Syrian Troops Make Gains As Putin Defends Air Campaign
Syrian government forces have reportedly made significant advances against rebels, as President Vladimir Putin defended Russia's air campaign in Syria.
Both Damascus and opposition activists reported on October 11 the government gains in the northwestern province of Idlib and the neighboring province of Hama.
Syrian state television and the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the government forces captured Tal Skik, a highland area in Idlib Province, with the help of Russian air strikes.
That brings Syrian government forces closer to rebel-held positions along the highway that links Syria's main cities. The area is held by a rebel alliance that excludes the Islamic State (IS) group.
In the northwest of Hama Province, regime troops and fighters from the allied Lebanese Shi’ite militia Hizballah are said to have captured the town of Al-Bahsa.
Abu Hamed, the head of the military bureau of Jabhat Sham, an insurgent group that operates mainly in Hama Province, said the Syrian Army made advances using tanks, heavy artillery, and new surface-to-surface missiles.
Meanwhile, Russia said on October 11 that its aircraft carried out more than 60 missions in the provinces of Hama, Latakia, Idlib, and Raqqa over the previous 24 hours, adding that the IS group was its main target.
In an interview broadcast on October 11 on Russia’s state-owned Rossia-1 television, Putin said Moscow's objective was to "stabilize the legitimate authority" of the Syrian president, and "create conditions for a political compromise" in Syria.
"When a division of international terrorists stands near the capital, then there is probably little desire for the Syrian government to negotiate, most likely feeling itself under siege in its own capital," he said.
Putin reiterated that Moscow will not deploy ground troops to Syria. He also denied that Russia's air strikes were hitting moderate opposition groups rather than IS militants.
Syrian opposition figures and Western governments say Russia has targeted rebel groups -- including some trained and equipped by the United States -- that are not linked to IS militants.
Washington accuses Assad of terrorizing his own population in his bid to remain in power and insists that he cannot be part of a postwar government in Syria.
Russia rejects the U.S. position, saying Assad and his military represent the best chance to defeat IS militants.
With reporting by AP, dpa, AFP, Vesti.ru, Interfax, and Reuters
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Prime Ministers From Belgium, Lithuania, Poland Arrive In Kyiv, Offer Support For Ukraine
The prime ministers of EU and NATO members Lithuania, Poland, and Belgium arrived in Kyiv on November 26, expressing support for Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion and attending a summit hosted by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to discuss implementation of the “Grain From Ukraine” initiative. The parties reaffirmed their readiness to continue their efforts to ensure regular and structured EU budget support for Ukraine throughout 2023 and further participation in the restoration and reconstruction of infrastructure damaged by Russia's full-scale invasion. To read the original story from RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, click here.
Belarusian Foreign Minister Makei Dies, Says State News Agency
Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimer Makei has died suddenly at the age of 64, the BelTA state news agency reported on November 26. No cause of death was cited and a spokesman said there were no indications he had been in poor health. Until 2020, in pro-Kremlin media and Telegram channels, Makei had repeatedly been accused of seeking to improve relations with the West to the detriment of Russia's interests, but he later defended Minsk's logistical support for Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Belarus Service, click here.
130,000 In Kyiv Still Without Power After Russian Strikes
After intensive Russian attacks, tens of thousands of residents in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, are still without electricity, according to the local authorities. Some 130,000 people in the metropolis of 3 million were still affected, the city's military administration said on November 26, adding that repairs should be finished in the next 24 hours. All heating systems should then be working again, the authorities said. On November 23, Russia targeted Ukraine's energy infrastructure with dozens of missiles and cruise missiles, causing severe damage.
Cyberattack Hits Iran's Fars News Agency
Hackers have disrupted the work of Iran's Fars news agency, one of the main sources of news disseminated by the state during protests over the death of a young woman in police custody in September, the agency said. Fars said its website had been disrupted late on November 25 by a "complex hacking and cyberattack operation...Removing possible bugs...may cause problems for some agency services for a few days," it said in a statement posted on November 26 on its Telegram channel. To read the original story by AFP, click here.
Power Restored In Ukrainian City Of Kherson, Senior Presidential Aide Says
Electricity has been restored in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson after its liberation earlier this month from Russian occupation, a senior presidential aide said on November 26. "First we are supplying power to the city's critical infrastructure and then immediately to household consumers," Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of Ukraine's presidential administration, wrote on the Telegram messaging app. The city had been without electricity, central heating and running water when Ukrainian forces reclaimed it on November 11. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Ukraine Works To Restore Water, Power After Russian Strikes
Ukrainian authorities endeavored on November 26 to restore electricity and water services after a recent pummeling by Russian military strikes that vastly damaged infrastructure. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said millions have seen their power restored since blackouts swept the war-battered country days earlier. Meanwhile, skirmishes continued in the east and residents from the southern city of Kherson headed north and west to flee after punishing, deadly bombardments by Russian forces in recent days. To read the original story by AP, click here.
Ukraine President's Chief Of Staff Says Russia 'Will Pay' For Soviet-Era Famines
Russia will pay for a Soviet-era famine that left millions of Ukrainians dead during the winter of 1932-33 and for its actions in the current war in Ukraine, the head of Ukraine's presidential administration said on November 26. "The Russians will pay for all of the victims of the Holodomor and answer for today's crimes," Andriy Yermak wrote on Telegram, using the Ukrainian name for the disaster. Ukraine's annual memorial day for the victims of Holodomor takes place this year on November 26. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Toqaev Sworn In For Second Term As Kazakhstan's President After Vote That 'Lacked Genuine Competition'
Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev was sworn in for his second term as Kazakhstan’s president in a ceremony in Astana on November 26 after winning a snap election that international observers said lacked genuine competition. Toqaev's victory was expected, given that he was competing against five little-known opponents. The November 20 election came nearly three months after Kazakhstan replaced its system limiting presidents to two consecutive five-year terms with a single seven-year term. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service, click here.
Iran's Khamenei Praises Basij Forces For Confronting 'Riots'
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a televised speech on November 26 that Basij militia forces sacrificed their lives in "riots" sparked by the death in custody of a young Iranian Kurdish woman in September. The Basij force, affiliated with the country's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, has been at the forefront of the state crackdown on protests that have spread across the country. To read the original story from Reuters, click here.
U.K. Says Russia Likely Removing Nuclear Warheads From Missiles And Firing At Ukraine
Russia is likely removing nuclear warheads from ageing nuclear cruise missiles and firing unarmed munitions at Ukraine, Britain's military intelligence said on November 26. It said open-source imagery shows the wreckage of an air- launched cruise missile fired at Ukraine which seems to have been designed in the 1980s as a nuclear delivery system, adding that ballast was probably being substituted for the warheads. Such a system will still produce damage through the missile's kinetic energy and unspent fuel. However, it's unlikely to achieve reliable effects against intended targets. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
In Rare Public Spat, Zelenskiy Criticizes Kyiv Mayor Over Emergency Centers
In a rare public spat involving Ukrainian leaders, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy criticized the mayor of Kyiv for doing what he said was a poor job setting up emergency shelters to help those without power and heat after Russian attacks. Ukraine has established thousands of "invincibility centers" where people can access heat, water, Internet, and mobile phone links. In an evening address on November 25, Zelenskiy indicated that Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko and his officials had not done enough and "more work is needed." To see the original Reuters story, click here.
Six Million Ukrainians Still Without Electricity; Army Says Battles Raging In East And Southeast
Ukrainian repair crews continued to scramble to return power to millions of homes on November 25 following devastating Russian missile attacks this week on infrastructure facilities including water and heating sources, while Kyiv said near-constant Russian bombing was affecting a handful of population centers in the east.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address that more than 6 million households remain in darkness.
"As of this evening, blackouts continue in most regions and in Kyiv," he said.
But he said work crews had succeeded in cutting the number of affected locations "by half" since November 23, one of the most destructive nights of Russian bombing of power infrastructure in the nine-month-old invasion.
In addition to the capital, Zelenskiy said Odesa on the Black Sea, Lviv in western Ukraine, west-central Vinnytsia, and Dnipropetrovsk in central Ukraine are some of the hardest-hit areas.
The national power-grid company, Ukrenerho, said via Telegram on November 25 that by 7 p.m. around 30 percent of the country's electricity supplies were still out.
It said a "phased restoration" was continuing and repair teams "are working around the clock" but urged people to consume energy "sparingly."
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal credited energy workers and said, "No country in the world has such experience in putting the energy system into operation after seven waves of missile strikes."
Zelenskiy also visited a multistory residential building reportedly damaged by a Russian missile in the town of Vyshhorod, north of the capital, along with one of the emergency hubs Ukraine has been setting up around the country to provide device charging, heat, water, Internet, and electricity.
In his video statement he assured Ukrainians that "we will overcome all challenges and we will definitely win."
The Ukrainian Army General Staff said on November 25 that said active battles were raging in the regions of Kharkiv, Luhansk, Donetsk, and Zaporizhzhya.
Russian forces are carrying out nonstop shelling in the Kryvyi and Kherson regions, it said, including in the city of Kherson.
The Ukrainian military said its forces had carried out attacks on a Russian command post and a half-dozen other targets including three enemy anti-aircraft missile stations.
RFE/RL cannot independently verify battlefield claims in areas of intense fighting.
The Ukrainian General Staff also accused Russian troops of dangerous actions at Europe's largest nuclear plant at Zaporizhzhya, which it has occupied since early in the invasion.
"The opponent continues to pressure Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant workers," a Ukrainian General Staff spokesman said on Facebook. "According to available information, individual employees who refuse to cooperate with the occupation authorities are not allowed to work places."
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Ukrainian officials have complained of catastrophic risk as exhausted Ukrainian workers at Zaporizhzhya work under extreme duress.
The head of the UN's nuclear agency said this week that all of Ukraine's civilian nuclear power plants are due for inspections and that IAEA experts will visit all those facilities, including the abandoned Chernobyl power plant.
With reporting by Reuters and AFP
LGBT Support Center Shutters Tatarstan Operations Over Russia's New Anti-LGBT 'Propaganda' Law
A support center for the LGBT+ community in the capital of the southern Russian Republic of Tatarstan has announced its suspension of activities to avoid falling afoul of a sweeping new Russian law banning "propaganda" of nontraditional sexual relations or desires to "change sex."
The Acceptance center in Kazan announced the closure on its Instagram page on November 25.
"In connection with the new law on the complete ban on LGBT 'propaganda,' Acceptance is suspending its activities," the group said, adding that it was ending its main activity on a leading Russian social network. "The VK website and support group are being closed. Open support groups for queer people in Kazan are being suspended."
Russia's parliament on November 24 passed the third and final reading of legislation that expands a nine-year-old ban on promoting LGBT "propaganda" to children by barring such promotion among people of any age.
Any action or event deemed to be promoting nontraditional gender views or homosexuality -- including online, in film, books, advertising or in public -- could incur a heavy fine. The fine will be up to $6,600 for individuals and up to $82,100 for legal entities, according to Reuters.
Russia Declares Ex-Mayor, TV Journalist, And Trans Support Group Among 'Foreign Agents'
Russia's Justice Ministry has placed former Yekaterinburg Mayor Yevgeny Roizman and TV Dozhd journalist Anna Mongait on its list of "foreign agents."
Other new additions under the increasingly applied law on November 25 included a trans-initiative group, a charitable foundation, and a journalist who collaborates with RFE/RL.
A Russian court released Roizman from detention in August but ordered him not to communicate with anyone without permission, as it imposed pre-trial restrictions a day after police arrested the outspoken Kremlin critic and prosecutors accused him of "discrediting the armed forces."
Journalist Mongait's independent Russian television station Dozhd was forced to suspend operations in March amid pressure linked to its coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and later began broadcasting some of its programs from Latvia.
Also on the list were the head of the Free Buryatia anti-war foundation; a former volunteer for jailed Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny's headquarters in Ufa; and a Perm political scientist and the coordinator of the Golos observer movement.
The ministry also added journalist Lyubov Barabashova, who collaborates with RFE/RL's Russian Service's Siberia.Realities project, to its list.
It also included among foreign agents the trans-initiative group T-Action, which supports the transgender community.
The Social Partnership, an NGO, was also listed.
Ukraine Needs To Be 'Far-Sighted' To Secure Peace, Pope Says
Ukraine's leaders will have to be "far-sighted" to secure peace, Pope Francis said on November 25, suggesting Kyiv would have to make concessions to end the war with Russia. The pope earlier this month called for a cease-fire to avert the risk of escalation of the conflict and asked God to "hurry up" to end it. The Roman Catholic Church leader described Ukrainians as "a bold and strong people" and "a noble and martyred people." To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Hungary's President Novak Traveling To Ukraine To Meet With Zelenskiy
Hungarian President Katalin Novak is making her country's highest-level official visit to Ukraine since the Russian invasion began nine months ago, according to the local index.hu website.
There was no official confirmation.
The website said Novak was invited by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who has repeatedly expressed exasperation at the response to the war by NATO- and EU-member Hungary's leadership and especially its entrenched Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
The outlet did not say when Novak was traveling but said she would be making the trip to neighboring Ukraine by train.
Budapest has publicly refused to join fellow NATO states in supplying weapons directly to Ukraine and has staunchly resisted Brussels' pressure to cut off its imports of Russian gas, although it has acknowledged Russian responsibility for the conflict.
Novak is a steadfast Orban ally and former lawmaker and minister of family affairs who took over as president in May.
Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said amid quarrels over a possible EU price cap on Russian oil on November 24 that Budapest had negotiated itself an exemption within the EU's current proposal, meaning such a cap among other members would not affect Hungary if it were adopted.
Orban, who has ruled for 12 years and won a new four-year term in April, and his ruling Fidesz government have attacked Western sanctions as akin to the EU "shooting itself in the lung."
He and Szijjarto are almost alone among senior Western officials in having made official trips to Russia since President Vladimir Putin launched the all-out invasion of Ukraine in February.
Under Orban, Hungary has spurned Western warnings to court Moscow in energy and diplomatic areas as Budapest increasingly challenges EU policy including on free media, democracy, LGBT rights, immigration, and rule of law.
Novak has joined other Hungarian officials including Orban in keeping the fate of Transcarpathian Hungarians high on her list of priorities in relations with Kyiv.
Iran Sends More Troops To Kurdish Region As New Protest Flares
Iran's Revolutionary Guards have built up their presence in restive Kurdish regions, state media reported on November 25 amid a crackdown on mass protests, as video showed demonstrations in minority Baluch areas of the southeast. Activist website 1500Tavsir posted footage it said was from protests in Zahedan, the capital of Sistan-Baluchistan Province, with the sound of gunshots and, in one video, demonstrators running for cover. Reuters could not independently verify their authenticity. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Half Of Kyiv Still Without Electricity After Russian Strikes
Nearly half of Kyiv residents were still without electricity on November 25 as engineers battled to restore services two days after Russian strikes hammered the country's energy grid. Utility workers were still working to reconnect the heating and water as temperatures in Kyiv approached freezing. The systematic attacks in recent weeks have wreaked havoc on Ukraine's energy infrastructure as winter approaches, spurring fears of a health crisis and a further exodus. To read the original story by AFP, click here.
Days After Acquittal Confirmed In Nudes Case, LGBT Artist Flees Russia
An LGBT activist and artist acquitted recently in a high-profile pornography case over nude drawings and other artwork she posted online has left Russia days after an unsuccessful appeal by prosecutors, her mother mother said on November 25.
Yulia Tsvetkova, 29, was found not guilty in mid-July before prosecutors under pressure from anti-LGBT activists appealed the ruling.
That appeal was rejected by an appeals court in the Siberian city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur on November 22, according to Tsvetkova's mother, who lives in France.
"Why they left, I think it's obvious," her mother, Anna Khodyreva, said. "Yulia is [regarded as] a 'foreign agent,' with a new law [criminalizing "LGBT propaganda"] -- it's easier to die than to live in Russia."
She said that two new criminal cases have been opened against her daughter, so "it's impossible [for her] to stay in Russia."
Tsvetkova draws women's bodies and is widely known for her advocacy of LGBT issues.
Tsvetkova's administration of a social-media page dubbed "The Vagina Monologues" and with drawings and other images that resembled female genitalia had attracted the ire of authorities.
She was charged with producing and distributing pornographic material and prosecutors said at the time that they sought a 38-month prison sentence in the case.
Tsvetkova's trial began in April 2021 after a nearly 1 1/2-year investigation during which she was fined for spreading LGBT "propaganda" and put under house arrest.
The trial was held behind closed doors because prosecutors said they needed to show the images as evidence.
In June, the Justice Ministry added Tsvetkova to its list of "foreign agents."
Amnesty International has said the case against Tsvetkova amounts to political repression and "Kafkaesque absurdity."
An exhibition of Tsvetkova's paintings opened this week at the Le Pangolin space in Marseille, France, and included a roundtable on the history of art and censorship of the female body.
Kherson Governor Says Hospitals Evacuated 'Due To Constant Shelling' Amid Rising Death Toll In City
The governor of the embattled Kherson region of southeastern Ukraine said on November 25 that "due to constant shelling" officials have evacuated hospital patients from several facilities, while another official there blamed dozens of deaths on Russian shelling the same day.
Halyna Luhova, head of the Kherson city military administration, said 15 Kherson city residents had been killed by Russian shelling during the day and 35 more injured, including a child.
Luhova said via social media that multiple private homes and high-rise buildings had been damaged in the Russian bombing.
Governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said via the regional administration's Telegram channel earlier in the day that children from a Kherson regional facility had been transported to Mykolayiv, about 60 kilometers away.
He said other transferees included psychiatric patients, with around 100 people expected to get treatment in the Black Sea port city farther west, Odesa.
He said some of the transfers would last "as long as enemy strikes are being repeated in Kherson."
IN PHOTOS: As Russian forces continue to shell the recently liberated city of Kherson, doctors have been struggling to work with little water, electricity, and poor equipment.
Yanusevich also said residents in the city -- which was recaptured by Ukrainian forces earlier this month after months of occupation and has been targeted by long-range aerial attacks on infrastructure and civilian targets -- could contact authorities to request evacuation "to safer regions of Ukraine."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy this week cited constant reports of shelling of Kherson, the only regional hub that Russian forces had managed to overrun since the start of the nine-month full-scale invasion.
Much of the country remains without power, water, and fuel following massive bombardments by Russian missile attacks in recent weeks.
Yanusevich also notified residents on November 25 that two mobile-phone operators, Kyivstar and Vodafone, had managed to restore the functioning of two base stations in the Kherson region, allowing for voice and Internet services.
With reporting by AFP
Serb Police Say Man Shot In Border Town Clash Between Migrants
One man was shot and wounded and a number of others were detained following reports of a clash between migrants in a northern Serbian town on the border with Hungary, police said on November 25. Police said they found a 20-year-old man shot twice in the chest after responding late on November 24 to calls from Horgos residents that groups of migrants were shooting at each other in the town. Six others were also found at the scene. To read the original story by AP, click here.
EU Delays Talks On Russian Oil Price Cap Until Next Week
A meeting of EU government representatives scheduled for late on November 25 to discuss a Group of Seven (G7) proposal to cap Russian seaborne oil prices was canceled, EU diplomats said. "There was not enough of a convergence of views," one diplomat said. A day earlier, EU governments were split on the level at which to cap Russian oil prices to curb Moscow's ability to pay for its war in Ukraine without causing a global oil supply shock. The cap is to enter into force on December 5. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Belarusian Nobel Peace Laureate Byalyatski's Wife To Accept Award For Him
The wife of jailed Belarusian activist Ales Byalyatski will accept the Nobel Peace Prize on her husband's behalf at the ceremony planned for Oslo City Hall on December 9, according to the organizers' official website. The 60-year-old Byalyatski was awarded the prize in October along with the persecuted Russian rights group Memorial and the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties, which documents alleged war crimes amid Russia's invasion. He has been in pretrial custody for 16 months, and has survived beatings and multiple imprisonments.
Rights Groups Say Iran Forcing Families To Bury Dead At Night
Human rights groups say Iranian authorities have forced the family of one of the victims killed by security forces during protests in the Kurdish city of Mahabad to bury their son's body in the middle of the night under strict security measures.
The France-based Kurdistan Human Rights Network claimed in a report on November 25 that forces from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) targeted 32-year-old Shamal Khediri with direct fire last week during the bloody suppression of protests in the northwestern Iranian city of Mahabad. He died after being transferred to hospital on November 24.
The Norway-based Hengaw rights group said that after handing over Khediri's body to his family, several security forces escorted them to Mahabad and forced them to bury his body "in the middle of the night."
Activists say the increasingly violent suppression of protesters in western Iran is an attempt by authorities to create fear among protesters and quell the nationwide protests that have rocked the country since 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died on September 16 while in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly.
They added that forcing families to bury those killed by security forces is an attempt to cover up the incidents and limit the chances of funerals turning into massive demonstrations.
The Kurdistan Human Rights Network and Hengaw, two groups that monitor the human rights situation in Kurdistan Province, reported on November 25 that Heman Aman, a man from the Iranian-Kurdish city of Bukan, was tortured to death after being shot and kidnapped by government forces.
According to the reports, the 26-year-old Aman died on November 23 "as a result of severe torture by agents of the Urmia Intelligence Department" at a detention center.
The report added that Aman's body was also buried at the middle of the night under the pressure of security forces after being handed over to his family.
The IRGC has accused Kurdish groups of "attacking and infiltrating Iran to sow insecurity and riots and spread unrest" amid protests that erupted over Amini's death.
Anger over Amini's death has prompted thousands of Iranians to take to the streets to demand more freedoms and women's rights. The widespread demonstrations represent the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.
The activist HRANA news agency said that as of November 23, at least 445 protesters had been killed during the unrest, including 61 minors, as security forces try to stifle widespread dissent.
Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda
Germany In Talks With Allies Over Polish Push For Patriot Delivery To Ukraine
Germany said on November 25 it was discussing with allies Poland's demand that German Patriot air-defense units be sent to Ukraine, after NATO's chief suggested the military alliance might not oppose such a move. Berlin offered Warsaw the Patriot system to help secure its airspace after a stray missile crashed and killed two people in Poland last week. Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak later asked Germany to send the fire units to Ukraine instead. To read the original story from Reuters, click here.
Armenian PM Attacks Russian-Led Alliance At Summit In Yerevan2
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Armenians Protest Russian Leader's Visit6
Transdniester Residents Grapple With Conflicting Narratives About Moldova's Energy Crisis7
More Than Nepotism? New Position For Uzbek Leader's Daughter In The Spotlight8
Live Briefing: Russia Invades Ukraine9
Serbia's Legal Tug-Of-War Over Chinese Surveillance Technology (Part 2)10
Germany In Talks With Allies Over Polish Push For Patriot Delivery To Ukraine