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Turks Leave Lebanon As Turkish Pilots Held Hostage

Gunmen in Lebanon were continuing to hold two Turkish Airlines pilots as hostages early on August 10, a day after kidnapping them just outside of Beirut’s international airport.

Meanwhile, Turkish citizens in Lebanon were making preparations to return to Turkey after Ankara warned against travel in the country.

The kidnappers want the release of nine Lebanese Shi’a who were captured in Syria by rebels.

The kidnappers claim the nine were on a religious pilgrimage in Syria when they were detained.

Lebanese media report that a previously unknown group called Zuwwar al-Imam Rida claimed responsibility for the August 9 abductions of the pilots.

Lebanese Shi'ite groups support the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria’s rebels are predominantly Sunnis and are widely supported by Lebanon’s own Sunni community. Turkey also backs Syria's rebels.

Based on reports by AP, Reuters, and AFP

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Ukrainians To Get Millions Of LED Light Bulbs To Ease Energy Shortfall

The goal is in the next few months to reduce by one-quarter the energy deficit caused by Russian strikes on power infrastructure. (illustrative photo)

Ukrainians were urged on January 30 to swap old light bulbs for free energy-efficient LED bulbs under a scheme intended to ease an energy shortfall caused by Russian attacks. Launching a program backed by the European Union and aimed at replacing 50 million light bulbs, Economy Minister Yulia Svyrydenko said all adults would be able to exchange five incandescent light bulbs for five LED bulbs at post offices. The goal is in the next few months to reduce by one-quarter the energy deficit caused by Russian strikes on power infrastructure. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Ryanair Hiring Ukraine Staff In Anticipation Of Return After War

Passengers get off a Ryanair Boeing 737-8AS aircraft at the Boryspil International Airport near Kyiv in 2018.

Ryanair is hiring significant numbers of Ukrainian pilots and cabin crew so that it will be ready to return to the country when the war with Russia ends, Chief Executive Michael O'Leary said on January 30. "We are very committed to returning to Ukraine as soon as it is safe to do so," said O'Leary, who had said on the eve of the conflict that he was considering basing up to 20 aircraft in the country. Commercial flights are currently not operating in Ukraine due to fighting with Russia after Moscow ordered an invasion of its neighbor. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Tatar Sociologist Faces Hatred Charge Over Analysis Published By RFE/RL

Iskander Yasaveyev (file photo)

A sociologist in Russia's Tatarstan region, Iskander Yasaveyev, has been charged with inciting social hatred over his analysis of Moscow's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine published on the website of RFE/RL's Idel.Realities project in June. Yasaveyev wrote on Facebook on January 30 that he was summoned to the Interior Ministry's anti-extremism directorate, where he was informed that the charge was filled against him. He added that some of his belongings that were confiscated during a search of his home two weeks earlier were returned to him while he was at the ministry. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Idel.Realities, click here.

Armenia Tells International Court Of Justice That Azerbaijan Blockade Is 'Ethnic Cleansing'

A view of the International Court of Justice in The Hague (file photo)

A representative of Armenia told judges at the International Court of Justice on January 30 that a blockade of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region by neighboring Azerbaijan was designed to allow "ethnic cleansing.” The Lachin Corridor is the only route whereby Armenia can provide food, fuel, and medical supplies to Nagorno-Karabakh. The corridor has been blocked since December 12, when protesters claiming to be environmental activists stopped traffic by setting up tents. Azerbaijan denies any blockade, saying the activists are staging a legitimate protest against illegal mining activity. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Self-Exiled Buddhist Leader Of Russia's Kalmykia Resigns Over 'Foreign Agent' Label

Supreme Lama of Kalmykia Telo Tulku Rinpoche (file photo)

The self-exiled supreme lama of Russia’s Republic of Kalmykia, who was the first religious leader in the country who publicly condemned Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, has announced his resignation.

Telo Tulku Rinpoche, also known as Erdni-Basan Ombadykov, issued a statement on January 29 saying that he was stepping down from the post of the Shajin-Lama, the leader of Kalmykia's Buddhists, after Russia added him to its registry of "foreign agents."

"In the situation that occurred, I consider it reasonable to pass on all the duties related to the position of the Shajin-Lama of the Republic of Kalmykia to the current leader of the centralized religious organization - the Kalmyk Central Buddhist Monastery of Geden Sheddup Choi Korling -- Tendzin Choidak (Mutul Ovyanov) and the administrator Yonten Lodoi (Sergei Kirishov)," Telo Tulku Rinpoche's statement said.

The statement came two days after Russia's Justice Ministry added Telo Tulku Rinpoche to its list of "foreign agents."

Telo Tulku Rinpoche had led Kalmykia's Buddhists since the early 1990s.

The Buddhist monk, who represented the Dalai Lama in the Russian Federation and holds a U.S. passport, fled Russia for Mongolia last fall, where he is helping thousands of Kalmyks who left Russia after Moscow launched its war against Ukraine in late February, 2022.

In early October, he became the first religious leader in the Russian Federation to condemn Moscow's ongoing unprovoked invasion in Ukraine.

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

More Russian Forces Moved To Kursk Region On Ukrainian Border, Says Governor

Russia has moved additional forces and equipment to the western Kursk region, according to the local governor. (file photo)

Russia has moved additional forces and equipment to the Kursk region on the border with Ukraine to protect the frontier and ensure security, regional Governor Roman Starovoit said on January 30, according to the Interfax news agency. Local authorities say that the region has repeatedly been subjected to Ukrainian shelling since Russia invaded Ukraine almost a year ago. Some of Russia's troops entered from the Kursk region, although the areas of northeastern Ukraine that they seized have since been retaken by Kyiv's forces. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Explosion In Residential Building Kills Five In Uzbekistan's Karakalpakstan

Rescue teams continue to search for survivors and casualties under the debris.

An explosion in a residential building in Uzbekistan's autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan has killed at least five people. Uzbekistan's Emergency Ministry said on January 30 that the explosion, caused by a gas leak, occurred late in the afternoon of the previous day in Karakalpakstan's capital, Nukus. Rescue teams continue to search for survivors and casualties under the debris. Gas explosions occur with some frequency in Central Asia due to ageing pipelines and infrastructure, as well as lax safety standards. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, click here.

Iran Summons Senior Ukraine Diplomat Over Comments On Drone Strike

Eyewitness footage purportedly showing the moment of the explosion at a military industry factory in Isfahan, Iran.

Iran summoned Ukraine's charge d'affaires in Tehran on January 30 over his country's comments about a drone strike on a military factory in the central Iranian province of Isfahan, according to the semiofficial Tasnim news agency. In Ukraine, which accuses Iran of supplying hundreds of drones to Russia to attack civilian targets in Ukrainian cities far from the front, a senior aide to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy linked the incident directly to the war there. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Slovenia Reportedly Detains Two Foreigners On Charge Of Spying For Russia

(illustrative photo)

Media reports in Slovenia said over the weekend that the Intelligence and Security Service had detained two foreigners suspected of spying for Russia's military intelligence. According to the reports, the suspects detained in Ljubljana, the Slovenian capital, worked in the country under fake names. One of the suspects holds an Argentinian passport, the reports said. If convicted of spying and lying while crossing the border, the two face up to eight years in prison each. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.


At Least 37 Dead, Dozens Wounded In Suicide Bombing At Pakistani Mosque

At least 37 people have been killed and about 150 wounded in an attack witnesses said was a suicide bombing inside a mosque in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar.

Eyewitnesses told RFE/RL that suicide bombers standing in the first row behind the imam detonated explosive vests as worshippers, including many policemen and other officials, had gathered for afternoon prayers at the Police Line Mosque on January 30.

Dozens of the wounded were transferred to nearby hospitals, a police officer said. Several of them were in critical condition, the officer said, raising fears that the death toll might rise further. One hospital official said 10 to 15 people were in critical condition.

AP quoted a Twitter account by Sarbakaf Mohmand, a commander for the Pakistani Taliban, known as Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), that claimed responsibility for the attack. The party itself has not commented on the attack.

The radical group has waged an insurgency in Pakistan over the past 15 years.

Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif condemned the bombing and said “stern action" will be taken against those who were behind it. He ordered authorities to ensure the best possible medical treatment to the victims.

RFE/RL correspondents in the area said the mosque has been frequented by police officers and officials from the provincial government whose offices are located in the same area.

Police said rescue crews were working at the scene amid expectations that there are more casualties buried beneath the rubble as the two-story building collapsed following the powerful blast.

Former Prime Minister Imran Khan also condemned the bombing, calling it a "terrorist suicide attack."

"It is imperative we improve our intelligence gathering [and] properly equip our police forces to combat the growing threat of terrorism," Khan tweeted.

Peshawar is the capital of the volatile Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, which borders Afghanistan.

With reporting by AP and Reuters

Kyiv Calls International Olympic Committee 'Promoter Of War'

Alexander Bolshunov and Artem Maltsev of the Russian Olympic Committee cross-country skiing in February 2022.

Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak on January 30 called the International Olympic Committee (IOC) a "promoter of war" after the sports body said it was considering ways for Russian athletes to compete. "[The] IOC is a promoter of war, murder, and destruction. The IOC watches with pleasure Russia destroying Ukraine and then offers Russia a platform to promote genocide and encourages their further killings. Obviously Russian money that buys Olympic hypocrisy doesn't have a smell of Ukrainian blood," Podolyak said on Twitter.

Russian Business Offers Cash Bounties To Destroy Western Tanks In Ukraine

A U.S. Abrams tank fires during a NATO military exercise in Latvia in 2021.

A Russian company said it will offer 5 million rubles (about $72,000) in cash to the first soldiers who destroy or capture Western-made tanks in Ukraine, after the Kremlin vowed Russian forces would wipe out any Western tanks shipped to Ukraine. The United States, Germany, and several other European countries are lining up to send Kyiv dozens of advanced combat tanks over the next few months to help boost Ukraine's military capacity. The decision has been criticized by the Kremlin as a dangerous escalation. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Britain's Boris Johnson Says Putin Threatened Him With Missile Strike

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the International Libya Conference in Berlin in January 2020.

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened him with a missile strike during a phone call in the run-up to the invasion of Ukraine. Johnson said Putin had asked him about the prospects of Ukraine joining NATO, to which he had responded it would not be "for the foreseeable future." "He threatened me at one point, and he said, 'Boris, I don't want to hurt you but, with a missile, it would only take a minute' or something like that," Johnson said. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Russia Says Nuclear Arms Treaty With U.S. May End After 2026

This photo taken from video provided by the Russian Defense Ministry on February 19, 2022, shows a Yars intercontinental ballistic missile being launched from an air field during military drills.

Russia's deputy foreign minister said in an interview published on January 30 that it was "quite possible" the New START nuclear arms control treaty with the United States would end after 2026. "This is quite a possible scenario," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the RIA news agency. U.S.-Russia talks on resuming inspections under the treaty, which expires in February 2026, were called off at the last minute in November 2022. Neither side has agreed on a time frame for new talks. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Germany Won't Send Fighter Jets To Ukraine, Says Scholz

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (file photo)

Chancellor Olaf Scholz reiterated on January 29 that Germany will not send fighter jets to Ukraine, as Kyiv steps up calls for more advanced weapons from the West to help repel Russia's invasion. Scholz only just agreed on January 25 to send 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and to allow other European countries to send theirs, after weeks of intense debate and mounting pressure from allies. "I can only advise against entering into a constant bidding war when it comes to weapons systems," Scholz said in an interview with the Tagesspiegel newspaper. To read the original story from AFP, click here.

Ukraine's Zelenskiy Attacks Idea That Russia Could Compete In 2024 Olympics

"Attempts by the International Olympic Committee to bring Russian athletes back into the Olympic Games are attempts to tell the whole world that terror is somehow acceptable," Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on January 29 that allowing Russia to compete at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris was tantamount to showing that "terror is somehow acceptable." "Attempts by the International Olympic Committee to bring Russian athletes back into the Olympic Games are attempts to tell the whole world that terror is somehow acceptable," Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address. He said Russia must not be allowed to "use [the Olympics] or any other sport event as propaganda for its aggression or its state chauvinism." To read the original story from Reuters, click here.

Turkey's Erdogan Signals Finland's NATO Bid May Be Considered Over Sweden

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (file photo)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signaled on January 29 that Ankara may agree to Finland joining NATO ahead of Sweden, amid growing tensions with Stockholm. "We may deliver Finland a different message [on their NATO application], and Sweden would be shocked when they see our message. But Finland should not make the same mistake Sweden did," Erdogan said in a televised speech. Sweden and Finland applied last year to join NATO following Russia's invasion of Ukraine and need the approval of all member countries to join. Turkey and Hungary are yet to ratify the Nordic countries' membership. To read the original story from Reuters, click here.

Friends Mourn Volunteer Who Was Killed Helping Civilians In Ukraine

A farewell ceremony was held in Kyiv on January 29 for volunteer Andrew Bagshaw.

Friends and volunteers gathered on January 29 at Kyiv's St. Sophia’s Cathedral to say goodbye to Andrew Bagshaw, a New Zealand scientist who was killed in Ukraine with another volunteer while they were trying to evacuate people from a frontline town. Bagshaw, 48, a dual New Zealand-British citizen, and British volunteer Christopher Parry, 28, went missing this month while heading to the town of Soledar, in the eastern Donetsk region, where heavy fighting was taking place. To read the original story from AP, click here.

Over 500 Dead Since Start Of Unrest In Iran, Activists Say

Among the dead were 71 minors and 70 members of the police and other security forces, according to the group's tally.

At least 527 people have been killed in Iran since the beginning of the anti-government demonstrations more than four months ago, said a report by the U.S.-based Human Rights Activists News Agency on January 29. Among them were 71 minors and 70 members of the police and other security forces, according to the group's tally. In total, nearly 20,000 people have been arrested. More than 100 of them are facing death sentences. Several demonstrators have already been executed. The Iranian authorities have not yet provided information on the total number of deaths and arrests.

Azerbaijan Evacuating Embassy In Iran After Fatal Shooting

The Azerbaijani Embassy in Tehran was the scene of a fatal shooting on January 27.

Azerbaijan will evacuate embassy staff and family members from Iran on January 29, the Foreign Ministry said, two days after a gunman shot dead a security guard and wounded two other people in an attack Baku branded an "act of terrorism." Police in Tehran have said they have arrested a suspect. Iranian authorities condemned the January 27 incident but said the gunman appeared to have had a personal, not a political, motive. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.


At Least 12 Children Dead After Boat Capsizes In Northwestern Pakistan

Pakistani officials say at least 12 children were killed on January 29 after their boat overturned in Tanda Lake, a popular tourist destination in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. Bilal Faizi, a spokesperson for local emergency services, said at least five children were rescued but that they are in critical condition. Police said at least 25 children -- students of the Mirbaz Khel religious school -- were on the boat when it capsized. The death toll was expected to rise as rescue efforts continued. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal, click here.


Ukrainian Tanks Crews Arrive In Britain For Training

A Ukrainian soldier rests before going to the front line in the Donetsk region on January 28.

Ukrainian tank crews have arrived in Britain to begin training for their continued fight against Russia, the British Defense Ministry said on January 29, just days after Britain and other NATO countries pledged more than 130 tanks to Ukraine.

"The UK will provide Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine alongside global partner nations -- demonstrating the strength of support for Ukraine, internationally," the ministry tweeted on January 29.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

The United States and Germany agreed last week to send Abrams and Leopard 2 tanks, respectively, to Ukraine, while the United Kingdom earlier in January said it would send 14 Challenger 2 tanks. Germany also allowed other countries, such as Norway and Poland, to send their German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

Poland said it will provide 60 more tanks to Ukraine, in addition to the 14 it has already pledged.

Ukrainian authorities have repeatedly said that they need 300 tanks as they seek to drive Russian forces from their territory. Ukraine has lost more than half of its 850 tanks during the 11-month war, according to Oryx, a website that uses open-source tools to count destroyed equipment.

Russia has many more tanks than Ukraine, but its models are inferior in some key respects to Western models.

Both Russia and Ukraine are expected to launch offensives in the coming weeks, with tanks expected to play a vital role in those battles, experts said.

Ukraine needs new weapons and faster deliveries to confront a "very tough" situation of constant attacks by Russian forces in the eastern Donetsk region, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on January 29.

"The situation is very tough. In Bakhmut, Vuhledar and other sectors in Donetsk region, there are constant Russian attacks. There are constant attempts to break through our defenses," Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.

"Russia wants the war to drag on and exhaust our forces. So we have to make time our weapon. We have to speed up events, speed up supplies, and open up new weapons options for Ukraine."

Shortly after Zelenskiy spoke reports emerged of a Russian military strike on an apartment building in the eastern city of Kharkiv, triggering a blaze.

The town's mayor Ihor Terekhov indicated there had been casualties.

Earlier, on the ground in Ukraine, Russian invading forces continued to launch attacks on January 29.

Three people were reported killed and six wounded by Russian strikes on the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson that damaged a hospital and a school, the regional administration said.

Kherson was occupied by Russian troops from the early days of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine until its recapture by Kyiv's forces in November. Since its liberation, the city has regularly been shelled from Russian positions across the Dnieper River.

Meanwhile, the fighting on the front line remains intense, especially in the eastern Donetsk region, with major battles under way for Vuhledar and Bakhmut, a town that has been virtually razed by repeated Russian artillery bombardments.

The head of the Donetsk regional military administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said on January 29 that four people were killed and 17 others wounded in Russian strikes on Bakhmut and Kostyantynivka the previous day.

There were no casualties among the civilian populations as the district’s administrative center, Beryslav, and the villages of Mylove and Tyahynka came under the Russian attack, the district chief, Volodymyr Litvinov, said on Telegram on January 29.

Elsewhere, Ukraine's military said its forces repelled an attack in the area of Blahodatne in the eastern part of the Donetsk region, while Russia's Vagner mercenary group claimed it had taken control of the village.

With reporting by Reuters

Pakistani Government Lifts Price Caps On Gasoline, Diesel Fuel

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said he hoped the announcement would dispel speculation on social media of a higher price hike or that gasoline supplies would run dry. (file photo)

Pakistan's Finance Ministry announced on January 29 that gasoline and diesel prices would rise by $0.14 a liter after the country's currency plummeted in value this week when price caps were removed. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said he hoped the announcement would dispel speculation on social media of a higher price hike or that gasoline supplies would run dry. He said the hike was recommended by oil and gas authorities due to the higher cost of buying energy in the global market. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Earthquake Strikes Northwestern Iran, Killing At Least Three

The shallow quake hit the city of Khoy in West Azerbaijan Province.

A 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck northwestern Iran near the border with Turkey late on January 28, killing at least three people and injuring 816, state media said. The shallow quake hit the city of Khoy in West Azerbaijan Province at 9:44 p.m., the Seismological Center of the University of Tehran said. Iran sits astride the boundaries of several major tectonic plates and experiences frequent seismic activity. To read the original story by AFP, click here.

Russia Rules Out Talks With Japan On Fishing Near Disputed Islands

A sunken vessel is seen near the Island of Kunashir, one of four islands known as the Kuriles in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan. (file photo)

Russia said on January 29 that it will not hold annual talks with Japan on renewing a pact that allows Japanese fishermen to operate near disputed islands, saying Japan has taken anti-Russian measures. The islands are known in Russia as the Kuriles and in Japan as the Northern Territories and have been at the core of decades of tension between the neighbors. Japan imposed sanctions on dozens of Russian individuals and organizations soon after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

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