molavi Abdolhamid is based, but make up only about 10 percent of the population in Shi'a-dominated Iran overall.
Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda.
Putin Signs Controversial Law Banning 'LGBT Propaganda'
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law that expands an existing ban on promoting "LGBT propaganda" to children by prohibiting it among people of all ages. Under the new law, which Putin signed on November 5, any event or act regarded as an attempt to promote homosexuality -- including online, in film, books, advertising or in public -- could incur a heavy fine. Human rights defenders and activists working with LGBT+ groups believe that the new law will make it impossible for public organizations that help LGBT+ organizations to function. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.
Enlargement On The Agenda As EU Prepares Western Balkans Summit
As European Union leaders and officials from the Western Balkans prepare for a regional summit in Tirana, Albania, on December 6, enlargement tops the agenda, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama told AP on December 5. The EU has promised Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia closer relations, but the integration process has been stalled for years. The EU last admitted a new member, Croatia, in 2013. EU enlargement commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said during a recent visit last week enlargement “is among the top three priorities for EU leaders.” To read the original story from AP, click here.
Angry Iranians Launch Three-Day Protest As More Death Sentences Issued
Iranian protesters have begun three consecutive days of protests and nationwide strikes as the judiciary continues to follow through on a government crackdown by issuing three more death sentences in its response to unrest sparked by the death of a young woman while in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly.
Reports from across the country on December 5 said shopkeepers and businesses had stopped working in dozens of Iranian cities in a concerted effort to bolster the daily demonstrations that have erupted after the September 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in Tehran.
The opposition activist collective 1500tasvir reported that several protest rallies have taken place in the center of Iranian capital on December 5, with protesters chanting slogans against the ayatollah and the government forces that have carried out a brutal crackdown that has left hundreds dead.
Security forces reportedly raided a market in the south of Tehran early on December 5 in an apparent attempt to try to prevent businesses there from joining the nationwide strikes.
Iran's state media, meanwhile, has reported that the restaurant and jewelry store owned by former Iranian soccer star Ali Daei has been sealed for joining the three-day strikes in Iran.
Since the start of the protests, Daei, a former forward with German soccer giant Bayern Munich and a former Iranian national team captain, has been a vocal supporter of the protesters and has repeatedly criticized government officials for suppressing the protests.
At the same time, the head of Iran’s judiciary announced at his weekly news conference the imminent execution of some protesters.
This is the second time in recent weeks that Iranian authorities have threatened to carry out death sentences for protesters arrested during the unrest. Several death sentences have been handed out already for some of those arrested in protests, but it has not been announced if the penalty has been carried out.
In October, 227 lawmakers from the 290-seat, hard-line parliament urged the judiciary to approve death sentences for some of the protesters arrested.
Human rights organizations strongly object to the issuance of death sentences, which they say were issued without valid proceedings and in a short time.
The activist HRANA news agency said that as of November 29, at least 459 protesters had been killed during the unrest, including 64 minors.
Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda
EU Commission To Try To Limit Illegal Migration In Western Balkans
The European Commission launched an action plan on December 5 detailing how it plans to clamp down on illegal migration into the European Union via the Western Balkans. The commission wants to increase border management in the region, continue work to align visa policies, and support asylum seekers' registrations, said Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas. The EU executive arm is acting in the wake of more than 22,000 illegal border crossings attempted in the Western Balkans in October -- 159 percent more than in 2021 -- according to data from Frontex, the EU border protection agency.
Russia Defiant As Oil Price Cap, Embargo Come Into Effect
A price cap of $60 per barrel imposed on seaborne Russian oil by the Group of Seven (G7) leading economies, the European Union, and several importing countries came into effect on December 5, as Russia remained defiant and said it would not recognize the restrictions.
The EU also introduced an embargo of seaborne Russian oil that took effect on December 5.
The price cap, which has been joined by the United States, Australia, Japan, and the United Kingdom, was intended to punish Moscow for its unprovoked aggression against neighboring Ukraine.
It stipulates that Russian oil can only be shipped to third countries using G7 or EU tankers, insurance companies, or credit institutions if the cargo is purchased at or below the price cap.
A similar price cap on Russian petroleum products is scheduled to take effect on February 5.
Russia said on December 4 that it rejects the price cap and will not sell oil below market prices, even if that means reducing production targets.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on December 5 that a response to the price cap "is being prepared."
"One thing is obvious: We will not recognize any price caps," Peskov said, adding that the price cap will not have any impact on Russia's war against Ukraine.
Moscow reportedly was considering issuing a decree that would ban the sale of any petroleum products to any country applying the price cap.
The price cap will be reviewed every two months with the first review set for January.
G7 and EU countries set the cap fairly close to market prices in the expectation that Russia would accept lower profits and continue selling oil.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has called for the international community to set the price cap at $30 per barrel in order to ramp up pressure on the Russian economy. He said that if Russia agrees to sell oil at $60 per barrel, it would still bring in about $1 billion in annual oil revenues.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry on December 5 said Beijing will continue its "mutually beneficial" energy cooperation with Russia, which is the world's second-largest oil exporter.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa
Georgia's Ex-Leader Saakashvili 'Poisoned' In Prison, Doctors Say
Georgia's jailed ex-president, Mikheil Saakashvili, was "poisoned" in custody by heavy metals and risks dying without proper treatment, according to a medical report distributed on December 5 by his legal team. The 54-year-old was transferred to a hospital last year after a hunger strike that he maintained for 50 days to protest his jailing, which rights groups have denounced as politically motivated. In a report distributed by Saakashvili's legal team, U.S.-based toxicologist David Smith said "testing has revealed the presence of heavy metals" in Saakashvili's body and the pathological symptoms he displays "are the result of heavy metal poisoning."
Russia Launches Fresh Wave Of Missile Attacks On Ukraine
Residents of Kyiv and other cities across Ukraine have scrambled for cover as Russia launched another barrage of missiles at the country after explosions were reported at two airfields in central Russia.
Air-raid sirens could be heard in many parts of the country on December 5 with officials warning people to shelter from missiles that "have already been launched."
"Don't ignore the alarm," said Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian presidential office said in a tweet.
Reports on social media showed hundreds of people sheltering in the subway stations in the capital Kyiv.
Kyiv's regional governor, Oleksiy Kuleba, said in a message on Telegram that rockets were "moving toward the region" and asked people not to post photographs of what was happening online.
In recent weeks, Russia’s military focus has been on striking Ukrainian infrastructure nationwide, pressing an offensive in the Donetsk region city of Bakhmut and shelling sites in the city of Kherson, which Ukrainian forces liberated last month after an 8-month Russian occupation.
Earlier on December 5, at least one large explosion occurred at a Russian military air base in the Saratov region, about 600 kilometers east of Ukraine, while another blast was reported by Russian state media at an airfield outside Ryazan, southeast of Moscow.
Social media posts by residents in the cities of Engels and Saratov seemed to show a large explosion at the Engels-2 air base at about 6 a.m. local time on December 5.
Neither Ukrainian nor Russian authorities immediately commented on the possible cause of the blasts.
Saratov Governor Roman Busargin issued a statement calling for local residents to remain calm amid the reports but neither confirmed nor denied them.
The latest volley of Russian missiles comes the same day that a price cap of $60 per barrel imposed on seaborne Russian oil by the Group of Seven (G7) leading economies, the European Union, and several importing countries took effect.
The EU has also introduced an embargo of seaborne Russian oil that also took effect on December 5.
Moscow remained defiant over the move and said it would not recognize the restrictions.
Status Of Iran's Notorious Morality Police Unclear After Reports Of Closure
The status of Iran's morality police remains unclear after the country's chief prosecutor said the notorious force had been closed in the wake of continuing protests following the September death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.
Mohammad Jafar Montazeri was quoted by the semiofficial ISNA news agency on December 3 as saying the morality police "had been closed," but a day later the state IRNA news agency quoted him as saying “the morality police have nothing to do with the judiciary” after he was asked why the morality police were being shut down.
As of December 5, there had been no word from officials -- including the Interior Ministry -- on the status of the controversial morality police, which began patrols in 2006 under hard-line President Mahmud Ahmadinejad to enforce the country’s Islamic dress codes, particularly the requirement to wear the hijab, or female head covering.
The squads of men in green uniforms and women in black chadors initially issued warnings but soon began arresting women for alleged violations.
Montazeri also was quoted on December 3 as saying parliament and the judiciary were "working" on whether the law requiring women to wear the hijab in public should be changed. He added that "the results will be seen in a week or two."
The Iranian government has said more than 200 people had been killed in the protests sparked by Amini’s death in September. Iranian rights groups put the figure at more than double that, while the United Nations has said more than 300 have been killed as the national protests have evolved into one of the most serious challenges to the country’s theocracy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
While the government had taken a hard line in its stance toward the protests over the past several months, some officials have started to strike a more conciliatory tone as they talk about problems being experienced in Iran, which is struggling under the weight of crippling U.S. sanctions over Tehran's nuclear program.
In a December 4 interview with Iran’s state broadcaster, Deputy Security Minister Majid Mirahmadi said the "main cause" of the protests was not economic.
"This is an issue but not the main cause," Mirahmadi said. "It is a protest against injustice."
President Ebrahim Raisi said on December 3 that Iran's Islamic foundations were enshrined in the constitution.
"But there are methods of implementing the constitution that can be flexible," he said.
Russia's Kudrin Accepts Role As Adviser To Tech Giant Yandex
Aleksei Kudrin, who resigned as head of Russia's Audit Chamber last week, said on December 5 he had accepted an offer from technology giant Yandex to become an adviser on corporate development. Yandex last month announced a review of a possible sweeping governance overhaul that would leave its major business units in Russia under new ownership. The announcement comes after months of internal turmoil, with executives departing, the sale of two of the company’s best-known products, and company shares hitting basement prices prior to being frozen on international stock exchanges. To read the original story from Reuters, click here. To read a previous RFE/RL story on the Yandex shakeup, click here.
Prominent Chechen Blogger, Kadyrov Critic Reported Killed
A Chechen opposition Telegram feed has reported that prominent dissident Chechen blogger Tumso Abdurakhmanov has been killed.
The 1ADAT channel on December 5 cited unidentified sources as saying Abdurakhmanov had been shot dead and that his brother, Mukhammad, was under police protection.
Anzor Maskhadov, a prominent leader of the Chechen diaspora, confirmed the information, adding that Abdurkhmanov had been killed by several unknown assailants.
Neither 1ADAT nor Maskhadov said the purported killing took place in Sweden, where Abdurakhmanov lived and had political asylum.
Swedish police have refused to confirm the media reports and speculation.
“The Swedish Police Authority is aware of media reports about a killing of a person who is residing in Sweden,” police press officer Irene Sokolow said in a written response to RFE/RL’s Caucasus.Realities. “The Swedish Police Authority can’t confirm these media reports nor give any further comments.”
Reports that Abdurakhmanov, 36, had been killed emerged on social media on December 1 but could not be confirmed. RFE/RL's Caucasus.Realities and Chechen opposition groups reported they were unable to contact the blogger and that his representatives said they had not been in contact with him or his brother.
Swedish officials told RFE/RL on December 2 that they had no information about Abdurakhmanov’s whereabouts.
In January 2021, two Russian citizens from Chechnya were given long prison sentences in Sweden after being convicted of attempting to kill Abdurakhmanov in February 2020.
One of the men, Ruslan Mamayev, testified that he had been acting on the behest of Chechen authorities who promised to pay him 50,000 euros ($50,000).
Kadyrov, who has ruled Chechnya since 2007 with a cult of personality around him, is frequently accused by Russian and international human rights groups of overseeing grave human rights abuses including abductions, torture, extrajudicial killings, and targeting the LGBT community.
Abdurakhmanov, a popular YouTube blogger who has been harshly critical of Kadyrov and his government in Chechnya, left Russia in 2015. He has been granted political asylum in Sweden.
He has not posted on his Telegram channel since the evening of November 30. "Normally, Tumso warns when his Telegram channel won't be active, but yesterday he did not," one commentator wrote below the post.
Abdurakhmanov’s last YouTube video was posted several weeks ago.
Blinken Says Putin Shows No Sign He's Interested In Diplomacy
Washington sees no signs that Moscow is interested in talks on ending the war in Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said.
"There's always value in diplomacy if the parties in question and in this case Russia, are actually interested in meaningful diplomacy. And what we've seen, at least recently, is exactly the contrary," Blinken told CBS News on December 4, adding that Putin had switched tactics after suffering setbacks on the battlefield.
"He's been unable to win on the battlefield, so he's taking, he's basically turning his ire and his fire on Ukrainian civilians, going after the energy infrastructure, trying to turn off the lights, turn off the heat, turn off the electricity. That's what's going on.
"So,unless and until Putin demonstrates that he's actually interested in meaningful diplomacy, it's unlikely to go anywhere," Blinken said on Face The Nation.
In recent weeks, Russia's military focus has been on striking Ukrainian infrastructure nationwide, pressing an offensive in the Donetsk region city of Bakhmut, and shelling sites in the city of Kherson, which Ukrainian forces liberated last month after an eight-month Russian occupation.
On December 1, President Joe Biden indicated he would be willing to talk with Putin if the Russian leader demonstrated that he seriously wanted to end the invasion.
"I'm prepared to speak with Mr. Putin if in fact there is an interest in him deciding that he's looking for a way to end the war," Biden said. "He hasn't done that yet."
The head of U.S. intelligence said fighting in Russia's war in Ukraine was running at a "reduced tempo" and suggested Ukrainian forces could have brighter prospects in coming months.
Avril Haines alluded to past allegations by some that Putin's advisers could be shielding him from bad news -- for Russia -- about war developments, and said he "is becoming more informed of the challenges that the military faces in Russia."
"But it's still not clear to us that he has a full picture of at this stage of just how challenged they are," Haines, the U.S. director of national intelligence, said on December 3.
The British Ministry of Defense, in its latest intelligence estimate on December 4, pointed to new signs from an independent Russian media outlet that public support in Russia for the military campaign was "falling significantly."
Meduza said it obtained a recent confidential opinion survey conducted by the Federal Protection Service, which is in charge of guarding the Kremlin and providing security to top government officials.
The survey, commissioned by the Kremlin, found that 55 percent of respondents backed peace talks with Ukraine while 25 percent wanted the war to go on. The report didn’t mention the margin of error.
With reporting by AP and Reuters
Ukrainian Presidential Aide Criticizes Musk For 'Magical Simple Solutions'
A top Ukrainian presidential aide has chided Twitter owner Elon Musk for the billionaire's "magical simple solutions," citing ideas put forward by Musk on Russia's invasion of Ukraine and Twitter content moderation. Mykhaylo Podolyak listed "exchang(ing) foreign territories for an illusory peace" and "open(ing) all private accounts because freedom of speech has to be total," as examples of such suggestions in comments on Twitter on December 4.
Russia Will Not Export Oil Subject To Western Price Cap, Deputy Prime Minister Says
Russia will not export oil that is subject a Western-imposed price cap even if Moscow has to accept a drop in oil production, President Vladimir Putin's point man on energy said on December 4. "We are working on mechanisms to prohibit the use of a price-cap instrument, regardless of what level is set, because such interference could further destabilize the market," Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Novak said. On December 4, Group of Seven countries and Australia agreed a $60-per-barrel price cap on Russian seaborne crude oil in a move to deprive President Vladimir Putin of revenue while keeping Russian oil flowing to global markets. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Rebuilding Ukraine After Russian Invasion Will Cost $500-600 Billion, Says World Bank VP
The postwar reconstruction of Ukraine will cost about 500-600 billion euros ($525 billion-$630 billion), World Bank Vice President Anna Bjerde said in an interview with the Austrian newspaper Die Presse. "Previously, we published the figure, which was calculated jointly with the European Commission and the Ukrainian government. How much money is needed to rebuild Ukraine and bring it up to European standards, for example in terms of energy efficiency? At of the beginning of June, it was about 350 billion euros," Bjerde said. But since then, she said the figure had risen significantly to the new estimate. To read the original report by Die Press, click here.
1,700 Dead Seals Found on Russia's Caspian Coast
About 1,700 seals have been found dead on the Caspian Sea coast in southern Russia, officials said on December 4. The authorities in the Russian region of Daghestan said that it's still unclear what caused the animals' deaths, but they likely died of natural causes. Regional officials initially said on December 3 that 700 dead seals were found on the coast, but a day later Zaur Gapizov, head of the Caspian Environmental Protection Center, said according to the state RIA Novosti news agency that after a broader inspection of the coast the number of dead animals was 1,700. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.
U.S. Focus On Iran Is Thwarting Weapons Aid To Russia, Not Nuclear Talks
Washington will focus on preventing the supply of Iranian weapons to Russia and supporting Iranian protests instead of continuing deadlocked negotiations with Iran on restoring the nuclear deal, said Robert Malley, the U.S. special envoy for Iran, in an interview with Bloomberg. "Iran is not interested in a deal and we're focused on other things," Malley said on December 3. To read the original story by Bloomberg, click here.
Kyiv Claims Russia Used Banned Chemical Weapon
The Ukrainian Navy has accused Russia of using a banned chemical weapon against Ukrainian troops in eastern Ukraine. In a post on Facebook on December 4, the navy asserted Russia had dropped chloropicrin grenades from drones, but that Ukrainian troops had used chemical defenses "to protect themselves from the strong irritant effect" of the prohibited substance. The chemical -- which was developed as a poison gas during World War I -- was reportedly dispersed using K-51 aerosol grenades. The reports could not be verified, and there was no immediate reaction from Moscow. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, click here.
Russian Fined For Displaying Slogan 'I Love My Father'
A court in Kazan, the capital of the Russian region of Tatarstan, has fined local resident Svetlana Poteryakhina 30,000 rubles ($480) for purportedly “discrediting” the Russian armed forces by publicly carrying a sign with the slogan, “I love my father.” Earlier, she had been fined 10,000 rubles ($160) for violating the law on demonstrations for the same incident. Poteryakhina said the demonstration occurred on September 24, shortly after President Vladimir Putin announced a mobilization to raise troops for the war in Ukraine. She said that after she was detained, police threatened her with beating, rape, and criminal charges of terrorism. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Russian Service, click here.
Iran Reportedly Shuts Down 'Morality Police' Amid Protests
Iran has cancelled its dreaded "morality police" in the wake of continuing protests following the September death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, the country's chief prosecutor has said.
Iran’s state IRNA news agency on December 4 quoted Mohammad Jafar Montazeri as saying, "the morality police have nothing to do with the judiciary."
Montazeri was responding to the question of "why the morality police were being shut down."
The controversial morality police patrols were established in 2006 under hard-line President Mahmud Ahmadinejad to enforce the country's Islamic dress codes, particularly the requirement to wear the hijab, or female head covering.
The squads of men in green uniforms and women in black chadors initially issued warnings, but soon began arresting women for alleged violations.
Montazeri was quoted the previous day as saying parliament and the judiciary were "working" on whether the law requiring women to wear the hijab in public should be changed. He added that "the results will be seen in a week or two."
On December 3, the Iranian government said more than 200 people had been killed in the protests sparked by Amini's death in September.
The United Nations and Iranian rights groups put the figure at more than 300, as the national protests have evolved into one of the most serious challenges to the theocracy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
In a December 4 interview with Iran's state broadcaster, Deputy Security Minister Majid Mirahmadi said the "main cause" of the protests was not economic.
"This is an issue, but not the main cause," Mirahmadi said. "It is a protest against injustice."
"But there are methods of implementing the constitution that can be flexible," he said.
Ukraine Briefs U.S. On Russian Missile Strikes, Presses For Air-Defense Systems
Ukrainian Army commander Valeriy Zaluzhniy has spoken with the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, by phone and pressed Kyiv's requests for additional weaponry and equipment. In a post on Facebook late on December 3, Zaluzhniy said he briefed Milley on the latest Russian missile strikes against civilian infrastructure and asked for additional anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense systems. On November 30, the United States announced a $1.2 billion contract with defense contractor Raytheon to produce sophisticated NASAMS air-defense systems for Ukraine. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, click here.
Russia Is Using The Caspian Sea To Launch Strikes Against Ukraine. So Why Are The Caspian Countries Silent?2
Russia Launches Fresh Wave Of Missile Attacks On Ukraine3
Prominent Chechen Blogger, Kadyrov Critic Reported Killed4
Echoes Of World War I Highlighted In Mud, Shattered Trees Of Ukraine5
Killing In Kherson: A Self-Made Partisan Describes His Role In The Resistance To Russia's Occupation6
The Week In Russia: Untimely Death In Ukraine7
'Only The Dead Are Not Afraid': Civilians Evacuate As New Battle Lines Emerge In Ukraine's East, South8
Russian Businessman Mikhail Fridman Reportedly Detained In London On Money-Laundering Suspicions9
Tens Of Thousands Of Dead Dolphins Among Environmental Casualties Of Ukraine War10
Nurses Working As Cleaners, Doctors Working As Waiters: Why Bulgaria Is Failing Ukrainian Refugees