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Arab League Gives Syria Three Days To End Crackdown, Threatens Sanctions

Antiregime protesters gather in Hula, near Homs, on November 13.
Foreign ministers from the Arab League have given the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad three days to end its deadly crackdown on anti-government protesters and allow observers in to monitor compliance.

The League threatened to implement financial sanctions against the regime if it does not cooperate.

The ultimatum was announced on November 16 at an emergency meeting in Rabat, Morocco, that was also attended by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani told a press conference after the meeting that Arab countries' patience with the Syrian regime was quickly running out.

He warned, "We are coming near the end of Arab diplomacy for Syria."

"We cannot accept that people could be killed the way it is happening in Syria without intervening to stop the bloodshed and to avoid more violence, more violence and more killings. This is why we took a difficult decision for all of us because we are responsible for preserving the blood of our brothers in Syria," he said.

Al-Thani was also quoted as saying that if Damascus does not cooperate, sanctions will be adopted.

The League reportedly today asked its experts to draft a plan for imposing economic penalties on Syria with the goal of pressuring the regime to end its violent crackdown.

The 22-member bloc also called for "prompt measures" to protect civilians in Syria and said they oppose "all foreign intervention."

The Arab League voted on November 12 to suspend Syria's membership after it failed to honor the terms of a peace plan which would see the government withdrawing tanks from restive cities and stopping attacks on protesters. The plan also mandated Damascus to open a dialogue with the opposition within two weeks.

The suspension was to take effect today, and Syrian officials did not attend the meeting.

Damascus had earlier called the move "an extremely dangerous step" prompted by U.S. "incitement."

Washington welcomed the suspension, while Moscow called it "incorrect."

In another sign of Syria's increased isolation on the International scene, France and Morocco both withdrew their ambassadors to the country today.

"New violence is taking place and that has led to the closure of the missions in Aleppo and Latakia and to recall our ambassador to Paris," said French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe.

Juppe was referring to attacks over the weekend on French diplomatic premises, as well as on the Saudi and Turkish missions in Syria.

The Damascus embassies of Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar were reportedly also attacked today by regime loyalists.

Juppe said Paris was working with the Arab League to draft a UN resolution condemning the violence. Russia and China vetoed a similar UN Security Council resolution last month.

Speaking in Ankara, Turkish President Abdullah Gul warned of consequences if the embassy attacks continued.

"It is not possible to accept these attacks against our presence in Syria, on our citizens, embassy, diplomats and diplomatic missions. We have vehemently condemned this attack. If they do not take the necessary measures and this happens again, our reaction will be different," he said.

Meanwhile, reports said Syrian army defectors attacked an intelligence headquarters near the capital, killing at least six members of the security forces.

Activists said army defectors also killed eight soldiers and wounded dozens in an attack on a security checkpoint in the province of Hama.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters that the use of violence by the Syrian opposition "plays into Assad's and his regime's hands."

"[The Syrian opposition movement] was a peaceful movement from its inception and it's only because of the regime's repeated brutal campaign of violence against innocent protesters that we've seen the country move down this very dangerous path," he said.

Meanwhile, security forces reportedly killed 13 civilians in Homs, Idlib, and Damascus.

According to figures released by the United Nations, security forces have killed more than 3,500 opposition protesters and others since the Syrian uprising began in March.

compiled from agency reports

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Russia Not Critically Weakened By War So Far, Estonian Minister Says

Estonia's Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur (file photo)

Estonia's Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur does not believe that Russia has been critically weakened, even after nine months of war in Ukraine. "We have to be honest and clear: The Russian Navy and Air Force are more or less as big as they were before the war," Pevkur told dpa during a visit to Berlin. Although the Russian land forces had lost considerable strength, they would "sooner rather than later" have the size they had before February 24 when they launched their offensive -- or even larger. Russia will also learn from its military experience in Ukraine, he argued: "We have no reason to believe that the threat from Russia is somehow reduced or that the threat to NATO is reduced."

Iran Bank Manager Reportedly Fired For Serving Unveiled Woman

Women in the country of more than 80 million people are required to cover their heads, necks, and hair, a law enforced by the country's morality police. (file photo)

An Iranian bank manager who served an unveiled woman has been fired, local media reported on November 27, as demonstrations triggered by the mandatory head-covering rule shake the Islamic republic. Women in the country of more than 80 million people are required to cover their heads, necks, and hair, a law enforced by the country's morality police. The September 16 death in morality police custody of Mahsa Amini, 22, for allegedly breaching the dress code rules sparked nationwide demonstrations, which authorities call "riots.” Mehr news agency reported that the bank manager in Qom Province, near the capital, Tehran, "had provided bank services on November 24 to an unveiled woman.” To read the story from AFP, click here.

Electricity In Kyiv 'Almost Completely' Restored After Russian Atttacks

A woman waits for a bus on a street without electricity in Kyiv.

Electricity, water supplies as well as heat and communications have been "almost completely" restored in Kyiv, the city's military administration said on November 27. It added that “outages are possible due to the load on the power grid.” Tens of thousands of residents in the Ukrainian capital had been left without electricity following intensive Russian attacks. Some 130,000 people in the metropolis of 3 million were still affected, the Ukrainian capital’s military administration said on November 26. On November 23, Russia targeted Ukraine's energy infrastructure with dozens of rockets and cruise missiles, causing severe damage. To read the original story from RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, click here.

Russia To Bar Foreigners From Using Its Surrogate Mothers

Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament. (file photo)

Russia will soon adopt a law barring foreigners from using Russian surrogate mothers, Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the lower house of parliament, said on November 27, the nation's Mother's Day. Paid surrogacy is legal in Russia, but the practice has been criticized by religious groups as commercializing the birth of children. "Everything must be done to protect children by prohibiting foreigners from using the surrogacy service," Volodin said on Telegram. "We will make this decision at the beginning of December." He said some 45,000 babies born by surrogate mothers have been taken abroad in the past few years. "Child trafficking is unacceptable," he added. To read the original story from Reuters, click here.

Queiroz Tells Klinsmann To Quit FIFA Role Over 'Outrageous' Iran Rebuke

Iranian players celebrate with coach Carlos Queiroz after the match against Wales on November 25.

Iran's coach Carlos Queiroz lambasted German soccer icon Juergen Klinsmann for criticizing his team's World Cup conduct, calling his remarks a "disgrace to football" and urging him to resign from his role with world governing body FIFA. In comments as an analyst with broadcaster BBC, 1990 World Cup winner Klinsmann accused Iran of systematic gamesmanship during their stunning 2-0 stoppage time win over Wales on November 25 and said Queiroz's record with other national teams made him the right match for Iran. "That's their culture and that's their way of doing it and that's why Carlos Queiroz, he fits really well in the Iranian national team," said Klinsmann, a former United States coach. To read the original story from Reuters, click here.

Iranian Activist Hossein Ronaghi Released On Bail, Transferred To Hospital

Hossein Ronaghi has been transferred to a hospital after refusing to eat for 64 days, his father said.

Iranian authorities on November 26 released activist Hossein Ronaghi on bail, his brother said. Ronaghi was among thousands arrested in the crackdown on protests rocking the country over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was taken into custody by morality police for the alleged improper wearing of a head scarf. Concern had been growing about Ronaghi’s health after he went on a hunger strike last month. "Hossein was released tonight on bail to undergo treatment," Hossein Ronaghi's brother Hassan said on Twitter. Their father, Ahmad, said Ronaghi had been transferred to a hospital after refusing to eat for 64 days. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Radio Farda, click here.

Russia, Ukraine Announce Latest Prisoner Swap

Andriy Yermak , the head of the Ukrainian presidential office, also said that Kyiv has managed to secure the release of 98 Ukrainian prisoners of war in the past week. In this picture, a group of POWs pose after a swap in the Zaporizhzhya region on November 24.

Russia and Ukraine announced the latest exchange of prisoners, with 12 Ukrainians and nine Russians released. “Another POWs swap. We managed to [win the] release 12 [Ukrainians]. Our soldiers, who defended Mariupol, the Chernobyl [nuclear plant], and Snake Island are returning home,” the head of the Ukrainian presidential office, Andriy Yermak, said on Twitter on November 26. Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry said nine Russians prisoners of war had been released to Russian authorities “as a result of the negotiation process.”

Ukraine Wants Lower Cap On Russian Oil, At $30-$40 Per Barrel

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy

The price for Russian seaborne oil should be capped at between $30-$40 per barrel, lower than the level that Group of Seven (G7) nations have proposed, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on November 26. EU governments, seeking to curb Moscow's ability to fund the Ukraine war without causing an oil supply shock, are split over a G7 push that the cap be set at $65-$70 per barrel. It is due to enter into force on December 5. To read the original story from Reuters, click here.

Updated

Zelenskiy Says Ukraine 'Cannot Be Broken,' Citing Russian Invasion, 1932-33 Famine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his wife, Olena, pay their respects to the victims of the Holodomor famine at a memorial in central Kyiv on November 26.

KYIV -- President Volodymyr Zelenskiy declared that Ukraine “cannot be broken” as he cited his country’s fight against the Russian invasion and marked the anniversary of the famine regarded by Ukrainians to be a deliberate act perpetrated by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

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.

"Ukrainians went through very terrible things...Once they wanted to destroy us with hunger -- now, with darkness and cold," Zelenskiy said on November 26 in a video message.

"We cannot be broken," he declared.

The prime ministers of EU and NATO members Belgium, Lithuania, and Poland were in Kyiv to mark the day and to attend a summit hosted by Zelenskiy to press the “Grain From Ukraine” initiative designed to get crucial supplies to world markets. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron were among those speaking through video addresses.

Zelenskiy’s remarks came amid widespread cuts in power and water supplies in his country after weeks of Russian strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure and as temperatures plunge with the beginning of winter.

Zelenskiy and other leaders commemorated the victims of the Holodomor famine, which took place in 1932-33 as Stalin's police forced peasants in Ukraine to join collective farms by requisitioning their grain and other foodstuffs.

Historians say the failure to properly harvest crops in Ukraine in 1932 under Soviet mismanagement was the main cause of the famine.

It is estimated that up to 9 million people died as a result of executions, deportation, and starvation during the Stalin-era campaign.

Many Ukrainians consider the famine an act of genocide aimed at wiping out Ukrainian farmers.

Along with Ukraine, at least 16 other countries have officially recognized the Holodomor as “genocide.”

Ukraine Marks Anniversary Of Catastrophic Stalin-Era Famine
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In October 2018, the U.S. Senate adopted a nonbinding resolution recognizing that Stalin and those around him committed genocide against the Ukrainians in 1932-33.

German lawmakers are preparing to recognize the Holodomor as genocide, according to a draft text seen by the AFP news agency of a joint resolution from Germany's ruling coalition and opposition.

Moscow has long denied any systematic effort to target Ukrainians, arguing that a poor harvest at the time wiped out many in other parts of the Soviet Union.

How Ukraine's Holodomor Famine Was Secretly Photographed
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Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that he "honored the memory of the Holodomor victims" at a memorial in the Ukrainian capital.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, on his first visit to Kyiv since the Russian invasion, said on Twitter that "after the heavy bombing of recent days, we stand with the people of Ukraine. More than ever before."

"With the cold winter months ahead, Belgium is releasing new humanitarian and military aid," he added.

Zelenskiy told the grain summit that Kyiv is one of the guarantors of world food security and will fulfill its duties despite the Russian invasion, citing the new “Grain From Ukraine” initiative.

He pressed world leaders to support the initiative aimed at feeding about 5 million people in poor countries, particularly Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Congo, Kenya, and Nigeria.

Speaking through video statements to the summit, Scholz and Macron unveiled new financial packages designed to aid Ukrainian grain exports, which have been hit hard by the war, causing food shortages in many of the world’s poorer nations.

"The most vulnerable countries must not pay the price of a war they did not want," Macron said.

Zelenskiy said the Black Sea Grain Initiative -- brokered by Turkey and the UN and agreed to by Russia and Ukraine -- is not operating at full capacity, blaming what he called Moscow's efforts to delay the movement of ships, leaving many vessels trapped at Ukrainian ports.

The deal took effect in August, aimed at unblocking grain shipments to countries in Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Asia.

Ukraine and Russia are key global suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil, and other food to those countries, and Russia was the world's top exporter of fertilizer before it launched its ongoing invasion of Ukraine in February.

Many in the West have accused Russia of weaponizing the shipment of crucial food-related supplies to world markets. Moscow denies the accusations.

Amid Blackouts, Odesa Residents Hunt For Generators To Stay Powered Up
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Meanwhile, throughout Ukraine, millions of people are still without heat or electricity after the recent devastating Russian air strikes on infrastructure sites.

Authorities on November 26 were gradually restoring power in many cities -- helped by the reconnection to the grid of the nation’s four nuclear plants.

Fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces was reported in the east and south of the country, as Kyiv’s troops continue their counteroffensive, which has recaptured thousands of kilometers of territory seized by Russia early in the war.

In the recently liberated southern city of Kherson and its environs, authorities said at least 32 people have been killed by Russian shelling since pro-Kremlin forces withdrew two weeks ago and moved to the eastern bank of the Dnieper River.

"Daily Russian shelling is destroying the city and killing peaceful local residents. In all, Russia has killed 32 civilians in the Kherson region since the de-occupation," Ihor Klymenko, chief of the National Police of Ukraine, said on Facebook.

"Many people are evacuating to seek refuge in calmer regions of the country. But many residents remain in their homes, and we need to provide them with the maximum possible security," he added.

With reporting by AFP and AP

Prime Ministers From Belgium, Lithuania, Poland Arrive In Kyiv, Offer Support For Ukraine

Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte (left), Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (second from left), Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (center), Hungarian President Katalin Novak (second from right), and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki attend a joint news conference after an international summit in Kyiv on November 26.

The prime ministers of EU and NATO members Lithuania, Poland, and Belgium arrived in Kyiv on November 26, expressing support for Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion and attending a summit hosted by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to discuss implementation of the “Grain From Ukraine” initiative. The parties reaffirmed their readiness to continue their efforts to ensure regular and structured EU budget support for Ukraine throughout 2023 and further participation in the restoration and reconstruction of infrastructure damaged by Russia's full-scale invasion. To read the original story from RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, click here.

Belarusian Foreign Minister Makei Dies, Says State News Agency

Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimer Makei (file photo)

Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimer Makei has died suddenly at the age of 64, the BelTA state news agency reported on November 26. No cause of death was cited and a spokesman said there were no indications he had been in poor health. Until 2020, in pro-Kremlin media and Telegram channels, Makei had repeatedly been accused of seeking to improve relations with the West to the detriment of Russia's interests, but he later defended Minsk's logistical support for Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Belarus Service, click here.

130,000 In Kyiv Still Without Power After Russian Strikes

A woman walks in Kyiv amid a blackout following Russian strikes on the city.

After intensive Russian attacks, tens of thousands of residents in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, are still without electricity, according to the local authorities. Some 130,000 people in the metropolis of 3 million were still affected, the city's military administration said on November 26, adding that repairs should be finished in the next 24 hours. All heating systems should then be working again, the authorities said. On November 23, Russia targeted Ukraine's energy infrastructure with dozens of missiles and cruise missiles, causing severe damage.

Cyberattack Hits Iran's Fars News Agency

The headquarter of the Fars news agency in Tehran (file photo)

Hackers have disrupted the work of Iran's Fars news agency, one of the main sources of news disseminated by the state during protests over the death of a young woman in police custody in September, the agency said. Fars said its website had been disrupted late on November 25 by a "complex hacking and cyberattack operation...Removing possible bugs...may cause problems for some agency services for a few days," it said in a statement posted on November 26 on its Telegram channel. To read the original story by AFP, click here.

Power Restored In Ukrainian City Of Kherson, Senior Presidential Aide Says

Kherson had been without electricity, central heating, and running water when Ukrainian forces reclaimed it on November 11.

Electricity has been restored in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson after its liberation earlier this month from Russian occupation, a senior presidential aide said on November 26. "First we are supplying power to the city's critical infrastructure and then immediately to household consumers," Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of Ukraine's presidential administration, wrote on the Telegram messaging app. The city had been without electricity, central heating and running water when Ukrainian forces reclaimed it on November 11. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Ukraine Works To Restore Water, Power After Russian Strikes

Vehicles drive in darkness in the center of Lviv, one of several Ukrainian cities that have experienced power outages this week as a result of Russian strikes on the country's infrastructure.

Ukrainian authorities endeavored on November 26 to restore electricity and water services after a recent pummeling by Russian military strikes that vastly damaged infrastructure. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said millions have seen their power restored since blackouts swept the war-battered country days earlier. Meanwhile, skirmishes continued in the east and residents from the southern city of Kherson headed north and west to flee after punishing, deadly bombardments by Russian forces in recent days. To read the original story by AP, click here.

Ukraine President's Chief Of Staff Says Russia 'Will Pay' For Soviet-Era Famines

Ukraine's annual memorial day for the victims of Holodomor famine takes place this year on November 26. (file photo)

Russia will pay for a Soviet-era famine that left millions of Ukrainians dead during the winter of 1932-33 and for its actions in the current war in Ukraine, the head of Ukraine's presidential administration said on November 26. "The Russians will pay for all of the victims of the Holodomor and answer for today's crimes," Andriy Yermak wrote on Telegram, using the Ukrainian name for the disaster. Ukraine's annual memorial day for the victims of Holodomor takes place this year on November 26. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Toqaev Sworn In For Second Term As Kazakhstan's President After Vote That 'Lacked Genuine Competition'

Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev (file photo)

Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev was sworn in for his second term as Kazakhstan’s president in a ceremony in Astana on November 26 after winning a snap election that international observers said lacked genuine competition. Toqaev's victory was expected, given that he was competing against five little-known opponents. The November 20 election came nearly three months after Kazakhstan replaced its system limiting presidents to two consecutive five-year terms with a single seven-year term. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service, click here.

Iran's Khamenei Praises Basij Forces For Confronting 'Riots'

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (file photo)

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a televised speech on November 26 that Basij militia forces sacrificed their lives in "riots" sparked by the death in custody of a young Iranian Kurdish woman in September. The Basij force, affiliated with the country's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, has been at the forefront of the state crackdown on protests that have spread across the country. To read the original story from Reuters, click here.

U.K. Says Russia Likely Removing Nuclear Warheads From Missiles And Firing At Ukraine

British intelligence said open-source imagery shows the wreckage of an air-launched cruise missile fired at Ukraine which seems to have been designed in the 1980s as a nuclear delivery system. (file photo)

Russia is likely removing nuclear warheads from ageing nuclear cruise missiles and firing unarmed munitions at Ukraine, Britain's military intelligence said on November 26. It said open-source imagery shows the wreckage of an air- launched cruise missile fired at Ukraine which seems to have been designed in the 1980s as a nuclear delivery system, adding that ballast was probably being substituted for the warheads. Such a system will still produce damage through the missile's kinetic energy and unspent fuel. However, it's unlikely to achieve reliable effects against intended targets. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

In Rare Public Spat, Zelenskiy Criticizes Kyiv Mayor Over Emergency Centers

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko (file photo)

In a rare public spat involving Ukrainian leaders, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy criticized the mayor of Kyiv for doing what he said was a poor job setting up emergency shelters to help those without power and heat after Russian attacks. Ukraine has established thousands of "invincibility centers" where people can access heat, water, Internet, and mobile phone links. In an evening address on November 25, Zelenskiy indicated that Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko and his officials had not done enough and "more work is needed." To see the original Reuters story, click here.

Six Million Ukrainians Still Without Electricity; Army Says Battles Raging In East And Southeast

People gather at the railway station in Kherson as they charge their electronic devices and wait to board an evacuation train earlier this week.

Ukrainian repair crews continued to scramble to return power to millions of homes on November 25 following devastating Russian missile attacks this week on infrastructure facilities including water and heating sources, while Kyiv said near-constant Russian bombing was affecting a handful of population centers in the east.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address that more than 6 million households remain in darkness.

"As of this evening, blackouts continue in most regions and in Kyiv," he said.

But he said work crews had succeeded in cutting the number of affected locations "by half" since November 23, one of the most destructive nights of Russian bombing of power infrastructure in the nine-month-old invasion.

In addition to the capital, Zelenskiy said Odesa on the Black Sea, Lviv in western Ukraine, west-central Vinnytsia, and Dnipropetrovsk in central Ukraine are some of the hardest-hit areas.

Amid Blackouts, Odesa Residents Hunt For Generators To Stay Powered Up
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The national power-grid company, Ukrenerho, said via Telegram on November 25 that by 7 p.m. around 30 percent of the country's electricity supplies were still out.

It said a "phased restoration" was continuing and repair teams "are working around the clock" but urged people to consume energy "sparingly."

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal credited energy workers and said, "No country in the world has such experience in putting the energy system into operation after seven waves of missile strikes."

Zelenskiy also visited a multistory residential building reportedly damaged by a Russian missile in the town of Vyshhorod, north of the capital, along with one of the emergency hubs Ukraine has been setting up around the country to provide device charging, heat, water, Internet, and electricity.

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.

In his video statement he assured Ukrainians that "we will overcome all challenges and we will definitely win."

The Ukrainian Army General Staff said on November 25 that said active battles were raging in the regions of Kharkiv, Luhansk, Donetsk, and Zaporizhzhya.

Russian forces are carrying out nonstop shelling in the Kryvyi and Kherson regions, it said, including in the city of Kherson.

The Ukrainian military said its forces had carried out attacks on a Russian command post and a half-dozen other targets including three enemy anti-aircraft missile stations.

RFE/RL cannot independently verify battlefield claims in areas of intense fighting.

The Ukrainian General Staff also accused Russian troops of dangerous actions at Europe's largest nuclear plant at Zaporizhzhya, which it has occupied since early in the invasion.

"The opponent continues to pressure Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant workers," a Ukrainian General Staff spokesman said on Facebook. "According to available information, individual employees who refuse to cooperate with the occupation authorities are not allowed to work places."

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Ukrainian officials have complained of catastrophic risk as exhausted Ukrainian workers at Zaporizhzhya work under extreme duress.

The head of the UN's nuclear agency said this week that all of Ukraine's civilian nuclear power plants are due for inspections and that IAEA experts will visit all those facilities, including the abandoned Chernobyl power plant.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP

LGBT Support Center Shutters Tatarstan Operations Over Russia's New Anti-LGBT 'Propaganda' Law

A participant poses with a rainbow flag with Interior Ministry officers in the background during an LGBT rally in St. Petersburg in 2017.

A support center for the LGBT+ community in the capital of the southern Russian Republic of Tatarstan has announced its suspension of activities to avoid falling afoul of a sweeping new Russian law banning "propaganda" of nontraditional sexual relations or desires to "change sex."

The Acceptance center in Kazan announced the closure on its Instagram page on November 25.

"In connection with the new law on the complete ban on LGBT 'propaganda,' Acceptance is suspending its activities," the group said, adding that it was ending its main activity on a leading Russian social network. "The VK website and support group are being closed. Open support groups for queer people in Kazan are being suspended."

Russia's parliament on November 24 passed the third and final reading of legislation that expands a nine-year-old ban on promoting LGBT "propaganda" to children by barring such promotion among people of any age.

Any action or event deemed to be promoting nontraditional gender views or homosexuality -- including online, in film, books, advertising or in public -- could incur a heavy fine. The fine will be up to $6,600 for individuals and up to $82,100 for legal entities, according to Reuters.

Russia Declares Ex-Mayor, TV Journalist, And Trans Support Group Among 'Foreign Agents'

Former Yekaterinburg Mayor Yevgeny Roizman (file photo)

Russia's Justice Ministry has placed former Yekaterinburg Mayor Yevgeny Roizman and TV Dozhd journalist Anna Mongait on its list of "foreign agents."

Other new additions under the increasingly applied law on November 25 included a trans-initiative group, a charitable foundation, and a journalist who collaborates with RFE/RL.

A Russian court released Roizman from detention in August but ordered him not to communicate with anyone without permission, as it imposed pre-trial restrictions a day after police arrested the outspoken Kremlin critic and prosecutors accused him of "discrediting the armed forces."

Journalist Mongait's independent Russian television station Dozhd was forced to suspend operations in March amid pressure linked to its coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and later began broadcasting some of its programs from Latvia.

Also on the list were the head of the Free Buryatia anti-war foundation; a former volunteer for jailed Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny's headquarters in Ufa; and a Perm political scientist and the coordinator of the Golos observer movement.

The ministry also added journalist Lyubov Barabashova, who collaborates with RFE/RL's Russian Service's Siberia.Realities project, to its list.

It also included among foreign agents the trans-initiative group T-Action, which supports the transgender community.

The Social Partnership, an NGO, was also listed.

Ukraine Needs To Be 'Far-Sighted' To Secure Peace, Pope Says

The pope earlier this month called for a cease-fire to avert the risk of escalation of the conflict and asked God to "hurry up" to end it.

Ukraine's leaders will have to be "far-sighted" to secure peace, Pope Francis said on November 25, suggesting Kyiv would have to make concessions to end the war with Russia. The pope earlier this month called for a cease-fire to avert the risk of escalation of the conflict and asked God to "hurry up" to end it. The Roman Catholic Church leader described Ukrainians as "a bold and strong people" and "a noble and martyred people." To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Hungary's President Novak Traveling To Ukraine To Meet With Zelenskiy

Hungarian President Katalin Novak is a steadfast Orban ally and former lawmaker and minister of family affairs who took over as president in May.

Hungarian President Katalin Novak is making her country's highest-level official visit to Ukraine since the Russian invasion began nine months ago, according to the local index.hu website.

There was no official confirmation.

The website said Novak was invited by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who has repeatedly expressed exasperation at the response to the war by NATO- and EU-member Hungary's leadership and especially its entrenched Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The outlet did not say when Novak was traveling but said she would be making the trip to neighboring Ukraine by train.

Budapest has publicly refused to join fellow NATO states in supplying weapons directly to Ukraine and has staunchly resisted Brussels' pressure to cut off its imports of Russian gas, although it has acknowledged Russian responsibility for the conflict.

Novak is a steadfast Orban ally and former lawmaker and minister of family affairs who took over as president in May.

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said amid quarrels over a possible EU price cap on Russian oil on November 24 that Budapest had negotiated itself an exemption within the EU's current proposal, meaning such a cap among other members would not affect Hungary if it were adopted.

Orban, who has ruled for 12 years and won a new four-year term in April, and his ruling Fidesz government have attacked Western sanctions as akin to the EU "shooting itself in the lung."

He and Szijjarto are almost alone among senior Western officials in having made official trips to Russia since President Vladimir Putin launched the all-out invasion of Ukraine in February.

Under Orban, Hungary has spurned Western warnings to court Moscow in energy and diplomatic areas as Budapest increasingly challenges EU policy including on free media, democracy, LGBT rights, immigration, and rule of law.

Novak has joined other Hungarian officials including Orban in keeping the fate of Transcarpathian Hungarians high on her list of priorities in relations with Kyiv.

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