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Trump's Ex-Lawyer Ready To Talk With Russia Investigators, His Lawyer Says

U.S. President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen. (file photo)
U.S. President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen. (file photo)

U.S. President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer has information "on certain subjects that should be of interest" to the special prosecutor investigating ties between Russia and his 2016 election campaign, his lawyer says.

Michael Cohen's lawyer on August 22 said Cohen is willing to provide information not only to U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller but to committees in Congress investigating Russian election interference efforts.

The offer came one day after the former Trump "fixer" pleaded guilty to making hush-money payments -- allegedly at Trump's direction -- to women who claimed to have affairs with Trump to ensure their silence during his 2016 White House bid.

Media have reported that Cohen is willing to tell Mueller that Trump knew in advance about a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in which his eldest son sought damaging information from a Russian lawyer about Trump's Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Cohen's knowledge about that meeting has already drawn the interest of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating ties between Russia and Trump's campaign, with Republican and Democratic committee members saying that they've "recently re-engaged" with Cohen on the matter.

Cohen's lawyer, Lanny Davis, in a series of television interviews also said that Cohen could tell Mueller about whether Trump was aware of and encouraged Russian hacking of Democratic party e-mails during the 2016 campaign.

"It is my observation that what [Cohen] knows will be of interest" to Mueller, Davis said.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, when asked if Trump was concerned about what Cohen might tell Mueller, said: “I don’t think the president is concerned at all. He knows that he did nothing wrong and that there was no collusion."

In pleading guilty on August 21, Cohen said in court that Trump directed him to arrange payments of $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels and $150,000 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal to buy their silence about alleged affairs before the election. Trump denies the affairs.

Trump tweeted on August 22 that the campaign finance violations Cohen pleaded guilty to "are not a crime." He told Fox & Friends that, because the payments came from his personal bank account and not from campaign funds, it's "not even a campaign violation." But legal experts dispute Trump's claims.

'Significant Turning Point'

The revelation of Trump's possible involvement in criminal activity sent shock waves around the world and appear to pose the most grave legal danger for Trump to date after a year and a half of criminal investigations.

While Cohen was fiercely loyal to the president when he was working for him -- saying at one point he would "take a bullet" for Trump -- Davis said Cohen is now intent on telling the truth to whoever asks him, and is "more than happy" to tell Mueller all that he knows.

While Cohen is not officially cooperating with Mueller's investigation of Trump, Davis said his pledge to tell the truth is "the functional equivalent of cooperation."

Davis said that Cohen reached a "significant turning point" in his thinking about Trump after he observed what Davis called Trump's "deference" to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit in Helsinki last month. Davis said that event led Cohen to believe Trump was "unsuitable" to hold office.

Working out of a Trump Tower office next to his boss, Cohen is believed to have vast knowledge of the inner workings of Trump's empire, his business dealings, and his campaign that could prove important to investigators in Congress and on Mueller's team.

U.S. agents in April seized more than 4 million items from his home, hotel room, and office, including recordings of Trump.

Democrats in Congress seized on Cohen's guilty plea on August 22 and demanded that Republican leaders who control Congress hold hearings on Trump's repeated threats against FBI and Mueller investigators -- which they said amount to obstruction of justice -- and pass legislation to protect Mueller from being fired by the president.

"The president of the United States is now directly implicated in a criminal conspiracy," said Representative Jerrold Nadler, senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. He said Congress must now act to "respond to this culture of corruption."

House of Representatives Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi told the Associated Press, however, that evidence of Trump's involvement in crimes admitted by Cohen would not be enough to prompt Democrats to launch impeachment proceedings against Trump, should they gain control of the House in November congressional elections.

"Impeachment has to spring from something else," Pelosi said. "It's not a priority on the agenda going forward, unless something else comes forward."

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and The New York Times

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Azerbaijani Indepentent TV Journalist Detained

Aziz Orucov (file photo)
Aziz Orucov (file photo)

Aziz Orucov, the executive director of Azerbajian's Kanal 13 Internet TV station, was detained late on November 27 and his home and office were searched by the police. Orucov's lawyer, Bahruz Bayramov, told local media that his client was accused of owning, using, or leasing property illegally. Bayramov said Orucov linked his arrest to his journalistic activity. In 2017, Orucov was sentenced to six years in prison over allegedly gaining illegal revenues from grants but denied the charges. He was released on parole a year later. Kanal 13 and other independent media have been accused by state media of anti-government activities. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, click here.

Russia Strikes Kryviy Rih, Nikopol With Missiles, Artillery, Ukraine Says

The city of Kryviy Rih has been a frequent target of shelling and air strikes.
The city of Kryviy Rih has been a frequent target of shelling and air strikes.

Russian forces launched a missile strike at the city of Kryviy Rih in the eastern region of Donetsk overnight, Yevhen Sytnychenko, the head of the city's military administration, said on Telegram on November 28. Sytnychenko said the authorities were looking into the consequences of the strike. He said the region's infrastructure appeared to be "working normally." In the neighboring region of Dnipropetrovsk, Russian forces shelled Marhanets, in the Nikopol district, with heavy artillery, regional Governor Serhiy Lysak said on Telegram. There have been no reports of casualties yet, Lysak added. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, click here.

Pakistan's Imran Khan Denied Court-Ordered Public Trial, Lawyer Says

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (file photo)
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (file photo)

Jailed former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has been denied an open-court trial as ordered by a high court after the government submitted reports citing threats to his life, his lawyer said on November 28. The court hearing the case later said Khan's trial on the charge of leaking state secrets will be held in jail premises but will be open to media and the public, the lawyer said. The Islamabad High Court had ruled last week that holding Khan's trial inside jail premises on security concerns was illegal, and ordered it restarted in an open court. Khan denies the charges.

Moscow More Than Doubles Spending On Surveillance

A video-surveillance camera is seen by a Moscow subway station.
A video-surveillance camera is seen by a Moscow subway station.

Russia's capital will more than double its spending on video-surveillance equipment next year, the budget approved by the Moscow City Duma shows. The amount earmarked for such equipment, is 1.97 billion rubles ($22.2 million) in 2024, according to the budget passed last week, compared to 800 million rubles ($9 million) spent this year. The Moscow Times last month reported that official data showed the number of video cameras connected to facial-recognition systems exceeded half a million throughout Russia. Moscow has the most such systems -- 216 installed throughout the city. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Russia Extends U.S. Journalist's Pretrial Detention

Evan Gershkovich appears in court.
Evan Gershkovich appears in court.

The pretrial detention of U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, has been extended by two months until January 30, a Moscow court said on Telegram.

Gershkovich was detained in late March in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg.

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said at the time of the arrest that it had opened an espionage case against Gershkovich for collecting what it said were state secrets about the military industrial complex. He denies the charges.

If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

The White House and The Wall Street Journal have said Gershkovich was working and is a properly accredited journalist in Russia.

Since his arrest, Gershkovich has been held in Moscow's Lefortovo prison, a notorious institution dating back to tsarist times. Seen as a symbol of Soviet repression, Lefortovo is where Russia holds most suspects in espionage cases.

On August 24, the Lefortovo district court extended for three months, until November 30, Gershkovich's detention. On October 10, the court rejected Gershkovich's appeal against the extension.

A U.S. citizen based in Moscow, Gershkovich, 31, had been in Yekaterinburg reporting about the attitude of Russians toward the Kremlin's war against Ukraine and on the Wagner mercenary group.

Lawyer Maria Korchagina told reporters that the defense asked the court to change the preventive measure for Gershkovich from incarceration to house arrest, a ban on certain actions, or 50 million rubles ($561,000) bail. The bail was to be provided by Dow Jones&Co, the owner of The Wall Street Journal.

The U.S. State Department has declared Gershkovich "wrongfully detained," which gives the department grounds to act in the interest of Gershkovich.

Russia has been accused of detaining Americans to use as bargaining chips to exchange for Russians jailed in the United States.

RFE/RL journalist Alsu Kurmasheva, who holds dual U.S. and Russian citizenship, has been detained since last month and charged with failing to register as a "foreign agent," a crime that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Kurmasheva, who had traveled to Russia in May for a family emergency, was temporarily detained while waiting for her return flight on June 2 at Kazan airport in Tatarstan, where both of her passports were confiscated.

As she awaited the return of her travel documents, she was detained again and charged on October 18.

More than 30 RFE/RL journalists have been listed as "foreign agents" by the Russian Justice Ministry in their personal capacity.

RFE/RL says the "foreign agent" law amounts to political censorship meant to prevent journalists from performing their professional duties and is challenging the authorities' moves in Russian courts and at the European Court of Human Rights.

With reporting by Current Time

Putin Signs Russia's National Budget For Next Three Years, Bolstering Military Spending

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting in Moscow on November 27.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting in Moscow on November 27.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on November 27 signed a national budget for the next three years that increases spending by around 25 percent. The budget foresees spending in 2024 of 36.6 trillion rubles ($415 billion) with an expected deficit of 1.595 trillion rubles ($9.5 billion). After the budget was passed by the lower house of parliament, Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said it was developed specifically to fund the military and to mitigate the impact of international sanctions. Part of the Russian budget is secret as the Kremlin tries to conceal its military plans and sidestep scrutiny of its operations in Ukraine.

Russia Says There Will Be No Lavrov-Blinken Talks At OSCE Meeting This Week

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov move to their seats before a meeting in Geneva on January 21, 2022, almost a month before Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov move to their seats before a meeting in Geneva on January 21, 2022, almost a month before Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

There will be no meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at a conference in North Macedonia this week, Russian news agency TASS reported on November 27, citing a comment by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. Washington has not requested a meeting "and there will be no meeting," Ryabkov was quoted as saying. Lavrov said earlier that he would take part in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) meeting if Bulgaria opened its air space to the Russian delegation. He also said some Western countries had asked to meet him.

Updated

Multiple Weather-Related Deaths Reported In Black Sea Region After Massive Winter Storm

Waves crash against a seafront in the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi during a storm on November 27.
Waves crash against a seafront in the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi during a storm on November 27.

At least 13 people were killed and dozens injured in Ukraine, Moldova, and Russia due to a winter storm that wreaked havoc in areas of Southeastern Europe and along the Black Sea coast, toppling trees and pulling down power lines, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without electricity.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on November 27 said five people were killed and 19 were injured in Odesa and stressed that it was important that every community ensure that more people do not lose their lives due to bad weather.

"Unfortunately, as of now, there are some deaths. The highest number [of casualties] is in the Odesa region -- five people," Zelenskiy said in a video message.

According to the Ukrainian Energy Ministry, there were 882 settlements in 12 regions without power as of the evening of November 27 due to strong wind and snowfall. The Odesa region had the largest number of settlements without electricity -- 313, affecting about 110,000 consumers.

Ukraine's Emergency Service reported that by the evening of November 27, 1,233 vehicles had been towed and 164 trees removed.

Moldova, Bulgaria, and Romania were also badly affected by the storm, which swept in from the Black Sea, bringing snowfall as far north as Moscow in what the Hydrometeorological Center of Russia called "one of the strongest storms to ever hit at the end of November."

Authorities in Moldova said there were nine road accidents in which two people died and 14 were injured. In addition, two people were found dead inside a car inundated by mud near the village of Coscalia.

The Russian Energy Ministry said about 1.9 million people were affected by power cuts in the southern regions of Daghestan, Krasnodar, and Rostov, as well as in the as the Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine's Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, Zaporizhzhya, and Crimea regions.

Several people were injured in the Krasnodar region when hundreds of trees were blown down, the Russian Emergencies Ministry said. The storm also caused a large Belize-flagged cargo ship to run around near Anapa, the ministry said.

The number of deaths caused by the storm in the Krasnodar region and Russian-occupied Crimea was four, state-run Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported on November 27.

The body of a man who drowned was found in the Russian coastal city of Novorossiisk, the press service of the Interior Ministry in the Krasnodar region said.

The body of another victim, believed to be a crew member of a Malta-flagged ship that was in the Kerch Strait during the storm, was pulled from the water in Sochi. Two other deaths were reported in Crimea, but only one of them was confirmed by officials.

Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Russian-installed governor of Sevastopol, said some parts of the city were being evacuated on November 27. Three people were hospitalized with injuries, he said, adding that 354 homes were without electricity and many others were without natural gas.

The Aquarium Museum in Sevastopol reported the storm tore through the complex, killing all of the estimated 800 animals housed in the facility.

In the Russian-occupied part of the Kherson region, 94 settlements were without electricity, said Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-installed head of the region. The wind knocked down nine power lines and damaged more than 50 towers, and communications and Internet have been disrupted.

Authorities in Romania and neighboring Moldova said hundreds of cities and villages were without electricity and water in the two countries on November 27 following heavy snowfall and blizzards that prompted severe disruption of road and railway traffic.

In Bulgaria, snowfall and blizzards prompted authorities to declare a state of emergency in several areas in the northeast of the Balkan country -- Silistra and Razgrad regions, Valchi dol municipality, Varna region, and Shumen region. Some 1,000 settlements were without electricity, Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov said at an emergency government meeting on November 26.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service, Digi24.ro, Hotnews.ro, Unimedia.md, AP, and Reuters

Pakistani Army Claims Suicide Attack A Day Earlier Carried Out By Afghan National

People who were injured in a blast receive medical treatment at a hospital in Bannu, Pakistan, on November 26.
People who were injured in a blast receive medical treatment at a hospital in Bannu, Pakistan, on November 26.

Pakistan's military said on November 27 that an Afghan national carried out a suicide attack a day earlier on a security forces convoy that killed two civilians and injured several others.

The military said in a statement that "a motorcycle-borne suicide bomber, affiliated with Hafiz Gul Bahadur and later identified as an Afghan national," carried out the attack in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province in northwestern Pakistan. It added that seven civilians and three soldiers were injured in the attack.

It gave no further details.

Pakistani officials have not provided any other information, and there has been no claim of responsibility for the attack.

Hafiz Gul Bahadur is the leader of a Pakistani Taliban faction based in North Waziristan.

The security situation in the province in recent months has worsened despite the promises of the government and security authorities. There were multiple deadly incidents last week, including the killing of an employee of the Forestry Department in North Waziristan on November 23.

Two days ago, two soldiers were killed in a landmine explosion and a policeman was killed in an attack on a checkpoint in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while in South Waziristan on November 22, three civilians, including a local leader, were killed and four were injured in a bomb blast in Azam Worsk. No one has claimed responsibility for those attacks.

The bombing in Azam Worsk occurred after two soldiers were killed in an armed attack on a post in Sar Rogha in South Waziristan. The Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for that attack.

The Pakistani government and army say they have continued their operations against the militants.

The army said on November 21 that it had killed three suspected militants in an encounter in North Waziristan. The army added that one of its soldiers was also killed in the clash.

Earlier, the army had claimed the killing of 11 suspected militants in clashes during operations in Peshawar and Tank in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on November 16.

Pakistan's caretaker prime minister, Anwar ul-Haq Kakar, on November 20 said terrorist attacks inside his country have increased 60 percent since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in August 2021. Some 2,300 people have been killed in these attacks.

Macedonia Says Malta Agrees To Hold OSCE Rotating Presidency From January

North Macedonia Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani (file photo)
North Macedonia Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani (file photo)

North Macedonia Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani said November 27 that Malta has agreed to take over the OSCE's rotating presidency from Skopje in January. "Thank you Malta for your willingness to take on this vital role and to all colleagues for your flexibility and support," Osmani, who currently chairs the OSCE, wrote on X, formerly Twitter. EU and NATO member Estonia was supposed to take over from January, but Russia and Belarus vetoed it, arguing that Estonia is a NATO country. EU member Malta is militarily neutral, although it has condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Balkan Service, click here.

Finland Expects More Asylum Seekers To Arrive From Russia, PM Says

Finnish border guards escort migrants at the border crossing with Russia at Salla, northern Finland, on November 23.
Finnish border guards escort migrants at the border crossing with Russia at Salla, northern Finland, on November 23.

Finland expects more asylum seekers to arrive at its border via Russia and plans to take further measures to stem the flow after closing all but one entry point. "Intelligence information from different sources tells us that there still are people on the move," Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said. Some 900 asylum seekers from nations including Afghanistan, Kenya, Morocco, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen have entered Finland from Russia in November, an increase from less than one per day previously. Finland blames a change in Russian border protocol and calls it a hybrid attack. Moscow denies the charge. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Five Ukrainian Emergency Officials Indicted In Case Of Helicopter Crash That Killed Interior Minister

The State Emergency Service helicopter crashed in foggy conditions into a kindergarten and the surrounding residential area of Brovary near Kyiv on January 18. 
The State Emergency Service helicopter crashed in foggy conditions into a kindergarten and the surrounding residential area of Brovary near Kyiv on January 18. 

KYIV -- Ukrainian investigators have charged five emergency officials with violating aviation safety regulations that led to the helicopter crash that killed Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskiy and 13 other people in January.

The State Bureau of Investigations (DBR) said on November 27 that the five -- Ivan Korobka, Volodymyr Leonov, Oleh Ivanov, Andriy Dvornyk, and Yan Koshman -- are officials of the State Emergency Service.

They were officially indicted after the investigation into the aircraft crash ended, the statement said.

The five were detained in August. A court later released them but ordered to stay at home during nighttime.

The helicopter of the State Emergency Service carrying Monastyrskiy, his first deputy minister, Yevhen Yenin, State Secretary Yuriy Lubkovych, and other officials, was on its way to the eastern regions of Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk, when it crashed in foggy conditions into a kindergarten and the surrounding residential area of Brovary near the Ukrainian capital on January 18.

The crash killed 14 people, including those onboard as well as four women and a child in the kindergarten. Another 31 people, including 13 children, were injured. Some were evacuated to the European Union for treatment at the time.

Investigators say the helicopter did not have permission papers to carry out flights for purposes other than emergency situations.

"The crew commander began the flight without having full information about weather conditions for the whole route of the flight, and the crew did not have the necessary permission to carry out flights in complicated weather conditions, as well as the necessary certificates. None of the supervising officials responsible for aviation safety either canceled the flight or postponed it until better weather conditions," the DBR's statement said.

Monastyrskiy, 42, was appointed to the post of the interior minister in mid-July 2021. In September 2022, six months after Russia launched its ongoing unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Monastyrskiy participated in the largest prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia, when 215 Ukrainian soldiers returned home.

Moscow Court Hands Prison Terms To Two Journalists On Extortion Charge

Aleksandra Bayazitova and Olga Arkharova stand in a defendants' cage while attending a court hearing in Moscow.
Aleksandra Bayazitova and Olga Arkharova stand in a defendants' cage while attending a court hearing in Moscow.

A Moscow court on November 27 sentenced journalist Aleksandra Bayazitova, a former reporter of Izvestiya and Kommersant newspapers, and media manager Olga Arkharova to five years and 4 1/2 years in prison, respectively, on a charge of extortion. The court held that the two had attempted to extort 1.2 million rubles ($13,400) from Aleksandr Ushakov, the vice president of state-owned Promsvyaz Bank, in exchange for not publishing "negative information" about the bank on Bayazitova's YouTube channel. Bayazitova pleaded not guilty while Arkharova pleaded guilty. The trial was held behind closed doors. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.

Russia's Lavrov Says Some In The West Requested Meetings At OSCE Council

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (file photo)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (file photo)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he would take part in a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in North Macedonia if Bulgaria opened its air space to the Russian delegation, and that some Western countries had asked to meet him. Since President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops into Ukraine in 2022, the West has sought to isolate Moscow, and face-to-face meetings between senior ministers have been rare. Lavrov said North Macedonia had invited him to attend a meeting of foreign ministers of the OSCE in Skopje from November 30 to December 1.

Mayor Of Kyrgyz Town, Son Detained On Corruption Charges Over Quartz Mine

Three men arrested on suspicion of illegally obtaining a quartz mine in Kyrgyzstan
Three men arrested on suspicion of illegally obtaining a quartz mine in Kyrgyzstan

The Kyrgyz State Committee of National Security (UKMK) said on November 27 that its officers had detained Erkin Toigonbaev, the mayor of the southern town of Toktogul, and two other men including his son on suspicion of illegally obtaining a quartz mine near the town. According to the UKMK, the crime took place last year when Toigonbaev served as a district governor. The alleged illegal mining activities of Toigonbaev and his son caused damages, including through the alleged violation of environmental safety regulations, estimated at around 74 million soms ($835,000). To read the original story by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, click here.

Scythian Gold Of Crimea Returns To Ukraine From The Netherlands After Court Decision

A court in Amsterdam ruled in 2016 that the Scythian Gold collection was part of Ukraine's cultural heritage and should be returned to Kyiv. (file photo)
A court in Amsterdam ruled in 2016 that the Scythian Gold collection was part of Ukraine's cultural heritage and should be returned to Kyiv. (file photo)

A collection of gold artifacts from Crimea, known as the Scythian Gold, which was on loan to a Dutch museum when Russia seized Ukraine's peninsula in 2014, was returned to Ukraine after Dutch courts decided that the collection cannot be returned to Moscow-annexed Crimea. The Kyiv-based National Museum of Ukrainian History said on November 27 that it has the items now and will keep them until Crimea's 'de-occupation." In 2016, a court in Amsterdam ruled that the collection was part of Ukraine's cultural heritage and should be returned to Kyiv, a decision Moscow appealed. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, click here.

Trial Starts For Belarusian Activist Arrested Upon Her Return From Poland

Belarusian activist Alyaksandra Kasko (file photo)
Belarusian activist Alyaksandra Kasko (file photo)

Alyaksandra Kasko, a 30-year-old Belarusian rights activist who was arrested in early February right after she returned from Poland, went on trial in the western city of Hrodna on November 27 on charges of inciting hatred, mishandling personal data, organizing an extremist group, assisting the implementation of extremist activities, spreading lies about authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka, contempt of court, and insulting an official. If convicted, Kasko faces up to 12 years in prison. The charges stem from Kasko's activities protesting the official results of a widely disputed presidential election in 2020 that handed Lukashenka victory. She has been declared a political prisoner by rights organizations. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Belarus Service, click here.

Kadyrov Critic Flees Kyrgyzstan To Avoid Deportation To Russia

Mansur Movlayev in a Kyrgyz court last month.
Mansur Movlayev in a Kyrgyz court last month.

Russian citizen Mansur Movlayev, an outspoken critic of Ramzan Kadyrov -- the authoritarian ruler of Russia's North Caucasus region of Chechnya -- has left Kyrgyzstan before a court order to deport him to Russia was implemented.

Movlayev’s lawyer, Bakyt Avtandil, told RFE/RL on November 27 that his client is now in an unspecified country, adding that Movlayev made the decision to leave the Central Asian nation by himself.

Last week, a court in Bishkek ruled that Movlayev, who was sentenced in Kyrgyzstan earlier in October to six months in prison for illegal border-crossing, must be released from detention though his deportation order to Russia remained in effect.

Avtandil told RFE/RL at the time that the Birinchi Mai district court ruled that Movlayev had served his six-month sentence because time spent in pretrial detention counts for double.

Movlayev, a native of Chechnya, is wanted in Russia on extremism charges that he rejects as politically motivated.

The Kyrgyz State Committee of National Security (UKMK) said in August that its officers detained Movlayev in a counterterrorist operation, stressing that the 28-year-old Chechen activist is "a follower of radical Islam" with links to terrorist groups in the Middle East.

In 2020, Movlayev was sentenced to three years in prison on illegal drugs charges that he vehemently rejected as politically motivated, calling the case against him retaliation by Chechen officials for his criticism of Kadyrov and his government.

In 2022, Movlayev was granted early release, but then detained again.

Noted Chechen opposition bloggers Ibragim and Baisangur Yangulbayev said at the time that Movlayev managed to escape and fled Russia for Kyrgyzstan in 2022, where he planned to get assistance from international rights groups to travel to the European Union for safety reasons.

Kadyrov, who has ruled Chechnya since 2007 with a cult of personality around him, is frequently accused by Russian and international human rights groups of overseeing grave abuses including abductions, torture, extrajudicial killings, and the persecution of the LGBT community.

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

Three Kyrgyz Men Detained On Charge of Attempted Bride Abduction

The three men have been charged with attempting to "bridenap" a woman in the Issyk-Kul region.
The three men have been charged with attempting to "bridenap" a woman in the Issyk-Kul region.

Police in Kyrgyzstan's northern region of Issyk-Kul said on November 27 that they detained three men on a charge of attempted bride snatching, a crime that has been a problem in the country for decades despite the criminalization of the practice in 2013. The Central Asian nation has witnessed several high-profile deadly cases of bride snatching and domestic violence in recent years. Last year, the United Nations said that, despite recent efforts made by Kyrgyz authorities to promote gender equality, perpetrators of violence against women and girls continued to enjoy impunity. To read the original story from RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, click here.

Deputy Head Of Ukraine's Chess Federation Killed In The War

Artem Sachuk, a renowned chess player and vice president of Ukraine's Chess Federation, has been killed in action while defending his country against Russia's unprovoked invasion, the federation announced on November 26. "Ukrainian volunteer Artem Sachuk died in the war of liberation against the Russian occupiers," it said on its Facebook page, adding, "Eternal memory." No further details about Sachuk's death were immediately available. Last month, Ukrainian Youth and Sports Minister Vadym Hutzait said 361 Ukrainian athletes and coaches had died in the war so far. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, click here.

Pakistani Military Says It Has Killed Eight Suspected Militants In South Waziristan

The reported firefight took place in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. (file photo)
The reported firefight took place in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. (file photo)

Pakistani troops have shot dead eight suspected Islamist militants during a firefight in the South Waziristan district of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region, the military said in a press release on November 27. The statement did not say what group the alleged the militants had belonged to, but members of the Pakistani Taliban, known as Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have been active in the area. Islamabad has accused Afghanistan's Taliban rulers of allowing TTP militants to use Afghan territory to launch cross-border attacks. The Taliban has denied the accusation. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal, click here.

Pro-Palestinian Slogans Appear On Synagogue In Uzbekistan's Capital

A photo posted by the AZfront Telegram channel showing pro-Palestinian graffiti daubed on a synagogue in Tashkent.
A photo posted by the AZfront Telegram channel showing pro-Palestinian graffiti daubed on a synagogue in Tashkent.

Unidentified persons wrote pro-Palestinian slogans on the walls of a synagogue in Uzbekistan's capital, Tashkent, the AZfront Telegram channel reported on November 27. The slogans appeared despite the authorities' claim that security has been stepped up around synagogues amid a warning by Israel about a possible increase in anti-Semitic incidents in Uzbekistan amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza. Late last month, two members of the international religious Jewish movement Chabad were attacked in Tashkent. The incident went unreported in Uzbekistan, a tightly controlled, mainly Muslim Central Asian country. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, click here.

Updated

Hundreds Of Thousands Left In Dark, Cold As Massive Storms Hit Southeastern Europe

Heavy snowstorms in Moldova have severely disrupted traffic in the country.
Heavy snowstorms in Moldova have severely disrupted traffic in the country.

Blizzards, snowfall, and high winds have wreaked havoc over the past two days in eastern and southeastern Europe, leaving hundreds of thousands of people isolated and without electricity and running water, while traffic accidents prompted by the dangerous conditions have caused at least two deaths and several injuries.

A powerful cyclone sweeping from the Black Sea brought snowfall as far north as Moscow in what the Hydrometeorological Center of Russia called “one of the strongest storms to ever hit at the end of November.”

Ukraine, Moldova, Bulgaria, and Romania were among the hardest hit areas, including the Russia-annexed Crimea peninsula where one person died and almost half a million people were left without power after the storm in the Black Sea region flooded roads, unrooted trees and downed electricity lines.

The Aquarium Museum in the Russia-annexed city of Sevastopol reported that the storm tore through the complex, killing all of the 800 or so animals housed in the facility.

A storm warning remains in effect in Crimea due to wind gusts of up to 40 meters per second and November 27 was declared a day off, the Interfax news agency reported.

In war-wracked Ukraine, inclement weather added to people's hardships caused by Russian strikes on the country's energy infrastructure.

Heavy snowfall across the whole country prompted the closure of 14 highways while 16 of Ukraine's 24 regions were experiencing power cuts. Especially harsh conditions were reported in the southern regions of Odesa and Mykolayiv, where snow drifts as high as two meters hampered traffic.

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry said a total of 2,019 settlements in 16 regions have been left without electricity, while 1,370 trucks remain stranded, and 840 cars had to be towed.

Authorities in Romania and neighboring Moldova said hundreds of cities and villages have been left without electricity and water in the two neighboring countries following heavy snowfall and blizzards that prompted a severe disruption of road and railway traffic.

Railway traffic has resumed in southeastern Romania but 21 national highways remain closed as of November 27, authorities said, while schools in five southeastern counties -- Braila, Galati, Tulcea, Calarasi, and Constanta were also closed.

A total of 22 counties out of 41 and 170 villages and cities in the southeast of the country, including Bucharest, were affected by power cuts.

In Moldova, 123,000 people from almost 200 localities were left without electricity. One man died when his car veered off the snow-covered road and hit a tree on November 26, police said, adding that several other traffic accidents had been reported.

Sixteen Moldovans were injured when the bus they were traveling on overturned during a blizzard on a highway in southern Romania, police said. Emergency services transported several injured people to the hospital.

In Bulgaria, snowfall and blizzards prompted authorities to declare a state of emergency in several areas in the northeast of the country -- in the Silistra and Razgrad regions, the Valchi dol municipality, the Varna region, and the Shumen region.

Some 1,000 settlements were without electricity, Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov said at an emergency government meeting on November 26.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service, Digi24.ro, hotnews.ro, unimedia.md, and AP
Updated

Air-Raid Sirens Sound Across Ukraine Amid Russian Attacks, Inclement Weather

Ukrainian soldiers near the front line in the Kharkiv region
Ukrainian soldiers near the front line in the Kharkiv region

Ukraine announced an air-raid alert across its entire territory on November 27 as Russian strikes continued overnight and parts of the country wrestled with the impact of days of heavy snowfall and strong winds blowing in from a Black Sea cyclone.

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The alert was declared in the early afternoon as the Ukrainian Air Force reported a missile-strike threat following the takeoff of Russian Mig-31 combat jets from the airfield in Mozdok, south of Kursk, some 55 kilometers from the Ukrainian border.

Civilians were urged to remain in shelters for the duration of the alert, which came after overnight Russian shelling of civilian infrastructure and settlements in Ukraine's southern regions of Kherson and Dnipropetrovsk.

Russian forces struck the city of Kherson 56 times over the past 24 hours, wounding one civilian, regional Governor Oleksandr Prokudin said on Telegram.

In Dnipropetrovsk, Russian shelling was directed at Nikopol and its surroundings, regional Governor Serhiy Lysak reported. "Heavy artillery was directed at the city of Marhanets," Lysak said, adding that there were no immediate reports of victims or damage.

The latest attacks came as heavy snowfall across the whole country triggered power cuts and road closures in most of Ukraine, hampering traffic and adding to the hardship experienced by the civilian population.

In Kyiv, Mayor Vitali Klitschko announced that, despite the threat of Russian attacks, a Christmas tree will be installed in the Ukrainian capital's Sophia Square. However, no celebrations and no Christmas fairs will be held in the capital for safety reasons, Klitschko said.

On the battlefield, Ukrainian forces fought 63 close-quarter battles along the entire front line over the past 24 hours, the General Staff of Ukraine's armed forces said on November 27. The heaviest fighting has been taking place in the eastern regions of Kharkiv and Donetsk, the military said.

The industrial city of Avdiyivka, in Donetsk remains the focal point of Moscow's offensive in eastern Ukraine, where Russian forces have been unsuccessfully attempting to surround Ukrainian troops for months while sustaining huge human and material losses.

Britain's Ministry of Defense said in its daily intelligence report on November 27 that the last month and a half has probably seen "some of the highest Russian casualty rates of the war so far," mostly caused by Moscow's offensive in Avdiyivka.

One Killed, 21 Injured In Suicide Attack On Market In Pakistan

One person was killed and 21 others were injured, including Pakistani soldiers, in a suicide attack on November 26 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province in northwestern Pakistan, authorities said.

The suicide bomber drove a car into security forces in a market in Bannu, two officials with the police and intelligence agencies told RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

They said the dead person was a civilian and that 13 soldiers and other civilians were among the injured who were taken to the hospital. The officials did not provide any other information, and there has been no claim of responsibility for the attack.

The security situation in the province has worsened in recent months despite promises by the government and security authorities. There were multiple deadly incidents last week, including the killing of a Forestry Department employee in North Waziristan on November 23.

One day earlier two soldiers were killed in a landmine explosion and a policeman was killed in an attack on a checkpoint in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while in South Waziristan on November 22, three civilians, including a local leader, were killed and four were injured in a bomb blast in Azam Worsk. No one has claimed responsibility for those attacks.

The bombing in Azam Worsk occurred after two soldiers were killed in an armed attack on a post in Sar Rogha in South Waziristan. The Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for that attack.

The Pakistani government and the country's army say that they have continued their operations against the militants.

The army said on November 21 that it had killed three suspected militants in an encounter in North Waziristan. The army added that one of its soldiers was also killed in the clash.

Earlier, the army had claimed the killing of 11 suspected militants in clashes during operations in Peshawar and Tank in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on November 16.

Pakistan's caretaker prime minister, Anwar ul-Haq Kakar, said on November 20 that terrorist attacks inside his country have increased by 60 percent since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in August 2021. Some 2,300 people have been killed in these attacks.

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