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Trump Calls For Reform Of 'Lax' Immigration Following Latest New York Attack

Blast Injures At Least Four In New York 'Terror-Related' Incident
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WATCH: An explosion rocked New York's Port Authority, one of the city's busiest commuter hubs, near Times Square. (AP)

U.S. President Donald Trump has said that a bomb attack by an immigrant from Bangladesh on New York's subway system showed the "urgent need" for Congress to reform the U.S. immigration system.

Three people were injured after the attacker's pipe bomb partially exploded on December 11. The suspect, Akayed Ullah, 27, was hospitalized with severe burns and wounds on his torso and hands.

New York police said Ullah had no previous criminal record, but he appeared to be radicalized by the Islamic State extremist group after coming to the United States in 2011.

"America must fix its lax immigration system, which allows far too many dangerous, inadequately vetted people to access our country," Trump said later on December 11.

Trump said Ullah had entered the country through a legal process that allows the extended family members of U.S. citizens to obtain permanent U.S. residency.

Trump said such "chain migration" is "incompatible with national security" and must be stopped.

Trump, who campaigned on major cuts in immigration, previously called for immigration curbs after Sayfullo Saipov, an immigrant from Uzbekistan, was charged with killing eight people and injuring 12 in an October 31 truck attack in New York.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters

All Of The Latest News

Buddhist Leader Becomes First Religious Head In Russia To Openly Condemn War In Ukraine

Telo Tulku Rinpoche, also known as Erdni Ombadykov, said in an interview to a Russian blogger on YouTube over the weekend that he supports Ukraine because it was Russia that attacked Ukrainian territories. (file photo)

The Supreme Lama of Russia's Republic of Kalmykia has become the first religious leader in the Russian Federation to condemn Russia's ongoing unprovoked invasion in Ukraine.

Telo Tulku Rinpoche, also known as Erdni Ombadykov, said in an interview to a Russian blogger on YouTube over the weekend that he supports Ukraine because it was Russia that attacked Ukrainian territories.

"I think [the war] is wrong; nobody needs this war. We are all living in the 21st century, all of us want to live peacefully, each country wants to develop. I think the Ukrainian side, of course, is right -- it is defending its country, its land, its truth, its constitution, its people. It is very difficult to say and accept that Russia is right. It is very hard to say so, and this is what I cannot [say]," the leader of Kalmykia's Buddhists said during the interview.

Telo Tulku Rinpoche also said he had avoided expressing his thoughts about the war in Ukraine because he "did not want to damage the ties between the authorities and Buddhists," though he added that Buddhist leaders who openly supported the war in Ukraine could not sincerely believe in what they were saying if they are "real" Buddhists.

Telo Tulku Rinpoche is currently in Mongolia, where he is helping thousands of Kalmyks who fled Russia after Moscow launched its war against Ukraine in late February.

The influx of Russian citizens, mostly of Kalmyk, Buryat, and Tyvan origin, to Mongolia has dramatically increased in recent days after President Vladimir Putin announced on September 21 a partial military mobilization to support the war in Ukraine.

Kalmyks in Russia's southwest and Buryats in Siberia are mostly Buddhist, Mongol-speaking ethnic groups. Tyvans are another mostly Buddhist indigenous people in Siberia, whose language is Turkic.

EU Envoy Calls For Probes Into Videos Exacerbating Tensions Between Armenia, Azerbaijan

Foreign ministers Ararat Mirzoyan of Armenia and Jeyhun Bayramov of Azerbaijan meet in Geneva on October 2.

The European Union's envoy for the South Caucasus and Georgia has called for investigations into videos that appear to show potential war crimes being committed by Azerbaijan and Armenia in recent clashes that have threatened a fragile cease-fire agreement ending the worst fighting between the two neighbors since a 2020 war over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Toivo Klaar, the EU special representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia, said intwo tweets on October 3 that the videos he received, which have not been independently verified, need to be investigated and, "if authentic" the perpetrators "need to be held responsible."

"The conflict has left deep wounds on both sides and to heal accountability is needed," he said.

The latest claims started on October 2 when gruesome video posted on social media appeared to show Azerbaijani soldiers executing several Armenian prisoners of war at close range.

On the same day, videos also surfaced that purportedly show a group of soldiers and civilians insulting corpses wearing military and civilian uniforms. The video claims that the dead soldiers and civilians are Azerbaijanis and those who insulted them are Armenian soldiers.

It is not clear when the videos were filmed, though they came after a flare-up in clashes last month that killed more than 200 soldiers in total from both sides.

Baku and Yerevan have been locked in a conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh for years. Armenian-backed separatists seized the mainly Armenian-populated region from Azerbaijan during a war in the early 1990s that killed some 30,000 people.

The two sides fought another war in 2020 that lasted six weeks before a Russia-brokered cease-fire, resulting in Armenia losing control over parts of the region, which is part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent districts.

Under the cease-fire Armenia ceded swaths of territory it had controlled for decades, and Moscow deployed about 2,000 troops to the region to serve as peacekeepers.

However, the situation in the region remains tense, with both sides accusing the other of breaking the cease-fire.

The foreign ministers of the two countries met on October 2 in Geneva for EU-mediated talks on a possible peace treaty.

Finland, Poland Summon Russian Ambassadors Over 'Sham' Referendums In Ukraine

Russia's ambassador to Finland, Pavel Kuznetsov (left), welcomes Russian President Vladimir Putin as he arrives at Helsinki Airport in 2018.

Finland and Poland say they have summoned Russia's ambassadors in their countries to condemn Russia’s attempt to illegally annex an additional four Ukrainian regions through referendums widely seen as a sham.

The Finnish Foreign Ministry in Helsinki said in a tweet on October 3 that it had summoned the Russian ambassador "to express the strongest condemnation of the sham referenda and announcement of illegal annexation of occupied Ukrainian regions by Russia, a blatant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and the UN Charter."

In Warsaw, Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz told TVN24 on October 3 that Russia's ambassador had been summoned to meet at 11 a.m. CET "over Russia’s actions last week."

He added that further meetings were likely to be held across Europe to "express this position," though he did not expect to declare the Russian envoy persona non grata for the time being.

"I will not make such an announcement today," he said.

"We are hashing over such decisions with our allies in the EU and NATO. And if we come to the conclusion jointly with all [our] European and Euro-Atlantic allies that such steps would be necessary and beneficial, then we will take them," Przydacz added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on September 30 signed documents formalizing Russia's attempt to annex Ukraine's Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya regions, parts of which are occupied by Russian forces. Earlier, Moscow directed wartime referendums in the four regions that were broadly rejected by the international community.

Well-Known Women's Rights Activist Arrested In Iran; University Suspends Courses Amid Protests

Iranian student activist Bahareh Hedayat is a former political prisoner who has been arrested and imprisoned several times. (file photo)

Well-known student and human rights activist Bahareh Hedayat was arrested in Tehran early on October 3, the BBC reported, amid a wave of protests triggered by the death in custody of a young woman.

The woman, Mahsa Amini, died on September 16 after she was detained for days by the morality police for allegedly wearing her headscarf too loosely.

Hedayat is a former political prisoner who has been arrested and imprisoned several times.

Another political activist and former student activist, Hossein Masumi, was detained on October 2. His family does not know his whereabouts.

Since the beginning of nationwide protests in Iran, which continue for the 16th day, there has been a wave of arrests of political and civil activists.

Early on October 3, classes were suspended and moved online at Iran's Sharif University, a leading higher-education institution and traditionally a hotbed for dissent, after clashes erupted overnight between students and security forces, local media said.

Based on reporting by BBC and AFP

Russian Scientist Charged With Treason Dies While Under House Arrest

Valery Mitko was placed under house arrest in February 2020 for allegedly transferring classified materials to China during regular visits he made there as a teacher. (file photo)

An 81-year-old Russian scientist placed under house arrest after being charged with high treason two years ago has died.

The Pervy Otdel (First Unit) human rights group said on October 2 that Valery Mitko died after suffering his fourth heart attack. The group noted he had been barred from taking regular walks outside of his apartment in St. Petersburg.

Mitko was placed under house arrest in February 2020 for allegedly transferring classified materials to China during regular visits he made there as a teacher.

Mitko denied the charges. He and his lawyers insisted the only materials he took to China were related to his scientific and teaching work.

Russian media reports said at the time that Mitko was accused of delivering top-secret information to China about hydroacoustic research and the detection of submarines.

For years Russian scientists had been encouraged to cooperate with fellow researchers in other countries, but those contacts forged with their counterparts abroad have recently led many to be arrested on treason charges they deny.

Kremlin critics say the charges often stem from unfounded paranoia and attempts to stifle any dissent.

Updated

Ukrainian Forces Continue Advance In Lyman Area As Russian Losses Mount

Members of the battalion of the National Police of Ukraine Zakhid pose after the liberation of Lyman on October 2.

The Ukrainian military says its forces continued their advance in the Donetsk region a day after taking full control of the strategic eastern city of Lyman, as Russia continues to sustain numerous casualties.

Serhiy Cherevaty, spokesman for the Eastern Group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said Ukrainian troops liberated the settlement of Torske near Lyman on October 2 and are hitting Russian military units in Kreminna, in the Luhansk region, "with fire."

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported on October 3 that Russia lost 320 soldiers the previous day, most of them in the Kramatorsk and Bakhmut directions. Ukraine says that in total Russia has lost lost about 60,400 soldiers since the start of its invasion in February.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said last month that Russian losses amount to 5,937.

Neither figure could be independently verified.

There were also reports on October 3 that Ukrainian forces were recapturing towns along the west bank of the Dnipro River in southern Ukraine.

The scale of the Ukrainian advance was unconfirmed, with Kyiv maintaining all but complete silence about the situation in the area. However, Russian military bloggers described a Ukrainian tank advance through dozens of kilometers of territory along the riverbank.

In a rare comment by a Ukrainian official on the situation, Anton Herashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine's interior minister, posted what he said was a video of a Ukrainian soldier waving a flag in Zolota Balka, downriver from the former front line.

The latest reports came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on October 2 announced that Ukrainian troops were in full control of Lyman in the Donbas region.

Zelenskiy made the brief comment in a video clip posted to his Telegram channel on October 2.

"As of 12:30 p.m., Lyman is fully cleared," he said. "Thank you to our soldiers. Glory to Ukraine."

The recapture of Lyman was Ukrainian forces' most significant battlefield gain in weeks and followed a counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region to the north that swept Russian forces and stunned many observers.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Washington was "very encouraged" by Ukrainian gains.

Lyman sits at a crossroads and a switch yard for railroads, and analysts say Ukrainian troops would likely use the city as a staging post for further advances east.

The city had been the scene of intense fighting for days, with Ukrainian troops gradually encircling it and the estimated 5,000 Russian troops that were defending it.

Russia’s Defense Ministry on October 1 said it was pulling troops out of the area "in connection with the creation of a threat of encirclement."

Unconfirmed reports said Russian forces there had suffered heavy casualties and an unknown number of soldiers were taken prisoner.

It was the latest setback for Russian President Vladimir Putin, coming one day after he proclaimed the annexation of four Ukrainian regions that have been partly occupied by Russian forces for months now.

The Donetsk region, where Lyman is located, is one of the four regions Putin claimed.

Kyiv and the West have condemned the annexation declaration as illegal and a farce.

Ramzan Kadyrov, an ally of Putin and head of Russia's Chechnya region, has said Moscow should consider using a low-yield nuclear weapon in Ukraine after the loss of Lyman.

In a statement criticizing Russian generals for the loss of Lyman, Kadyrov said it was time for the Kremlin to make use of every weapon at its disposal.

“I do not know what the Defense Ministry reports to the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, but in my personal opinion we need to take more drastic measures, including declaring martial law in the border territories and using low-yield nuclear weapons,” Kadyrov said on his Telegram channel.

Putin's declaration that Russia was annexing Donetsk, along with Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya, was a major escalation by the Kremlin. Observers said it signaled a further digging-in by the Russian leadership, dampening prospects for a peace deal.

Together with Crimea, which Moscow seized in 2014, the four regions make up around 20 percent of Ukraine, including some of its most industrialized territory.

Russia's setbacks on the battlefield also come amid reports of chaos in a mobilization ordered less than two weeks ago by Putin that has seen tens of thousands of Russian men suddenly called up into the military and tens of thousands of others fleeing abroad.

Mikhail Degtyarev, governor of the Khabarovsk region in Russia's Far East, said around half of the thousands of men called up there had been found unfit for duty and sent back home. He said he fired the region's military commissar.

"The military commissar of the Khabarovsk region, Yuri Laiko, has been suspended," Degtyaryev said in a video posted on Telegram.

This will have no impact on the fulfilment of the tasks that the president has set for us," Degtyaryev said in a Telegram video.

With reporting by Reuters

Early Results In Bosnian Vote Show Reformist Bosniak Candidate Winning Seat In Shared Presidency

Denis Becirovic of the Social Democratic Party arrives to address the media and supporters in Sarajevo after Bosnia-Herzegovina's general election on October 2.

The first preliminary results in Bosnia-Herzegovina's general election showed cooperation-prone Bosniak candidate Denis Becirovic on course to win a seat in the country's tripartite presidency.

Becirovic, a candidate of the united Bosniak opposition front, will likely be joined in the tripartite presidency by Bosnian Croat representative Borjana Kristo, the candidate of the Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia, and Bosnian Serb Zeljka Cvijanovic from the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats.

Balloting on October 2 was held to choose the three members of the shared presidency, parliament deputies at the state, entity, and regional levels, and the president of the country’s Serb-run part. More than 60,000 observers were accredited to oversee the process.

The preliminary results were based on 1,816 processed polling stations or 54.83 percent of the total.

WATCH: Early voters came to polling stations in the Balkan state of Bosnia-Herzegovina in the morning of October 2 to choose the three members of the Bosnian presidency, parliament deputies at the state, entity, and regional levels, and the president of the country's Serb-run part.

Voting Kicks Off In Bosnian General Elections
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Voter turnout was 50 percent -- more than 2 percentage points down from the 2018 general election.

The elections were expected to bring little change to the leadership of a country racked by clientelism, corruption, and poverty.

Officials said the voting had proceeded in a satisfactory manner despite reports of irregularities and the detention of some people over ballot fraud.

Voting at one polling station was suspended and five officials detained after independent monitors reported irregularities with ballots, news portal Klix had reported earlier.

After polls closed, Bosnia's international peace overseer announced he had imposed changes to the election law aimed at preventing blockades of the government.

"I imposed measures that will improve the functionality of the institutions in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. They will enable all citizens to have their voices heard and ensure that they are truly represented by those they elected," said Christian Schmidt, who has vast powers as international high representative in Bosnia.

"It is crucial for destiny of this country that there will be no blockades," Schmidt added.

Bosnia-Herzegovina's 3.4 million registered voters were given a choice from a huge slate of more than 100 parties and coalitions in the country's eighth general election, but the beleaguered Balkan state's postelection landscape will almost certainly be dominated by many of the same personalities that have thrived on existential crisis and patronage for years and even amplified their ethnic vitriol in campaigning.

It also took place amid Russia's war in Ukraine, which has further divided Bosnia and stoked fears of raising the temperature on long-simmering issues in the Balkan state.

Bosnia remains divided into a Bosniak and Croat federation and the mostly Serb entity of Republika Srpska under the terms of the 1995 Dayton Agreements that ended three years of war in the former Yugoslav republic marked by ethnic cleansing and brutality.

A handful of races in the upper house of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina -- whose seats are chosen indirectly, after the elections -- could dramatically affect obstruction efforts that have paralyzed the government for years. The results could go a long way toward answering whether Bosnia is fated, at least for the near future, to remain one of Europe's most vulnerable hotspots.

Much of the attention was also expected to focus on Bosnia's Serb-run part, Republika Srpska, and its leader, Milorad Dodik, who has pushed for an acceleration of the Serb-dominated region's secessionist efforts.

Dodik chose to run for the president of Republika Srpska rather than seek a second term in the tripartite presidency.

Both Dodik, and his main contender, Jelena Trivic, proclaimed victory in the race for the Republika Srpska presidency.

Their claims will be tested later on October 3, when the election commission is expected to announce preliminary results of the presidential ballot for Republika Srpska and the races for parliament deputies at the state, entity, and regional levels.

Dodik has maintained close ties with neighboring Serbia and with Russia for diplomatic and other support to resist Bosnia's federal structure and international pressure.

The United States announced sanctions against Dodik in 2017 and again in January over his secessionist efforts.

With reporting by Reuters

Partial Results Show Party Of Bulgarian Ex-PM Borisov Winning Snap Poll

The party of former Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, shown talking to journalists after polling on October 2, came in second in the vote with 20.2 percent.

Partial results in Bulgaria's snap parliamentary elections show the center-right Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party of longtime leader Boyko Borisov has finished with the highest percentage of the vote, the fourth such poll in 18 months.

Results from 99 percent of ballots counted showed on October 3 that GERB won 25.4 percent of votes, while the centrist anti-graft We Continue the Change (PP) party of former Prime Minister Kiril Petkov came second, with 20.2 percent in the fourth election in the European Union's poorest member country in less than two years.

Final official results that would also tally the ballots from abroad are expected on October 5.

Voter turnout on October 2 was estimated at about 30 percent.

Petkov and former Finance Minister Assen Vassilev, co-chairs of the PP party, conceded and declared they will not participate in a coalition with GERB.

"It is GERB's responsibility to form a government. We promised that we will never participate in a coalition with GERB and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) and we will keep our promise," said Petkov, referring to the ethnic-Turkish backed DPS.

Vassilev added that GERB and DPS were both a "symbol of corruption" in Bulgarian politics.

The southeastern European country of nearly 7 million people has been plagued by political gridlock since 2020, when it was rocked by nationwide protests as public anger over years of corruption boiled over. Much of the ire was directed at Borisov and GERB.

The latest government, led by Petkov, collapsed in June after just six months when one of its coalition partners quit. Petkov and the pro-reform PP had struggled to deliver on his pledge to stamp out corruption.

Petkov has also backed Ukraine in its fight against Russia in a country traditionally friendly toward Moscow and has accused the Kremlin of helping orchestrate the collapse of his government, which refused to pay for gas in rubles as demanded by Russia.

The elections were marked by a lack of political enthusiasm, with turnout of just 25 percent by 4 p.m. local time.

After casting his vote earlier on October 2, Borisov told reporters that Bulgaria needs to clearly position itself in Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine.

"With this aggression, with this war, with a clear aggressor in the face of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin -- (I have) nothing against the Russian people -- with this farce with the referendums, Bulgaria must be very clear, categorical, and precise about its place in the European Union and NATO," he said, adding that Bulgaria's entry into the eurozone should be the first and most important task.

A total of seven parties have reached the 4 percent threshold needed to enter parliament, among them the far-right Revival party that has taken advantage of a wave of populism sweeping Europe spurred by economic fears and uncertainty first stoked by the COVID-19 pandemic and now Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Revival has promised to take Bulgaria out of the EU and NATO and advance policies friendly to the Kremlin.

While many experts dismiss the anti-Western rhetoric of Revival as little more than campaign bluster, they do caution that the party is doing the bidding of the Kremlin.

Early results gave Revival more than 10 percent of ballots counted.

With reporting by AP

Police Clash With Protesters At Tehran University

Protesters rally in Tehran on October 2. Iran has seen a rare outburst of sustained public anger, driven in large part by women.

Iranian security forces have clashed with students at a university in the capital of Tehran in the latest protests in Iran linked to the death in custody of a young woman.

The woman, Mahsa Amini, died on September 16 after she was detained for days by the morality police for allegedly wearing her headscarf too loosely.

Since her death, Iran has seen a rare outburst of sustained public anger, driven in large part by Iranian women.

Videos posted on social media on October 2 showed Sharif University, traditionally a hotbed of dissent, surrounded by dozens of riot police.

One of the videos showed security forces firing teargas to drive the students off the campus and the sound of what appeared to be shooting in the distance could be heard.

Another video showed security forces chasing dozens of students trapped in the university's underground parking. The account said dozens of students had been arrested.

Iranian state media described "reports of clashes" at the university and said the country's science minister visited the campus to check on the situation.

Students were protesting at numerous universities on October 2 and demonstrations were held in several cities, such as Tehran, Yazd, Kermanshah, Sanandaj, Shiraz, and Mashhad, with participants chanting "independence, freedom, death to [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei," earlier social media posts showed.

Iran Human Rights, a Norway-based group, in a statement said that "so far 133 people have been killed across Iran," including more than 40 people it said died in clashes last week in Zahedan, capital of the southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan Province.

With reporting by Reuters

Central, Eastern European States Back Ukraine's NATO Bid

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (left) and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg bump fists at a press conference in Brussels in December 2021.

Nine Central and Eastern European countries have given their backing to Ukraine's bid to join NATO and urged the Western alliance to provide Kyiv with more weapons to defend itself against invading Russian forces.

The statement, issued on October 2, was signed by the leaders of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia.

The joint statement comes after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced on September 30 that Ukraine had submitted an application for accession to NATO under an accelerated procedure.

That announcement came the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed Russia had annexed four Ukrainian regions that are partially occupied by invading Russian forces.

Putin's declaration that Russia was annexing Donetsk, along with Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya, was viewed as a major escalation by the Kremlin.

"We reiterate our support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. We do not recognize and will never recognize Russian attempts to annex any Ukrainian territory," the statement by the nine leaders said.

It said the leaders "firmly stood behind the 2008 Bucharest NATO Summit decision concerning Ukraine’s future membership."

At the 2008 summit, NATO members welcomed Ukraine and Georgia's aspirations to join, but declined to provide a clear timeline for the two countries’ possible ascension.

Asked about Ukraine's NATO bid, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told U.S. TV that "any decision on membership has to be taken by consensus all 30 allies have to agree to make such a decision."

Stoltenberg also said Ukraine’s capture of the city of Lyman, which is in Donetsk, was proof that Ukrainians are making progress and able to push back against Russian forces.

"We have seen that they have been able to take a new town, Lyman, and that demonstrates that the Ukrainians are making progress, are able to push back the Russian forces because of the courage, because of their bravery, their skills, but of course also because of the advanced weapons that the United States and other allies are providing," Stoltenberg said in an interview with NBC's Meet The Press.

The best way to counter Russia's proclaimed annexation of parts of Ukraine is to continue supporting the government in Kyiv, Stoltenberg said.

German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht, meanwhile, on October 2 announced the delivery of 16 wheeled armored howitzers produced in Slovakia to Ukraine next year. The weapons will be financed jointly with Denmark, Norway, and Germany.

With reporting by AP and Reuters

Damaged Nord Stream 1 Pipeline Stabilized, Gas Leak Halted

A gas leak fromone of the pipelines is seen roiling Baltic Sea waters in the Swedish economic zone following a rupture on September 26.

Stable pressure has been achieved in the damaged Nord Stream 1 pipeline, authorities in Denmark say, indicating the outflow of natural gas from the last leaks has now halted.

A total of four leaks were discovered on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines in the Baltic Sea near Denmark and Sweden last week.

While neither pipeline was in use at the time of the suspected blasts, they were filled with gas that has been spewing out and bubbling to the surface of the Baltic Sea since September 26.

On October 1, the Danish Energy Agency announced that gas was no longer flowing out of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Three leaks -- two in the Danish zone and one in the Swedish zone -- were discovered last week in the two major Russian underwater pipelines designed to ship natural gas to Germany, while Sweden on September 29 said its coast guard had found a fourth leak.

The incidents come amid rising tensions between Europe and Russia over the war in Ukraine.

While both NATO and the European Union say the leaks were caused by sabotage, they have so far refrained from directly pinning the blame on Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on September 30 accused the West of sabotaging the Russian-built pipelines, a charge denied by the United States and its allies.

European Union leaders will discuss the security of crucial infrastructure when they meet in Prague next week.

"Sabotage of Nord Stream pipelines is a threat to the EU," Charles Michel, who chairs meetings of EU leaders, said in a tweet on October 1 after talks with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen in Brussels.

"We are determined to secure our critical infrastructure. Leaders will address this at the upcoming summit in Prague," he wrote.

The leaders of EU member states are scheduled to meet in the Czech capital on October 7.

With reporting by AP and Reuters

Pope Calls On Putin To Stop 'This Spiral Of Violence And Death'

Pope Francis made the remarks on October 2 in his weekly public prayer on St. Peter's Square at the Vatican.

Pope Francis has called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop "this spiral of violence and death" over the war in Ukraine.

Francis's remarks, made on October 2 in his weekly public prayer on St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, were some of the strongest remarks he has made since the February 24 invasion.

"My appeal is addressed first of all to the president of the Russian Federation, begging him to stop, also for the love of his people, this spiral of violence and death," Francis said.

"On the other hand, saddened by the immense suffering of the Ukrainian population following the aggression suffered, I direct an equally confident appeal to the president of Ukraine to be open to serious peace proposals," he said.

The Roman Catholic leader also decried the growing risk of nuclear war, calling it "absurd."

"I deeply regret the serious situation that has arisen in recent days, with further actions contrary to the principles of international law," he said. "In fact, it increases the risk of a nuclear escalation, to the point of fearing uncontrollable and catastrophic consequences worldwide."

The pope's comments came two days after Putin gave a fiery Kremlin speech in which he announced Russia was annexing four regions of Ukraine that are partially occupied by Russian forces.

In the September 30 speech, Putin also made veiled threats about using nuclear weapons in the conflict, echoing earlier remarks in which he warned the West "this is not a bluff."

The Kremlin had no immediate reaction to the pope's comments.

Zelenskiy Says Ukrainian Troops In Full Control Of Strategic City Of Lyman

A Ukrainian soldier takes down a Russian flag hoisted on a monument in Lyman on October 1.

Ukraine's president has declared that Ukrainian troops are in full control of the eastern city of Lyman, a strategic city in the Donbas region that Russian forces withdrew from a day earlier.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy made the brief comment in a video clip posted to his Telegram channel on October 2.

"As of 12:30 p.m., Lyman is fully cleared," he said. "Thank you to our soldiers. Glory to Ukraine."

The recapture of Lyman is the Ukrainian forces' most significant battlefield gain in weeks, and followed a counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region to the north that swept Russian forces and stunned many observers.

Lyman sits at a crossroads and a rail hub and analysts say Ukrainian troops will likely use the city as a staging post for further advances east.

The city had been the scene of intense fighting for days, with Ukrainian troops gradually encircling it and the estimated 5,000 Russian troops that were defending it.

Russia's Defense Ministry on October 1 said it was pulling troops out of the area "in connection with the creation of a threat of encirclement."

Unconfirmed reports said Russian forces there had suffered heavy casualties, and an unknown number of soldiers taken prisoner.

It was the latest setback for Russian President Vladimir Putin, coming the day after he proclaimed the annexation of four Ukrainian regions that have been partly occupied by Russian forces for months now.

The Donetsk region, where Lyman is located, is one of those four regions Putin claimed.

Kyiv and the West have condemned the annexation declaration as illegal and a farce.

"The liberation of this city in the Donetsk region is one of the key factors for the further de-occupation of the Luhansk region," Serhiy Hayday, the head of the Luhansk military administration, wrote on Telegram.

Putin’s declaration that Russia was annexing Donetsk, along with Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya, was a major escalation by the Kremlin. Observers said it signaled a further digging-in by the Russian leadership, dampening prospects for a peace deal.

Together with Crimea, which Moscow seized in 2014, the four regions make up around 20 percent of Ukraine, including some of its most industrialized territory.

Kyiv has said it will not negotiate with Moscow as long as Putin remains in power.

In the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson, Ukrainian forces have been waging a parallel counteroffensive that has so far yielded few of the dramatic gains seen in Kharkiv.

Experts say Russian commanders shifted some of their most experienced and capable units away from the Donbas to Kherson in August, in anticipation of a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

With reporting by Reuters

Swiss Police Fire Rubber Bullets To Break Up Anti-Iranian Protests

Protesters gather in support of Iranian women and against the death of Mahsa Amini in Madrid on October 1, said to be one of the 159 rallies around the world.

Swiss police have fired rubber bullets as protesters demonstrated outside Iran's embassy in Bern, and two men climbed over the embassy's fence and pulled the Iranian flag from a flagpole.

No one was injured in the October 1 demonstrations, which were one of dozens held around the world in solidarity with protests being held inside Iran over the death of a 22-year-old woman while in police custody.

The woman, Mahsa Amini, died on September 16 after she was detained for days by the morality police for allegedly wearing her headscarf too loosely.

Since her death, Iran has seen rare outburst of sustained public anger, driven in large part by Iranian women.

In Bern, police said they used rubber bullets after several other protesters at the unauthorized demonstration also tried to enter the embassy's yard.

The two men who entered the embassy premises were detained, police said.

Rallies were held on October 1 in 159 cities around the world, according to an Iranian human rights organization.

Iran has blamed outside forces for the protests, which are some of the largest and most sustained protests in the country in years.

A Norway-based rights group said at least 92 people have been killed across Iran amid the ongoing police crackdown on the Amini protests.

"The international community has a duty to investigate this crime and prevent further crimes from being committed by the Islamic Republic," Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, director of Iran Human Rights, said in a statement on October 2.

Activists and relatives say Amini was killed by blows to the head while she was in police custody. They've rejected authorities’ claim that she had suffered a heart attack.

News of her death struck a nerve in a country already wracked by social unrest over poor living conditions and economic hardship. That hardship has been exacerbated by crippling U.S. economic sanctions imposed in response to Iran's nuclear program.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Farda, AFP, and Swissinfo.ch

Russia Blocks Audio-Streaming Site SoundCloud, Citing Spread Of 'False Information'

The Russian state communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, has blocked access to Twitter and banned Meta's Facebook and Instagram.

Russian regulators have reportedly blocked the website of the audio-streaming app SoundCloud, citing "false information" about the war in Ukraine.

Russian news agencies TASS and Interfax reported on October 2 that communications watchdog Roskomnadzor had blocked the site at the request of the Prosecutor-General's Office.

"Roskomnadzor restricted access to the SoundCloud service in connection with placement of materials containing false information regarding the nature of the special military operation on the territory of Ukraine," Interfax quoted the regulator as saying.

According to some reports, the order only affected the SoundCloud website; the mobile version of the app was still accessible within Russia.

Since the February 24 invasion of Ukraine, Russian officials have stepped up efforts to censor information and criticism about the war.

Lawmakers passed a law shortly after the invasion criminalizing "the distribution of false information" about the Russian armed forces, and prosecutors have charged dozens of people.

The regulator has throttled access to Twitter and banned Meta's Facebook and Instagram.

It was unclear why authorities moved against SoundCloud now. However, some media reports said broadcasts by RFE/RL's Russian Service might be the primary reason.

SoundCloud in Russia was used not only by news media, but also independent musicians, podcast authors, and others.

After the invasion, the Prosecutor-General's Office demanded that SoundCloud and other podcast platforms remove podcasts by the independent news site Mediazona and war-related productions from the BBC, Kholod, Doxa, and other media.

With reporting by Mediazona
Updated

Polls Close In Bosnian Vote Amid Little Hope For Change

Voting Kicks Off In Bosnian General Elections
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Polls have closed in Bosnia-Herzegovina after elections that were expected to bring little change to the leadership of a country racked by clientelism, corruption, and poverty.

Balloting on October 2 was held to choose the three members of the Bosnian presidency, parliament deputies at the state, entity, and regional levels, and the president of the country's Serb-run entity. More than 60,000 observers were accredited to oversee the process.

Voter turnout was 50 percent or over 2 percentage points down from the 2018 general election.

Officials said the voting had proceeded in a satisfactory manner despite reports of irregularities and the detention of some people over ballot fraud.

Voting at one polling station was suspended and five officials detained after independent monitors reported irregularities with ballots, news portal Klix had reported earlier.

After polls closed, Bosnia's international peace overseer announced he had imposed changes to the election law aimed at preventing blockades of the government.

"I imposed measures that will improve the functionality of the institutions in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. They will enable all citizens to have their voices heard and ensure that they are truly represented by those they elected," said Christian Schmidt, who has vast powers as international high representative in Bosnia.

"It is crucial for destiny of this country that there will be no blockades," Schmidt added.

Bosnia's 3.4 million registered voters could choose from a huge slate of more than 100 parties and coalitions in the country's eighth general election, but the beleaguered Balkan state's postelection landscape will almost certainly be dominated by many of the same personalities that have thrived on existential crisis and patronage for years, and even amplified their ethnic vitriol in campaigning.

It also took place amid Russia's war in Ukraine, which has further divided Bosnia and raised fears of raising the temperature on long-simmering issues in the Balkan state.

Bosnia remains divided into a Bosniak and Croat federation and the mostly Serbian entity of Republika Srpska under the terms of the 1995 Dayton agreements that ended three years of war in the former Yugoslav republic marked by ethnic cleansing and brutality.

Toby Vogel, a Western Balkans analyst and senior associate of the Democratization Policy Council who has been critical of Western failures in Bosnia, says he doubts the vote will be "transformative."

"At the end of today, the problems in Bosnia are not linked to who's in power and who's in opposition, but to how power is structured and the exercise of power structure. These are structural problems that go back to the Dayton peace accords and the constitutional setup that they contain," he said.

Still, tight races among the tripartite federal presidency's ethnically apportioned seats, including an unprecedented challenge for the majority Bosniaks' seat, was expected to make for an interesting day of balloting.

Meanwhile, a handful of races in the upper house of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina -- whose seats are chosen indirectly, after the elections -- could dramatically affect obstruction efforts that have paralyzed government for years. And the results could go a long way toward answering whether Bosnia is fated, at least for the near future, to remain one of Europe's most vulnerable hotspots.

Much of the attention was also expected to focus on the Republika Srpska and its leader, Milorad Dodik, who has pushed an acceleration of the entity's secessionist efforts.

Dodik has maintained close ties with neighboring Serbia and with Russia for diplomatic and other support to resist Bosnia's federal structure and international pressure.

The United States announced sanctions against Dodik in 2017 and again in January over his secessionist efforts.


With reporting by Reuters
Updated

Exit Polls And Early Results Show Party Of Bulgarian Ex-PM Borisov Winning Snap Poll

Former Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov enters a polling station to cast his ballot in the town of Bankya on October 2.

Exit polls and early results in Bulgaria suggest the center-right Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party of longtime leader Boyko Borisov has won snap parliamentary elections, the fourth such poll in 18 months.

An exit poll conducted by the Gallup International pollster showed GERB with 24.6 percent, apparently edging out the reformist We Continue the Change (PP) party of former Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, which is expected to take 18.9 percent.

Polling data from Alpha Research had GERB with 25.5 percent, followed by PP with 19.9 percent.

Early preliminary results largely mirrored the exit polling data with GERB with more than 25 percent of the vote, followed by PP with 22 percent with 12 percent of the ballots counted.

Voter turnout on October 2 was estimated at about 30 percent.

Petkov and former Finance Minister Assen Vassilev, co-chairs of the PP party, later conceded and declared they will not participate in a coalition with GERB.

"It is GERB's responsibility to form a government. We promised that we will never participate in a coalition with GERB and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and we will keep our promise," Petkov said, referring to an ethnic-Turkish-backed party, the DPS.

Vassilev added that GERB and the DPS were both a "symbol of corruption" in Bulgarian politics.

The Southeast European country of nearly 7 million people has been plagued by political gridlock since 2020, when it was rocked by nationwide protests as public anger over years of corruption boiled over.

Much of the ire was directed at longtime leader Borisov and GERB.

The latest government, led by Petkov, collapsed in June after just six months when one of its coalition partners quit. Petkov has struggled to deliver on his pledge to stamp out corruption.

He has also backed Ukraine in its fight against Russia in a country traditionally friendly toward Moscow and accuses the Kremlin of helping orchestrate the collapse of his government, which refused to pay for gas in rubles as demanded by Russia.

After casting his vote, Borisov told reporters that Bulgaria needs to clearly position itself on Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine.

"With this, aggression, with this war with a clear aggressor in the face of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin -- [I have] nothing against the Russian people -- with this farce with the referendums, Bulgaria must be very clear, categorical, and precise about its place in the European Union and NATO," he said, adding that Bulgaria's entry into the eurozone should be the first and most important task.

Petkov rejected recent polls as questionable and voiced confidence that the vote will yield positive results for his party.

"After this election, we will make a coalition with the Bulgarian people," Petkov told reporters after casting his ballot.

"Today's election is very important. The choice is between going back to the years of transition or to break with this period once and for all and heading to a new prosperous and reformed Bulgaria. I believe that all Bulgarians today will make the choice for Bulgaria to move forward," Petkov said.

As many as eight parties may break the 4 percent threshold needed to gain entrance to parliament and take seats in the 240-member legislature.

One of them, the far-right Revival party which has been polling at around 11 percent to 13 percent, has taken advantage of a wave of populism sweeping Europe -- as witnessed by recent gains by far-right parties in Italy and Sweden -- spurred by economic fears and uncertainty first stoked by the COVID-19 pandemic and now Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

The Revival party has promised to take Bulgaria out of the EU and NATO, and advance policies friendly to the Kremlin.

While many experts dismiss the anti-Western rhetoric of the Revival party as little more than campaign bluster, they do caution that the party is doing the bidding of the Kremlin.

Alpha Research polling showed Revival securing 10 percent of the vote.

Early results gave Revival more than 11 percent of ballots counted. The DPS had 9 percent as did the Bulgarian Socialist Party.

With reporting by AP

UN Nuclear Watchdog Calls For Release Of Detained Ukrainian Plant Director

IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi speaks with journalists after he and part of an IAEA mission come back from the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant at a nearby Ukrainian checkpoint on September 1.

The United Nations' nuclear watchdog has called for the release of the director of Ukraine's largest nuclear power plant, who was reportedly abducted by a Russian military patrol.

The call late on October 1 by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi came one day after Ihor Murashov was detained while travelling between the Zaporizhzhya plant and the town of Enerhodar.

Murashov "was taken out of the car, and with his eyes blindfolded, he was driven in an unknown direction," Enerhoatom, the Ukrainian state company that oversees the plant, said on Facebook.

Grossi "expressed the hope that Mr. Murashov will return to his family safely and promptly and will be able to resume his important functions at the plant," the IAEA said on Twitter.

Murashov's detention had had a "very significant impact" on him and nuclear safety and security standards, the agency said.

It's unclear exactly why Murashov was detained. Russian authorities have made no statement about the detention.

The plant and the surrounding area have been controlled by Russian forces since March, while Ukrainian staff have continued operating the plant.

Its last reactor was shut down in September because of shelling near the plant.

Kyiv and the IAEA have warned of the possibility of an environmental catastrophe because of nearby fighting.

Russia has rejected calls to create a demilitarized zone around the Zaporizhzhya plant.

Last month, the IAEA's board of governors passed a resolution calling on Russia to end its occupation of the plant and to "immediately cease all actions" against it and "any other nuclear facility in Ukraine."

Russia and China voted against the resolution.

Iranian-American, 85, Allowed To Leave Iran, Son Released From Prison On Furlough

A photo shows Iranian-American consultant Siamak Namazi (right) and father Baquer Namazi, both of whom had been held in Iran.

An Iranian-American previously barred from leaving Iran is now allowed to depart and his imprisoned son was released on a furlough, the United Nations and the men's lawyer said.

The UN said in a statement on October 1 that following appeals by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to the Iranian president, Tehran has agreed to allow Baquer Namazi to leave the country for medical treatment and that his son, Siamak Namazi, has been granted a furlough.

Siamak Namazi, a 50-year-old Iranian-American who has been imprisoned for nearly seven years, has been allowed out of Tehran's Evin prison on a one-week, renewable furlough, lawyer Jared Genser said in a statement.

Baquer Namazi, 85, a former UNICEF official who reportedly suffers from a heart condition, had earlier been released from prison on a medical furlough but was barred from leaving Iran.

“We are delighted to share the news as announced by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that Baquer Namazi's travel ban has been lifted and that, for the first time in seven years, Siamak Namazi is at home with his parents in Tehran," said Genser, who is listed as a pro bono counsel to the two men.

"While these are critical first steps, we will not rest until the Namazis can all return to the United States and their long nightmare has finally come to an end," he added.

It was not immediately clear if the moves were related to a separate announcement in which Iran's Nournews said that a regional country had mediated between Iran and the United States for the "simultaneous release of prisoners."

"In recent weeks, intensive talks, with the mediation of a regional country were held for the release of Iranian and American prisoners," the semiofficial news agency said.

It also said that "billions of dollars of Iran's frozen assets because of the U.S. sanctions will be released soon."

The two Namazi men received 10-year prison sentences in 2015 for "collaborating with the hostile American government" -- charges they both denied.

Washington also rejected the allegations and called for their immediate release.

Siamak Namazi was based in Dubai with the Crescent Petroleum Company and was detained while visiting family in Tehran in 2015.

Baquer Namazi was arrested at the Tehran airport. He served two years of his sentence before being placed on a medical furlough but was forced to remain in Iran until the latest announcement.

He suffers from a heart condition and was hospitalized several times while in prison.

With reporting by Reuters

In Visit To Moldova, German Defense Chief Promises Further Military, Energy Aid

German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht shakes hands with her Moldovan counterpart Anatolie Nosatîi during a visit to Chișinau on October 1.

CHISINAU -- German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht has said Berlin is prepared to provide drones and other military equipment to Moldova as Chisinau looks warily at Russia’s intensions in the region following its invasion of Ukraine.

In a joint news conference with counterpart Anatolie Nosatii on October 1, Lambrecht said that “I would not be revealing any secrets if I say that it is about the purchase of drones and other equipment."

She also said the German military is ready to provide military training to Moldova, which has a long border with Ukraine and has been hosting hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees since the start of Moscow's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Russia has some 1,500 troops in Moldova's Moscow-backed separatist region of Transdniester, a sliver of land sandwiched between Moldova proper and Ukraine.

In recent months, Transdniester separatists claimed that Kyiv had orchestrated what they claimed were shootings, explosions, and drone incursions, raising fears that Moldova could be drawn into the conflict in Ukraine.

Moldovan President Maia Sandu in August marked the 31st anniversary of the small nation’s independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union with a speech that included a condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a push for the country's eventual EU membership.

“Russia's unjust war against Ukraine clearly shows us the price of freedom," she told a crowd at the Great National Assembly Square in Chisinau.

Nosatii welcomed the aid his country has received from Berlin and said German assistance has been used to consolidate and repair weapons depots, inspect and secure ammunition storage, and to deactivate and make safe those that pose a danger.

Lambrecht said Berlin also realizes the importance of supporting Moldova in the wake of energy shortages stemming from the war in Ukraine.

Lambrecht on October 1 also made a surprise visit to the Ukrainian port city of Odesa, vowing to provide further military aid to Ukraine as it looks to defend against the Russian invasion.

German Defense Minister Visits Odesa, Promises Delivery Of Air-Defense System

German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (file photo)

German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht has made an unannounced visit to the Ukrainian port city of Odesa, meeting with counterpart Oleksiy Reznikov and at one time being forced into a bomb shelter after air raid sirens blared.

Lambrecht on October 1 visited the city's grain port and inspected a Gepard antiaircraft tank that was provided by her country to help the Ukrainians defend against the Russian invasion.

Lambrecht said the antiaircraft tank would help protect "critical infrastructure" and defend against Russian air attacks.

She also said the first unit of the promised Iris-T SLM ground-based air-defense system would be delivered in the coming days.

Ukraine is scheduled to receive four of the Iris-T SLM systems. A system consists of four vehicles -- a fire-control unit and three rocket launchers -- designed to protect against attacks from the air.

Berlin has so far delivered weapons worth $719 million to Ukraine.

Still, the German government has been criticized -- sometimes even from within -- for its reluctance to provide heavy weaponry to Ukraine while other NATO members have done so.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba last month slammed Berlin for refusing to provide it with Leopard tanks and Marder infantry fighting vehicles it has asked for as Ukraine continues to try and push Russian forces out of territory they are occupying in the east and south of the country.

"Disappointing signals from Germany while Ukraine needs Leopards and Marders now — to liberate people and save them from genocide. Not a single rational argument on why these weapons cannot be supplied, only abstract fears and excuses," he said in an unusually blunt comment on Twitter on September 13.

"What is Berlin afraid of that Kyiv is not?" he added.

Berlin rejected Kyiv's call for battle tanks at a time when some analysts say Ukraine is gaining an upper hand in its battle against occupying Russian forces and high-tech battle vehicles would give them even more momentum.

Lambrecht at the time said that no other countries were currently supplying such vehicles and Germany would not do so unilaterally. During her visit to Odesa, Lambrecht again said Germany will continue to coordinate with its partners on such major decisions.

Earlier on October 1, Lambrecht stopped in Moldova and vowed to increase military aid to Moldova as Chisinau looks warily at Russia's intensions following its invasion of Ukraine.

Lambrecht said during her stop in the capital that negotiations on the details of the support will take place next week.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service and dpa

EU Leaders To Discuss Infrastructure Following Incidents On Russian Pipelines

The Nord Stream gas leak seen from a Danish defense aircraft at sea in Denmark on September 30.

European Union leaders will discuss the security of crucial infrastructure when they meet in Prague next week following damage to the Nord Stream pipelines that many in the West have said was caused by sabotage.

"Sabotage of Nord Stream pipelines is a threat to the EU," Charles Michel, who chairs meetings of EU leaders, said in a tweet on October 1 after talks with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen in Brussels.

“We are determined to secure our critical infrastructure. Leaders will address this at the upcoming summit in Prague," he wrote.

The leaders of EU member states leaders are scheduled to meet in the Czech capital on October 7.

Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also met with Frederiksen in Brussels "to address the sabotage” on the pipelines, he said on Twitter.

"NATO allies will continue our close cooperation on resilience [and the] protection of critical infrastructure," Stoltenberg wrote.

NATO earlier voiced "deep concern" over the damage sustained by the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea, calling the incidents "deliberate, reckless, and irresponsible acts of sabotage."

Three leaks -- two in the Danish zone and one in the Swedish zone -- were discovered last week in the two major Russian underwater pipelines designed to ship natural gas to Germany, while Sweden on September 29 said its coast guard had found a fourth leak.

The incidents come amid rising tensions between Europe and Russia over the war in Ukraine.

While both NATO and the European Union say the leaks were caused by sabotage, they have so far refrained from directly pinning the blame on Russia.

Based on reporting by Reuters and dpa

Turkey's Erdogan Renews Threat To Block NATO Bids By Sweden, Finland

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (file photo)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan renewed his threat to block the NATO bids of Sweden and Finland, saying he would not give his approval until the two Nordic countries kept promises he said were made to Ankara.

"Until the promises made to our country are upheld, we will maintain our principled position," Erdogan said in a speech to parliament in Ankara on October 1.

"We are closely following whether the promises made by Sweden and Finland are kept or not, and of course, the final decision will be up to our great parliament," he added without elaboration.

Ankara initially said it would veto the two countries' membership in the Western alliance, with Erdogan accusing them of providing havens for Kurdish militants operating in Turkey and for promoting what he called "terrorism."

Following negotiations, Erdogan said he would drop his objections but indicated he could still block their membership bids if they failed to follow through on promises, some of which were undisclosed.

Membership bids must be approved by all 30 NATO members. So far, only Hungary and Turkey have yet to send the membership bids to their parliaments for ratification.

The historic shifts by Sweden and Finland came in the face of Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine in February and other aggressive moves by the Kremlin in the region.

Public opinion in the Nordic countries quickly turned in favor of NATO membership following the invasion.

Based on reporting by AFP and dpa

Russia Loses Place On UN Aviation Agency's Governing Council

CANADA - Montreal, ICAO Council discussions about the plane Ryanair FR4978

Russia has not received enough votes to remain on the United Nation aviation agency’s governing council, another diplomatic blow to Moscow in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine.

The results were announced on October 1 at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)'s 36-country governing council’s assembly, which runs through October 7 in Montreal.

Moscow has closed its airspace to airlines from 36 countries -- including all 27 members of the European Union -- in response to Western-imposed sanctions targeting Russia's aviation sector following the Kremlin's decision to invade Ukraine in late February.

Western countries say Moscow has illegally confiscated hundreds of foreign jets, a charge the Kremlin denies.

"It's important that Russia is held accountable for its actions, and we will not be supporting Russia's nomination to the council," Omar Alghabra, Canada's transport minister, told Reuters prior to the vote.

Adina Valean, the European Union's transport commissioner, had also suggested that Russia should not continue to serve on ICAO's governing council.

"We cannot accept that a member, breaching so clearly the Chicago Convention, sits in the very council that should act as its guardian," Valean said, referring to the 1944 treaty that created the ICAO and set rules for international aviation.

"This is not about politics. It is about the fundamentals of this organization," she told the assembly.

Based on reporting by Reuters

At Least 20 Killed In Southeastern Iran In Separatist Attack

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps troops march during a military parade outside Tehran.

At least 20 people have been killed in clashes between Iranian security forces and armed separatists in the southeast of the country, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has said.

Four members of the IRGC, including a top officer, were among those reported killed in the attack on September 30 in the city of Zahedan, the group said in a statement.

The IRGC said Colonel Hamid Reza Hashemi, an intelligence officer in the Iranian Army's ideological arm, "succumbed to injuries he sustained during clashes with the terrorists."

At least 32 IRGC members were injured in the fighting, the local governor was quoted by state media as saying.

State media claimed the assailants hid among worshippers near a mosque in Zahedan and attacked a nearby police station.

State media did not identify the separatist group allegedly involved in the attack. The region borders Afghanistan and Pakistan and has seen attacks on security forces by ethnic Baluchi separatists.

It was not immediately clear if the attack was related to anti-government protests erupting throughout the country sparked by the death in custody a 22-year-old woman who was detained in Tehran by the morality police for allegedly wearing her headscarf too loosely.

Officials have said she died of a heart attack, but her relatives and some rights groups have rejected that assertion saying she was in perfect health and that they believe she was beaten while being detained.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP

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