Accessibility links

Breaking News

News

Poland's President Sees Flaws In Controversial Law On Top Court

Polish President Andrzej Duda (file photo)
Polish President Andrzej Duda (file photo)

The spokesman for Poland’s president says the leader sees flaws in the contentious legislation adopted by the Senate that would give politicians significant influence over the country’s top court.

Andrzej Duda's spokesman, Andrzej Lapinski, did not say whether the president would reject the bill or seek the opinion of the Constitutional Court.

Lapinski said that Duda sees inconsistency between two articles regarding the appointment of the court’s head.

Poland’s Senate approved the legislation early on July 22. The bill is sponsored by the populist ruling Law and Justice party.

Duda now has 21 days to sign the legislation into law. He has adhered to the ruling party line up to now.

The legislation calls for firing current Supreme Court judges, except those approved by the president, and it gives the president power to regulate the courts.

EU leaders have criticized the bill for impairing judicial independence and threatening the rule of law.

Tens of thousands of Poles came out on the streets of the capital Warsaw on July 21 to protest the bill.

Protests Against Controversial Legislation Continue In Poland
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:01:14 0:00
Based on reporting by AP

More News

Imran Khan's Party Urges IMF To Ensure Pakistan Election Audit Before More Bailout Talks

The party of Pakistan's jailed former prime minister, Imran Khan, has asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to ensure that an audit of the disputed February 8 elections is carried out before any more bailout talks take place. Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e Insaf (PTI) party said on February 28 that it had sent a letter on the matter to the IMF's Pakistan representative. Pakistan is struggling to stabilize its economy after securing a $3 billion standby arrangement from the IMF last year, and it is expected to need more funding after a new government is formed.

Kyrgyz Lawmaker Proposes Stripping Jeenbekov Of Ex-President Status

Former Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov
Former Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov

BISHKEK – A Kyrgyz lawmaker proposed on February 28 stripping former leader Sooronbai Jeenbekov of his status of ex-president over his alleged links to the fugitive former deputy chief of the Customs Service, Raimbek Matraimov.

The lawmaker, Akylbek Tumonbaev, emphasized that several lawmakers have resigned and some ministers have lost their posts over their connections to Matraimov, whose whereabouts are unknown.

Tumonbaev said it was Jeenbekov who brought Matraimov “to the political scene, but his name has not been made public.” Jeenbekov, meanwhile, “is living on the state budget's expenses,” Tumonbaev told a session of parliament.

To strip him of his ex-president status, representatives of his party, the Social Democratic party, in the parliament must first agree on the move and then a special parliamentary commission must be created to implement the decision, according to lawmaker Nurlanbek Azygaliev.

Two of the five former Kyrgyz presidents -- Jeenbekov and Roza Otunbaeva -- have the official status of ex-president, which guarantees them, among other privileges, immunity to legal prosecution.

Other former Kyrgyz leaders -- Askar Akaev, Kurmanbek Bakiev, and Almazbek Atambaev -- were deprived of the ex-president status due to criminal cases launched against them.

Jeenbekov was elected president in 2017. In October 2020, he announced his resignation amid protests against official results of parliamentary elections that demonstrators called rigged. The results of the parliamentary elections were later canceled.

Tumonbaev's proposal comes as police and security officers are targeting relatives and close associates of Matraimov, who in 2020-21 was at the center of a high-profile corruption scandal.

Last month, the State Committee for National Security added Matraimov to its wanted list on charges of abduction and the illegal incarceration of unspecified individuals.

Matraimov, who escaped imprisonment in 2021 by paying 2 billion soms ($22.4 million) to Kyrgyzstan’s state treasury, faced the new charges after Kyrgyz police shot dead criminal kingpin Kamchybek Kolbaev in October.

Last week, the Kyrgyz Central Election Commission annulled the mandates of two lawmakers with close ties to Matraimov -- his brother Iskender Matraimov and associate Nurlan Rajabaliev -- at their own requests.

Raimbek Matraimov faced the new charges after Kyrgyz police shot and killed Kolbaev, who had been added by Washington to a list of major global drug-trafficking suspects in 2011.

Former Coach Of Belarusian Athlete Banned For Five Years

Yury Maisevich
Yury Maisevich

The former coach of Belarus sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya has been banned for five years by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), which investigated allegations that Tsimanouskaya’s coaches attempted to force her to return home during the Tokyo Olympics after she criticized them. Yury Maisevich took actions that were "a clear affront to the athlete's dignity” and an abuse of power, the AIU said in announcing its findings on February 28. Tsimanouskaya, who now competes for Poland, claimed she was forcibly taken to an airport after refusing to follow the team's orders during the Olympics in 2021.

U.S. Semiconductor Firms, Having Outsourced Production Overseas, Struggle To Trace Evasion

Russia’s military industrial complex is heavily reliant on Western technology, including semiconductors, for the production of sophisticated weapons. (file photo)
Russia’s military industrial complex is heavily reliant on Western technology, including semiconductors, for the production of sophisticated weapons. (file photo)

WASHINGTON -- U.S. semiconductor firms must strengthen oversight of their foreign partners and work more closely with the government and investigative groups, a group of experts told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, saying the outsourcing of production overseas has made tracking chip sales more difficult, enabling sanctions evasion by Russia and other adversaries.

U.S. semiconductor firms largely produce their chips in China and other Asian countries from where they are further distributed around the world, making it difficult to ascertain who exactly is buying their products, the experts told the committee at a hearing in Washington on February 27.

The United States and the European Union imposed sweeping technology sanctions on Russia to weaken its ability to wage war following its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Russia’s military industrial complex is heavily reliant on Western technology, including semiconductors, for the production of sophisticated weapons.

“Western companies design chips made by specialized plants in other countries, and they sell them by the millions, with little visibility over the supply chain of their products beyond one or two layers of distribution,” Damien Spleeters, deputy director of operations at Conflict Armament Research, told senators.

He added that, if manufacturers required point-of-sale data from distributors, it would vastly improve their ability to trace the path of semiconductors recovered from Russian weapons and thereby identify sanctions-busting supply networks.

The banned Western chips are said to be flowing to Russia via networks in China, Turkey, Central Asia, and the Caucasus.

Spleeters said he discovered a Chinese company diverting millions of dollars of components to sanctioned Russian companies by working with U.S. companies whose chips were found in Russian weapons.

That company was sanctioned earlier this month by the United States.

'It's Going To Be Whack-A-Mole'

The committee is scrutinizing several U.S. chip firms whose products have turned up in Russian weapons, Senator Richard Blumenthal (Democrat-Connecticut) said, adding “these companies know or should know where their components are going.”

Spleeters threw cold water on the idea that Russia is acquiring chips from household appliances such as washing machines or from major online retail websites.

“We have seen no evidence of chips being ripped off and then repurposed for this,” he said.

“It makes little sense that Russia would buy a $500 washing machine for a $1 part that they could obtain more easily,” Spleeters added.

In his opening statement, Senator Ron Johnson (Republican-Wisconsin) said he doubted whether any of the solutions proposed by the experts would work, noting that Russia was ramping up weapons production despite sweeping sanctions.

“You plug one hole, another hole is gonna be opening up, it's gonna be whack-a-mole. So it's a reality we have to face,” said Johnson.

Russia last year imported $1.7 billion worth of foreign-made microchips despite international sanctions, Bloomberg reported last month, citing classified Russian customs service data.

Johnson also expressed concern that sanctions would hurt Western nations and companies.

“My guess is they're just going to get more and more sophisticated evading the sanctions and finding components, or potentially finding other suppliers...like Huawei,” Johnson said.

Huawei is a leading Chinese technology company that produces chips among other products.

James Byrne, the founder and director of the open-source intelligence and analysis group at the Royal United Services Institute, said that officials and companies should not give up trying to track the chips just because it is difficult.

'Shocking' Dependency On Western Technology

He said that the West has leverage because Russia is so dependent on Western technology for its arms industry.

“Modern weapons platforms cannot work without these things. They are the brains of almost all modern weapons platforms,” Byrne said.

“These semiconductors vary in sophistication and importance, but it is fair to say that without them Russia … would not have been able to sustain their war effort,” he said.

Byrne said the depth of the dependency on Western technology -- which goes beyond semiconductors to include carbon fiber, polymers, lenses, and cameras -- was “really quite shocking” considering the Kremlin’s rhetoric about import substitution and independence.

Elina Ribakova, a Russia expert and economist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said an analysis of 2,800 components taken from Russian weapons collected in Ukraine showed that 95 percent came from countries allied with Ukraine, with the vast majority coming from the United States. The sample, however, may not be representative of the actual distribution of component origin.

Ribakova warned that Russia has been accelerating imports of semiconductor machine components in case the United States imposes such export controls on China.

China can legally buy advanced Western components for semiconductor manufacturing equipment and use them to manufacture and sell advanced semiconductors to Russia, Senator Margaret Hassan (Democrat-New Hampshire) said.

Ribakova said the manufacturing components would potentially allow Russia to “insulate themselves for somewhat longer.”

Ribakova said technology companies are hesitant to beef up their compliance divisions because it can be costly. She recommended that the United States toughen punishment for noncompliance as the effects would be felt beyond helping Ukraine.

“It is also about the credibility of our whole system of economic statecraft. Malign actors worldwide are watching whether they will be credible or it's just words that were put on paper,” she said.

Azerbaijani Soldier Detained After Crossing Into Armenia

An Azerbaijani military post near the Armenian border is seen from the village of Tegh. (file photo)
An Azerbaijani military post near the Armenian border is seen from the village of Tegh. (file photo)

An Azerbaijani soldier was detained early on February 28 after crossing into Armenia for unknown reasons, Armenian officials said, adding that another Azerbaijani soldier managed to escape the site near the border village of Tegh. Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry identified the soldier as Ruslan Panahov, saying that he entered the Armenian side of the border by accident after he lost his way due to bad weather. In April last year, two other Azerbaijani soldiers were detained after they crossed into Armenia. One of them was then convicted of murdering an Armenian civilian. The two were released in a prisoner swap in December. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Armenian Service, click here.

Nobel Committee Calls Imprisonment Of Veteran Russian Rights Defender 'Politically Motivated'

Oleg Orlov attends his verdict hearing in Moscow on February 27.
Oleg Orlov attends his verdict hearing in Moscow on February 27.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has called the imprisonment of Oleg Orlov, the co-chairman of the Russian rights group Memorial, which shared the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, "politically motivated."

A court in Moscow on February 27 sentenced the 70-year veteran rights defender to 2 1/2 years in prison of charge of "repeatedly discrediting" the Russian military involved in Moscow’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

"The sentence against Mr. Orlov is politically motivated and provides another proof of the increasing disrespect for human rights and freedom of speech in today’s Russia," Jorgen Watne Frydnes, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said in a statement on February 28.

He added that Russian President Vladimir Putin's "regime has for many years tried to silence the leadership of Memorial and other important civil society organizations in Russia, and they are now using the war on Ukraine as a pretext to finish the job. It is important that they won’t succeed."

Memorial was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022 for its outstanding efforts in documenting war crimes, human rights abuses, and the abuse of power in the former Soviet Union as well as in post-Soviet Russia.

Orlov reiterated his innocence on February 27 in his final statement shortly before the verdict and sentence were announced, stressing that Russian authorities have banned "any independent opinion."

The children and grandchildren of Russian officials "will be ashamed to talk about where their fathers, mothers, grandfathers, and grandmothers served and what they did. And the same will happen to those who, by carrying out orders, are committing crimes in Ukraine. In my view, this is the worst punishment, and it is inevitable," Orlov said.

Orlov was fined 150,000 rubles ($1,630) in October on a charge that stemmed from several single-person pickets he held condemning Russia's aggression against Ukraine and an article he wrote criticizing the Russian government for sending troops to Ukraine that was published in the French magazine Mediapart.

In mid-December, the Moscow City Court canceled that ruling and sent Orlov's case back to prosecutors, who appealed the sentence, saying it was too mild.

Earlier this month, investigators updated the charge against the rights defender, saying that his alleged misdeeds were motivated by "ideological enmity against traditional Russian spiritual, moral, and patriotic values."

Memorial has noted the case was reinvestigated hastily, while Orlov said he thought investigators received an order to move quickly with the case to allow for the retrial.

Orlov gained prominence as one of Russia's leading human rights activists after he co-founded the Memorial human rights center following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In 2004-06, Orlov was a member of the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights Institutions.

For his contribution to human rights in Russia, Orlov was awarded in 2009 with the Sakharov Prize, an international award for individuals or groups who have dedicated their lives to the defense of human rights and freedom of thought.

Updated

Navalny's Widow Urges EU To Investigate Money Flows Tied To 'Bloody Mobster' Putin

Yulia Navalnaya addresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg on February 28.
Yulia Navalnaya addresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg on February 28.

Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of the late Russian anti-corruption crusader and Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny, has called on European lawmakers to investigate Russia's leadership, which she characterized as an "organized criminal gang" led by President Vladimir Putin and his allies.

Speaking to the European Parliament on February 28, almost two weeks after her husband was pronounced dead at an Arctic prison where he was serving time on what his supporters and the West call trumped-up charges, Navalnaya said an investigation of financial flows in the West would lead European lawmakers straight to Putin.

"You aren't dealing with a politician but with a bloody mobster. Putin is the leader of an organized criminal gang. This includes poisoners and assassins but they're just puppets. The most important thing is the people close to Putin -- his friends, associates, and keepers of mafia money," she said in a speech delivered in English.

"You, and all of us, must fight the criminal gang. And the political innovation here is to apply the methods of fighting organized crime, not political competition. Not statements of concern but the search for mafia associates in your countries, for discreet lawyers and financiers who are helping Putin and his friends to hide money," she added.

Navalny's death was reported on February 16, prompting an outpouring of grief and mounting outrage in Russia and around the world as the authorities refused to release his body to his mother amid suspicions about the cause of his death, which was officially attributed to "sudden death syndrome."

Navalnaya has accused Putin directly of having her husband, one of the president's most vocal critics, killed.

The Kremlin has rejected all accusations that it played a part in Navalny's death, while Navalnaya has pledged to carry on her late husband's work in exposing corruption in Russia and pushing for democratic freedoms and rights that Putin has rolled back during the more than two decades that he has ruled the country.

With Russians heading to the polls in a presidential election scripted to hand Putin another term, Navalnaya has called upon the West to refuse to recognize the March 17 balloting.

"Putin must answer for what he has done to my country. Putin must answer for what he has done to a neighboring, peaceful country. And Putin must answer for everything he has done to Aleksei," she said in her speech to lawmakers in Strasbourg.

In a brief interview with RFE/RL, Roberta Metsola, the president of the European Parliament, paid tribute to Navalny, whose death she said was "horrific."

"The reaction we have seen since his death, the outrage and the clampdown by Russian authorities on anyone expressing that outrage is a symbol to us of the situation that Russia is in at the moment, which is absolutely the case of how we would never recognize the results of the upcoming Russian elections," Metsola said.

European Parliament Chief: 'We Would Never Recognize The Results Of The Upcoming Russian Election'
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:02:48 0:00

Putin -- who has an official annual salary of around $140,000 -- has been accused of amassing a fortune estimated by some at as much as $200 billion, while also doling out billions to his closest allies, through a tangled web of financial entities.

Navalny's team in 2022 published details it uncovered of a $700 million superyacht they said showed the vessel was Putin's.

In early 2021, Navalny's team issued an investigation shining a spotlight on a $1.35 billion estate on the Black Sea's exclusive Gelendzhik Bay that was allegedly built for Putin.

Putin has consistently denied any allegations that he has amassed a fortune. In his income and asset declaration from 2020, he listed a modest apartment, three Soviet-era cars, and a small camping trailer handed down by his late father.

"You cannot hurt Putin with another resolution or another set of sanctions that is no different from the previous ones. You can't defeat him by thinking he's a man of principle who has morals and rules," Navalnaya said, calling for more effective action against the money flows of the ruling elite.

"If you really want to defeat Putin, you have to become an innovator. And you have to stop being boring," she said.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Zoriana Stepanenko in Strasbourg

Activists In Several Countries Demand Whereabouts Of Woman Forced Back To Chechnya

Demonstrators rally in support of Seda Suleimanova in Berlin on February 27.
Demonstrators rally in support of Seda Suleimanova in Berlin on February 27.

Activists in several countries around the world rallied on February 27 to demand Russian authorities find Seda Suleimanova, who has not been heard from for more than 150 days since she was detained in St. Petersburg and sent to her native Chechnya, which she had fled because of domestic violence.

The activists picketed Russian diplomatic missions in Buenos Aires, Berlin, Bonn, Warsaw, Mexico, and Tbilisi, holding posters saying "Show Us Seda," "No to Honor Killings," and "Where is Seda?"

Similar actions were held in five Italian cities -- Turin, Milan, Borgoricco, Rovato, and Savona.

In August 2023, police in St. Petersburg detained Suleimanova and her partner, Stanislav Kudryavtsev, at their apartment and took them to a police station, where Suleimanova was informed that she was suspected of stealing jewelry in Chechnya, a charge she rejected.

Seda Suleimanova
Seda Suleimanova

Suleimanova was then transferred back to Chechnya, and attempts by Kudryavtsev, who converted to Islam to be able to visit Chechnya and marry Suleimanova, to locate her failed.

Chechen authorities issued a video showing Suleimanova, who did not say a word, in Chechnya, after which no information about her whereabouts was made public.

Suleimanova had turned to the SK SOS group in October 2022 for help leaving Chechnya, saying that her relatives might kill her for being "insufficiently religious."

Human right defenders say families in the North Caucasus often file complaints accusing fugitive women of crimes, usually theft, to legalize their detention and return to their relatives. Once back, the women face violent abuse.

Domestic violence has been a problem in Russia's North Caucasus region for decades. Victims who manage to flee often say that they may face "punishment," including "honor killings," if they are forced to return.

Usually, local authorities take the side of the accused abusers.

With reporting by SOTA

Former Soviet Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov Dies At 94

Nikolai Ryzhkov pictured in 2019.
Nikolai Ryzhkov pictured in 2019.

Former Soviet premier Nikolai Ryzhkov has died at the age of 94. The news was announced on February 28 by the chairwoman of the Russian parliament's upper chamber, the Federation Council. No cause of death was given. Ryzhkov was a member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He led the Soviet government from 1985 to 1991. In 1991, Ryzhkov ran for president, placing second behind Boris Yeltsin. After the Soviet Union's collapse, Ryzhkov served as a lawmaker. He was under Western sanctions for supporting Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Sixth Bulgarian Charged In Britain With Spying For Russia

Three members of the group -- Bizer Dzhambazov (left), Katrin Ivanova (center), and Orlin Rusev -- have also been accused of possessing false documents.
Three members of the group -- Bizer Dzhambazov (left), Katrin Ivanova (center), and Orlin Rusev -- have also been accused of possessing false documents.

A sixth Bulgarian citizen has been charged in Britain with allegedly being a member of a Russian spy network operating in the United Kingdom, British prosecutors said.

The man, identified in the statement as 38-year-old Tihomir Ivanov Ivanchev, was arrested on February 7 as part of an ongoing counterterrorism investigation, Metropolitan Police said in a statement.

Ivanchev, a resident of west London, will be charged with "conspiracy to obtain, collect, record, publish, or transmit documents or information" that could be useful for purposes detrimental to the security and interests of the British state.

Five other Bulgarians who lived in London and Norfolk -- Orlin Rusev, 46, Bizer Dzhambazov, 42, Katrin Ivanova and Ivan Stoyanov, both 32, and Vanya Gaberova, 29 -- were arrested in September last year on similar charges of “conspiring to collect information intended to be directly or indirectly useful to an enemy,” namely Russia.

All six are accused of being part of an alleged Russian spy network that operated in Britain from August 2020 to February 2023 and are due in court in October. The trial is estimated to last four months.

British authorities said Ivanchev and the other five conspired with Austrian citizen Jan Marsalek and other unknown persons.

Marsalek is a fugitive businessman who was chief operating officer of German payment processing company Wirecard, which became insolvent and collapsed in 2020 in a fraud scandal.

Marsalek, who has not been charged in the case, has been on the run and is believed to be in Russia.

Three members of the group -- Rusev, Dzhambazov, and Ivanova -- have also been accused of possessing false documents which, according to the BBC, are passports and identity cards from Britain, Bulgaria, France, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Slovenia, Greece, and the Czech Republic.

With reporting by AP
Updated

Navalny's Funeral Service Set For March 1 In Moscow After Days Of Uncertainty

A Russian policeman walks through the gate of the Borisovskoye cemetery on February 28 where the funeral of Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny will be held on March 1.
A Russian policeman walks through the gate of the Borisovskoye cemetery on February 28 where the funeral of Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny will be held on March 1.

A funeral service for the late Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny will be held on March 1 at a church in the Maryino area of Moscow, where the Kremlin critic once lived, after several days of uncertainty marked by claims by his mother that she was being blackmailed by officials into holding a secret commemoration.

Navalny's spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, on February 28 that, after the service at the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God, Navalny will be buried at the nearby Borisovskoye cemetery, a short walk from the banks of the Moskva River.

The distance between the church, which has a square out front, and the cemetery is about 2 kilometers. It was not clear whether there would be a procession from one venue to the other, or if supporters would gather at the church or the cemetery.

Navalny's widow, Yulia, said in a speech to the European Parliament on February 28 that she feared security forces will intervene during the event.

"I'm not sure yet whether it will be peaceful or whether the police will arrest those who have come to say goodbye to my husband," she said.

The announcement of the services comes a day after Navalny's associates said they were having trouble finding a location for the service, which will take place two weeks after the anti-corruption crusader was pronounced dead by officials at the Arctic prison where he was incarcerated.

Navalny's body was released to his mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, on February 24, more than a week after his suspicious death in prison. The official death certificate said the 47-year-old died of "natural causes." Officials have not commented further.

Before the body was released, Navalnaya said the authorities were setting conditions on where, when, and how her son should be buried.

"They want it to do it secretly without a mourning ceremony," she said, adding that investigators threatened to bury her son at the prison where he died unless she agreed to bury him quietly.

Russian media reports on February 27 said that police briefly detained on unspecified charges Navalny's former lawyer, Vasily Dubkov, who represented his family after his death and accompanied Lyudmila Navalnaya on her trip to the so-called "Polar Wolf" prison to get Navalny's body.

Hundreds of Russians have been arrested as people continued to honor Navalny’s memory at sites across the country.

European Parliament Chief: 'We Would Never Recognize The Results Of The Upcoming Russian Election'
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:02:48 0:00

Ivan Zhdanov, the former head of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, said February 29 was initially chosen as the day for the ceremonies, but that it "quickly became clear" that officials were forcing a different date, likely because President Vladimir Putin is to give a state of the union address that day.

He said Navalny's team was told that people were available to dig the grave on February 28 and March 1, but "not a single person was available" on the day in between.

"The real reason is clear: The Kremlin understands that nobody will listen to Putin and his message on the day of the farewell to Aleksei. We don't care about the message. Aleksei needs to be buried," Zhdanov said.

Zhdanov also said Moscow city authorities were still trying to force Navalny's relatives to move the ceremony to a different location and have a "quiet family funeral." But Zhdanov, in an interview with the Meduza news outlet, said the location would not change, giving everyone who wants to say goodbye to Navalny a chance to do so.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a self-exiled leading Russian opposition figure, said in an interview with RFE/RL last week that a public funeral could trigger “large-scale confrontations” between Navalny supporters and law enforcement.

Navalny died while serving a 19-year prison term on charges including extremism that he, his supporters, Western officials, and rights watchdogs called politically motivated.

Navalny's relatives, associates, and Western officials have blamed Putin for Navalny's death. Russian officials have said no foul play was involved and called the international outrage over Navalny's death while in prison "hysterical."

Investigative journalist Christo Grozev told RFE/RL on February 27 that there was a plan in the works that included talks among three countries -- the United States, Germany, and Russia -- to exchange Navalny, along with the Americans currently held in Russia, for the convicted murderer and former colonel in Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) Vadim Krasikov.

Grozev, who said he also took part in the negotiations, said Russia had given its consent, however, he did not know whether Putin personally approved the exchange.

"But that was the last ingredient everybody was waiting for," he told RFE/RL.

"By the time Navalny died -- or as I believe he was killed -- it seemed like a very optimistic scenario that could work in the coming months," Grozev said.

According to Grozev, the fact that Germany agreed to exchange Krasikov was a signal to the Kremlin that it would swap for not-so-high-ranking prisoners being held in Russia, which is why the Russians withdrew.

The calculation on Moscow's part was that it might be possible to get Krasikov released without having to free the Americans -- who were never named but are presumed to be Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan -- along with Navalny.

Maria Pevchikh, the chairwoman of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, has said she received confirmation that negotiations were in the final stage on the evening of February 15. The next day, Navalny was pronounced dead.

Navalnaya has vowed to continue her late husband's fight for a "free Russia."

Updated

Transdniester Separatists Ask Russia For 'Protection' At End Of Meeting Chisinau Rejects As 'Scam'

Transdniester leader Vadim Krasnoselsky (file photo)
Transdniester leader Vadim Krasnoselsky (file photo)

The leadership of Transdniester has called on Russia to take measures to "protect" the breakaway region from what it said was increasing pressure from Moldova's pro-Western government that amounted to an "economic war."

The call was launched during a rare gathering on February 28 in Tiraspol of the separatist region's leadership summoned by separatist leader Vadim Krasnoselski and dubbed the Congress of the Transdniestrian People's Deputies.

It followed speculation that Transdniester, whose declaration of independence more than 30 years ago was not recognized by any legitimate state, might officially ask for "unification" with Russia a day ahead of President Vladimir Putin's February 29 annual address to Russian lawmakers.

The gathering, however, stopped short of asking that Transdniester become part of the Russian Federation and listed a long litany of complaints addressed first of all to Moscow but also to international organizations about Moldova's alleged pressure and violations of the separatists' rights.

"The Congress is asking the Russian Duma and the Federation Council (the upper chamber of Russia's parliament) to implement measures to protect Transdniester in the face of the increasing pressure that applied by the Republic of Moldova," the gathering said in its final statement, also claiming that more than 220,000 Russian citizens live in the separatist region.

Moldova's government rejected what it said where "propaganda statements" coming from the meeting. Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Serebrian said on Telegram that the Transdniester region benefits from “the policies of peace, security, and economic integration with the European Union, which are beneficial for all citizens.”

Chisinau declared before the start of the event that "all the discussions in Tiraspol are a scam."

Moldovan government spokesman Daniel Voda said the meeting itself and its demands were "obviously organized by those from the Kremlin to create hysteria, including in the mass media."

President Maia Sandu said earlier that Moldova is determined to resolve the "frozen" Transdniester conflict peacefully and that "small steps" are being taken for the economic reintegration of the region.

A day before the separatists' meeting, U.S. envoy Christopher Smith visited Tiraspol and spoke with Krasnoselski, who told Smith that Chisinau would put economic pressure on the region. Smith, who is deputy secretary in the U.S. State Department's Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, met with Moldovan government officials before going to Tiraspol.

The latest tensions between Chisinau and Tiraspol broke out after Moldova, which under Sandu was invited in 2022 to open membership negotiations with the European Union, slapped new import and export duties on Transdniester in January, prompting protests by the separatist leadership.

The trade duties were introduced as part of Chisinau's move to align itself with EU legislation as it prepares for accession talks with the 27-member bloc.

Mainly Russian-speaking Transdniester, a sliver of land on the eastern bank of the Dniester River between Moldova proper and Ukraine, declared independence in 1990 amid fears that Chisinau would seek reunification with Romania, with which it shares a common language and history.

The two sides fought a short but bloody war in the spring of 1992 that claimed more than 1,000 lives and was quashed by Russian troops stationed in Transdniester since Soviet times, who intervened on the side of the separatists.

Half-hearted attempts at negotiations under various mediation formats, including ones led by the Organization or Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union, yielded no result, turning the dispute into a decades-long frozen conflict.

The February 28 statement issued after the meeting in Tiraspol called on the EU, the OSCE, and the United Nations to "prevent Moldovan pressures" and relaunch negotiations, although neither Tiraspol nor Moscow has been interested in fresh talks for years.

Russia still keeps more than 1,000 troops in Transdniester who ostensibly keep the peace between the two sides and guard a huge Soviet-era weapons depot in the village of Cobasna.

"The problem of Moldova and [Transdniester] is not a new one and the threat of Russian intervention or at least some provocation there is something permanent. I am not surprised. But it shows how dangerous the situation is not only for Ukraine," Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said.

Moscow has been the sole economic backer of Transdniester, largely seen as a smugglers' haven. Many residents of Transdniester have also obtained Moldovan citizenship, which allows them to travel unhindered in the EU.

With reporting by AFP

U.S. Says Iranian Operatives In Yemen Aiding Huthi Attacks

Huthi police ride on the back of a pick-up truck during the funeral of Huthi fighters killed in U.S.-led strikes in Sanaa on February 10.
Huthi police ride on the back of a pick-up truck during the funeral of Huthi fighters killed in U.S.-led strikes in Sanaa on February 10.

Operatives from Iran and its Lebanese ally Hizballah are working inside Yemen to support Huthi insurgents' attacks on international shipping, the U.S. special envoy for Yemen told a Senate subcommittee on February 27. Iran is "equipping and facilitating" the Huthi attacks, said Tim Lenderking. "Credible public reports suggest a significant number of Iranian and Lebanese Hizballah operatives are supporting Huthi attacks from inside Yemen," Lenderking said. "I can't imagine the Yemeni people want these Iranians in their country. This must stop," he added. The attacks on shipping have triggered retaliatory U.S. and British strikes on Yemen.

Updated

Western Balkan Countries Reaffirm Support For Ukraine At Summit In Tirana

At Balkan Summit, Zelenskiy And Allies Discuss Fears Of Further Russian Aggression
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:02:06 0:00

TIRANA -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on February 28 urged unity among the Western Balkan countries as he sought the continuation of military and financial aid to Kyiv at a summit of Western Balkans countries at which he also warned of the dangers they face if Russia is not stopped.

Zelenskiy sought to build solidarity between the countries of the region and Ukraine, saying all of them deserve to be members of the European Union and NATO. He also expressed interest in increasing cooperation with weapons suppliers in the Balkan countries as Ukrainian troops face a shortage of ammunition on the battlefield.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

"We are interested in co-production with you and all our partners," Zelenskiy said, speaking in his opening remarks to the summit in Tirana attended by delegations from Albania, Bulgaria, Serbia, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Montenegro, Croatia, Moldova, and Romania.

"There are about 500 defense companies operating in Ukraine; each of them adds strength but it is not enough to win," he said, proposing the establishment of a Ukrainian-Balkans defense forum in Kyiv or in a Balkan capital to nurture arms cooperation.

There are significant arms industries in parts of the Balkans, especially Serbia and Croatia, a legacy of former federal Yugoslavia.

Ukraine made similar arrangements last year with British and U.S. weapons companies, which are the main suppliers of weapons and ammunition to Ukraine. But in recent weeks its troops have been forced to withdraw from some of their defensive positions in the east as a critical bill containing $61 billion in U.S. military aid remains blocked in the House of Representatives.

Zelenskiy said at a joint news conference with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama that unity among the Western Balkan nations is important because Russia will do everything to destabilize the situation.

"Russia will not stop. Russia draws conclusions from the mistakes it has made on the territory of Ukraine and will destabilize even further if it’s provided with opportunities to survive in this aggression against us -- to politically survive -- and then it will use other tactics," he added.

"It will try to exert influence on the countries where it can immediately get success -- the Baltics, Moldova, and the Balkan states -- everywhere where [the] Soviet Union was present."

Zelenskiy also demanded quicker delivery of weapons, saying that the more Russian President Vladimir Putin sees Ukraine's shortcomings, "the more he can think he can challenge Europe and the West."

Rama admitted that there is a clear danger for the Balkans, adding that what is happening in Ukraine "can be repeated in different ways." Rama called on the Western Balkan states to continue aid to Ukraine, and warned against it being delayed by internal politics.

"Ukraine deserves to be supported and helped with all the necessary means to resist and ensure that any peace that comes out of this war will be a just peace based, first of all, on Zelenskiy's 10-point plan, which we support and want all states to discuss," said Rama.

Rama also said that Zelenskiy's presence in Tirana was an indication that Putin, despite the military power of his country, has failed to "suppress the will of Ukrainians to live in a free, independent, and democratic state [and] has failed to keep the truth quiet."

The summit participants later on February 28 adopted a 12-point statement in which they said that Russian military aggression against Ukraine remains the biggest threat to European security, is in flagrant violation of international law, including the United Nations Charter, and is a crime against the Ukrainian people.

Participating states pledged to continue supporting Ukraine and condemned Russia's efforts to hold Russian presidential elections in the parts of Ukraine it has occupied.

The leaders also reaffirmed efforts to further advance the integration of the Western Balkans, Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia into the European Union, and they said they "fully support Ukraine's right to choose its own security arrangements” and backed its desire to join NATO.

But the statement did not mention sanctions against Russia. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said this was at the request of Serbia, a traditional ally of Russia that has not joined the EU's sanctions regime against Moscow.

"There is no talk of sanctions. There is no mention of malicious Russian influence," Vucic told reporters.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters

Ukrainian Forces Withdraw From Two More Villages In East

Ukrainian soldiers fire a 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled howitzer toward Russian positions near the town of Chasiv Yar in the Donetsk region.
Ukrainian soldiers fire a 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled howitzer toward Russian positions near the town of Chasiv Yar in the Donetsk region.

Ukraine's military said its forces have withdrawn from two more villages near the eastern city of Avdiyivka, which was captured earlier this month by Russian forces, marking further losses for Ukraine as its troops continue to struggle with shortages of equipment, especially ammunition.

Ukrainian troops withdrew from Stepove and Syeverne, which lie west of Avdiyivka, Ukrainian military spokesman Dmytro Lykhoviy said on February 27.

"Our forces withdrew from the small villages of Syeverne and Stepove.... Heavy battles for Syeverne went on yesterday in the evening and night," Lykhoviy said, adding that Russia had taken significant losses in the fight.

Ukrainian forces have consolidated new defensive positions west of Avdiyivka, he said.

Russia's Defense Ministry said it had captured Syeverne, and that its troops had "occupied more advantageous lines and positions" and struck Ukrainian troops and equipment near Syeverne and Stepove, and another settlement, Lastochkyne, which Kyiv announced on February 26 it had abandoned.


Oleksandr Tarnavskiy, the commander of Ukraine's southeastern sector, said on Telegram that in the Avdiyivka "sector," the line of defense has been "stabilized" in the areas of Tonenke, Orlivka, and Berdychi.

Russian forces had failed in their attempts to advance in two areas further south, including to the Ukrainian-held village of Robotyne, Tarnavskiy added.

It was not possible to verify the claims.

The U.S. State Department said on February 27 that the situation on the battlefield in Ukraine was "extremely serious" because the Ukrainian military does not have enough ammunition to repel Russian aggression.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Ukrainian troops "continue to fight bravely" with the weapons and ammunition that they have, but "they have to [conserve] it because the U.S. Congress has failed to act."

Miller again called on Congress to pass a bill that would provide $61 billion in military aid to the Ukrainian Army.

"Fundamentally, we think that the path to victory for Ukraine right now is in the United States House of Representatives," Miller said.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (Republican-Louisiana), an ally of former President Donald Trump and head of a razor-thin Republican majority in the House, has refused to allow a vote on the bill.

U.S. President Joe Biden and top Democrats met with Johnson and other senior Republican members of Congress on February 27 at the White House to press again for its passage.

A White House statement issued after a meeting said Biden "discussed how Ukraine has lost ground on the battlefield in recent weeks and is being forced to ration ammunition and supplies due to congressional inaction."

Biden again warned of the terrible cost of delaying the aid, which was approved overwhelmingly by the Senate nearly two weeks ago. Johnson said after the meeting the Senate's package "does nothing" to secure the U.S.-Mexico border, which is what Republicans have demanded in return for passing aid to Ukraine.

"The first priority of the country is our border, and making it secure," Johnson said.

The House has adjourned until February 28 and will work on reaching an agreement on government funding as agreements to continue spending at previous levels begin to expire.

The House is not expected to return to the national security package until after the first week of March.

With reporting by Reuters and AP

Investigative Journalist Says Deal On Swap Involving Navalny Was Close Just Before Kremlin Critic's Death

Flowers are seen placed around portraits of late Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny at a makeshift memorial in front of the former Russian consulate in Frankfurt, Germany, on February 23.
Flowers are seen placed around portraits of late Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny at a makeshift memorial in front of the former Russian consulate in Frankfurt, Germany, on February 23.

Investigative journalist Christo Grozev told RFE/RL that there was a plan in the works to exchange Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny for convicted murderer and former colonel in Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) Vadim Krasikov.

At least three countries participated in the discussions -- the United States, Germany, and Russia -- Grozev said in an interview on February 27 with RFE/RL’s Bulgarian Service.

Grozev’s statements could not be independently verified, but they aligned with the comments of Maria Pevchikh, chairwoman of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, who on February 26 said Navalny's associates had worked for two years to convince Western officials to negotiate a deal that would include the Kremlin critic and two U.S. citizens held in Russian prisons for Krasikov.

Pevchikh said Putin in early February was offered Krasikov in a swap for two American citizens and Navalny under a plan that Grozev said he and Pevchikh had developed.

“I received confirmation that negotiations were at the final stage in the evening of February 15. On February 16, Aleksei was killed," Pevchikh said in her video.

Investigative Journalist Says He Helped Plan Potential Navalny Prisoner Swap
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:03:38 0:00

Both Pevchikh and Grozev said Russian billionaire Roman Abramavich was the link with Russia. Grozev, who said he also took part in the negotiations, said Russia had given its consent; however, he did not know whether Putin personally approved the exchange.

"But that was the last ingredient everybody was waiting for," he told RFE/RL.

"By the time Navalny died -- or as I believe he was killed -- it seemed like a very optimistic scenario that could work in the coming months," Grozev said.

Navalny's wife, Yulia Navalnaya, attended the Munich Security Conference to secure the final steps needed to swap Navalny, he said. Instead of news about a swap, the news came that he had died suspiciously after taking a walk at the prison colony in the Arctic where he had been held since December.

According to Grozev, the fact that Germany agreed to exchange Krasikov was a signal to the Kremlin that it would swap for not-so-high-ranking prisoners being held in Russia, which is why the Russians withdrew. The calculation on Moscow’s part was that it might be possible to get Krasikov released without having to free the Americans and Navalny.

This same thesis had been put forth by Pevchikh, however, she said Putin had been "clearly told" that the only way to get Krasikov back was to exchange him for Navalny.

In her video, Pevchikh alleged Putin “wouldn't tolerate” Navalny being set free and instead of swapping him, the Russian leader decided to “get rid of the bargaining chip.” She provided no evidence to back up her claim.

Krasikov is serving life in prison for the assassination in 2019 of a Georgian national and former Chechen rebel commander in a Berlin park. German government spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann on February 26 acknowledged that Germany had been asked about the prisoner swap involving Krasikov and Navalny but said she couldn’t comment.

Neither Pevchikh nor Grozev named the two U.S. citizens to be included in the exchange for Krasikov. Several Americans are currently being held in Russian prisons, including former Marine Paul Whelan, Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, and RFE/RL journalist Alsu Kurmasheva.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller on February 26 reiterated that the United States in December had proposed a swap to free Whelan and Gershkovich. Miller said the United States would not say more about the negotiations.

The Bulgarian-born Grozev, who lives in the United States, is the executive director and lead Russia investigator for Bellingcat, an investigative journalism group. He also is known for having close ties with Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation.

Grozev’s investigations into the identity of the suspects involved in the 2018 poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Britain earned him and his team the European Press Prize for Investigative Journalism.

Bellingcat's investigations also implicated the FSB in the near-fatal poisoning of Navalny in 2020.

A court in Moscow in April 2023 issued an arrest warrant for him on a charge of allegedly crossing Russia's border illegally In December. Russia's Interior Ministry also added him to its wanted list on unspecified accusations.

Human rights monitor OVD-Info said the ministry in November 2022 opened a criminal case against him, accusing him of disseminating “fake news” about the Russian military.

Protesters Boo 'Putin Envoy' Dodik As Montenegro Pro-Russian Party Welcomes Him

Milorad Dodik, who is under sanctions imposed by the United States and Britain for his alleged obstruction of the Dayton agreement and for violating the legitimacy of Bosnia, on February 21 held his fourth meeting with Putin since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Milorad Dodik, who is under sanctions imposed by the United States and Britain for his alleged obstruction of the Dayton agreement and for violating the legitimacy of Bosnia, on February 21 held his fourth meeting with Putin since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Milorad Dodik, the pro-Russia president of the Serbian entity of Bosnia-Herzegovina, on February 27 visited Montenegro, where he was greeted by hundreds of protesters who booed him as he entered the parliament building.

Dodik, who last week traveled to the Russian republic of Tatarstan for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, arrived in Podgorica for a meeting with Parliament Speaker Andrija Mandic.

The cabinet of Montenegro's president, Jakov Milatovic, and the government of Milojko Spajic told RFE/RL they had no official information about Dodik's visit or announcements of meetings with officials.

The protesters who gathered at the parliament building criticized Mandic's meeting with Dodik, holding signs reading, "We must say no to Mandic and Dodik!" and waving a banner that included the words, "Putin's envoys are not welcome."

Entering the parliament building, Dodik greeted the crowd with a three-finger salute used by pro-democracy movements and as a symbol of dissent and opposition to authoritarianism. The protesters responded by booing and shouting "fascist."

Dodik, who is under sanctions imposed by the United States and Britain for his alleged obstruction of the Dayton agreement and for violating the legitimacy of Bosnia, on February 21 held his fourth meeting with Putin since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Dodik told Putin that Republika Srpska refuses to join sanctions against Russia despite pressure from Western governments and said he does not want to see Bosnia join NATO.

Two days before his meeting with Putin, Dodik met with Belarusian authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has been sanctioned by the European Union for electoral irregularities.

Mandic, as one of the leaders of the pro-Russian Democratic Front coalition with two other parties, said it was a great honor to host Dodik, saying his New Serbian Democracy and Dodik's Alliance of Independent Social Democrats are sister parties.

“These are primarily Serb parties -- the Serb people of [Republika Srpska] support them, and the Montenegrin people support us," Mandic said.

Mandic said he would discuss a proposed cooperation agreement in the areas of business, sports, education, and culture in accordance with the Dayton agreement with Dodik. Mandic told a news conference the former government had rejected the agreement.

Opposition parties reacted strongly to Dodik's visit.

The pro-European Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) said he came with "the task of conveying Putin's messages to his allies in Montenegro."

Abaz Dizdarevic, a DPS member of parliament, said Dodik's visit to Montenegro after his trips to Russia, Belarus, and Serbia confirm that Montenegro's officials are deceiving international partners with their European agenda.

Montenegro’s parliament in October appointed the new government led by Milatovic and Spajic and composed of pro-Europe and pro-Serbia/Russia-friendly parties that is expected to lead the country in its bid to join the European Union.

The Social Democrats said Dodik's visit was a clear indicator to the domestic and the international public what the EU agenda looks like in practice and not "in the artificial and now very distasteful EU narrative" of numerous officials in Montenegro.

The Bosniak Party said Dodik's visit was a clear sign that Montenegro "is becoming a haven for politicians and policies who are proxies of Russian politics in the Balkans and who have undisguised aspirations to dismantle a unified [Bosnia]."

Polish Prime Minister Considers Wider Ban On Ukrainian Food Imports As Farmers Protest In Warsaw

Polish farmers block a motorway to protest against the import of agricultural produce and food products from Ukraine, close to the Polish-German border, near Swiecko, Poland, on February 25.
Polish farmers block a motorway to protest against the import of agricultural produce and food products from Ukraine, close to the Polish-German border, near Swiecko, Poland, on February 25.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on February 27 he could not rule out widening a national ban on imports of Ukrainian grains to include other products if the European Union does not act to protect the bloc's markets. Tusk made the remarks during a visit to Prague as thousands of Polish farmers took to the streets of Warsaw carrying the national flag and blowing horns, escalating a protest against food imports from Ukraine and EU green rules. Farmers across Europe have been protesting new regulations in the EU's “Green Deal” and unfair competition from outside the EU, particularly Ukraine.

Navalny's Former Lawyer Detained In Moscow After Helping Mother Press For Release Of Son's Body

Lyudmila Navalnaya, mother of the late Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, and lawyer Vasily Dubkov arrive at the regional department of Russia's Investigative Committee in the town of Salekhard, Russia, on February 17.
Lyudmila Navalnaya, mother of the late Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, and lawyer Vasily Dubkov arrive at the regional department of Russia's Investigative Committee in the town of Salekhard, Russia, on February 17.

Russian media reports on February 27 said police detained late opposition politician Aleksei Navalny's former lawyer, Vasily Dubkov, on unspecified charges. Dubkov accompanied Navalny’s mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, to the Arctic city of Salekhard last week while she was demanding to release her son's body. The body was released to Navalnaya on February 24. Navalny's three former lawyers -- Vadim Kobzev, Igor Sergunin, and Aleksei Lipster -- were arrested in November on extremism charges. In mid-November, a Moscow court issued an arrest warrant for another former lawyer for Navalny, Olga Mikhailova, on extremism charges. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Internet Outages In Russia Hit Some Social Media, But Instagram, Facebook Come Back

Russia's Digital Ministry said in a statement that work had begun to restore Telegram and a number of other services in Russia, adding that there had also been failures of the app outside Russia.
Russia's Digital Ministry said in a statement that work had begun to restore Telegram and a number of other services in Russia, adding that there had also been failures of the app outside Russia.

Telegram, the most popular messaging app used in Russia, suffered a temporary outage on February 27 for unexplained reasons while some previously blocked social media apps including Instagram and Facebook suddenly became available in Russia. The monitoring center for Russia's public communications network said its specialists had recorded a "massive failure" of Telegram, though it was not immediately clear why. Russia's Digital Ministry said in a statement that work had begun to restore Telegram and a number of other services in Russia, adding that there had also been failures of the app outside Russia.

Russia Adds Self-Exiled Former Lawmaker To Terrorists Registry

Self-exiled former lawmaker Gennady Gudkov (file photo)
Self-exiled former lawmaker Gennady Gudkov (file photo)

Russia's Federal Financial Monitoring Service on February 27 added self-exiled former lawmaker Gennady Gudkov to its list of terrorists and extremists on unspecified grounds. Earlier in the day, a Moscow court issued an arrest warrant for Gudkov's son Dmitry Gudkov, who is also a self-exiled opposition politician, on a charge of distributing "false" information about Russian military involved in Moscow’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Both Gudkovs have publicly condemned the invasion and have criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government for years. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Two Ethnic Serbs Sentenced For Attack That Injured NATO Peacekeepers In Kosovo

Soldiers of NATO-led peacekeeping forces scuffle with ethnic Serbs in Zvecan, Kosovo, on May 29, 2023.
Soldiers of NATO-led peacekeeping forces scuffle with ethnic Serbs in Zvecan, Kosovo, on May 29, 2023.

A court in Kosovo reached an agreement with two ethnic Serbs on February 27 after they plead guilty to attacking NATO-led peacekeepers. Radosh Petrovic and Dusan Obrenovic admitted to being part of a crowd that attacked KFOR troops in Zvecan, in Kosovo’s north, which is dominated by ethnic Serbs. Petrovic was sentenced to six months in jail but with time served will not have to return to jail. Obrenovic will avoid jail time if he pays a 6,000 euro ($6,500) fine. In May 2023, ethnic Serbs clashed with security forces, including NATO-led peacekeepers, over the validity of local elections. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Balkan Service, click here.

After 18 Months Of Detention, Jailed Iranian Rapper Asks To Be Executed

Jailed Iranian dissident rapper Saman Yasin has previously described a "mock execution" set up by prison officials that he endured before being moved to the prison in Karaj.
Jailed Iranian dissident rapper Saman Yasin has previously described a "mock execution" set up by prison officials that he endured before being moved to the prison in Karaj.

Jailed Iranian dissident rapper Saman Yasin, who was detained during the nationwide protests in 2022 and has since detailed harrowing accounts of physical and psychological torture he has endured, has made a plea from prison to Iran's judiciary to "issue my death sentence" rather than continue holding him indefinitely without a trial.

Yasin, who has been incarcerated for 18 months at Karaj's Ghezel Hesar prison amid allegations lacking clear evidence, posted a letter on his official Instagram account saying he does not "understand the reason for all this anger, harassment, and torment from the judicial authorities toward me."

"Please tell me what crime I have committed?" he wrote.

"I am asking you to execute me, I don't know how to endure prison and uncertainty for a crime that neither you nor I know. Please issue my death sentence, I have no objection and I consent in writing with my fingerprints and signature.... Take my life, get it over," he added.

Initial reports suggest Yasin was first taken to a local police station during nationwide protests in September 2022 before being transferred to Evin prison and subsequently to the Greater Tehran prison.

The judiciary's news agency has reported that Yasin was accused of "waging war against God," a charge that led to a death sentence from the Tehran Revolutionary Court. However, the Supreme Court accepted Yasin's appeal for a retrial and referred his case back to the Revolutionary Court. A retrial has yet to take place.

Yasin has previously described a "mock execution" set up by prison officials that he endured before being moved to the prison in Karaj.

Yasin has consistently maintained his innocence, releasing multiple audio files to publicize his claims. He has also reportedly launched at least one hunger strike in protest.

"My life fell apart, you took away my mental and physical health, you artificially executed me, you took me to a mental hospital, what is left to bring upon me that you have not brought? Take my life too! I've been living with your fake and false promises for 18 months, I'm tired, finish it!" he wrote in the February 26 social media post.

Since the September 2022 death of Mahsa Amini in custody after she was detained for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly, Iranians have flooded the streets across the country to protest a lack of rights, with women and schoolgirls making unprecedented shows of support in the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

The judiciary, at the urging of lawmakers, has instituted harsh penalties, including the death sentence, for offenders.

Meanwhile, judges have also begun sending offenders to psychiatric centers as part of their punishment, a move prominent psychiatry boards in Iran have said is an abuse of judicial authority.

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

Ukraine's Zelenskiy Discusses Peace Plan, Return Of Captives In Talks With Saudi Crown Prince

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is welcomed upon arriving at an airport in an unknown location in Saudi Arabia on February 27.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is welcomed upon arriving at an airport in an unknown location in Saudi Arabia on February 27.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy held talks in Saudi Arabia on February 27 with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman devoted to the course of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Zelenskiy said on X, formerly Twitter, that the primary topics would be Kyiv's peace formula for ending the invasion, as well as the return of captives and deported people. The Saudi state news agency said during the talks that the crown prince "affirmed the Kingdom's keenness and support for all international endeavors and efforts aimed at resolving the Ukrainian-Russian crisis, reaching peace, and continuing efforts to contribute in alleviating the resulting humanitarian impacts.

Polish Farmers Rally In Warsaw Against EU Policies, Ukraine Imports

Polish farmers rally in Warsaw on February 27.
Polish farmers rally in Warsaw on February 27.

Thousands of Polish farmers took to the streets of Warsaw on February 27 carrying the national flag and blowing handheld horns, escalating a protest which started in early February against food imports from Ukraine and EU green rules. Farmers across Europe have been protesting for weeks against constraints placed on them by the EU's 'Green Deal' regulations, which are meant to tackle climate change, as well as rising costs and what they say is unfair competition from outside the EU, particularly Ukraine. The Polish farmers rallied in central Warsaw before marching toward parliament and then the prime minister's office.

Load more

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

If you are in Russia and hold a Russian passport or are a stateless person residing permanently in Russia, please note that you could face fines or imprisonment for sharing, liking, commenting on, or saving our content, or for contacting us.

To find out more, click here.

XS
SM
MD
LG