Syrian Army, Aided By Russia, Regains Control Over Most Of Damascus Suburb
Syrian rebel fighters have evacuated one enclave in eastern Ghouta and reached a Russian-brokered deal to leave another, enabling Syrian government forces to regain control over most of the embattled Damascus suburb, observers say.
The developments on March 23 brought Syrian President Bashar al-Assad close to his biggest victory since driving armed rebels out of Aleppo in December 2016, though his opposition still has a few remaining strongholds in northwestern and southwestern Syria.
A devastating Russia-backed government assault since February 18 on eastern Ghouta has killed more than 1,600 civilians but has brought 90 percent of the Damascus suburb back under government control, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Retaking eastern Ghouta, a sprawling semirural area that had escaped government control since 2012, became a priority this year for Assad after a string of gains by the Syrian Army elsewhere around the country.
At the start of the offensive, the United Nations estimated 400,000 people were trapped inside the besieged area without access to food or medicine.
The Russia-backed Syrian campaign succeeded in splintering the territory held by fractured rebel groups into three shrinking pockets, each held by different rebel factions.
Damascus and its ally Moscow then implemented a "leave or die" strategy like the one that enabled them to prevail after a similarly bloody battle in Aleppo.
The killing of hundreds of civilians through intense bombardments within the span of a month provoked an international outcry and global condemnation at the United Nations, but Western efforts to impose a cease-fire that might save civilian lives never took hold.
Syrian state television said on March 23 the town of Harasta had been "emptied" of rebels after an evacuation deal that saw fighters from the Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham and their families bused to northwestern Idlib Province, one of the last strongholds for the rebels.
Syrian Army soldiers fired guns in the air in celebration as the last groups of rebels in Harasta boarded buses.
Assad's forces looked set to expand their control further within days after another Islamist group, Faylaq al-Rahman, struck a deal with the Russian military to evacuate starting on March 24.
The agreement will see a southern stretch of territory that includes the towns of Zamalka, Arbin, and Ain Tarma cleared of rebels, while talks are under way over clearing a third and final pocket of rebels, around Ghouta's main town of Douma.
The withdrawal deal came after the Syrian war monitor and the White Helmets rescue group said Russian air strikes using "incendiary munitions" hit the town of Arbin in the last rebel-held enclave late on March 22. Russia denied it was involved in such strikes.
Under the strategy employed by Russia and Syria, each one of the three rebel-held pockets came under intense bombardment that not only killed hundreds but forced people to seek shelter and live underground.
The strategy in each case succeeded in forcing rebel fighters to accept Russia's offer to give them a safe exit if they agreed to leave.
It is a tactic Assad and his Russian sponsors used successfully in Aleppo and elsewhere since Russia intervened in the seven-year civil war in 2015.
Harasta's evacuation -- which began on March 22 -- was the first such deal in eastern Ghouta negotiated by Russia. Syrian state media reported more than 4,500 people, including over 1,400 fighters, left the town.
"Our situation in Harasta was very tragic," Abu Muhammad, a civilian, told AFP. "We couldn't live aboveground because of the heavy bombardment... Some children stayed in basements for four months with no food. We couldn't even find fodder to eat."
Following the same pattern, Faylaq al-Rahman on March 22 sealed a deal for some 7,000 people to leave the enclave the rebel group controlled, which was experiencing famine and the outbreak of disease under the bombardment.
After being hit with what appeared to be incendiary munitions in Douma, the last rebel-held enclave, the Jaish al-Islam rebel group also opened negotiations with Russia on March 23.
The UN estimates more than 50,000 people have fled besieged areas of eastern Ghouta in the past two weeks.
Russia is claiming that more than 100,000 civilians have been evacuated from the area with its assistance since it started imposing daily "humanitarian pauses" in Ghouta, the Russian state-run TASS news agency quoted Russian official Yuri Yevtushenko as saying on March 23.
With reporting by AFP, dpa, and Reuters
Kazakh Opposition Politician Detained On Bribe-Taking Charge
Nurzhan Altaev, the leader of Kazakhstan's unregistered El Tiregi (People's Pillar) party has been detained on a charge of taking a bribe, the Central Asian nation's Anti-Corruption Agency said on July 7. Altaev quit the ruling Nur-Otan (now called Amanat) party in 2021 and has been trying to register his party since then, accusing the Justice Ministry of refusing to do so. In April, a court in Astana sentenced Altaev to 15 days in jail on a charge of violating regulations on holding public gatherings after he openly supported protesting oil workers who demanded jobs. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, click here.
Russia Claims Ukrainian 'Saboteur' Group Blew Up Ammonia Pipeline, Kyiv Yet To Comment
Russia's Defense Ministry claims a Ukrainian "saboteur group" blew up a segment of the Tolyatti-Odesa pipeline, the world's largest ammonia conduit, in Ukraine's Kharkiv region. Kyiv has not commented on the statement but previously it has said that the pipeline has come under repeated Russian shelling. Ammonia is a main ingredient in production of nitrate fertilizer, of which Russia is one of the world's leading producers.
Banks In Kazakhstan, Armenia, Hong Kong Block Payments For Electronics Deliveries To Russia
Banks in Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Hong Kong have started blocking payments for deliveries of electronics to Russia to avoid U.S. sanctions for helping Moscow evade Western penalties imposed over its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Kommersant newspaper cited sources as saying on June 7. In March, the United States said Russian companies evaded sanctions using intermediaries in other countries. The same month, the EU's special sanctions envoy, David O'Sullivan, publicly questioned the final destination of many goods imported to Kazakhstan, Armenia, and several other nations. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Siberia.Realities, click here.
Belgrade To Prod Ethnic Serbs In North Kosovo To Vote In Elections
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said he will try to use his influence to persuade Serbs in northern Kosovo to take part in elections, the U.S. envoy for the Western Balkans, Gabriel Escobar, told journalists on June 7 in Belgrade.
Escobar was speaking after he and the EU's special envoy for dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, Miroslav Lajcak. held talks with Kosovar and Serbian leaders in Pristina and Belgrade.
The U.S. and EU envoys were trying to ease tensions in northern Kosovo over the installation of ethnic Albanian mayors that triggered clashes last week between ethnic Serbs and NATO peacekeepers, leaving dozens -- including the peacekeepers -- injured.
The ethnic Albanian mayors were installed with the help of Kosovar police in three towns with an overwhelming ethnic Serbian majority -- Zvecan, Leposaviq, and Zubin Potok -- following by-elections in April with a turnout of under 3.5 percent amid a boycott by ethnic Serbs.
"We must immediately de-escalate the situation. This means that we hope the [ethnic Albanian] mayors will not try to [enter] the municipal buildings and [Kosovar] police units will withdraw -- but we want to be sure that [ethnic Serb] protesters will also withdraw," Escobar said.
The West has increased diplomatic pressure on Kosovo to reduce tensions in the northern part of the country and organize new local elections.
"If there are new elections, and we hope there will be, we want Serbs to participate in them without preconditions," said Escobar.
He added that the biggest challenge for the authorities in Belgrade is to convince the local Serbs in the north of Kosovo to return to the institutions, and that it must be ensured that the representatives of the Serbs who participate in the elections and institutions in Kosovo are "welcome."
The U.S. envoy also warned that Kosovo has to ensure that Serb-majority municipalities in its northern part enjoy greater autonomy if it wants to make progress toward eventual NATO and EU integration.
Kosovo is a majority ethnic Albanian former Serbian province. Kosovo declared independence in 2008, but Serbia as well as its traditional ally, Russia, has refused to recognize it.
With reporting by Reuters
Richard Branson Calls For Release From Prison Of Iranian Rapper Salehi
Billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist Richard Branson has called for Iranian authorities to release popular rapper Toomaj Salehi, whose health has reportedly deteriorated since he was arrested during Tehran’s clampdown on nationwide anti-government protests in October. "As his life hangs in the balance after 8 months+ of imprisonment and torture, we all must give our voice to him and call for his release," Branson said in a tweet. In November, Iran’s judiciary charged Salehi with spreading “corruption on earth,” a charge that could see him sentenced to death. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Radio Farda, click here.
Local Official Throws Molotov Cocktails At Military Recruitment Center In Russia
A local official in the Russian city of Vladimir, 200 kilometers east of Moscow, was detained on June 7 after she threw Molotov cocktails at a military recruitment center. Media reports identified the woman as Zhanna Romanovskaya, a 55-year-old official from the local Architecture and Construction Ministry. Since Russia launched its ongoing unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, dozens of military recruitment centers have been targeted by arsonists, but Romanovskaya appears to be the first official to have done so. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.
EU Launches Case Against Poland Over 'Russian Influence' Panel
The European Commission said on June 7 that it is launching legal action against Poland over its creation of a controversial body probing "Russian influence," which is seen as targeting the opposition. The announcement of the infringement procedure came despite Polish President Andrzej Duda saying last week that he would propose amending the law on the panel after criticism from the EU's executive and the United States.
Poland Deports Former FSB Officer To Russia After Rejecting His Asylum Request
Poland has deported to Russia a former officer of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Emran Navruzbekov, who fled the country in 2017 and claimed the FSB fabricated terrorist cases against residents of the North Caucasus. The Vot Tak media project quoted Navruzbekov on June 6 as saying Polish authorities had handed him to Russian officials in the Kaliningrad exclave. Polish authorities rejected Navruzbekov’s asylum request, citing security issues. Navruzbekov's wife said earlier that she and the couple's children were granted political asylum in Poland. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Caucasus.Realities, click here.
Norway Rescues Russian By Helicopter Near North Pole
Norway rescued a Russian in need of emergency medical assistance on board a scientific vessel stuck in ice near the North Pole in a spectacular helicopter operation, its rescue services said on June 7. The evacuation took place on June 6 in the evening from the Russian ship Severny Polyus located at the 86th parallel north, some 444 kilometers from the North Pole. "It's the extreme limit of what the helicopter can do" in terms of range, a Norwegian spokesman told the AFP news agency. The operation was carried out despite a deterioration of relations between the two countries since the start of Russia's war in Ukraine.
- By AP
NATO Allies Prepare Unprecedented Air Deployment Exercise Over Europe In Show Of Force To Russia
Germany is preparing to host the biggest air deployment exercise in NATO’s history, a show of force intended to impress allies and potential adversaries such as Russia, German and American officials said. Air Defender 23 exercise starting next week will see 10,000 participants and 250 aircraft from 25 nations respond to a simulated attack on a NATO member country. While the drill, which is being led by Germany, has been planned since 2018, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year has jolted NATO into preparing in earnest for the possibility of an attack on its territory. To read the original story by AP, click here.
Wife, Teenage Son Of North Korean Diplomat Go Missing In Russia's Far East
Russia's Investigative Committee said on June 7 that it has started investigating the disappearance of the wife and teenage son of the North Korean Council Choi En Nam in the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok. Media reports quoted sources as identifying the missing persons as Kim Kum-Sun, 43, and Park Kwon-Chu, who went missing on June 4. Some investigators suggested that the woman and her son are on their way to defect to South Korea via China. Some reports say the two used a taxi to reach the city of Khabarovsk, from where they took a plane to the city of Krasnoyarsk. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Siberia.Realities, click here.
Another Resident Of Russia's Far East Detained On Treason Charge
Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said on June 7 that a resident of the country’s Far East had been detained on a charge of high treason amid a growing number of such cases in recent months. According to the FSB, the suspect, whose identity was not disclosed, had allegedly passed classified information about law enforcement and military infrastructure to Ukrainian intelligence. In the last five months, 20 treason probes have been launched, while in 2022, the number of such cases launched in the country was 22. Almost half of the probes were launched against residents of Russia's Far East. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Siberia.Realities, click here.
Jury Finds Moscow Anti-War Activist Not Guilty Of Attempted Murder
A jury at the Moscow City Court has found 45-year-old Moscow activist, Vitaly Koltsov, not guilty of attempting to murder 12 Russian National Guard officers. However, the jury concluded on June 6 that Koltsov was guilty of an arson attack but recommended a lenient punishment. The charge against Koltsov, who went on trial on May 10, stems from his throwing two Molotov cocktails at a bus that was parked near Teatralnaya Square in Moscow after it brought National Guard troops to the site to prevent anti-government rallies a year ago. Koltsov was found guilty of deliberately setting fire to a police vehicle. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.
Flood Levels Up In Kherson As Evacuations Continue Amid Fears Of Water Contamination
Water levels have risen several meters in the Kherson area, trapping dozens of people in their homes and killing scores of animals, with health authorities warning of possibly contaminated drinking water after the destruction of a major dam on the Dnieper River that has prompted massive flooding and the hasty evacuation of tens of thousands.
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.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on June 7 that hundreds of thousands of people have been left without drinking water following the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam, pointing the finger once again at Russia as the perpetrator of an "absolutely deliberate" act.
Russia has blamed Ukraine for the incident.
"At least 100 thousand people lived in these areas before the Russian invasion," Zelenskiy said on Telegram, referring to Moscow's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
"At least tens of thousands are still there. Hundreds of thousands of people have been left without normal access to drinking water. Our services, all those who can help people, are already involved. But we can only help on the territory controlled by Ukraine. In the Russia-occupied part, the occupiers are not even trying to help people," Zelenskiy said.
While water levels were rising in some areas, they began dropping upstream, Oleksandr Khorunzhy, a spokesman for Ukraine's State Emergency Service, said on June 7.
"As of this morning, the water level has risen by approximately five meters at the Kherson post since the incident. In Nikopol, we have a water drop of up to 2.2 meters," he told Ukrainian television.
Nikopol is located 125 kilometers upstream from the dam. Kherson Governor Oleksandr Prokudin previously had said the water level may rise by another meter within the next 20 hours.
Prokudin said that more than 1,450 people have been evacuated from the Ukrainian-controlled right bank of the Dnieper, where some 1,850 houses have been flooded.
"As of 6 a.m., 1,457 people have been evacuated, including 1,286 people from [Kherson city's] Korabel neighborhood," he added.
Ihor Syrota, the head of Ukrhydroenerho, Ukraine's hydroelectric power authority, said the water -- more than 30,000 cubic meters of it has poured out of the reservoir held back by the Soviet-era dam -- was expected to peak early on June 7 and would recede over the following days.
The Ukrainian Health Ministry on June 7 warned about the possible contamination of water in wells and open bodies in the flooded area.
"Chemicals, agents of infectious diseases from cemeteries, latrines, and landfills may end up in wells and open water bodies in the flooded area," the ministry said on Telegram, also warning against the consumption of fish from the area.
Ukrainian authorities meanwhile continued the evacuation of tens of thousands of people as the flooding was expected to peak downstream on June 7.
Ukraine has estimated that some 42,000 people were at risk from flooding.
The Russia-installed mayor of Nova Kakhovka, Vladimir Leontyev, said "thousands of animals" at the Nizhnedniprovsky National Nature Park had been killed in the flooding, along with other domesticated and farm animals in the region.
In the Moscow-controlled part of Kherson, Russia-installed authorities imposed a state of emergency on June 7, the TASS news agency reported.
The British Ministry of Defense estimated that, since the reservoir had been filled to a record level, continued water pressure will further erode the breach and more flooding could be expected.
"The water level in the Kakhovka Reservoir was at a record high before the collapse, resulting in a particularly high volume of water inundating the area downstream," the ministry said in its daily intelligence report on June 7.
"The dam’s structure is likely to deteriorate further over the next few days, causing additional flooding," it said.
WATCH: Kherson residents could only watch as floodwaters engulfed their neighborhoods near the rising Dnieper River following the breach of the Nova Kakhovka dam.
The breach of the Russian-held dam early on June 6 unleashed a massive torrent of water that flooded tens of settlements downstream and sent tens of thousands people fleeing.
"Such deliberate destruction by the Russian occupiers and other structures of the hydroelectric power station is an environmental bomb of mass destruction," Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres labeled the destruction of the dam a "monumental humanitarian, economic, and ecological catastrophe" in a statement but stopped short of blaming Russia directly.
Ahead of an emergency UN Security Council meeting, Guterres called it “another devastating consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
The UN’s humanitarian agency said it was gravely concerned about the destruction of the dam and the severe humanitarian impact on hundreds of thousands of people on both sides of the front line.
UN aid chief Martin Griffiths told the Security Council's emergency meeting late on June 6 that thousands of people in southern Ukraine were facing "the loss of homes, food, safe water, and livelihoods."
Oleksiy Kuleba, deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, said the destruction of the dam will cause a large ecological problem, noting that more than 400 tons of lubricating oil had been stored in tanks at the Kakhovka hydropower plant.
"We cannot be sure yet what amount has already ended up in the Dnieper River, but it will be a huge problem and an ecological disaster," Kuleba told RFE/RL.
"We are also anticipating that the water level in the Kakhovka basin will drop dramatically and this will lead to a complete change of the ecological environment of the Kherson region. It is necessary to get ready for that as well," he said.
Russia denied it carried out the attack, with the Kremlin instead calling it "deliberate sabotage" by Kyiv.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu charged that Ukraine destroyed the dam to prevent Russian attacks in the Kherson region after what he alleged was a failed Ukrainian counteroffensive.
The Nova Kakhovka dam -- which is 30 meters tall and 3.2 kilometers long -- is part a vital route for transport and irrigation, as well as supplying water to Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and the Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant, which are both under Russian control.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the power plant has enough water to cool its reactors for "several months" from a pond located above the reservoir.
With reporting by AP and Reuters
Ukrainian Military Says Forces Making Advances In Bakhmut Area
Ukrainian forces have gone on the offensive in Bakhmut, the Donetsk city that has been the epicenter of the war in eastern Ukraine, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said on Telegram on June 7. She said Ukrainian troops advanced in different areas by as much as 1,100 meters over the past day. "The enemy in this direction went on the defensive, trying to hold occupied positions," Malyar said. Earlier, the commander of Ukraine's ground troops, Oleksandr Syrskiy, said his forces continued to advance on the northern and southern flanks of Bakhmut. Ukrainian defenders put up a stark, monthslong defense in Bakhmut. To read the original stories by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, click here and here.
Finland To Expel Nine Russian Embassy Employees Over 'Intelligence' Activities
Finland will expel nine diplomats from the Russian Embassy in Helsinki for "acting in an intelligence capacity," the Finnish president's office said on June 6. "Their actions are contrary to the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations," the president's office said in a statement, adding that it would inform the Russian ambassador of the expulsions. The decision was made at a meeting between Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and the country's ministerial committee on foreign and security policy. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Iranian Students Say Authorities Ratcheting Up Pressure On Campus Over Dress Code
Iranian student organizations have reported a significant wave of summonses at the University of Science and Technology in Tehran in a continued tightening of supervision of the dress code after months of unrest sparked by the death of a young woman for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly.
The country's Student Guild Councils reported on June 5 that, during the past week, a significant number of students from the University of Science and Technology were summoned to the Disciplinary Committee, as well as at least 11 professors. The reasons cited for these summonses ranged from a refusal to comply with mandatory hijab rules to what university authorities have termed "inappropriate dress".
In addition to the summoning of students to the Disciplinary Committee, patrolling security forces have reportedly harassed students under the pretext of the dress code while they are walking on the university campus.
The Student Guild Councils said the intrusion into the lives of students has even extended to the dormitories, where curfew infractions have been cited.
In addition to students, at least 11 professors at the University of Science and Technology have also been summoned by the Faculty Disciplinary Board in recent days. They said they were summoned for signing a statement protesting against "the attacks carried out on schools and female students."
Iranian universities have become a hotbed for unrest since the death of Mahsa Amini in Tehran in September. The 22-year-old died while in police custody for an alleged violation of the country's mandatory head-scarf law.
Police have tried to shift the blame onto Amini's health, but supporters say witnesses saw her being beaten when taken into custody. Her family says she had no history of any medical issues and was in good health.
There have been clashes at universities and schools between protesters and the authorities, prompting security forces to launch a series of raids on education facilities across the country, violently arresting students, especially female students, who have defiantly taken off their head scarves, or hijabs, in protest.
According to a report by the "Committee for Following Up on the Situation of Detainees," since the beginning of the nationwide protests in September 2022, more than 720 students have been arrested, some of whom are still under arrest.
Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda
Iranian Embassy Reopens In Saudi Capital
Iran reopened its embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on June 6, Saudi media reported, months after the two regional rivals agreed to end a diplomatic rift under a China-mediated deal. Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed in March to reestablish relations following years of hostility that has endangered stability in the Middle East and fueled regional conflicts including in Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon. The deal was struck seven years after Sunni Saudi Arabia severed relations with Shi'ite Iran following the storming of its embassy in Tehran during a dispute over the execution of a Shi'ite Muslim cleric. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
- By Current Time
Russian Anti-War Activist Deported From Kyrgyzstan Charged With Arson Attack
Russian anti-war activist and anarchist Aleksei Rozhkov was deported from Kyrgyzstan in late May and is currently in pretrial detention in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg for allegedly setting the building of a military recruitment center in the town of Beryozovsky on fire in March 2022, the Zona Solidarnosti (Solidarity Zone) rights project said on June 6. Rozhkov left Russia for Kyrgyzstan in December after Russian authorities equated arson attacks targeting military recruitment centers to terrorism amid a sharp rise in such incidents after Russia launched its ongoing invasion of Ukraine. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.
Sabalenka Says She Does Not Support War, Lukashenka After Defeating Ukrainian At French Open
Belarusian tennis star Aryna Sabalenka says she does not want her country to be in any conflict and she does not support the war in Ukraine or its authoritarian ruler. "I don't support war, meaning I don't support Alyaksandr Lukashenka," Sabalenka told a press conference on June 6 after her quarterfinal victory against Elina Svitolina of Ukraine at the French Open. Sabalenka opted out of press conferences last week, citing mental health reasons after being grilled about Russia's invasion of Ukraine and Belarus being used as a staging ground for Russian troops. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Belarusian Prosecutors Seek 25 Years In Prison For Self-Exiled Activist
Prosecutors have asked the Minsk City Court to sentence self-exiled opposition activist Vadzim Prakopyeu to 25 years in prison on multiple charges, including coordinating an attempted arson attack at the house of a pro-government lawmaker, the chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus, Aleh Haydukevich, in June 2021.
Prosecutor Maksim Chuprys asked Judge Syarhey Khrypach on June 6 to convict Prakopyeu on 14 charges related to terrorism and the illegal possession of firearms.
Prakopyeu and two former law enforcement officers, Ihar Chamyakin and Dzyanis Khamitsevich, are being tried separately in absentia after they fled the country and whose current whereabouts are unknown.
Fifteen other defendants in the case are involved in a separate trial that started on March 6.
Also on June 6, the @MAYDAYMog human rights group said that police in the city of Barysau near Minsk had arrested noted rights defender Aleh Matskevich on unspecified charges last week.
Separately, the Belarusian Interior Ministry published a video on June 6 which shows the leader of the People's Student Chorus at the Belarusian State University, Volha Minyankova, offering an apology for her refusal to bring her chorus to parts of Ukraine's eastern Donbas region controlled by Russian troops.
It is not clear whether Minyankova's "repentance" video statement was recorded under duress, or if she is currently in custody.
Many journalists, rights activists, and representatives of democratic institutions have been jailed in Belarus since an August 2020 presidential election where Lukashenka was officially announced as the winner.
Rights activists and opposition politicians say the poll was rigged. Thousands have been detained during countrywide protests over the results and there have been credible reports of torture and ill-treatment by security forces. Several people have died during the crackdown.
Lukashenka has refused to negotiate with the opposition and many of its leaders have been arrested or forced to leave the country.
The United States, the European Union, and several other countries have refused to acknowledge Lukashenka as the winner of the vote and imposed several rounds of sanctions on him and his regime, citing election fraud and the crackdown.
U.S. Levies Sanctions On Iranian, Chinese Companies Over Ballistic Missile Programs
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The United States has sanctioned seven individuals and six entities from Iran, China, and Hong Kong who the U.S. Treasury Department says have helped Tehran get key technology for ballistic missile development.
In a statement on June 6, the department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), accused the individuals and entities of conducting financial transactions facilitating the network to procure parts needed for missile development.
The statement said the six companies sold sensitive centrifuges, metals, and radar materials to key actors in the previously sanctioned Iranian Defense Ministry and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL) agency.
The sanctions come as Washington steadily increases pressure on Iran to stop expanding its missile program.
“The United States will continue to target illicit transnational procurement networks that covertly support Iran’s ballistic missile production and other military programs,” said Brian Nelson, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller has called Iran’s development and proliferation of these missiles “a serious threat to regional and international security.”
He told reporters at a briefing late last month that the United States will continue to use a variety of tools, including sanctions, “to counter the further advancement of Iran’s ballistic missile program and its ability to proliferate missiles and related technology to others."
Included in the sanctions are Chinese companies Zhejiang Qingji and Lingoe Process Engineering. Additionally, the director of Zhejiang Qingji and an employee of the company have been personally designated for financial dealings and acting as transport for MODAFL in Iran.
Two other companies, Hong Kong Ke.Do International Trade and the Chinese based Qingdao Zhongrongtong Trade Development, which the Treasury Department said collaborated to sell tens of millions of dollars’ worth of metals for Iranian missile system development.
The Chinese based Beijing Shiny Nights Technology Development Company was also hit with sanctions for acting as a front company for MODAFL to procure electronics for Iranian end-users. The same accusation is levied against Iran’s defense attache in Beijing, Davoud Damghani.
The sanctions freeze all U.S. assets held in any entity’s possession, including U.S. dollar bank accounts at foreign institutions, and bar people in the United States from dealing with the individuals and companies.
With reporting by Reuters and AP
Jailed Kazakh Journalist's Father Joins Son's Hunger Strike
Jailed Kazakh journalist Duman Mukhammedkarim's father, Almaz Tilepov, has joined his son's hunger strike to demand his immediate release. Tilepov started his hunger strike on June 6 in front of a district prosecutor’s office in Almaty. Mukhammedkarim launched his hunger strike on May 28 after he was handed a 25-day jail term over a video he posted online that called on Kazakhs to defend their rights. Just two days before that, Mukhammedkarim finished serving a similar sentence over his online calls for Almaty residents to rally against the government's move to introduce visa-free entry to Kazakhstan for Chinese citizens. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, click here.
Russian Member Of Kazakh Team Suspended For Backing War In Ukraine
The International Cycling Union (ICU) has suspended Savely Laptev, a member of Kazakhstan's Astana Qazaqstan DT cycling team, over his online support of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. Laptev, who is Russian, was suspended last week from participating in UCI's tournament. His father said on June 5 that the decision was "a misunderstanding" and claimed that his son's social network account had been hacked. The UCI ruled earlier that Russian and Belarusian riders can resume their participation in its events as neutral athletes on condition that they stay away from supporting Russia's aggression against Ukraine. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, click here. https://www.azattyq.org/a/32445513.html
Kazakhstan Hands Prison Term To Woman Who Called For Region To Join Russia
A Kazakh court has sentenced a woman to three years in prison for saying online that Russia should "take over North Kazakhstan and its capital, Petropavl, like it took Crimea" from Ukraine in 2014. Media reports in Petropavl said on June 6 that the woman, identified as Tatyana, was sentenced last week. The charge stemmed from the woman’s statement she made in a Chatroulette messenger chat in September 2021. In April, three members of a group called the People's Council in Petropavl were arrested on separatism charges and face up to seven years in prison if convicted. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, click here.
Kyiv Using 'Ukrainian Storks' For Reconnaissance Over Bakhmut2
Destruction Of Major Dam In Ukraine Causes Massive Flooding, Raises Fears Of Environmental Disaster3
Zelenskiy Says Ukraine Ready To Launch Its Long-Awaited Counteroffensive4
Kremlin Says Putin Mobilization Announcement Broadcast On Radio Stations Was 'Fake'5
Wagner Group Posts Video Of Russian Officer In Sign Of Rising Tensions With Army6
Belarusian Tennis Star Says She Does Not Support Ukraine War Or Lukashenka7
Live Briefing: Russia Invades Ukraine8
Has Ukraine's Long-Awaited Counteroffensive Finally Begun? Maybe.9
Did The Bulgarian Mobster Gunned Down In South Africa Know Too Much?10
Bulgarian Highway Project Could Be A Road To Environmental Disaster