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Actions To Mark Nemtsov's Assassination Held In Russian Cities Amid Increased Police Presence

In Perm, commemorations were held on February 26 in the form of a community work day at the local memorial to the victims of political repression after authorities twice refused to allow a rally.
In Perm, commemorations were held on February 26 in the form of a community work day at the local memorial to the victims of political repression after authorities twice refused to allow a rally.

Opposition supporters and ordinary people in several cities across Russia on February 27 marked eight years since opposition leader Boris Nemtsov's assassination, amid an increased police presence.

People gathered to commemorate Nemtsov in Moscow, Kazan, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Perm, and Barnaul.

A woman was detained by police in Moscow while paying tribute to him at a makeshift memorial where the Russian politician was killed, Novaya gazeta reported.

Footage shows the woman trying to lay a piece of paper with "Fight!" written on it at the memorial, according to the newspaper. The police then forced the woman to remove the paper from the memorial before taking her away.

Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister who was once regarded as a potential successor to President Boris Yeltsin, was a staunch critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In Moscow, people laid flowers on the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge -- in view of the Kremlin -- where Nemtsov was shot dead on February 27, 2015. Police officers stopped some passersby, but no arrests were made.

In Novosibirsk, people brought flowers for a second day in a row to the monument to the victims of political repression, where a memorial dedicated to Nemtsov was organized on February 26.

Boris Nemtsov
Boris Nemtsov

In Yekaterinburg, a memorial watch was held, with people bringing flowers after authorities banned portraits, posters, and candles and beefed up the presence of security forces.

In Perm, commemorations were held on February 26 in the form of a community work day at the local memorial to the victims of political repression after authorities twice refused to allow a rally. Participants laid flowers but did not carry placards or voice any political demands. The police monitored the event and filmed it, according to local activist Mikhail Kasimov.

In Barnaul, a commemoration was held by the local branch of the opposition Yabloko party in Freedom Square near the monument to the victims of political repression. The event was approved by the mayor's office, but the police fenced off the perimeter in advance and installed metal detectors at the entrance.

In 2017, a court sentenced a former deputy commander of the Chechen Sever battalion, Zaur Dadayev, to 20 years in prison for killing Nemtsov. Four other Chechens were given terms of between 11 and 19 years in prison after being convicted of involvement.

However, the Russian authorities have failed to determine who ordered it.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement on February 27 that Nemtsov has continued to be an inspiration for other pro-democracy activists such as Aleksei Navalny and Vladimir Kara-Murza, who have both been imprisoned by Putin's government.

"Today, as we pay homage to Boris Nemtsov and his legacy, we also recognize those brave Russians who continue to work in the face of severe repression for a better future for their country," the statement said.

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Blinken To Visit Chisinau, Prague May 29-30 

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Moldova and the Czech Republic on May 29-30
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Moldova and the Czech Republic on May 29-30

By RFE/RL

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Moldova and the Czech Republic next week in a show of support for the two countries and to participate in a gathering of foreign ministers from NATO.

On May 29, Blinken will arrive in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau, where he will meet with President Maia Sandu, Prime Minister Dorin Recean as well as other senior officials.

He will travel to Prague later that evening for meetings with senior Czech officials before taking part in an informal NATO ministerial meeting on the evening of May 30, James O’Brien, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, told reporters.

In Chisinau, Blinken will announce a “package of support” that includes assistance for Moldova’s transition away from dependence on Russian energy, O’Brien said. In Prague, Blinken will highlight the Czech Republic’s support for Ukraine.

During the NATO ministerial meeting, the foreign ministers will focus on Ukraine and prepare for the annual NATO Summit, which will be held in Washington in July.

O’Brien said the United States does not anticipate the ministers to announce an invitation for Ukraine to join NATO at the conclusion of their meeting, but said there will be “a substantial show of support” for the country without giving any details about what that would entail.

Blinken, who visited Kyiv last week, is pushing the Biden administration to end a ban that forbids Ukraine from striking inside Russia with U.S. weapons, according to the New York Times. O'Brien declined to comment on the issue.

Several NATO members, including the Baltic states, support the idea.

Russian General Denied Release Pending Trial On Fraud Charge

Russian Major General Ivan Popov (file photo)
Russian Major General Ivan Popov (file photo)

A Moscow court on May 24 rejected investigators' recommendation to transfer jailed Russian Major General Ivan Popov from pretrial detention to house arrest. The 49-year-old Popov, the former commander of Russia's 58th Army who once complained about his forces' lack of support from Moscow, was arrested recently on fraud charges. He is one of several top military officials and Defense Ministry officials who have been arrested on corruption charges before and after President Vladimir Putin dismissed close ally Sergei Shoigu as defense minister and appointed former First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov to the post. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Romania Declares Russian Diplomat Persona Non Grata

The Russian Embassy building in Bucharest (file photo)
The Russian Embassy building in Bucharest (file photo)

The Romanian Foreign Ministry said on May 24 it had declared a Russian diplomat persona non grata after a Romanian citizen was accused of spying for Russia. Romania's Organized Crime Investigation Directorate said the suspect was collecting military information and sending it to a diplomat at the Russian Embassy in Bucharest. The Russian Foreign Ministry said it would "give an appropriate response" to Bucharest's move. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Romanian Service, click here.

Zelenskiy Hopes To See Central Asian Leaders At Swiss Peace Summit

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks to reporters in Kharkiv on May 24.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks to reporters in Kharkiv on May 24.

KHARKIV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has challenged Central Asian leaders to put aside concerns of angering Russia, which considers the region part of its sphere of influence, and attend a summit in Switzerland next month aimed at achieving peace in Ukraine.

Speaking to Central Asian journalists during a visit on May 24 to Kharkiv, just a few kilometers away from raging front-line battles with Russian troops, Zelenskiy said fear of Moscow's wrath should not deter Central Asian leaders from attending the June 15-16 summit.

Zelenskiy Chides Central Asian Leaders For Not Supporting Ukraine Peace Summit
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"I think they are mostly choosing the Russian side because of the fear of the Kremlin," Zelenskiy said, adding that he had invited all the Central Asian presidents to the summit in Switzerland and "wants to see them at the summit."

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 now on the most difficult path of fight for our independence.... I advise you to start moving on that path now so that not to fight for it as painfully as Ukrainians are doing it now.... If you were in our position, how would you feel about the countries that did not join [the peace process]? " he added.

The aim of the summit is to create a broad front to oblige Russia to agree to a peace settlement under the terms of the UN Charter.

Zelenskiy's peace plan calls for the withdrawal of all Russian forces and the restoration of Ukraine's 1991 borders. Russia, which rejects the plan, has not been invited to the summit and has dismissed any discussion of the conflict without its participation as pointless.

Since the beginning of Russia's full-scale aggression against Ukraine in February 2022, all Central Asian leaders, excluding officials from Turkmenistan, have expressed a neutral stance to the ongoing invasion, calling on both sides to resolve "the conflict" via peaceful means.

Zelenskiy also told the Central Asian reporters at the meeting in Kharkiv that not even countries that are rich in mineral resources and energy supplies need to avoid being dependent on other countries.

The Kharkiv region has been a point of intense fighting in recent weeks, with Russia saying it is trying to establish a "buffer zone" to prevent Ukrainian cross-border attacks.

A day before Zelenskiy arrived in Kharkiv, at least eight people were killed in a wave of Russian strikes that he called "extremely brutal."

Updated

Top UN Court Orders Israel To 'Immediately Halt' Its Offensive In Rafah

Presiding Judge Nawaf Salam (center) ask the parties to be seated before he starts reading the ruling of the International Court of Justice in The Hague on May 24.
Presiding Judge Nawaf Salam (center) ask the parties to be seated before he starts reading the ruling of the International Court of Justice in The Hague on May 24.

The United Nation's highest court has ruled that due to the deteriorating situation in the Gaza Strip, Israel must "immediately halt" its military offensive in the city of Rafah and take urgent steps to address the humanitarian crisis in the region.

Reading out a ruling by the International Court of Justice on May 24, the body's president, Nawaf Salam, said measures should include the reopening of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt to allow aid to flow into Gaza.

Israel must "immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah Governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part," Salam said.

The order is part of a case brought by South Africa accusing Israel of genocide and asking the court to rule that Israel must stop its offensive in the southern Gaza city.

In a ruling on January 26, the 15-judge panel ruled that Israel must do everything to prevent genocide during its offensive in response to an attack in October by Hamas -- which has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States and the EU -- but stopped short of ordering a cease-fire.

WATCH: The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor is seeking arrest warrants for Israel and Hamas leaders for war crimes. How likely is it to happen? What happens next? And what does it mean for the conflict in Gaza?

On March 28, it ordered Israel to take all necessary and effective action to ensure basic food supplies to Gaza’s Palestinian population.

Though the court's rulings are legally binding, it has no way to enforce them.

Still, the 13-2 vote ordering Israel to halt its Rafah offensive, and to report on its progress in easing the humanitarian crisis within one month, increases pressure on Israel and further isolates it.

Israel had denied the accusation it is committing genocide in Gaza in the hostilities, touched off by an attack by Hamas on Israel on October 7 that killed some 1,200 people -- mainly civilians -- and saw around 240 more taken hostage.

The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza says more than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in the campaign, the majority of whom were women and children.

Bosnian Serbs' Move Toward Secession 'Dangerous, Irresponsible,' U.S. Envoy Warns

Ambassador US in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Michael Murphy
Ambassador US in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Michael Murphy

A proposal by the leaders of Republika Srpska to separate the Serbian entity from Bosnia-Herzegovina is "secession by another name" and "based upon a set of lies" that would mean the end of the entity, the U.S. envoy to Sarajevo has warned.

"Yesterday, Mr. Dodik (Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik) announced that the Republika Srpska government took a formal decision to propose Republika Srpska's 'disassociation' from Bosnia-Herzegovina," Murphy said in a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter, on May 24.

"This is...secession by another name, and it is dangerous, irresponsible, anti-Dayton, and puts the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and multiethnic character of Bosnia at risk.... Republika Srpska can only exist inside Bosnia-Herzegovina. [It's] secession or 'disassociation' does not mean Republika Srpska's independence or the end of Bosnia-Herzegovina, it means the end of the Republika Srpska," Murphy wrote.

The government of Republika Srpska on May 23 announced that a document about what it called the "peaceful separation" from Bosnia would be sent to the other Bosnian entity -- the Bosniak-Croat federation -- in the next 30 days.

The announcement made by Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic came at a special government meeting chaired by Dodik and called ahead of the UN General Assembly's approval of a nonbinding resolution to commemorate the 1995 Srebrenica genocide in Bosnia over strong opposition from Serbs.

Russia-friendly Dodik, who has been sanctioned by the United States and Britain over his efforts to undermine the Dayton peace accords, has regularly reiterated his denial of the Srebrenica genocide.

He has repeatedly threatened that if the resolution is adopted, the entity "will withdraw from the decision-making process in Bosnia."

The vote on May 23 in the 193-member UN General Assembly was 84-19, with 68 abstentions, in favor of the resolution designating July 11 as the International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the 1995 Genocide in Srebrenica.

Srebrenica Families Welcome UN Resolution As Belgrade, Serb Leaders React With Anger
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The document, which has sparked protests and a lobbying campaign by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and the Bosnian Serb leadership to block its adoption, establishes an annual day of commemoration for the massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica at the height of the Bosnian War.

The war that pitched ethnic Serbs against Bosnian Muslims and Croats ended with the Dayton peace accords that established a Bosnian state made up of two entities -- Republika Srpska and the Bosniak-Croat federation -- under a weak central government.

Murphy said Dodik and his government have "tried to justify this decision based upon a set of lies and disinformation designed to frighten the Republika Srpska public into following them down this dangerous path."

"The facts are simple and straightforward. There is no international conspiracy to abolish the Republika Srpska, and Mr. Dodik cannot point to a single statement by an American official calling for the abolition of the Republika Srpska," he said.

"As the Dayton Peace Agreement and the Bosnian Constitution explicitly state, Bosnia-Herzegovina is the successor state of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Its constitution does not provide entities or any other sub-state unit with the right of secession or 'disassociation,'" Murphy added.

Kazakh Woman Shouts 'Glory To Ukraine!' After Sentencing For Inciting Ethnic Hatred

Qalima Zhaparova in a courtroom on May 23
Qalima Zhaparova in a courtroom on May 23

A Kazakh woman, Qalima Zhaparova, shouted "Glory to Ukraine!" in a courtroom on May 24 after a judge in Kazakhstan's southern city of Shymkent found her guilty of inciting ethnic hatred and handed her a two-year parole-like sentence. The 63-year-old was arrested in November after an ethnic Russian woman filed a complaint accusing Zhaparova of insulting her and her ethnicity while on public transport. Zhaparova rejected the accusation, saying she was reacting to the woman's viewpoint regarding the war in Ukraine when she openly condemned Russia's full-scale invasion. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, click here.

Activists Promoting Tatar Language, Culture Detained In Tatarstan

Tatar activist Zinnur Agliullin (file photo)
Tatar activist Zinnur Agliullin (file photo)

Activists in Russia's Republic of Tatarstan said on May 24 that police had detained Rafik Karimullin, the leader of the Azatliq (Liberty) youth organization, and the former leader of the banned All-Tatar Public Center (TIU), Zinnur Agliullin, after searching their homes. The two organizations are known for promoting the Tatar language and culture. The TIU was banned and labeled as extremist in 2022. Also on May 24, police in Tatarstan searched the homes of several other activists and relatives of self-exiled opposition politicians, Azatliq said. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service, click here.

Kazakh Activist's Request For Early Prison Release Rejected

Qairat Qylyshev during his trial in September 2021
Qairat Qylyshev during his trial in September 2021

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- A court in Kazakhstan on May 23 rejected a request for the early release of opposition activist Qairat Qylyshev, who was sentenced to five years in prison in October 2021 on extremism-related charges that he and his supporters have rejected.

Qairat Qylyshev's lawyer, Zhanar Balghabaeva, said on May 24 that she will appeal the decision by the Qapshaghai city court.

According to Balghabaeva, her client, who has seven months and six days remaining on his sentence, does not pose a danger to society and deserves an early release.

Qylyshev and three other opposition activists were sentenced to five years in prison after a court found them guilty of having links with the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement and the Koshe (Street) party.

During their trial, the defendants claimed they only participated in peaceful protests and exercised their constitutionally protected rights.

Many activists across the Central Asian nation have been handed lengthy prison terms or parole-like restricted freedom sentences in recent years for their involvement in the activities of DVK and Koshe and for taking part in the rallies organized by the two groups.

DVK is led by Mukhtar Ablyazov, the fugitive former head of Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank and an outspoken critic of the Kazakh government. Kazakh authorities labeled DVK extremist and banned the group in March 2018.

In spring 2022, Qylyshev was released on parole, but last year he was rearrested for what police called a "parole violation" and sent to a correctional colony again.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has criticized the Kazakh government for using anti-extremism laws as a tool to persecute critics and civic activists. In all, several hundred people have been prosecuted for membership in the Koshe party.

The Kazakh authorities have shrugged off the accusations, insisting that there are no political prisoners in the tightly controlled former Soviet republic.

Estonia Summons Russian Diplomat Over Light Buoys Incident

The Friendship Bridge connects the Estonian and Russian sides of the Narva River.
The Friendship Bridge connects the Estonian and Russian sides of the Narva River.

Russian Charge d'Affaires in Estonia Lenar Salimullin was summoned to the Estonian Foreign Ministry on May 24 over an incident a day earlier on the Narva River that divides the two nations. Estonian officials said the Russian border service “unilaterally removed light buoys installed by Estonia to demarcate the border with Russia on the Narva River.” Estonia's Foreign Ministry called the situation a “provocative border incident” that “fits well into a broader pattern of provocative behavior by Russia, including on its borders with its neighbors.” To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Georgian Parliament To Begin Procedure To Override Veto Of 'Foreign Agent' Law On May 27

Protesters rally against the "foreign influence" law outside the parliament in Tbilisi on May 18.
Protesters rally against the "foreign influence" law outside the parliament in Tbilisi on May 18.

Georgia's parliament will begin the procedure to override a presidential veto of the controversial "foreign agent" law on May 27, according to the legislature's website. The move to overrule President Salome Zurabishvili's veto of the legislation targeting media and NGOs that are funded by foreign governments was widely expected. Zurabishvili vetoed the controversial bill on May 18 following weeks of mass protests by Georgians who see the legislation as a way for the government to stifle civil society -- a similar law in Russia has been used to crack down on dissent -- and believe it endangers the country's path toward EU integration.

Nearly 550 Children Confirmed Killed In Ukraine Since Start Of Russian Invasion

 A memorial to the victims of a Russian strike that killed 12 people, including five children, in Odesa in March (file photo)
A memorial to the victims of a Russian strike that killed 12 people, including five children, in Odesa in March (file photo)

Ukraine's General Prosecutor's Office says 547 children have been confirmed killed and 1,348 wounded to various degrees of severity since the start of Russia's unprovoked full-scale invasion. A 4-year-old girl who died on May 23 after being seriously wounded by Russian shelling in Odesa on April 29 is the latest confirmed victim, the office said on Telegram. On May 13, UNICEF, the UN children's fund, said at least 1,993 children in Ukraine have been killed or injured since the start of the invasion. UNICEF said the figure is of documented casualties, but the true number is likely much higher. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, click here.

Azerbaijan Regains Control Over 4 Villages Near Armenian Border

The first border signs on the newly delimited Azerbaijani-Armenian border appeared in April.
The first border signs on the newly delimited Azerbaijani-Armenian border appeared in April.

Azerbaijan assumed control over four villages near the Armenian border on May 24 as part of a new agreement between the two nations on the delimitation and demarcation of the border. The villages of Baganis Ayrim, Asagi Askipara, Xeyrimli, and Qizilhacili were taken under control as part of Azerbaijan's Qazax district. Baku and Yerevan called the move a step toward the normalization of relations between the two South Caucasus nations. The deal on returning the villages to Baku's control was reached in April, with both sides calling it a landmark decision toward a peace agreement. However, the deal has been met with massive opposition rallies in Armenia, with protesters calling for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian's resignation. To read the original stories by RFE/RL's Azerbaijani and Armenian services, click here and here.

2 Killed In Missile Strike On Occupied Crimea, Russian-Appointed Official Says

Channels on Telegrams reported explosions near Alustha, in the southeastern part of Russian-occupied Crimea. (file photo)
Channels on Telegrams reported explosions near Alustha, in the southeastern part of Russian-occupied Crimea. (file photo)

Sergei Aksyonov, the Moscow-appointed head of Ukraine's occupied Crimea, says two people were killed on May 24 in a Ukrainian missile strike on the peninsula. "As a result of a missile attack by the enemy in the Simferopol region, two bystanders were killed," Aksyonov wrote, adding that a business facility was also hit in the city of Alushta, in the southeastern part of Crimea. Ukrainian Telegram channel Crimean Bridge published a video purportedly showing explosions near Alushta, while the Atesh channel said a Russian military communications center was hit near Alushta. The claims could not be independently verified immediately. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Updated

U.S. To Review Relations With Georgia, Slaps Visa Bans On Officials Over 'Foreign Agent' Law

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was launching "a comprehensive review of bilateral cooperation between the United States and Georgia."
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was launching "a comprehensive review of bilateral cooperation between the United States and Georgia."

The United States has announced visa restrictions on Georgian government officials and a comprehensive review of bilateral relations with Tbilisi over a "foreign agent" law recently pushed forward by the ruling Georgian Dream party despite weeks of mass protests.

The legislation -- formally called the Law On Transparency Of Foreign Influence -- is seen as mirroring a similar repressive measure introduced by the Kremlin in Russia, endangering the country's path toward EU integration and bring it closer to Moscow.

It has been condemned by the United States and the European Union, which has said it is "incompatible" with Georgia's long-standing bid for membership.

"The Department of State is implementing a new visa restriction policy for Georgia that will apply to individuals who are responsible for or complicit in undermining democracy in Georgia, as well as their family members," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

He added that the restrictions would also apply to those responsible for "suppressing civil society and freedom of peaceful assembly in Georgia through a campaign of violence or intimidation."

Georgia's ruling party responded to the announcement by saying the visa restrictions would be "nothing but a gross attempt to restrict Georgia's independence and sovereignty."

The reaction from Georgian Dream also accused the United States of pursuring a policy of "threats and blackmail" and "anti-Georgian rhetoric," adding that "no blackmail whatsoever can force us to go against our country."

Critics have said the legislation was introduced by Georgian Dream, founded by Russian-friendly Georgian tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili, in order to cement the party's grip on power ahead of elections later this year seen as crucial for Georgia's Euro-Atlantic path.

"Anyone who undermines democratic processes or institutions in Georgia -- including in the lead-up to, during, and following Georgia’s October 2024 elections -- may be found ineligible for U.S. visas under this policy and precluded from travel to the United States. Immediate family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions," Blinken said.

The statement did not mention by name any individual who could be sanctioned under the new restrictions.

Washington has been a steady supporter of Georgia's Western integration, and Blinken said he was launching "a comprehensive review of bilateral cooperation between the United States and Georgia."

"U.S. support for Georgia’s democracy is longstanding and foundational to our bilateral relationship," Blinken said, warning that the United States will continue to monitor the Georgian government's moves.

"As we review the relationship between our two countries, we will take into account Georgia's actions in deciding our own," he said, adding, "It remains our hope that Georgia's leaders will reconsider the draft law and take steps to move forward with their nation’s democratic and Euro-Atlantic aspirations."

Under the measure that prompted weeks of protests violently repressed by authorities, media and NGOs will have to register as "pursuing the interests of a foreign power" if they receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad.

Georgia was given EU candidate status on December 14, but has yet to start the accession negotiations, which can last for years. Georgians have also been given the green light for visa-free travel in the Schengen zone.

Georgian Dream has insisted that it remains committed to joining Western institutions and the law was only meant to increase transparency on NGO funding.

President Salome Zurabishvili, who has been at odds with the government, on May 18 vetoed the law but the Georgian Dream-controlled parliament has enough votes to override her veto.

Key Iranian Assembly Elects 93-Year-Old Conservative As Its Leader

Mohammad Movahedi Kermani, 93, was elected the head of Iran's Assembly of Experts.
Mohammad Movahedi Kermani, 93, was elected the head of Iran's Assembly of Experts.

Mohammad Movahedi Kermani, 93, has been elected the head of Iran's Assembly of Experts, marking a continuation of traditional conservative leadership in a key institution responsible for selecting the nation's supreme leader.

The decision came during the Assembly's first session of its sixth term and follows the deaths of President Ebrahim Raisi and other officials in a helicopter crash last weekend.

The Assembly of Experts is a clerical body with significant power within the Islamic republic’s constitution.

Comprising 88 members, all of whom are male Islamic scholars, the Assembly not only elects the supreme leader but also theoretically oversees and could dismiss him, although this power has never been exercised.

Members are elected to eight-year terms from a list approved by the Guardian Council, ensuring that all candidates align closely with the conservative religious and political establishment.

Movahedi Kermani won the leadership with 55 votes out of 83 present members. His election underlines the notable age gap between the assembly's members and the general population, a point of frequent criticism by reformist opponents who argue there is a disconnect between Iran’s leadership and the issues that contemporary society are concerned about.

In addition to Movahedi Kermani’s election, Hashem Hosseini Bushehri and Alireza Arafi were elected as first and second vice-presidents, respectively.

The leadership election comes at a critical time for Iran.

With Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, 85, facing questions about his health and the future direction of the country, the role of the Assembly of Experts is poised to take a more prominent role.

Speculation has been rife about potential successors for Khamenei, with some expecting that the assembly might soon need to undertake its constitutional duty to appoint a new leader.

According to a Reuters report dated May 20, the assembly recently had removed Raisi, who died in a May 19 helicopter crash in northwestern Iran, from the list of potential successors to Ali Khamenei six months prior.

The report quoted two sources familiar with the matter as saying the Assembly of Experts had taken Raisi off the list about six months ago “because of his sagging popularity, reflecting economic hardship caused by U.S. sanctions and mismanagement."

However, the sources also indicated that there had since been significant lobbying by influential clerics and Raisi's supporters to get him back on the list.

For years, there also has been ongoing speculation regarding the potential selection of Mojtaba Khamenei, the son of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as the future leader of the Islamic republic.

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

Slain Iranian Protester's Father Sentenced To 6 Years In Prison

Mashalla Karami, the father of executed protester Mohammad Mehdi Karami (file photo)
Mashalla Karami, the father of executed protester Mohammad Mehdi Karami (file photo)

Iran’s judiciary has sentenced Mashallah Karami, the father of executed protester Mohammad Mehdi Karami, to six years in prison on charges of endangering national security and "propaganda against the regime."

The human rights groups HRANA and Hengaw reported the verdict, which was handed down by the Karaj Revolutionary Court.

His lawyer, Ali Sharifzadeh Ardakani, said Karami has yet to receive the court's decision officially.

Additionally, he rejected accusations of fraud against his client on social media platforms, noting that related charges of money laundering and acquiring illicit wealth are still under review with no verdicts rendered so far.

Mohammad Mehdi Karami was one of nine individuals executed by the Islamic republic in relation to the protests of 2022, which saw widespread unrest over governmental policies.

His execution in January 2023, which was tied to the alleged murder of a Basij militia member during the nationwide upheaval, drew international condemnation and highlighted the Iranian government's strict crackdown on dissent.

The sentence handed to Mashallah Karami also appears to be part of a pressure campaign on families of executed protesters.

Mashallah Karami has been a vocal figure in the protest movement, often seen at his son's grave in acts of remembrance that have symbolized the broader struggle for justice in Iran.

The government has been accused of stepping up the pressure on the victims' families through collective arrests and the summoning of grieving families by security agencies with the aim of keeping them from commemorating the lives of their loved ones, which the government fears will trigger further unrest.

Karami's arrest and subsequent sentencing also underline the risks faced by those who continue to oppose the regime.

Many Iranians took to the streets in 2022 to protest against declining living standards and a lack of freedoms.

The unrest grew after the death of Mahsa Amini in September of that year. The 22-year-old died under mysterious circumstances while she was in police custody for an alleged head-scarf violation.

The clampdown has resulted in the deaths of approximately 600 demonstrators, as reported by human rights groups, and thousands of arrests.

The Iranian judiciary has also executed several protesters, further inflaming public outcry against the regime's harsh tactics.

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

Popular Iranian Rapper Tataloo Sentenced To Prison On Undisclosed Charges

Amirhossein Maghsoudloo, aka Tataloo, (right) in court earlier this month.
Amirhossein Maghsoudloo, aka Tataloo, (right) in court earlier this month.

Amirhossein Maghsoudloo, a popular Iranian rapper known by his stage name Tataloo, has been sentenced to prison, his lawyer and Iranian judiciary media reported, although specific details about the length of his sentence remain undisclosed.

Tataloo's attorney, Elham Rahimifar, informed the semiofficial ISNA news agency that the rapper faces both short and long-term imprisonment based on a recent verdict, which is still subject to appeal.

The charges and the details of the conviction have not been disclosed by the judiciary media or his lawyer.

The proceedings against Tataloo were overseen by Judge Iman Afshari and took place over three sessions.

According to the Mizan news agency, which is affiliated with Iran's judiciary, the rapper was sentenced to three years in jail in relation to an older case of "insulting the sacred," a charge that can encompass a range of perceived offenses, from blasphemy to disrespecting Iran's Islamic values.

Mizan also noted that no private individuals have filed complaints against Tataloo in this particular case, although the agency had earlier claimed that there were "multiple complaints" against him, including from minors and their families.

Tataloo's trial began in March on charges of promoting "obscenity," publishing "propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran," and disseminating "obscene content."

In a statement last month, the case investigator mentioned Tataloo's expression of "regret," stating that the rapper had written a repentance letter while also expressing his desire to marry, start a family, and pursue music in a more accepted manner.

The rapper, known for blending rap, pop, and R&B, and for his distinctive tattoos, has been a polarizing figure in Iran.

He previously released a song in support of Iran's nuclear rights, which coincided with the breakdown of a nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.

Tataloo, 36, had been living in Istanbul since 2018 but was extradited to Iran by Turkish authorities in December 2024. He has been detained in Iran since his extradition.

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

Georgian PM Says Threatened By EU Commissioner, Who Says His Comments Taken Out Of Context

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze (file photo)
Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze (file photo)

TBILISI -- Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze said he was warned by a European commissioner that if his government goes ahead with a controversial "foreign agent" law, he should be "very careful" in light of the recent assassination attempt of Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico.

Kobakhidze did not name the EU commissioner who made what he said was a "threat," but later on May 23 EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said he spoke with the Georgian prime minister by phone about the "foreign agent" bill and Kobakhidze took his comments out of context in his summary of the call.

According to Kobakhidze, "While listing these measures, [the commissioner] mentioned, 'You've seen what happened to Fico and you should be very careful."

Fico was shot four times while greeting citizens last week in the central Slovakian town of Handlova. He is recuperating, and his condition was described on May 20 as stable.

'An Attack On Democracy': Leaders Condemn Shooting Of Slovak PM Fico
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In Varhelyi's statement, he said that he told Kobakhidze that adopting the law "could lead to further polarization and to possible uncontrolled situations on the streets of Tbilisi."

"In this regard, the latest tragic event in Slovakia was made as an example and as a reference to where such a high level of polarization can lead in a society even in Europe," the enlargement commissioner said.

“Once again, I regret that one part of my phone call was not just fully taken out of context but was also presented to the public in a way which could give rise to a complete misinterpretation of the originally intended aim of my phone call,” he said.

He emphasized that he was still urging the Georgian authorities not to adopt the law and that he continues "to support Georgians working toward a European future."

Over the past few weeks, tens of thousands of Georgians have taken to the streets to protest the "foreign agent" law, amid fears it could be used to restrict civil society and free media. Under the proposed law, media outlets and NGOs that get more than 20 percent of their money from outside the country would have to register as "pursuing the interests of a foreign power."

The United States, the European Union, and rights watchdogs have all condemned the law and criticized the often violent crackdown by the authorities.

In his statement accusing the commissioner of threatening him, the Georgian prime minister said that "several high-ranking foreign politicians are not hesitating to use open blackmail against the Georgian people and their elected government."


In recent weeks, the EU and the United States have linked their relations with Georgia to the passing of the law.

In a May 15 statement, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Varhelyi said that "the adoption of this law negatively impacts Georgia's progress on the EU path."

A bill that expected to be unveiled this week by U.S. lawmakers is aimed at convincing Georgia's government to repeal the contentious law. Under the proposed Mobilizing and Enhancing Georgia's Options for Building Accountability, Resilience, and Independence (MEGOBARI) Act, the United States would give Georgia more economic aid, lower trade barriers, and grant more access to U.S. visas if the law were to be repealed.

But if the "foreign agent" bill becomes law, the MEGOBARI Act would require the U.S. administration to impose sanctions on Georgian officials responsible for the legislation.

In his statement Kobakhidze said he felt obliged to inform Georgians about the “threat” and said the parallel drawn with the attempted assassination of Fico “reminds us that the Global War Party is an extremely dangerous force willing to do anything to bring chaos to Georgia."

In recent weeks, Georgian Dream leaders have ramped up their populist and conspiratorial rhetoric with increasing mention of the "global war party." Although it is not clear what or whom they are referring to, they have said the mysterious party is responsible for many of the country's ills.

British Police Charge Man With National Security Offenses Linked To Russia

British police arrested the suspect in central London. (file photo)
British police arrested the suspect in central London. (file photo)

British police have charged a 64-year-old man with suspected offenses under the National Security Act (NSA) following a counterterrorism investigation. A police statement on May 23 identified the suspect as Howard Michael Phillips and said the charge related to Russia. Phillips was arrested in central London and charged with violating a section of the NSA that relates to assisting a foreign intelligence service. The case was not connected to any other recent charges or investigations linked to NSA offences, police said. To read the original story on RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Updated

UN Approves Srebrenica Genocide Resolution, As Some Serbs Remain Defiant

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic speaks at the UN General Assembly on May 23.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic speaks at the UN General Assembly on May 23.

The UN has approved a resolution to commemorate the 1995 Srebrenica genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina annually, over strong opposition from Serbs.

The vote on May 23 in the 193-member UN General Assembly was 84-19, with 68 abstentions.

The resolution designates July 11 as the International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the 1995 Genocide in Srebrenica, thus establishing an annual day of commemoration for the massacre of more than 8,000 local Bosnian Muslim men and boys almost 30 years ago.

The resolution had sparked protests and a lobbying campaign by Serbia's president and the Bosnian Serb leadership to block the adoption of the resolution, which was sponsored by Germany and Rwanda with 32 co-sponsors, including the United States, France, Britain, and Italy.

Srebrenica Families Welcome UN Resolution As Belgrade, Serb Leaders React With Anger
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The nonbinding resolution condemns "without reservation any denial of the Srebrenica genocide as a historical event." It also "condemns without reservation actions that glorify those convicted of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide by international courts, including those responsible for the Srebrenica genocide."

"Our initiative is about honoring the memory of the victims and supporting the survivors who continue to live with the scars of that fateful time," said German Ambassador to the UN Antje Leendertse.

Leendertse had noted earlier that there is an official official UN commemoration of the 1994 Rwanda genocide every year on April 7, and the Srebrenica resolution aims to do the same for Bosnia ahead of the 30th anniversary of the start of the genocide in 2025.

The July 1995 massacre, which was carried out by Bosnian Serb forces, has been ruled an act of genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). So far, more than 50 individuals have been sentenced to some 700 years in prison for their roles in the massacre.

Radovan Karadzic, the first president (1992-1995) of Republika Srpska, one of the two entities that make up Bosnia-Herzegovina, was sentenced to life in prison by the ICTY for the Srebrenica genocide and crimes against humanity. Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serbs' military commander, was also sentenced to life by the same court for the part he played in the genocide

'We Are Not A Genocidal Nation'

Ahead of the General Assembly vote, the government of Republika Srpska planned to hold a special session in Srebrenica amid heightened security measures. Ethnic Serbs make up around 80 percent of the population of Republika Srpska.

About a dozen police vans and a police transporter were parked outside Srebrenica's local police station. A billboard leading into the town reads: "We are not a genocidal nation," a slogan that has become popular among Serb nationalists. The same poster featured prominently on a billboard in Belgrade as well.

Srebrenica's local government has welcomed the delegation, which includes Republika Srpska's pro-Russian president, Milorad Dodik, and urged residents to raise the entity's flag "as a sign of opposition" to the UN resolution. Dodik is under U.S. and U.K. sanctions for his alleged obstruction of the Dayton agreement and violating the legitimacy of Bosnia.

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik (file photo)
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik (file photo)

Dodik later repeated his threat that Republika Srpska would secede if the resolution was passed. He has repeatedly threatened secession.

Serbia's nationalist president, Aleksandar Vucic, and the Republika Srpska leadership vehemently opposed the adoption of the resolution, saying it brands Serbia as a "genocidal nation."

He also warned that if a day of remembrance for the genocide was created it would "open old wounds and that will create complete political havoc."

Vucic said the resolution should be subjected to a vote in the UN Security Council, not the General Assembly. Resolutions put to a vote in the Security Council can be vetoed by any of its five members.

Addressing the UN General Assembly ahead of the May 23 vote, Vucic asked, “Why is the resolution being adopted if we are talking about individual legal responsibility?”

Leendertse said the resolution was not directed against Serbia. She added that Montenegro's amendments that the crime of genocide is individualized and cannot be attributed to any specific group were included in the resolution to offset concern from Serbia.

Except for Serbia, all of the former Yugoslav republics voted for the resolution, while several EU nations, including Greece, Cyprus, and Slovakia, abstained.

On May 22, Vucic met with Russian UN Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya in New York, saying afterward on Instagram that he had "asked the friendly Russian Federation to, this time, stand in defense of the pride and dignity of the Serbian people."

In 2015, Russia vetoed the adoption of a UN Security Council resolution on the Srebrenica genocide, which was proposed by the United Kingdom and supported by the United States and European Union countries.

Russia on May 23 rejected the UN General Assembly resolution, with Nebenzya predicting afterward that it would push Bosnia “towards confrontation,” according to Russia’s state-run TASS news agency.

As expected, China also voted no. Fu Cong, China’s ambassador to the UN, said the resolution “does not serve reconciliation within Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also the countries of the region that want peace and stability in the Western Balkans.”

The families of victims of the genocide welcomed the result.

Nura Begovic of the Srebrenica Women's Association lost her brother and 18 family members in the Srebrenica genocide.

Relics Of A Lost Brother Join Memorial For Victims Of Srebrenica Genocide
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She and other families of the victims gathered to watch the UN proceedings at the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial Center, where more than 6,700 of the estimated 8,000 victims have been buried.

Reacting to the vote, Begovic said she was grateful that some satisfaction had been given to survivors but expressed disappointment with Vuvic's speech at the UN General Assembly.

As expected, China also voted no. Fu Cong, China’s ambassador to the UN, said the resolution “does not serve reconciliation within Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also the countries of the region that want peace and stability in the Western Balkans.”

The families of victims of the genocide welcomed the result.

Nura Begovic of the Srebrenica Women's Association lost her brother and 18 family members in the Srebrenica genocide.

She and other families of the victims gathered to watch the UN proceedings at the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial Center in Potocari, where more than 6,700 of the estimated 8,000 victims have been buried.

Reacting to the vote, Begovic said she was grateful that some satisfaction had been given to survivors but expressed disappointment with Vucc's speech at the UN General Assembly.

Kurt Bassuener, co-founder and senior associate of the Democratization Policy Council, a Berlin-based think tank, has said that Serbia should pay a price for lobbying against the resolution but doubted the West would take any punitive steps.

"I'm just not sure that there will be any, because the West's policy toward Serbia was very lenient, specifically towards Vucic, and he is taking full advantage of that. If he had expected serious consequences, he might not have done what he is doing," Bassuener told RFE/RL's Balkan Service.

James Ker-Lindsay, a professor at the London School of Economics and an expert on the Western Balkans, said the tragedy of Srebrenica was being politicized. "Everyone is using this policy to score their own political points, instead of acknowledging that this is a truly horrific event that has been classified as genocide," Kerr-Lindsay told RFE/RL.

According to Ker-Lindsay, Serbia needs to do more to tell Western countries, "Look, we accept what happened, and we can show it because that's what we teach our children in school now."

Natasa Kandic of the Belgrade-based Fund for Humanitarian Law argued that Serbia's denial that genocide occurred at Srebrenica has fueled nationalism and extremism in the country.

Kandic said Serbia's opposition to the UN resolution is putting it on the wrong side of history.

"After World War II, nothing this terrible has ever happened. It must be acknowledged, and this memorial day for the victims of genocide is the least that can be done," Kandic told RFE/RL's Balkan Service.

Putin Signs Decree Allowing For Use Of U.S. Assets To Compensate For Russian Property Seized By Washington

Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin

In an apparent reciprocal move, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on May 23 allowing the seizure of assets, securities, and property belonging to the United States or to U.S. citizens in Russia to compensate for damages caused by the confiscation of assets and property belonging to Russian tycoons and the Russian central bank in the United States. Last month, U.S. President Joe Biden signed into law the Rebuilding Economic Prosperity and Opportunity for Ukrainians Act, which allows Washington to seize about $5 billion in Russian state assets located in the United States. The legislation was included in the U.S. aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.

Russia Says Main Power Line To Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Plant Goes Down

The Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant in Ukraine (file photo)
The Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant in Ukraine (file photo)

Russia said on May 23 that the main power line supplying the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in Ukraine had gone down, but that there was no threat to safety and the plant was being supplied by a backup line. The six reactors at the Zaporizhzhya plant, held by Russia and located close to the front line of the conflict in Ukraine, are not in operation but the facility relies on external power to keep its nuclear material cool. The plant's Russian management said on Telegram that the reasons for the outage, which had not caused any change in the radiation level, were being investigated.

Belarusian Police Search Home Of Parents Of Athlete Who Defected To Poland

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya (file photo)
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya (file photo)

Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who defected to Poland after coaches attempted to force her to return home during the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, said on May 23 that police in Belarus searched her parents' home. Tsimanouskaya condemned the search, calling it "retaliation for my actions and decisions" and called on the Belarusian police to leave her parents alone. Tsimanouskaya, who now competes for Poland, told Belarusian authorities to come "to my new home for searches and talks." To read the original story by RFE/RL's Belarus Service, click here.

Kremlin Denies Contact With Trump After Claim About Journalist's Release

U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich, arrested on espionage charges, waits in a defendants' cage before a hearing to consider an appeal on his extended pretrial detention, at the Moscow City Court in Moscow on February 20.
U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich, arrested on espionage charges, waits in a defendants' cage before a hearing to consider an appeal on his extended pretrial detention, at the Moscow City Court in Moscow on February 20.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump, expected to be the Republican candidate in November's presidential election, claimed Russian leader Vladimir Putin would release detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich "almost immediately" after the vote if Trump wins. In a social media post, Trump gave no details on how he would facilitate Gershkovich's release, saying only that Putin would "do that for me." After the post, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Trump and Putin have had no contact and that "complete silence" is needed "to achieve results" in any prisoner swap talks. Gershkovich has been held in detention since March last year on spying charges both he and the newspaper vehemently deny, saying the 32-year-old was merely doing his job as an accredited reporter when he was arrested.

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