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Trump Chooses Army Chief Mark Milley To Be His Next Top Military Adviser

U.S. Army General Mark Milley testifies at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., in July 2015.
U.S. Army General Mark Milley testifies at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., in July 2015.

U.S. President Donald Trump has chosen General Mark Milley to become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Milley, who has served as chief of the Army the past three years, was named as the replacement for Marine General Joseph Dunford, by Trump in a tweet on December 8.

"I am thankful to both of these incredible men for their service to our Country! Date of transition to be determined," Trump wrote.

The 60-year-old Milley, a graduate of Princeton University, has served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dunford is a former commandant of the Marine Corps and commander of coalition troops in Afghanistan. His term as Joint Chiefs chairman officially ends October 1, 2019.

The Joint Chiefs of Staffs consists of the heads of the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and National Guard.

With reporting by Reuters and AP

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U.S. National Faces New Charge In Russia

U.S. Staff Sergeant Gordon Black
U.S. Staff Sergeant Gordon Black

U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Gordon Black, who was arrested in the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok in early May on suspicion of theft, has been additionally charged with threatening to kill his partner, a Russian woman, according to Russian media.

A district prosecutor's office in Vladivostok said in a statement on May 27 that the final accusation papers for "a U.S. citizen" had been submitted and the case sent to court.

"The man, born in 1989, was handed accusation papers saying that in May 2024, while he was in an apartment on Sakhalin street in Vladivostok that is owned by a woman with whom he is acquainted, and where he was residing with her since April, forcibly grabbed the young woman's neck during a quarrel, which she considered as a threat to her life," a statement of the prosecutor's office said.

"The suspect then stole 10,000 rubles [$110] from the victim's purse, which he spent for his own needs, including paying for a room in a hotel, where he was detained," it added.

If found guilty on both charges, Black faces up to seven years in prison.

U.S. authorities said earlier that Black had been arrested in Russia and accused of stealing from a woman after traveling via China from South Korea -- where he had been assigned before returning home to Texas -- without informing his superiors.

Weeks later, Russian authorities also said that another U.S. citizen, identified as William Russell Nycum, had been detained in late April on "petty hooliganism" and alcohol charges in a separate case, adding that Nycum was held in a detention center in Moscow.

The two arrests again raised questions over whether Russian authorities are targeting Americans for potential prisoner swaps amid sharp disagreements between Moscow and Washington over the war in Ukraine and other international security issues.

The detentions of Black and Nycum added to a list of U.S. citizens being held in Russia under various circumstances and came as tensions between Moscow and Washington are at the highest levels since the Cold War.

Among those being held are journalists Alsu Kurmasheva of RFE/RL and Evan Gershkovich of The Wall Street Journal. Both have been detained on charges they, their employers, and their supporters reject as politically motivated.

American Paul Whelan in 2020 was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in Russian prison on espionage charges that he and the U.S. government have repeatedly rejected.

Russia's Foreign Ministry has said Black's and Nycum's cases are not political and neither is accused of espionage.

The State Department in September 2023 issued a "do not travel" warning to U.S. citizens and cited "the singling out of U.S. citizens for detention by Russian government security officials."

With reporting by Kommersant and TASS

Former German Soldier Found Guilty Of Spying For Russia

The Russian Embassy in Berlin where a German Army officer is said to have offered to spy for Russia.
The Russian Embassy in Berlin where a German Army officer is said to have offered to spy for Russia.

A German former soldier was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in jail on May 27 for sharing secret military information with Russia in the wake of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. A court in Dusseldorf found the defendant, named only as Thomas H., guilty of passing on information on his own initiative from his post in the military procurement service. The 54-year-old had admitted to the crime during his trial, claiming he was hoping to obtain information in return that would help him get his family to safety in time in the event of the conflict escalating into a nuclear war.

Dozens Detained In Yerevan At Protest Calling For Pashinian's Resignation

Protesters marched through Yerevan on May 26 to demand Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian's resignation.
Protesters marched through Yerevan on May 26 to demand Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian's resignation.

YEREVAN -- Armenian police detained dozens of people in the capital, Yerevan, early on May 27 as demonstrators demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian resumed their anti-government protests over a border demarcation deal with Azerbaijan.

Members and supporters of the Tavush For The Homeland movement opposed to a recent controversial border deal blocked traffic in several streets in the center of Yerevan following a call by Archbishop Bagrat Galstanian, the 53-year-old head of the Tavush Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, to ratchet up pressure on the government.

Police moved in and made arrests as they tried to unblock some of the streets. Interior Ministry spokesman Narek Sargsian told journalists that a total of 137 people were detained early on May 27.

Among the protesters were opposition lawmakers.

Galstanian is also taking part in “civil disobedience” actions on May 27, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported.

The outspoken cleric, who has led anti-government protests in Armenia over the border deal, announced his intention on May 26 to challenge Pashinian for the premiership as he addressed tens of thousands of supporters who had gathered in central Yerevan.

Galstanian said at the rally in Republic Square that he had asked Catholicos Karekin II to suspend his “spiritual service” so that he could challenge the prime minister.

Rally participants cheered and applauded Galstanian as he said that he was ready to accept the “nomination” as a candidate for prime minister in the opposition’s possible impeachment bid against Pashinian.

Under Armenia’s constitution, at least one-third of lawmakers can initiate a no-confidence vote against the prime minister in parliament, provided they also name a candidate who will replace him or her.

Earlier, Hayastan and Pativ Unem -- opposition factions in parliament associated with the former presidents of Armenia, Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sarkisian -- said they would support the bid.

They will need the support of the only nonaligned lawmaker to initiate the process, which, in order to succeed, will require a majority vote in the legislature dominated by Pashinian’s Civil Contract party.

Pashinian -- who remains largely popular with the population despite some dissatisfaction with recent events -- has rejected Galstanian’s resignation demand, and his allies in parliament so far have ruled out a break in ranks to support the protest leader’s possible bid to head the government.

The Armenian Constitution bars dual citizens from serving as prime minister, creating another obstacle for Galstanian, who is a dual citizen of Armenia and Canada.

He has said he would not violate the constitution but didn't explain how he would remedy the situation.

WATCH: Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian met with residents in the village of Kirants on May 25 as part of his trip to several border communities involved in a controversial demarcation process that will see Azerbaijan regain control over the area.

Border Village Residents Challenge Armenian PM Over Demarcation With Azerbaijan
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Both the United States and the European Union have hailed the border demarcation between Armenia and Azerbaijan, stressing that the deal announced by the two bitter South Caucasus rivals in April contains a reference to the 1991 Alma-Ata Declaration, a document by which a dozen former Soviet countries, including Armenia and Azerbaijan, pledged to recognize each other’s territorial integrity within existing administrative borders.

In the process, which was formally completed on May 15, Baku regained control over four abandoned villages near the Armenian border that had been under Yerevan’s military control since the first Armenian-Azerbaijani war in the early 1990s.

Armenia and Azerbaijan announced on May 24 that their border guards were deployed at the sections where the demarcation was completed.

Azerbaijan retook the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in a blitz offensive in September from ethnic Armenian forces who had controlled it for three decades.

The offensive forced more than 100,000 ethnic Armenians to flee the region, leaving it nearly deserted.

Georgian Parliament Moves Closer To Overriding Presidential Veto Of 'Foreign Agent' Law

The participants in the May 26 march raised the flashlights on their cell phones and chanted, “No to the Russian law!” and “No to the Russian regime!”
The participants in the May 26 march raised the flashlights on their cell phones and chanted, “No to the Russian law!” and “No to the Russian regime!”

TBILISI -- A key Georgian parliamentary committee has overruled pro-Western President Salome Zurabishvili's veto of the so-called "foreign agent" law, opening the path for lawmakers to put the legislation into effect despite weeks of domestic protests and criticism from the West that the measure is harming Georgia's drive to join the Euro-Atlantic community.

Following the move by the Legal Affairs Committee, parliament, dominated by the ruling Georgian Dream party that has pressed ahead with the law while cracking down harshly on protesters, is to consider overriding Zurabishvili's veto at a plenary session on May 28.

Georgian Dream has a comfortable majority in parliament, with a successful override vote seen as a mere formality.

The move came despite a massive peaceful protest in Tbilisi on May 26 and a last-minute warning by Georgian Ombudsman Levan Ioseliani that the law, also referred to as the "Russian law" because of its resemblance to legislation introduced by the Kremlin to stifle opposition and free speech, needs changes to limit the damage it will bring to civil society.

"Accepting this law in this form, in my opinion, has already brought significant damage to the [democratic] process as a whole," Ioseliani told a news conference in Tbilisi on May 27, as he warned of the law's effects.

"Therefore, it would be possible that parliament will refuse to override this veto and...there will be space for making changes in other legislative acts.... In my opinion, retreat is often not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength," Ioseliani added.

Thousands of mostly young people marched in Tbilisi on Georgia's Independence Day on May 26, calling on the ruling Georgian Dream party to scrap the law.

WATCH: On Georgia's Independence Day, thousands of demonstrators called on the ruling Georgian Dream party to withdraw the controversial "foreign agent" law, which is seen as mirroring legislation used in Russia to silence critics and crush opposition.

Georgia Marks Independence Day Amid Protests Over 'Foreign Agent' Law
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"Our fight is tireless, although they thought that we would get exhausted," writer Lasha Bugadze told the crowds of young Georgians who marched peacefully in downtown Tbilisi, waving Georgian and European Union flags. "Neither will we get tired in the coming days, not until the Russian law is withdrawn and Georgia becomes part of Europe," Bugadze said.

The participants raised the flashlights on their cell phones and chanted, “No to the Russian law!” and “No to the Russian regime!”

Earlier on May 26, Zurabishvili, in an Independence Day speech, said integration in the European Union and strong ties to the United States were paramount for the Caucasus nation to preserve its freedom.

"This is the cornerstone of the solution,” she told a crowd on May 26 in Tbilisi’s Freedom Square.

“Today -- when the ghost of Russia stands before us -- partnership and rapprochement with Europe and America is a true way to maintain our independence, peace, and strength,” she said, as she cited the desire of a vast majority of citizens to join the European Union.

Georgia obtained the coveted status of EU candidate country in December, but it has yet to start actual accession talks, which could last for years. There had been hope such talks could start later this year, but Brussels has warned that the "foreign agent" law could endanger the path toward Europe.

Russia still maintains thousands of troops in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two breakaway Georgian regions that Moscow recognized as independent states following a five-day war with Georgia in 2008.

"No war has been started by [members of the] European Union since its inception,” Zurabishvili said. “Instead, the real war party is one and only one that we see today in our occupied territories: Russian imperialism."

The United States on May 26 marked the Georgian holiday, saying in a statement that it "will continue to strongly support the aspirations of the Georgian people for a Euro-Atlantic future."

"We urge Georgia’s leaders to take the steps necessary to move Georgia forward in the right direction," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

Last week, Blinken announced visa restrictions on Georgian government officials and a comprehensive review of bilateral relations with Tbilisi over the "foreign agent" legislation.

"Anyone who undermines democratic processes or institutions in Georgia -- including in the lead up to, during, and following Georgia’s October 2024 elections -- may be found ineligible for U.S. visas under this policy and precluded from travel to the United States. Immediate family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions," Blinken said while announcing the sanctions on May 24.

The "foreign agent" law would require civil society and media organizations that get more than 20 percent of funding from foreign sources to report that fact to local authorities and submit to oversight that could encompass sanctions for as-yet-undefined criminal offenses.

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

Moldovan Parties Sign 'Pact For Europe' As Commitment To Drive For EU Entry

Moldovan political leaders at signing ceremony for the Pact For Europe in Chisinau on May 26
Moldovan political leaders at signing ceremony for the Pact For Europe in Chisinau on May 26

Thirteen Moldovan political entities, including the ruling Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) party and the mayor of Chisinau, signed a Pact For Europe on May 26 to signify the small southeastern European nation’s commitment to "contribute fully to the objective of Moldova's integration into the European Union." The signing ceremony at the National Museum of History was also attended by representatives of the U.S. Embassy in Chisinau and the Romanian and Ukrainian ambassadors. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Moldovan Service, click here.

In Rare Foreign Foray, Putin Arrives In Uzbekistan For 2-Day Visit

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev (left) and Russian leader Vladimir Putin at Tashkent airport on May 26.
Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev (left) and Russian leader Vladimir Putin at Tashkent airport on May 26.

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived on May 26 in Uzbekistan, where he was met at the Tashkent airport by President Shavkat Mirziyoev amid reports some Western nations are trying to pull Central Asian nations away from Russia’s sphere of influence. Tashkent, the capital of the former Soviet republic, is decorated with flags of the two countries for the two-day visit. The Uzbek presidential press service said their meeting discussed strengthening a "comprehensive strategic partnership and alliance" and the "development of trade and economic cooperation.” International investigations have identified Uzbekistan as one of the main entry points into Russia for goods that are subject to sanctions. Putin has traveled sparingly since he launched Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Updated

Lithuanian President Set To Secure Reelection As Opponent Concedes

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda votes in the first round of the presidential election on May 12.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda votes in the first round of the presidential election on May 12.

Lithuania's Gitanas Nauseda was set to secure a second term in a presidential election runoff on May 26 after his opponent conceded following a campaign dominated by security concerns in the EU and NATO member state neighboring Russia. The Baltic nation of 2.8 million people has been a staunch ally of Ukraine since Russia's 2022 invasion. Like other countries in the region, it worries it could be Moscow's next target. Nauseda, 60, a former senior economist with Swedish banking group SEB who is not affiliated with any party, won the first round on May 12. Nauseda had a commanding lead in the runoff, gaining more than 80 percent of the vote after the initial vote count, followed by Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte, 49, from the ruling center-right Homeland Union party, which has been trailing in opinion polls. Simonyte later conceded.

Updated

Protest-Leading Armenian Archbishop Says He Will Challenge Pashinian For Premiership

Archbishop Bagrat Galstanian greets supporters rallying in Yerevan on May 26.
Archbishop Bagrat Galstanian greets supporters rallying in Yerevan on May 26.

YEREVAN -- Bagrat Galstanian, an outspoken archbishop who has led anti-government protests in Armenia over a controversial border deal with Azerbaijan, on May 26 announced his intention to challenge Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian for the premiership as he addressed tens of thousands of supporters who gathered in central Yerevan.

Galstanian, a 53-year-old head of the Tavush Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, said at the rally in the capital’s main Republic Square that he had asked Catholicos Karekin II to suspend his “spiritual service” so that he could challenge Pashinian.

Rally participants cheered and applauded Galstanian’s remarks that he was ready to accept the “nomination” as a candidate for prime minister in the opposition’s possible impeachment bid against Pashinian.

Under Armenia’s constitution, at least one-third of lawmakers can initiate a no-confidence vote against the prime minister in parliament, provided they also name a candidate who will replace him or her.

Earlier, Hayastan and Pativ Unem -- opposition factions in parliament associated with the former presidents of Armenia, Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sarkisian -- said they would support the bid.

They will need the support of the only nonaligned lawmaker to initiate the process, which, in order to succeed, will require a majority vote in the legislature dominated by Pashinian’s Civil Contract party.

Pashinian -- who remains largely popular with the population despite some dissatisfaction with recent events -- has rejected Galstanian’s resignation demand and his allies in parliament have ruled out that any of them would break ranks to support the protest leader’s possible bid.

The Armenian Constitution bars dual citizens from serving as prime minister. Galstanian, who is a dual citizen of Armenia and Canada, said he would not violate the constitution but did not explain how he was going to surmount the legal obstacle.

Earlier, his supporters did not rule out that it would have to require an amendment to the constitution.

At the end of the rally, Galstanian told participants he would go to Pashinian’s residence to meet him and press his resignation demand.

But after waiting for some time near the prime minister’s residence with no response, Galstanian told supports he would return to Republic Square to discuss plans for the start of “civil disobedience” actions to begin on the morning of May 27.

"We will make the government reckon with the demand of the people,” he said.

Pashinian was out of Yerevan during the afternoon hours, visiting the Lori and Tavush regions, where at least three people had been killed in severe flooding.

Armenian police urged protesters to preserve public order during the day.

Anti-government protesters march through Yerevan on May 26.
Anti-government protesters march through Yerevan on May 26.

The anti-government movement started in the northeastern province of Tavush in April as Armenia and Azerbaijan began the demarcation process of their heavily militarized border following an agreement announced by Yerevan and Baku on April 19.

The demarcation, which was formally completed on May 15, alters the boundary in a way that affects the infrastructure of a number of Armenian border villages.

Local populations have expressed fears of possible further Azerbaijani attacks after the Armenian military withdrawal from four abandoned villages that used to be part of Soviet Azerbaijan but have been controlled by Armenia since the first Armenian-Azerbaijani war in the early 1990s.

WATCH: Border Village Residents Challenge Armenian PM Over Demarcation With Azerbaijan

Border Village Residents Challenge Armenian PM Over Demarcation With Azerbaijan
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The Pashinian government has pledged to solve infrastructure-related problems of the border villages within a few months, including the construction of a new road and payment of compensations to those who are losing property and land as a result of the demarcation.

The prime minister has also stressed that having a demarcated and recognized border with Azerbaijan is in itself assurance against Azerbaijan’s possible aggression.

Both the United States and the European Union have hailed the border demarcation between the two bitter Caucasus rivals.

Georgian President Presses Need For Closer EU, U.S. Ties In Independence Day Speech

Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili addresses a crowd in Tbilisi on her country's Independence Day holiday on May 26.
Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili addresses a crowd in Tbilisi on her country's Independence Day holiday on May 26.

TBILISI – Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili, who has come out in support of anti-government protesters angered by a planned “foreign agent” law, pressed in an Independence Day speech the importance for closer ties to Europe and the United States for her South Caucasus nation.

"This is the cornerstone of the solution,” she told a crowd on May 26 in Tbilisi’s Freedom Square.

“Today -- when the ghost of Russia stands before us -- partnership and rapprochement with Europe and America is a true way to maintain our independence, peace, and strength,” she said, as she cited the desire of a vast majority of citizens to join the European Union.

Georgians celebrate Independence Day in Tbilisi on May 26.
Georgians celebrate Independence Day in Tbilisi on May 26.

"No war has been started by [members of the] European Union since its inception. Instead, the real war party is one and only one that we see today in our occupied territories: Russian imperialism,” she added.

Russia maintains thousands of troops in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two breakaway Georgian regions that Moscow recognized as independent states following a five-day war with Georgia in 2008.

The EU in December granted candidate status to Georgia, and there had been some hope that the bloc would agree to the next stage of accession talks as early as this year.

However, EU leaders have said Georgia’s hopes of joining the bloc will be severely damaged if the government, led by the Georgian Dream party, enacts what critics call the “Russian law.”

The law would require civil society and media organizations that get more than 20 percent of funding from foreign sources to report that fact to local authorities and submit to oversight that could encompass sanctions for as-yet-undefined criminal offenses.

Many critics have claimed that the law is similar to one used by the Kremlin to crack down on independent voices in Russia.

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze and other leaders of the Georgian Dream party have blasted U.S. and EU comments regarding the legislation -- formally called the Law On Transparency Of Foreign Influence -- and have insisted it is essential to maintaining transparency in civil and political matters.

Also speaking at the Independence Day ceremony, Kobakhidze hit back at Zurabishvili and her remarks about the controversial bill.

"It was the unity and reasonable steps of the people and their elected government that gave us the opportunity to maintain peace in the country for the past two years despite existential threats and multiple betrayals, including the betrayal by the president of Georgia,” he said.

A bill recently unveiled by U.S. lawmakers is aimed at persuading Georgia's government to repeal the contentious law.

Under the proposed Mobilizing and Enhancing Georgia's Options for Building Accountability, Resilience, and Independence (MEGOBARI) Act, the United States would give Georgia more economic aid, lower trade barriers, and grant more access to U.S. visas if the law were to be repealed.

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

Zurabishvili has vetoed the bill, but the Georgia Dream has enough seats in parliament to override the move. The parliament announced that discussions to override the veto would begin on May 27, with a vote likely on May 28.

The NATO Parliamentary Assembly on May 26 said the alliance "remains firmly committed Georgia's sovereignty, territorial integrity, democracy, and aspiration to join NATO. "

However, it added, "the law on the so-called 'transparency of foreign influence' is a step backwards for Georgia’s democracy and runs counter to its NATO as well as EU aspirations and values."

"If this bill becomes law, it will severely damage freedom of speech and association and undermine Georgia’s vibrant civil society and media landscape," it said in its statement.

Parliament's passing of the law has led to massive street demonstrations in Tbilisi and elsewhere, with protesters holding Georgian and EU flags and shouting anti-Russian slogans.

Organizers have called for further protests on the eve of parliament's planned actions on the president's veto.

Kobakhidze has accused the protesters of "following the agenda of the political minority" and charged that they were showing a "great irresponsibility" toward their country.

The United States on May 26 marked the Georgian holiday, saying in a statement that it "will continue to strongly support the aspirations of the Georgian people for a Euro-Atlantic future."

"We urge Georgia’s leaders to take the steps necessary to move Georgia forward in the right direction."

Director Who Fled Iran Gets 12-Minute Ovation, Special Jury Prize At Cannes Film Festival

Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof poses for photographers after winning a special jury prize at the Cannes festival on May 25.
Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof poses for photographers after winning a special jury prize at the Cannes festival on May 25.

Iranian film director Mohammad Rasoulof, who fled a prison and flogging sentence in his home country, was awarded a special jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his tale of a court investigator whose family life is torn apart during anti-government protests.

In accepting the award in the French resort town, the 51-year-old Rasoulof said his heart was with his film crew, who were "still under the pressure of the secret services back in Iran."

The special jury prize was given to Rasoulof for "drawing attention to unsustainable injustice" in Iran, organizers said after a screening of the film, The Seed of the Sacred Fig, led to a 12-minute ovation.

The festival's top prize, meanwhile, went to the film Anora, a sensual drama and comedy about an exotic dancer who becomes involved with a Russian oligarch's son.

Earlier at a news conference, Rasoulof recalled how he had to decide within hours whether to go into exile or serve a prison sentence, saying it was still difficult to talk about.

"I had to say to myself, well, do I want to be in prison, or should I leave Iran, geographic Iran, and join the cultural Iran that exists beyond its borders?" said Rasoulof, who is an outspoken critic of repression in Iran and has twice served prison terms.

Iran’s judiciary sentenced Rasoulof to flogging and eight years in prison after he was convicted of "collusion against national security," his lawyer, Babak Paknia, said on May 8.

Details of his escape from Iran are not totally known. He said the action was plotted by using contacts he had made during his prison stays.

"The more you spend time with interrogators, the secret police, the more you learn how to thwart them," he told the AFP news agency at Cannes.

"They show you your emails, so you learn how to write them. They show you your bank statements, so you learn when you should not have used your credit card."

Rasoulof said he also came up with the idea for The Seed Of The Sacred Fig while in prison.

Western rights advocates and film-industry groups had condemned Iran’s actions against Rasoulof and demanded his release.

Rasoulof won the Berlin Film Festival’s top prize in 2020 for his film There Is No Evil, which tells four stories loosely connected to the themes of the death penalty in Iran and personal freedoms under oppression.

"I am also very sad, deeply sad, to see the disaster experienced by my people every day...the Iranian people live under a totalitarian regime," he said in Cannes.

With reporting by AFP and Variety

Self-Exiled Iranian Director Rasoulof Talks Of 'Mixed Feelings' At Cannes Festival

Director Mohammad Rasoulof holds pictures of cast members Missagh Zareh (left) and Soheila Golestani following the screening of his film The Seed Of The Sacred Fig in Cannes.
Director Mohammad Rasoulof holds pictures of cast members Missagh Zareh (left) and Soheila Golestani following the screening of his film The Seed Of The Sacred Fig in Cannes.

CANNES, France -- Self-exiled Iranian film director Mohammad Rasoulof -- who had to escape his home country to be able to appear at the Cannes Film Festival -- told RFE/RL that he has “mixed feelings” about the screening of his film and the attention he received during the famed event in France.

The May 25 screening of his film, titled The Seed Of The Sacred Fig, was greeted by a 12-minute ovation. He later received a special jury prize for "drawing attention to unsustainable injustice" in Iran, festival organizers said.

"It's interesting for me that I'm [in Cannes] after seven years in which I was banned from traveling,” he told RFE/RL in an interview prior to receiving the jury prize.

“I have mixed feelings. There were members of my team...who wanted to be here but didn’t have that possibility. So, there is a heavy sadness within me.”

“On the other hand, I'm glad that the movie is [being screened] here. It can be heard; the voices of those who wanted this movie to be made are being heard.

“Therefore, it is all a paradoxical situation."

In accepting the special jury prize, the 51-year-old Rasoulof had told the audience that his heart was with his film crew, who were "still under the pressure of the secret services back in Iran."

Iran’s judiciary had sentenced Rasoulof to flogging and eight years in prison after he was convicted of "collusion against national security," his lawyer, Babak Paknia, said on May 8.

Prior to Rasoulof's flight from Iran, Western rights advocates and film-industry groups had condemned Iran’s actions against the outspoken film director and demanded his release.

Details of his escape are not totally known. On May 13, he posted a short video to Instagram of an undisclosed mountainous location and wrote that he would talk about his journey out of Iran later.

In a Cannes news conference, he said the action was plotted by using contacts he had made during his prison stays.

"A few days after Norouz (the Persian New Year) -- I think it was around April 12 -- I learned from my lawyers that my prison sentence had been confirmed and then the case would be sent for enforcement and I would have to go to prison.”

Rasoulof said he felt that Iranian authorities wanted to send him to prison “for a long time.”

“I had to decide whether I wanted to go to prison…wait to see what happens, or leave and keep telling the story. I chose the second option."

The film by Rasoulof -- a longtime activist for human rights in his home country -- tells the tale of a court investigator whose family life is torn apart during anti-government protests.

Rasoulof, an outspoken critic of the Iranian government, has served two terms over previous films. His passport was revoked in 2017.

Zelenskiy Visits Kharkiv As Death Toll Rises From Russian Strike On Supermarket

Ukrainian President Zelenskiy made an appeal to U.S. President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping from the site of a printworks in Kyiv that was hit by a Russian strike earlier this week.
Ukrainian President Zelenskiy made an appeal to U.S. President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping from the site of a printworks in Kyiv that was hit by a Russian strike earlier this week.

KHARKIV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visited the battle-scarred northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on May 26 and issued a fresh plea for additional aid. His comments came as rescuers searched the charred wreckage of a shopping center in the city for the bodies of people killed in a Russian missile attack the previous day, which has so far claimed at least 16 lives.

Nearly four dozen people were wounded in the May 25 attack, which hit the store as scores of shoppers were visiting the Epicentr hardware supply store.

Oleh Synyehubov, the governor of the Kharkiv region, said the toll stood at 16 as of the late afternoon on May 26 amid fears it would climb higher as emergency workers used heavy equipment to pick through the debris.

At least 43 people were wounded, said Ihor Terekhov, Kharkiv’s mayor.

"The attack targeted the shopping center, where there were many people," Terekhov said in a post to Telegram. This is clearly terrorism."

Russia Hits Hypermarket In Ukraine's Second-Biggest City
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Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko, meanwhile, said 16 people were still missing after the strike.

“This blow to Kharkiv is another manifestation of Russian madness,” Zelenskiy said on Telegram on May 25 moments after the attack.

While in Kharkiv, the Ukrainian leader urged U.S. President Joe Biden and China's Xi Jinping to attend a planned peace summit in Switzerland starting on June 15.

"There is no nation that is able to stop such a war only through its own efforts. The participation of world leaders is needed,” he said in a Telegram posting.

"The efforts of the world's majority are the best guarantee of the fulfillment of obligations. Please support the peace summit with your personal leadership and involvement," Zelenskiy said in comments directed in English to Biden and Xi.

The Russian state news agency TASS cited an unnamed security official as saying, without providing evidence, that there was a "military store and command post" inside the shopping center.

A video released by Ukraine’s national police depicted the moment of the attack on the hypermarket, showing what appeared to be workers and shoppers standing in a home-goods section of a large store.

A woman who identified herself as Svitlana told RFE/RL that she rushed to the site “because my son works here. He is an assistant in the paint department.”

When asked if she had any word from him, she responded: “No.”

Lyubov, who also only gave her first name, said: “So many colleagues [remain inside]. We looked for them. There were other people who needed help, too. But it was impossible to reach them due to the fire.”

Oleksandr Filchakov, Kharkiv's regional prosecutor, showed RFE/RL what he said was “shrapnel from the D-30 versatile intermediate gliding ammunition.”

“The Russian Federation has used it to bomb this supermarket.”

Kharkiv Residents Deal With Aftermath Of Deadly Russian Strike On Supermarket
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Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, has come under intensified missile and rocket attacks over the past month as Russia opened a new front in its offensive operations, crossing the border into Ukraine from the north.

Experts say the offensive is aimed at stretching Ukrainian forces to the breaking point and possibly putting Kharkiv within artillery range.

Overnight on May 26, Russia fired dozens of missiles and kamikaze drones at various targets in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Air Force said 12 missiles, and 31 drones had been downed by air defenses.

Also on May 25, Synyehubov said at least five people were injured in the village of Kupyansk-Vuzloviy and that an emergency vehicle had been damaged in a Russian missile strike.

Zelenskiy and other Ukrainian officials have pleaded with Western allies to step up deliveries of air defense weapons and other armaments to aid their outmanned and outgunned forces, especially in the country's northeast.

Ukrainian officials have also stepped up their calls for the United States to relax its restrictions preventing Ukrainian forces from using U.S.-supplied weaponry to more aggressively hit targets inside of Russia.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview published on May 24 in The Economist that Ukraine should be allowed to use Western-supplied weapons in strikes against military targets inside Russia.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service

Flooding Kills 10 Members Of 1 Family In Northeast Afghanistan

Afghans search through a building destroyed by heavy flooding earlier this month. Afghanistan has suffered a series of disastrous inundations this year
Afghans search through a building destroyed by heavy flooding earlier this month. Afghanistan has suffered a series of disastrous inundations this year

Flooding from heavy rainfall swept through a remote village in northeast Afghanistan, killing 10 members of a single family. Local Taliban officials in Badakhshan Province told RFE/RL's Radio Azadi that four bodies had been recovered, and rescuers were searching for more after the May 26 flooding overnight. Mohammad Akram Akbari, the head of the provincial Anti-Disaster Department said a number of villages were hit by the flooding. In Baghlan, about 300 kilometers north of Kabul, Taliban officials said that 40 houses had been destroyed by flooding. The impoverished country has suffered a series of catastrophic floods this year. To see the original article by RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, click here.

Sudanese General Says Russia Seeks Red Sea Fuel Station In Swap For Weapons

Russia previously sought a Red Sea naval base deal with Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir before he was deposed in 2019. (file photo)
Russia previously sought a Red Sea naval base deal with Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir before he was deposed in 2019. (file photo)

A top Sudanese general, Yasser al-Atta, said on May 25 that Russia had asked for a fueling station on the Red Sea in exchange for weapons and ammunition, and that agreements with Russia would be signed soon. The two countries signed a naval base deal under former President Omar Al-Bashir, but army leaders later said that plan was under review and it never materialized. Russia has previously developed ties with the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group, which is the army’s foe in a year-old war and which Western diplomats say has also had ties with Russia's Wagner private military group.

Report: Zelenskiy To Travel To Portugal After Visit To Spain

Portuguese Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa (left) and Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskiy at a meeting in 2023.
Portuguese Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa (left) and Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskiy at a meeting in 2023.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is set to travel to Portugal on May 28, after his planned visit to Spain, CNN Portugal reported on May 25. CNN Portugal said that the "Ukrainian president's arrival in the Iberian Peninsula is scheduled for the beginning of next week but will always depend on the course of the war in Ukraine in the coming hours." Representatives for the Portuguese prime minister and president did not comment. Spanish radio station Cadena SER reported that Zelenskiy will travel to Spain on May 26. Earlier this month, Zelenskiy postponed his trip to Madrid and Lisbon amid intense fighting in the Kharkiv region.

Russia, Iran Reaffirm 'Firm Commitment' To Strategic Partnership, Ministers Say

Iran's acting foreign minister, Ali Bagheri Kani, spoke by phone with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
Iran's acting foreign minister, Ali Bagheri Kani, spoke by phone with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

The Russian and Iranian foreign ministers reaffirmed their ties and “strategic partnership” in a phone call on May 25, less than a week after Iran’s president, foreign minister, and others died in a helicopter crash in northern Iran. Both Russia and Iran are bitter rivals of the West, and Tehran has supplied the Kremlin with deadly drones used in Moscow’s war with Ukraine. Following the call between Russia's Sergei Lavrov and Iran's new acting foreign minister, Ali Bagheri Kani, Russia's Foreign Ministry said the “parties reaffirmed their firm commitment to the unconditional continuation of the course chosen by the leaders of the two countries on the formation of a strategic partnership between Russia and Iran and their readiness to implement all available agreements and projects in various fields.”

Updated

Armenian PM Defends Demarcation Deal With Azerbaijan In Visit To Border Region

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian (center left) is confronted by villagers on the country's border with Azerbaijan on May 25.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian (center left) is confronted by villagers on the country's border with Azerbaijan on May 25.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian visited the northeastern province of Tavush on May 25 to meet with residents of several border communities where a controversial demarcation process with Azerbaijan was completed earlier this month.

Pashinian insisted that despite a few infrastructural problems, which have emerged as a result of the process, the sections of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border where the demarcation has been conducted are now safer than before due to their newly acquired legitimacy.

At the same time, talking to RFE/RL after the meetings, the prime minister stressed that "not a single inch" of sovereign Armenian territory has been ceded to Azerbaijan.

“We are not drawing a new border now, but we are reproducing the de jure border that existed at the moment of the collapse of the Soviet Union,” he said, again hailing the process as a success.

“In the modern-day world, there is no more effective security guarantee than a delimitated, legitimate border…. And we are now creating for our villages and our republic in this section of the border the most reliable security guarantee that can exist in the modern world today,” the Armenian premier added.

Pashinian experienced an incident during the visit to the border region when his helicopter was forced to make an “unscheduled landing” due to bad weather.

“Everything is fine,” Pashinian wrote on Facebook. “Due to bad weather conditions, our helicopter made an unscheduled landing in Vanadzor. Now we continue our journey by car.”

The incident came less than a week after Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian were killed when their helicopter crashed in poor weather near Iran’s border with Azerbaijan on May 19.

Both the United States and the European Union have hailed the border demarcation between Armenia and Azerbaijan, stressing that the deal announced by the two bitter South Caucasus rivals in April contains a reference to the 1991 Alma-Ata Declaration, a document by which a dozen former Soviet countries, including Armenia and Azerbaijan, pledged to recognize each other’s territorial integrity within existing administrative borders.

In the process that was formally completed on May 15, Baku regained control over four abandoned villages near the Armenian border that had been under Yerevan’s military control since the first Armenian-Azerbaijani war in the early 1990s.

Armenia and Azerbaijan announced on May 24 that their border guards were deployed at the sections where the demarcation was completed.

Armenian opposition groups have denounced what they describe as the latest “unilateral territorial concessions” to Azerbaijan. They argue that the border demarcation, which affects the infrastructure of border communities, leaves local residents more vulnerable to further possible Azerbaijani aggression.

The demarcation process in April sparked protests in Kirants, the village most affected by the process, as well as later in Yerevan.

Archbishop Bagrat Galstanian, the outspoken head of the Tavush diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, has emerged as the leader of these protests in recent weeks, staging several rallies attended by tens of thousands of supporters. He has called on his supporters to rally in Yerevan again on May 26 to push for Pashinian’s resignation.

Pashinian and members of his political team dismiss the opposition’s criticism, rejecting the resignation demand.

Unlike the three other border sections, Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed on a transitional border protection scheme for the section of the village of Kirants where part of the road and some houses and land are to be handed over to Azerbaijan.

Border Village Residents Challenge Armenian PM Over Demarcation With Azerbaijan
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The scheme will be in place until July 24, when Armenia hopes to build a new section of the road that will provide the village with connectivity with the rest of Armenia without having to use the road section that will be controlled by Azerbaijan.

The Pashinian government has also pledged to provide compensation to people who are losing their land and property as a result of the demarcation.

“We will do everything so that the rights of our citizens will be maximally preserved and protected,” the Armenian prime minister told RFE/RL on May 25.

Most of the residents of Kirants who are losing property in the border demarcation said this week that they would reject the compensation.

Some of them challenged Pashinian over the demarcation process when he visited the village.

One resident, whose father’s grave is apparently in the territory that will now be controlled by Azerbaijan, rebuked Pashinian for the land concession.

“You are giving away my homeland and you are giving my father’s grave together with it,” he said.

Stressing again that “not an inch of sovereign Armenian territory has been handed over to Azerbaijan in the process,” Pashinian replied: “Brother, the homeland begins where the state border begins. Period.”

Updated

Russian Forces Hit Hypermarket In Deadly Assault On Kharkiv, Surrounding Villages

Ukrainian firefighters battle a blaze at a shopping mall hit by a Russian air strike in Kharkiv on May 25.
Ukrainian firefighters battle a blaze at a shopping mall hit by a Russian air strike in Kharkiv on May 25.

Russian forces continued their intensified offensive against Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine, where officials said a shell struck a building-materials store on May 25, killing at least six people and trapping dozens of others, while surrounding villages reported damage and injuries under a hail of drone and missile attacks.

Mayor Ihor Terekhov said a shell appeared to hit a massive shopping area in a residential zone in Ukraine’s second-largest city, leaving a "large number" of people missing and injured.

In a Telegram posting, he said preliminary information indicated the blast “occurred in a construction hypermarket.”

“It is already known that two [workers] are dead. We have a large number of people missing. Many wounded...It's pure terrorism,” he said.

RFE/RL Ukrainian Service correspondents filmed first responders rushing to the scene as thick smoke was billowing from the hypermarket. People were seen running away from the site, at least one of them visibly suffering from injuries.

Russia Hits Hypermarket In Ukraine's Second-Biggest City
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Officials later raised the death toll to six, with at least 40 injured and 16 missing.

A woman who identified herself as Lyubov told the AFP news agency that she was working as a cleaner at the hypermarket when a massive explosion occurred.

"It happened all of a sudden,” she said. “We didn't understand at first. Everything went dark and everything started falling on our heads."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said dozens of people may have been in the store when the shells hit.

"As of now, we know that more than 200 people could have been inside the hypermarket," Zelenskiy said on Telegram.

“This blow to Kharkiv is another manifestation of Russian madness,” Zelenskiy said.

The details could not immediately be independently verified.

The Russian state-run TASS news agency cited a security source as saying, without providing evidence, that there was a "military store and command post" inside the hypermarket.

Russia has denied it targets civilian areas, despite widespread proof of such actions.

Western and Ukrainian military experts say the Kremlin’s latest offensive is aimed at stretching Ukrainian forces to the breaking point in the northeast and moving Russian forces to within artillery range of Kharkiv, a city of some 1.4 million people.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

Separately, Oleh Synyehubov, governor the Kharkiv region, said at least five people were injured in the village of Kupyansk-Vuzloviy and that an emergency vehicle had been damaged in a Russian missile strike.

Two days earlier, Synyehubov said at least seven people were killed in Kharkiv in a wave of Russian strikes that Zelenskiy called "extremely brutal."

In his nightly video address of May 24, Zelenskiy said Ukrainian forces had recaptured some territory in the region, although details are difficult to pin down given the heavy fighting there.

Zelenskiy and other Ukrainian officials have pleaded with Western allies to step up deliveries of air defense weapons and other armaments to aid their outmanned and outgunned forces, especially in the country's northeast.

In Russia, Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov claimed that Ukrainian rockets had killed three people in residential districts of two villages in the area.

Kyiv did not comment on the reports but has insisted it does not target civilian areas. In recent months, several fuel depots and military sites inside Russia have been hit by missies, often in the Belgorod region near the border.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview published on May 24 in The Economist that Ukraine should be allowed to use Western-supplied weapons in strikes against military targets inside Russia.

The NATO head called on members to “consider whether they should lift” their current restrictions, saying they make it “very hard” for Ukraine to defend itself.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian media reported that at least 28 Ukrainian commanders are facing criminal probes over perceived military failures amid Russia's intensified offensive operations near Kharkiv.

The reports said the investigations are being carried out by Ukraine's State Bureau of Investigations and focus on allegations of failing to properly organize defenses along the border with Russia.

Ukrainian forces have been under immense pressure since Russia launched a surprise offensive on the Kharkiv region beginning May 10, shelling border settlements and attempting to capture Vovchansk, a small town just 5 kilometers from the Russian border.

Thousands of civilians have been evacuated during the offensive, and Ukrainian troops have been forced to pull back amid heavy losses to better-defended lines.

The reports said the 28 officers being investigated are at the command level of the 125th Brigade, the 415th Rifle Battalion, the 23rd Mechanized Brigade, and other units.

Neither the Ukrainian government nor the country's military have commented on the reports.

On the diplomatic front, G7 finance ministers meeting in northern Italy said some "progress" has been made in finding ways to use profits from frozen Russian assets to help Ukraine.

"We are making progress in our discussions on potential avenues to bring forward the extraordinary profits stemming from immobilized Russian sovereign assets to the benefit of Ukraine, consistent with international law and our respective legal systems," ministers said in a draft statement seen by the AFP news agency.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP

Kosovo Census Indicates Population Decline, But Ethnic-Serb Participation Uncertain

The dominant Serbian political party in Kosovo said Serbs wouldn't participate in the Census process.
The dominant Serbian political party in Kosovo said Serbs wouldn't participate in the Census process.

Preliminary results of Kosovo’s census suggest that the Western Balkan nation’s population has declined over the past decade, although a boycott by the ethnic-Serbian minority may have skewed the data. An official said on May 25 that the country’s population was about 1.5 million, down from 1.74 million in 2011, the date of the last census. When the census began, Serb List, the dominant Serbian political party in Kosovo -- which enjoys Belgrade's support — said Serbs wouldn't participate in the process. Serbia has never acknowledged its former province's 2008 declaration of independence, and tensions are high between ethnic-Albanian and Serbian residents. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Balkan Service, click here.

Pakistani Christian Community Attacked After Blasphemy Accusation

Hundreds of Muslims in eastern Pakistan went on a rampage over allegations that a Christian man had desecrated the pages of Islam's holy book, ransacking and burning his house and beating him before police officers rescued the man and his father, officials said on May 25. The incident occurred in the Mujahid Colony residential area in Sargodha, a city in Punjab Province, said district police chief Ijaz Malhi. He said police quickly responded and saved the lives of the two men. Malhi said the situation was under control and officers were investigating the allegations.

Updated

Israel Continues Gaza Attacks Despite UN Court Order To 'Immediately Halt' Rafah Offensive

Palestinians fleeing Rafah earlier this month
Palestinians fleeing Rafah earlier this month

Israel continued bombing in the Gaza Strip, including the city of Rafah, on May 25, one day after a top UN court ordered it to halt military operations against the southern city.

Israel gave no indication that the ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) had affected its planning.

“Israel has not and will not carry out military operations in the Rafah area that ‘create living conditions that could cause the destruction of the Palestinian civilian population, in whole or in part,’” Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said in a statement, echoing wording found in the ICJ ruling.

Separately, following a meeting between U.S. and Israeli officials in Paris on May 25, an Israeli official said Tel Aviv was seeking to restart talks in the coming days in an effort to reach a hostage-release deal in Gaza.

"There is an intention to renew the talks this week and there is an agreement," the official told the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.

Early on May 25, hours after the court ruling, Israel carried out strikes on the Gaza Strip as fighting between Israeli troops and fighters for Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, continued.

Air strikes were reported in Rafah and the central city of Deir al-Balah.

European foreign policy chief Josep Borrell wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that “ICJ orders are binding on the Parties and they have to be fully and effectively implanted.”

In its May 24 ruling, the ICJ said Israel must “immediately halt” its offensive against Rafah and take urgent measures to address the humanitarian crisis in the entire region. Measures should include reopening the Rafah border crossing with Egypt to allow aid to flow into Gaza.

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

In a ruling on January 26, the 15-judge panel ruled that Israel must do everything to prevent genocide during its offensive in response to an attack in October by Hamas -- which has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States and the EU -- but stopped short of ordering a cease-fire.
On March 28, it ordered Israel to take all necessary and effective action to ensure basic food supplies to Gaza’s Palestinian population.

Though the court's rulings are legally binding, it has no way to enforce them.
Still, the 13-2 vote ordering Israel to halt its Rafah offensive, and to report on its progress in easing the humanitarian crisis within one month, increases pressure on Israel and further isolates it.

The ruling stepped up pressure against Israel just days after Norway, Ireland, and Spain announced they would recognize a Palestinian state and after the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced he would seek arrest warrants on war crimes charges for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and several top Hamas leaders.

Israel and Hamas have been fighting since October 7, 2023, when Hamas fighters launched a massive cross-border attack on Israel. Some 1,200 Israeli citizens were killed in the attack, while another 240 were taken hostage, some of whom are still being held by Hamas in Gaza.

(with reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters)

Satellite Photos Show Ukrainian Drone Strike Damaged Russian Radar Station

A satellite image taken on May 23 showing damage to Russia's Armavir radar station
A satellite image taken on May 23 showing damage to Russia's Armavir radar station

Satellite images taken shortly after a May 23 Ukrainian drone strike in Russia’s southern Krasnodar region show significant damage to a key radar installation providing air-defense coverage to the occupied Ukrainian region of Crimea, as well as the Balkans, the eastern Mediterranean, and the Persian Gulf.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

The Armavir radar station, which has two Voronezh-DM radars with a range of some 6,000 kilometers, appears to have suffered serious damage to the buildings housing the radars, RFE/RL’s Russian Service reported.

According to The War Zone blog, the station is part of Russia’s nuclear ballistic missile early warning system.

The blog said the station may have been targeted because it is capable of tracking U.S.-made ATACMS long-range missiles, which were recently approved for distribution to Ukraine by Washington.

Norwegian military analyst Thord Are Iversen, writing on X, formerly Twitter, argued that targeting elements of Russia’s nuclear early warning system “isn’t a particularly good idea…especially in times of tension.”

The Ukrainian attack on the Armavir station came shortly after Russia began exercises of its tactical nuclear-weapons forces in the Southern Military District.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said the exercises were held “in response to provocative statements and threats from certain Western officials.”

Neither Russia nor Ukraine have commented on the Armavir attack.

Also on May 23, the airport in the capital of Russia’s Tatarstan region, Kazan, and several industrial facilities in the region were temporarily closed because of “possible drone attacks.” Tatarstan is more than 1,000 kilometers away from the border with Ukraine.

In recent months, Ukraine has stepped up strikes on Russian territory and off its shores, targeting, in particular, oil production and refining facilities, air defense installations, and naval vessels.

Updated

G7 Ministers Cite 'Progress' But No Done Deal On Russian Assets For Ukraine

G7 finance ministers and central bank governors have been meeting in Italy for the past two days.
G7 finance ministers and central bank governors have been meeting in Italy for the past two days.

G7 finance ministers cited "progress" in finding ways to use profits from frozen Russian assets to help Ukraine, envisioning a concrete proposal to present to a leaders' summit next month. A search for creative yet legally sound solutions was top of the agenda at the two-day Group of Seven meeting in Stresa, northern Italy, which wrapped up on May 25 as Kyiv continues its urgent appeals for more funds from Western allies in its war with Russia. "We are making progress in our discussions on potential avenues to bring forward the extraordinary profits stemming from immobilized Russian sovereign assets to the benefit of Ukraine, consistent with international law and our respective legal systems," ministers said in a draft statement seen by the AFP news agency.

NATO Head Urges Lifting Restrictions On Kyiv Striking Targets In Russia

NATO's Jens Stoltenberg (left) meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv in April
NATO's Jens Stoltenberg (left) meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv in April

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said Ukraine should be allowed to use Western-supplied weapons in strikes against military targets inside Russia. In an interview with The Economist published on May 24, the NATO head called on members to “consider whether they should lift” their current restrictions, saying they make it “very hard” for Ukraine to defend itself.

Blinken To Visit Chisinau, Prague Next Week

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

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

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

He will travel to Prague later that evening for meetings with senior Czech officials before taking part in an informal NATO ministerial meeting on the evening of May 30, James O'Brien, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, told reporters.

In Chisinau, Blinken will announce a "package of support" that includes assistance for Moldova's transition away from dependence on Russian energy, O'Brien said.

He'll participate in an informal meeting of foreign ministers in preparation for the NATO summit in July and will "have an opportunity to highlight Moldova's progress in its path toward European integration, its solidifying its democracy, and the threat posed by the Russian interference in its internal processes."

In Prague, Blinken will meet with a number of senior officials and highlight the Czech Republic's support for Ukraine, including its efforts to provide much-needed munitions.

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

O'Brien said the United States does not anticipate the ministers will announce an invitation for Ukraine to join NATO at the conclusion of their meeting but said there will be "a substantial show of support" for the country.

"This will include ongoing NATO support in building Ukraine’s future force and efforts to help Ukraine as it makes the reforms needed so that it’s able to join the EU and run across the bridge to NATO as quickly as it's able," he said without giving specifics.

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

"Ukraine uses its own weapons very effectively in attacking targets in Russia, but I’m not going to comment...further than that," he said.

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

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