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Attack On Afghan Governor's Compound Kills At Least 8 People

Abdul Jabar Taqwa (center, in white shirt and black trousers), the governor of Takhar Province, seen on a district visit in June 2010
A suicide bomber has attacked a provincial governor's compound in northern Afghanistan's Takhar Province, killing at least eight people.

Faiz Mohammed Tawhidi, spokesman for the Takhar provincial governor, said three German soldiers and four Afghans -- including regional police chief General Mohammed Daoud Daoud -- were among the dead.

At least 10 other people were said to have been wounded in the blast.

Qutbuddin Kamal, a senior aide to Governor Abdul Jabar Taqwa, said Taqwa was among the wounded.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed that it had troops among the casualties.

An unspecified Taliban spokesman contacted French AFP news agency to claim responsibility for the attack.

compiled from agency reports

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Belarusian Poet Sarokin Dies In Police Custody

Belarusian poet Dzmitry Sarokin, 37, has died in police custody in the country’s western city of Lida. Human rights defender Syarhey Sys quoted Sarokin's acquaintance in a tweet on June 5 as saying that Sarokin died a day earlier, adding that the poet will be buried on June 6. The Mediazona website also quoted sources, confirming Sarokin's death. It remains unclear why Sarokin was being held at a police station and what caused his death. Sarokin's friends have said that police had detained the poet in the past and recorded him on video "repenting" for unknown misdeeds. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Belarus Service, click here.

Wagner Group Posts Video Of Russian Officer In Sign Of Rising Tensions With Army

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin poses in Bakhmut with two of his mercenary fighters on May 25.

In a sign of rising tensions between Russia's Wagner mercenary group and the country's official armed forces, the private company led by Yevgeny Prigozhin has released a video of a captured Russian officer where he "confesses" to ordering an attack on the mercenaries.

The video, released by Wagner's press service on June 4, shows the apparent interrogation of a person who calls himself Colonel Roman Venevitin, the commander of the Russian Army's 72nd motorized rifle brigade. During the questioning, he says he ordered an attack on Wagner troops due to "personal enmity."

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 counteroffensives, Western military aid, global reaction, and the plight of civilians. For all of RFE/RL's coverage of the war in Ukraine, click here.

Just prior to the publishing of the video, Wagner's press service released a military report about a shootout between the mercenary group's fighters and regular Russian armed forces that allegedly took place on May 17 near Ukraine's eastern city of Bakhmut, the epicenter of heavy fighting between Russian troops -- backed by Wagner forces -- and Ukrainian armed forces for months.

The report said a Ural military truck was damaged during the attack.

In the video published by Wagner on Telegram, the man who calls himself Venevitin says he ordered his troops to open fire at Wagner troops aboard the truck while being under influence of alcohol. The man, who appears to have an injured nose, apologizes to Wagner for the attack.

The veracity of the video could not be independently verified. It was unclear whether the man identified as Venevitin was speaking freely and without duress in the video.

Russia's Defense Ministry has yet to comment on the video or the report.

The report and the video appear to reveal deep ongoing problems between Wagner and Russia's Defense Ministry. Prigozhin has several times openly criticized the ministry's efforts during the war against Ukraine that has followed Russia's full-scale invasion of its neighbor in February 2022.

Wagner troops were seen as being instrumental in Russia's assault to take Bakhmut, and Prigozhin's stature as a major player in the war appeared to grow as his fighters took territory -- albeit with heavy losses -- regular forces seemed unable to grab.

The city now appears to be controlled by Russia, though Kyiv says the battle continues.

International military experts also have stressed that military units involved in the invasion have regularly lacked a joint command and often conflict with one another.

Prigozhin, in an audio statement on June 5, called on Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the chief of the Russia's armed forces' General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, to come to Ukraine’s east and personally lead Russian units to defend positions near Berkhivka settlement.

According to Prigozhin, Ukrainian armed forces have retaken parts of Berkhivka, north of Bakhmut.

"Shoigu, Gerasimov, I call on you to come to the front line, take out your guns to lead the armed forces, to make them go forward. Go for it, you can do it! If you can't, you'll die like heroes," Prigozhin said.

Prigozhin, considered to be a close ally of Rusian President Vladimir Putin, has accused Shoigu and Gerasimov of corruption, unprofessionalism, and high treason for months.

Iran To Reopen Its Embassy In Riyadh In Sign Of Further Thawing Of Relations

Women walk past the Iranian embassy in Riyadh, which will reopen on June 6. (file photo)

Iran will reopen its embassy in Saudi Arabia’s capital on June 6, Iranian sources told the semiofficial Fars news agency, months after Tehran and Riyadh agreed to end years of hostility. In March, Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to reestablish relations after years of hostility between the regional rivals that had threatened stability and security in the Middle East and helped fuel regional conflicts from Yemen to Syria. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Poisonous Cider Kills Eight People In Russia's Ulyanovsk And Samara Regions

Russian authorities said that eight people died after they drank cider bought in local shops. (file photo)

Russia's Investigative Committee said on June 5 that eight people have died and several others have been hospitalized in the Ulyanovsk and Samara regions in the Volga federal district after they drank cider bought in local shops. Poisonings with surrogate alcohol are common in Russia as people look to save money on cheaper drinks. In 2021, 34 people were killed by surrogate alcohol in the Urals region of Orenburg. In December 2016, 78 people died in the Siberian region of Irkutsk after drinking a scented herbal bath oil, which contained methanol, a highly poisonous type of industrial alcohol. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Idel.Realities, click here.

Kyrgyz Police Said To Be Rounding Up Suspects Who Were Allegedly Preparing A Coup

Several sources in Kyrgyz law enforcement entities told RFE/RL on June 5 that people suspected of allegedly preparing to seize power are being detained across the Central Asian nation. According to the sources, at least 10 suspects have been detained by the State Committee of National Security (UKMK). The UKMK has yet to comment on the reports. Internet users placed videos online showing security forces entering an unspecified private house and an unidentified man being handcuffed. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, click here.

Budget For Afghanistan Aid Plan Revised Down To $3.2 Billion

Afghan women wait to receive food rations distributed by a humanitarian aid group in Kabul, Afghanistan, late last month.

The United Nations and humanitarian agencies have revised the budget for Afghanistan's aid plan for 2023 to $3.2 billion, down from $4.6 billion earlier in the year, the UN humanitarian office said on June 5.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement that a "changing operating context" in the wake of Taliban administration restrictions on female aid workers had contributed to the revised plan.

Taliban authorities have issued several orders barring many Afghan female NGO and United Nations employees from work, which aid agencies have warned would severely hamper delivery in the religiously conservative nation.

To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Jailed Mother Of Chechen Opposition Bloggers Hospitalized

Zarema Musayeva in a defendant's cage at a court hearing in, Grozny, Chechnya, on February 2.

Zarema Musayeva, the jailed mother of three self-exiled outspoken Chechen opposition activists, has been hospitalized as her health state has dramatically worsened since her arrest.

Abubakar Yangulbayev, who along with his brothers, Ibragim and Baisangur, now lives abroad, said on June 5 that his mother’s diabetes has progressed, her eyesight has worsened, and she has started having pains in her back, since being detained after Chechen police snatched her in January last year from her apartment in the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod, some 1,800 kilometers (1,080 miles) from Chechnya.

She has since been transferred to Chechnya, where she is currently on trial on charges of fraud and the assault of a law enforcement officer. Critics insist that the charges are politically motivated.

Abubakar Yangulbayev added that his mother is unable to walk, with jail guards now taking her for daily one-hour walks in a wheelchair.

Abubakar and Ibragim have been known for their online criticism of Kremlin-backed Chechen head Ramzan Kadyrov. Musayeva's youngest son, Baisangur, was added to Russia's federal wanted list on unspecified charges last month.

In November, Russian authorities added him to the list of extremists and terrorists without explanation.

All three brothers are currently out of Russia. The activists' father, retired federal judge Saidi Yangulbayev, and a sister also fled Russia following threats.

Kadyrov, other Chechen officials, and a member of the Russian Duma from Chechnya have publicly vowed to kill all members of the Yangulbayev family, calling them "terrorists."

Journalists, rights activists, and other Russians have urged the government to punish those who issued the threats.

Ibragim and Abubakar Yangulbayev say they faced years of pressure from Chechen authorities over their criticism of Kadyrov and the rights situation in Chechnya.

Russian and international human rights groups have for years accused Kadyrov of overseeing grave human rights abuses, including abductions, torture, extrajudicial killings, and the persecution of the LGBT community.

Kremlin critics say Putin has turned a blind eye to the abuses because he relies on the former rebel commander to control separatist sentiment and violence in Chechnya.

Kremlin Says U.S. Statement On Nuclear Arms Control Is 'Positive'

White House national-security adviser Jake Sullivan said on June 2 that the United States would abide by the nuclear weapons limits set in the New START treaty until it expired in 2026 if Russia did the same. (file photo)

The Kremlin said on June 5 that a statement by U.S. national-security adviser Jake Sullivan calling for bilateral arms control discussions was "positive", and that Russia remained open for dialogue. Sullivan said on June 2 that the United States would abide by the nuclear weapons limits set in the New START treaty, the last remaining nuclear arms reduction pact between the two Cold War rivals, until it expired in 2026 if Russia did the same. President Vladimir Putin suspended Moscow's participation in the treaty in February.

Poland Receives Draft EU Regulation Extending Ban On Ukrainian Food Imports

A dump track unloads grain in a granary in Ukraine. (file photo)

Poland's agriculture minister, Robert Telus, says he has received a draft regulation from the European Commission extending a ban on Ukrainian grain imports until September 15. The EU on May 2 set restrictions until June 5 on imports of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed, and sunflower seed to ease the excess supply of the grains in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia. Those countries had complained that cheaper Ukrainian grain was making domestic production unprofitable and had asked the EU to extend the ban. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Belgium Investigating Whether Its Weapons Were Used In Russia

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (file photo)

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said on June 5 that his government will ask Ukraine for clarification on reports that rifles made in Belgium had been used by pro-Ukrainian forces to fight Russian troops inside Russia's western border. The Washington Post reported on June 3 that anti-Kremlin fighters who launched a cross-border attack from Ukraine into the Russian Belgorod region last month used tactical vehicles originally given to Ukraine by the United States and Poland and carried rifles made in Belgium and the Czech Republic. De Croo declined to comment on possible consequences if the reports were confirmed. (Reuters)

To read the original story by Reuters, click here. https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/belgium-investigating-whether-its-weapons-were-used-russia-pm-says-2023-06-05/

Papal Peace Envoy To Visit Kyiv On June 5-6, Vatican Says

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi (file photo)

Italian Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, tasked by Pope Francis to carry out a peace mission to try to help end the war in Ukraine, will visit Kyiv on June 5-6, the Vatican said in a statement. "This is an initiative whose main purpose is to listen in-depth to the Ukrainian authorities on the possible ways to reach a just peace and support gestures of humanity that may help ease tensions," it said. Since the war started in February 2022, Francis and the Vatican have tried to offer themselves as a possible peace brokers, but to date, their efforts have not been successful. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Russia's Baltic Fleet Starts Naval Drills In Baltic Sea

Around 3,500 soldiers and up to 40 ships and boats will take part in the drills. (file photo)

Russia's Baltic Fleet started naval exercises in the Baltic Sea on June 5 the Russian military's press service said. Around 3,500 soldiers and up to 40 ships and boats will take part in the drills, which are scheduled to last until June 15, the military said. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

U.S. Navy Says Iranian Fast-Attack Boats 'Harassed' Ship In Strait Of Hormuz

The U.S. Navy's guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul was one of two Western vessels that responded to the incident. (file photo)

The U.S. Navy said on June 5 that its sailors and the U.K. Royal Navy came to the aid of a ship in the crucial Strait of Hormuz after Iran's Revolutionary Guards “harassed” it. Three fast-attack vessels with armed troops aboard approached the merchant ship at a close distance in the afternoon on June 4, the U.S. Navy said in a statement. The U.S. Navy's guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul and the Royal Navy's frigate HMS Lancaster responded to the incident, with the Lancaster launching a helicopter. To read the original story by AP, click here.

Updated

Russia Says It Thwarted 'Large-Scale' Ukrainian Offensive; Kyiv Calls Claim 'Fake'

A man walks on the site of a municipal market destroyed by a Russian military strike in the border town of Vovchansk on Junje 4.

Russia says its forces have repelled a multipronged "large-scale" Ukrainian offensive in the eastern Donetsk region, but Kyiv rejected the report, calling it an attempt at disinformation while denying it had launched its long-awaited counterattack to reclaim territory lost since Moscow invaded in February 2022.

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 counteroffensives, Western military aid, global reaction, and the plight of civilians. For all of RFE/RL's coverage of the war in Ukraine, click here.

The Russian claim on June 5, which came after President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told The Wall Street Journal two days earlier that Ukrainian forces were ready for the counteroffensive, could not be independently verified and was rejected by the Ukrainian military.

"In order to demoralize Ukrainians and mislead the public, including their own, Russian propagandists are spreading false information about a counteroffensive, its directions, and the losses of the Ukrainian Army, even though there is no counterattack," the military said in a statement.

It said that Russia used old videos and pictures "as well as other fake materials" in its report about the alleged counteroffensive, in which Russian officials said Ukraine suffered heavy losses.

Earlier on June 5, the Russian Defense Ministry released a video statement saying that Ukrainian forces attacked five points in Donetsk using six mechanized and two tank battalions but their action "had no success."

The statement said that the chief of the Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov, personally supervised the Russian defense.

General Oleksandr Syrskiy, the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, said on June 5 that Ukrainian forces kept advancing near Bakhmut, the city that has been at the epicenter of the monthslong battle for control of Ukraine's Donetsk region. But he made no mention of a counteroffensive.

Syrskiy's statement about Ukrainian gains in the Bakhmut area was confirmed by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the chief of Russia's Wagner Group, whose mercenaries were at the forefront of the monthslong battle for the devastated city.

Wagner fighters claimed they had captured Bakhmut last month and handed it to regular Russian forces.

But in an audio message posted by Wagner's media arm, a voice purported to be Prigozhin's said that a village just northwest of Bakhmut has now been retaken by Ukrainian forces.

"Now part of the settlement of Berkhivka has already been lost, the troops are quietly running away. Disgrace!" the voice attributed to Prigozhin said.

For its part, the Ukrainian military said on June 5 that its forces had detected and repelled an attempt by Russia to infiltrate a "sabotage and reconnaissance" group in the eastern Kharkiv region.

"On the Siverskiy and Slobozhanskiy directions over the past day, the enemy made an unsuccessful attempt to penetrate the state border of Ukraine in the area of the Zelene settlement of the Kharkiv region," the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported in a message early on June 5.

The Kharkiv Region borders Russia's Belgorod region, where fighting was reported repeatedly in recent days.

For months, Ukrainian officials have spoken about preparing a counteroffensive to drive Russian forces back.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published on June 3 that his country was ready to launch the action, saying "I don't know how long it will take," and admitting that it could come at a heavy cost.

Western assessments have said the offensive will be larger and more complicated than any other effort Ukraine has conducted since the launch of the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022.

Ukraine’s newest units, plus all of its regular and irregular units, will go into their offensive with more than $32 billion in weapons and security assistance from U.S. arsenals, plus billions more from European allies.

Russia, meanwhile, has been digging in and expanding its defensive lines -- minefields, trenches, anti-tank “dragon’s teeth” -- across the roughly 1,200-kilometer front that stretches from Ukraine’s Luhansk region, in the Donbas, southwest to the mouth of the Dnieper River and its eastern banks in the Kherson region.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters

Russia Says It Stopped An Attack By 'Saboteurs' From Ukraine In Belgorod Region

A still image from a drone footage released by the Free Russia Legion shows what appears to be an explosion near the Novaya Tavolzhanka settlement in Russia's Belgorod region on June 1.

The Russian Ministry of Defense says its forces managed to repel an attempt by a "sabotage and reconnaissance group of Ukrainian terrorists" to enter the settlement of Novaya Tavolzhanka in Russia's Belgorod region near the border with Ukraine. "An artillery strike was carried out on the enemy. The enemy was dispersed and retreated," the ministry said in a statement on June 4. Earlier, fresh skirmishes were reported on the Russian side of the Ukrainian border. Belgorod governor Vyacheslav Gladkov acknowledged on June 4 that fighting was taking place in his region. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.

Ukraine Says It Thwarted Infiltration Attempt By Russia In Kharkiv Region

A Ukrainian soldier on duty in the Kharkiv region, where fighting has been reported in recent days. (file photo)

The Ukrainian military said its forces had detected and repelled an attempt by Russia to infiltrate a "sabotage and reconnaissance" group in Ukraine's Kharkiv region. "On the Siverskiy and Slobozhanskiy directions over the past day, the enemy made an unsuccessful attempt to penetrate the state border of Ukraine in the area of the Zelene settlement of the Kharkiv region," the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported in a message early on June 5. The Kharkiv region borders Russia's Belgorod region, where fighting was reported repeatedly in recent days. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, click here.

Official: Almost 80 Schoolgirls Poisoned, Hospitalized In Northern Afghanistan

Afghan schoolgirls attend an open-air primary school in Khogyani district of Nangarhar Province.

Nearly 80 girls were poisoned and hospitalized in two separate attacks at their primary schools in Sar-e Pul Province in northern Afghanistan, a local education official said on June 4. It is thought to be the first time this kind of assault has happened since the Taliban swept to power in August 2021 and began their crackdown on the rights and freedoms of Afghan women and girls. Girls are banned from education beyond sixth grade. The education official said the person who orchestrated the poisoning had a personal grudge but did not elaborate. To read the original story by AP, click here.

Popular Singer Zemfira Spotted In Russian Player's Box At French Open

Zemfiraperforms at the 2018 Afisha Picnic music festival in Moscow.

Popular Russian singer Zemfira, who left the country because of her opposition to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, was spotted at the French Open on June 4 sitting in the player's box of her compatriot Daria Kasaktina. Zemfira was placed on a Russian Justice Ministry list of "foreign agents" in February on the grounds that she supported Ukraine and criticized the invasion, which Russia calls a "special military operation." An ethnic Volga Tatar born in the central Russian region of Bashkortostan, Zemfira began performing in 1998 and gained popularity in Russia and other ex-Soviet states.

German Jailed In Iran's Life 'In Danger,' Fellow Prisoner Says

Nahid Taghavi was sentenced to 10 years and eight months in jail in August 2021 after being arrested at her Tehran apartment in October 2020.

The life of a German-Iranian detained in Iran is in danger and she is in such pain she can barely move, a fellow prisoner who is a prominent rights activist said on June 4. Nahid Taghavi, 68, was sentenced to 10 years and eight months in jail in August 2021 after being arrested at her Tehran apartment in October 2020, and is being held in solitary confinement at Tehran's Evin prison. "The life of Nahid Taghavi, a political prisoner, is in danger," her fellow inmate, the prize-winning campaigner Narges Mohammadi, wrote on an Instagram account run by family in France.

No Breakthrough In NATO-Turkey Talks Over Sweden After Stoltenberg, Erdogan Meet

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (left) meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in February in Ankara.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg made no breakthrough on June 4 in talks about Sweden's membership in the military alliance with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with officials from the two countries to meet on June 12 to try to bridge their differences. NATO wants to bring Sweden into the fold by the time U.S. President Joe Biden and other allied leaders meet in Lithuania on July 11-12, but Turkey and Hungary have yet to endorse the move. All 31 member countries must ratify a candidate's accession protocol for it to join the transatlantic alliance. To read the original story by AP, click here.

Rublev's Trinity Icon Transferred To Russian Cathedral Despite Protests Of Museum Community

Created by the Russian painter in the early 15th century, it has been at the Tretyakov since the 1920s.

Russia's most famous icon -- the Trinity by Andrei Rublev -- was moved from the Tretyakov Gallery Arts Museum to Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral despite protests by the museum community. The icon will be in the cathedral for a service starting on June 4, the Culture Ministry said. Museum officials and scientists opposed the transfer of the icon, saying the historic artifact will be damaged by the change in microclimate and vibrations during the transfer. Created by the Russian painter in the early 15th century, it has been at the Tretyakov since the 1920s. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Pakistani Ex-PM Openly Accuses Military Of Trying To Destroy His Party

Imran Khan gestures as he speaks to the media at his residence in Lahore. (file photo)

Pakistan's embattled former Prime Minister Imran Khan has accused the powerful military and its intelligence agency of openly trying to destroy his political party, saying he had "no doubt" he would be tried in a military court and thrown in jail. Khan has hinted previously at the military's hand in a crackdown on his Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI) party but his comments in an interview at his Lahore home on June 3 were the most blunt yet. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Ukrainian Minister In 'Disbelief' At Closed Kyiv Bomb Shelters

A dog stands at the entrance to a bomb shelter in eastern Ukraine.

A senior Ukrainian government official expressed "disbelief" on June 4, warning that nearly half of Kyiv's bomb shelters inspected during an initial audit were closed or unfit for use. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy ordered an inspection of all Ukrainian shelters on June 2, a day after three people were killed in Kyiv when they were unable to access one during a Russian air strike. Oleksandr Kamyshin, Ukraine's minister of strategic industries, said that out of 1,078 shelters examined on the first day, 359 were unprepared and another 122 locked, while 597 were found to be usable.

Russian Governor Urges Residents Of Village Near Ukraine To 'Temporarily' Evacuate Amid Uptick In Shelling

A view shows destroyed vehicles following what was said to be Ukrainian shelling in the town of Shebekino in the Belgorod region in an image released on May 31.

Russian authorities on June 4 called on residents of an area on the Ukrainian border to leave their homes "temporarily." The town of Shebekino in the western Belgorod region has been hit by shelling, with casualties reported. In a Telegram post on June 4, regional Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov urged residents to cooperate with the authorities and leave the area. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.

Drone Shot Down In Crimea's Dzhankoy, Moscow-Installed Official Says

A drone was shot down in Dzhankoy in Crimea, a Russian-installed official in the region that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014 said on June 4. "There is damage to windows in several houses in a residential district" from the overnight incident, Oleg Kryuchkov, an adviser in the Moscow-installed administration of Crimea, posted on the Telegram messaging app. "All services are working. Official information -- in the morning," he said. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

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