In Istanbul, Blast Near Ruling Party's Offices Injures 10
The Anatolia news agency said the blast occurred near a police bus.
At least three policemen were hospitalized with minor injuries.
Istanbul police chief Huseyin Capkin said the blast was caused by a remote-controlled bomb on a motorcycle.
Police blocked access to the blast zone, fearing a second explosion.
There was no initial claim of responsibility.
Kurdish rebels, fighting for autonomy in the country's southeast, have staged bomb attacks using bicycles in the past.
With Reuters, AP, and AFP reporting
Several Wounded In Kyiv As Russia Unleashes 'Largest' Drone Attack On Ukraine
Russia attacked Ukraine with a record number of Iranian-made drones on November 25, wounding several people and causing damage, with Kyiv bearing the brunt of the attack, in what President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called "an act of willful terror."
"Russia launched around 70 Shahed drones at Ukraine precisely on the eve of the Holodomor genocide commemoration day," Zelenskiy wrote on X, formerly Twitter, referring to the holiday that marks the annual remembrance day for the victims of the 1932–33 man-made famine that killed millions in Ukraine.
Ukraine's air defense said in a statement that it had shot down 71 out of a total of 75 drones launched by Russia, with more than 60 drones being downed over Kyiv.
"Our warriors shot down the majority of the drones, but not all of them," Zelenskiy wrote. "We keep working to strengthen our air defense and unite the world in the fight against Russian terror. The terrorist state must be defeated and held accountable for its actions."
"Russian barbarians staged the most massive drone attack on Kyiv and the air alert lasted six hours," Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko wrote on Telegram, adding that at least five people, including an 11-year-old child, were injured by debris from the drones shot down by air defense. All of them received medical treatment, he said.
He said several districts of the capital were hit, with the most affected being the Solomyanskiy district, where a fire started by falling debris damaged a kindergarten.
"This drone strike was the largest since the full-scale invasion began," the head of the Kyiv city military administration, Mykhaylo Shamanov, told Ukrainian television.
The attack damaged a power line in the capital, leaving 120 institutions and 77 residential buildings in the center of the capital without electricity, Kyiv's military administration said.
Ukraine has been bracing for an expected increase in Russian attacks targeting its energy infrastructure during the cold season in a repeat of Moscow's air campaign last winter that left millions of Ukrainians in cold and darkness and destroyed critical power facilities.
Ex-PM Kasyanov Added To Russia's 'Foreign Agent' List
The Russian Justice Ministry on November 24 added opposition politician and former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov -- who has reportedly left the country -- to the list of so-called "foreign agents." Kasyanov, 65, who served as President Vladimir Putin's first prime minister in 2000-04, has become a vocal critic of Putin and the current government. Ilya Venyavkin, a historian of the Stalin era who has fled Russia, was also among those added to the list, as was journalist Idris Yusupov. Russian authorities have used the controversial law on "foreign agents" to stifle dissent. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.
UN Worried For Fate Of Afghans Driven From Pakistan
Many of the Afghan families being driven out of Pakistan have no homes to return to and will struggle to feed themselves through the harsh winter, the UN warned on November 24. UN refugee agency UNHCR says more than 370,000 people have returned to Afghanistan since October 3, when Pakistan issued an ultimatum to the 1.7 million Afghans it says are living illegally in the country. "There are no open arms for these families," said Hsiao-Wei Lee, Afghanistan country director for the UN's World Food Program, who recently traveled to a border crossing to observe the distribution of food aid.
North Macedonia Will Allow Lavrov Flight But Russia Sanctions To Remain
The government of North Macedonia on November 24 said it will allow the plane carrying Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to land in Skopje for the OSCE ministerial summit on November 30 and December 1, but sanctions will remain in place against Russia for all other flights. There has been no confirmation that Lavrov will attend the summit, although he has indicated his desire to travel to Skopje for the event with a delegation of about 80 people. Days after Moscow launched its war against Ukraine in February 2022, Brussels closed EU airspace to Russian flights. North Macedonia aspires to join the bloc. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Balkan Service, click here.
German Aid Agency Says Local Staff Detained In Afghanistan
Germany on November 24 said four local employees of its government-linked operator GIZ had been detained by Taliban authorities in Afghanistan. "I can confirm that the local employees of GIZ are in custody, although we have not received any official information on why they are detained," a spokeswoman for Germany's Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development said. "We are taking this situation very seriously and are working through all channels available to us to ensure that our colleagues are released," she added. Germany closed its embassy in Afghanistan after the group swept back to power in 2021.
Russia, China Discuss Construction Of Underwater Tunnel From Crimea
Business executives from China and Russia with close links to the governments of the two countries have discussed plans to build an underwater tunnel to connect the Russian mainland to Crimea, which was illegally seized and annexed by Russia in 2014, The Washington Post reported on November 24. The newspaper cited materials received from the Ukrainian intelligence services. The report said the secret talks indicated Moscow's fears over the safety of the 18-kilometer Kerch Strait bridge, which has been hit and damaged multiple times by Ukrainian missile and drone strikes.
Dutch Defense Minister Says She Hopes Aid To Ukraine Will Continue Despite Election Outcome
Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren on November 24 said she hoped the country's military support to Ukraine would continue even under a new government led by anti-EU populist Geert Wilders, who has said the Dutch should stop providing Kyiv with arms. Wilders, whose far-right Freedom Party (PVV) was the clear winner of national elections this week, has called for the withdrawal of support, saying the Netherlands needs the weapons it gives to Ukraine to be able to defend itself. "In the Netherlands, there is broad support for our help to Ukraine," Ollongren told reporters.
Pashinian: Future In Russian-Led CSTO Will Be Based On Armenia's 'Own State Interests'
YEREVAN -- Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has said any decision about Yerevan's continued membership in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) will be based on "its own state interests" after he declined to attend the current summit in Minsk.
During a live question-and-answer TV program with the public on November 24, Pashinian also said the country was looking for options to reduce its outstanding financial debt to Russia by several means, including using the payments it has made for weapons that Moscow has failed to deliver.
"We will focus on the state interests of Armenia, and if we have or haven't made any decision at this moment, our benchmark is the state interests of Armenia," Pashinian said during an almost nine-hour-long broadcast when asked by a caller why Yerevan remained a member of the CSTO defense bloc.
"At the moment, our records show that the CSTO's de facto actions or inaction do not address its obligations toward the Republic of Armenia, that is, in this sense, the CSTO's actions are not in line with Armenia's interests. And we raise this issue in a transparent way," Pashinian added.
The Pashinian government has long criticized the CSTO for its "failure to respond to the security challenges" facing Armenia.
Political analyst Areg Kochinian said Pashinian’s latest remarks were not yet an announcement of "withdrawal" from the CSTO, but rather preparation for a possible move to make "some qualitative changes in the security architecture of Armenia."
Armenia has long been a close ally of Russia but -- angered in part by what it saw as a lack of support from Moscow during the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh and subsequent border clashes with Azerbaijan -- has in recent months taken steps to distance itself from that alliance.
Armenia drew criticism from Moscow earlier this month after Pashinian said he would not attend the CSTO summit in Minsk.
Other Armenian officials also declined to participate in events held by the CSTO, which also includes Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, but a senior official in Yerevan on November 23 said Armenia nevertheless was not considering quitting the CSTO.
A caller also asked Pashinian why his government wasn't considering the reversal of a controversial deal that Russia made with Yerevan in the early 2000s to take possession of some of Armenia's lucrative strategic assets in exchange for the South Caucasus country's debt.
Pashinian said Armenia was looking at several options to reduce its debt to Russia, including the use of payments it has made for weapons that Moscow has failed to deliver.
Pashinian and other Armenian officials have spoken about "hundreds of millions of dollars" transferred to Moscow as part of arms contracts that remained unfulfilled amid Russia's continuing war against Ukraine.
One caller asked Pashinian why his government would not consider the reversal of a controversial deal that Russia made with Armenia in the early 2000s to take possession of some of Armenia's lucrative strategic assets in exchange for the South Caucasus country's debt.
The Armenian prime minister gave no figures, but again confirmed that there were problems with Russia fulfilling its arms contracts with Armenia.
He said reducing Armenia's debt to Russia could be one of the mechanisms of settling the issue, but that there were other options as well.
"We know that Russia itself needs weapons. In this context, we expect to settle this issue in a routine working manner. I hope that our discussions will lead to concrete results," Pashinian said.
Montenegrin Court Approves Extradition Of 'Cryptocurrency King' Do Kwon
PODGORICA -- A court in Montenegro's capital, Podgorica, has approved the extradition of Do Kwon, a South Korean entrepreneur known as the "Cryptocurrency King" who is wanted in both the United States and South Korea for his alleged role in the loss of investments worth more than $40 billion.
Kwon and his business partner Hon Chang-joon, who have been in custody in Montenegro for the past eight months, were sentenced by a court in June to four months in prison for traveling with forged passports.
They were arrested on March 23 as they were trying to board a plane to Dubai.
Kwon said in his defense at the time that he did not know the document he was using to travel -- a Costa Rican passport he applied for while in Singapore -- was forged.
In May, a Montenegrin judge canceled an 800,000-euro ($872,000) bail for the two, ruling that they presented a flight risk once released.
The court on November 24 said Kwon had agreed to be extradited to South Korea but that the final decision as to which country he will be extradited rests with Montenegrin Justice Minister Andrej Milovic.
TerraformLabs, a company founded and headed by Kwon, was behind the stablecoin TerraUSD that collapsed in May 2022, shaking the cryptocurrency market.
Kwon was subsequently charged in the United States for what the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) called "orchestrating a multibillion-dollar crypto-asset securities fraud."
The U.S. District Court in Manhattan has issued an eight-count indictment against Kwon for securities fraud, wire fraud, commodities fraud, and conspiracy.
In his native south Korea, Kwon is wanted for fraudulent unfair trading and fraud.
TerraformLabs co-founder Daniel Shin was indicted in South Korea in April for violations of capital-markets law.
With reporting by Reuters and Coindesk.com
Actors Leave Russian Theater In Protest At Anti-War Director's Dismissal
Three leading actors from the Voronezh Chamber Theater in western Russia have resigned in protest at the dismissal of the theater's artistic director for his stance against Moscow's war in Ukraine.
Natalya Shevchenko, Tatyana Babenkova, and Yana Kuzina announced their decision on the theater's page on the V Kontakte social network after artistic director and founder of the theater Mikhail Bychkov was fired by the Culture Ministry on November 22 without an official explanation.
Local news portal Vesti Voronezh reported, citing a regional authority source, that the reason for the dismissal of the 66-year-old Bychkov was that he "has not lost the desire to write open letters of condemnation," and that the theater had made no effort to support "participants in the special military operation" -- the term used officially by Moscow in reference to the invasion of Ukraine -- "and members of their families by offering them discounted tickets."
Bychkov, who has not commented on the decision, is one of 17 Russian cultural personalities who signed an open letter on February 26, 2022, urging an immediate stop to the invasion of Ukraine that had begun two days before.
Last spring, Bychkov resigned from the Presidential Council for Culture and the Arts.
Following Bychkov's dismissal, 60 employees of the Voronezh Chamber Theater sent an open letter to the Culture Ministry, the governor of the Voronezh region, and the presidential administration calling for Bychkov's return as artistic director "of the theater that he created."
The letter has received no official response.
One of the three actors who resigned, Shevchenko, is an "honored artist of Russia" and one of the founders of the theater. Babenkova and Kuzina have been nominated for the Golden Mask -- Russia's national theater award.
Russian Gets False Death Certificate To Avoid Returning To War In Ukraine
A man from the Siberian region of Buryatia was sentenced to five years in prison after it turned out that he attempted to avoid returning to the war in Ukraine by acquiring a false death certificate, RFE/RL has learned. Zorigto Arabzhayev was mobilized and sent to Ukraine in November 2022 and returned on leave in the spring. When military officials came to his home after he failed to return to his unit, his son told them he had died and showed them a death certificate that turned out to be fake upon further investigation. Arabzhayev was subsequently arrested. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Siberia.Realities, click here.
Afghan Embassy To India Closed Permanently
Afghanistan's embassy to New Delhi has announced it is closing permanently due to what it said was "pressure from the Indian government" and lack of diplomatic recognition. The embassy said in a statement that the closure entered into force already on November 23 and came after the ceasing of operations from the start of last month. The statement said that emergency consular services will continue to be provided to Afghan citizens. The embassy requested that the Afghan flag remain on the building. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, click here. (CORRECTION: A previous version of this story attributed the embassy's closing to Afghanistan's Taliban rulers.)
Russia To Impose Hefty Fines For Distribution Of Unlabeled 'Foreign Agent' Materials
Russia is to introduce legislation that will impose fines of up to 500,000 rubles ($5,660) on third parties that "intentionally or unintentionally" promote or distribute materials produced by "foreign agent" entities without appropriately labeling them, Deputy Justice Minister Oleg Sviridenko said on November 23.
Sviridenko told TASS that Russian Justice Minister Konstantin Chuychenko would sign the corresponding order at the end of the month, then a government decree will be issued, after which the Russian authorities will begin issuing fines.
He said the fines will apply to "libraries, books, universities, television," but also to "ordinary people who intentionally or unintentionally help or somehow support foreign agents."
Under the current legislation, the so-called aiding of a "foreign agent" is already punishable by a fine of up to 500,000 rubles for legal entities and up to 50,000 rubles for citizens, but there is no mention of whether dissemination of "foreign agent" materials is considered as aiding.
Under the "foreign agent" law introduced in Russia in 2012, the authorities can declare nonprofit organizations as being "foreign agents" if they receive funding from abroad and are engaged in political activities.
Subsequently, the law allowed the designation of media outlets and individual journalists as "foreign agents," including those who do not receive foreign funding but are "under foreign influence," and requiring them to mark all their materials as being produced by a "foreign agent."
More than 30 RFE/RL employees have been listed as "foreign agents" by the Justice Ministry in their personal capacity.
The move announced by Sviridenko will extend the same requirements to third parties.
Sviridenko cited as a hypothetical example the situation when a TV channel would broadcast a show with the participation of "Mr. Galkin" (an apparent reference to singer Alla Pugacheva's husband, who was declared a foreign agent after leaving Russia in protest of the invasion of Ukraine), without disclosing that Galkin is a "foreign agent."
Such a violation will result in the Justice Ministry sending warnings, "and if there is no response within a month, then a fine of 300,000-500,000 [rubles will be imposed] at first. Then the situation could develop further," Sviridenko said, without elaborating.
Romania Not Ready To Uphold Same-Sex Couples' Rights, PM Says
Romanian society is not ready to uphold the rights of same-sex couples in line with a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling, leftist Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu said late on November 23. The ECHR ruled in May that Romania had failed to enforce the rights of same-sex couples by refusing to recognize their relationships, in a ruling which could eventually force policymakers to expand protections for the LGBT community. Asked whether Romania will enforce the ruling, Ciolacu told radio station Europa FM, "I don't think Romania is ready." Romania holds local, European, general and presidential elections in 2024.
Lithuanian, Latvian Leaders Visit Kyiv As Russian Shelling, Drones Wreak Havoc Across Ukraine
KYIV -- The leaders of Baltic allies Lithuanian and Latvia visited Kyiv on November 24, expressing continued support for the battle against the Russian invasion, while Ukraine struggled with disruptions to its electricity supply caused by Russian strikes and bad weather.
"At my first stop in Kyiv today, I paid respects to men and women who sacrificed their lives defending the most fundamental rights of a nation: to exist and to live in freedom," Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte wrote on X, formerly Twitter, together with a photo of herself laying a wreath at a memorial dedicated to the Ukrainians fallen defending their country against Russia's unprovoked and illegal invasion.
"They gave their lives to also defend all of us," Simonyte wrote. "The only way to achieve lasting and just peace is by helping Ukraine win as soon as possible, regain its full territorial integrity, serve international justice, and rebuild stronger."
Lithuanian media on November 23 reported that Simonyte will spend four days in Ukraine, without elaborating on her schedule.
Separately, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he met with Latvian counterpart Edgars Rinkevics, with talks focusing on Kyiv's defensive needs and the potential for Ukraine joining Latvia as a member of the EU.
In a joint news conference with Rinkevics, the Ukrainian president said Kyiv needed "three major victories" that "will stimulate it to fight the Russian Federation."
Zelenskiy said the "first victory" will be the decision of the U.S. Congress to provide assistance to Ukraine. The second will be the support of the European Union. In particular, he said, Ukraine should receive an aid package worth 50 billion euros ($55 billion).
The "third victory" is the opening of a dialogue on Ukraine's future membership in the EU, Zelenskiy said.
Meanwhile, Russian shelling and drone strikes on civilian and energy infrastructure continued on November 24, regional authorities and the military said.
Russia used three Iranian-made drones and two Kh-59 guided missiles in the attack, Ukraine's air defense said, adding that all drones had been shot down.
It did not give details about the areas that the attacks targeted.
In the western region of Khmelnitskiy, the deputy regional governor, Serhiy Tyuryn, said air defenses opened fire against incoming drones.
Tyuryn said there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.
Meanwhile, in southern Ukraine, Russian shelling on the morning of November 24 destroyed a children's library in Kherson city, but there were no casualties, regional Governor Oleksandr Prokudin said on Telegram.
"Children's library. Six in the morning. A direct hit by a projectile. The barbarians destroyed the Kherson library, which for years delighted the youngest visitors and their parents," Prokudin wrote.
In Beryslav, in the same region, a civilian was wounded when a Russian drone dropped explosives on him, local authorities said.
Russian forces have repeatedly targeted Kherson from across the Dnieper River since they withdrew from the city one year ago in the face of the Ukrainian advances.
WATCH: RFE/RL traveled with a Ukrainian demining team as they tried to clear roads in territory retaken from Russian forces near Bakhmut in Ukraine's Donetsk region.
Ukraine's Energy Ministry, meanwhile, said that Russian attacks and increasingly bad weather had left 635 settlements without electricity across Ukraine.
Strong winds left 158 settlements without electricity in the Lviv, Volyn, and Ivano-Frankivsk regions. In the southern Dnipropetrovsk region, almost 46,000 people were temporarily left without power due to technical reasons, the Ministry said.
The state-owned Ukrenerho power grid operator said in a statement that it had "activated emergency assistance from neighboring Romania with a total volume of 1,200 megawatts per hour" to make up for the shortages.
In Russia, the Defense Ministry said on November 24 that its air defenses overnight shot down 16 Ukrainian drones over occupied Crimea and the Volgograd region.
"Air-defense systems on duty destroyed 16 UAVs, 13 of which over the Crimean Peninsula and three over the territory of the Volgograd region," the ministry said on its Telegram channel, without providing details.
The claim could not be independently verified. Ukraine has not commented.
Russian Supreme Court Confirms Right Of Conscripts To Perform Alternative Service
Russia's Supreme Court has issued a ruling confirming the right of a mobilized Russian man to perform alternative civil service.
The human rights organization Conscript School reported on November 23 that the Supreme Court issued the ruling in a decision that recognized the possibility of alternative civil service during mobilization, pointing out the inconsistency of the law on mobilization with the Russian Constitution.
The constitution provides that people who are unable to perform military service due to their convictions may perform alternative civil service instead. The law on mobilization, however, does not stipulate the possibility of alternative service.
The Supreme Court decision was made on an appeal filed by the military registration and enlistment office in the case of Pavel Mushumansky, a resident of Russia’s Leningrad region who was conscripted during the so-called partial military mobilization in September 2022.
A court in St. Petersburg in March upheld his right to perform alternative civil service on the grounds of his religious beliefs.
Media reports at the time said that Mushumansky, an evangelical Christian, did alternative service in 2019 in place of his military service. But his request for a similar arrangement after being called up last year was rejected.
The military registration and enlistment office insisted Mushumansky take the oath, but he refused to take up arms.
The case eventually reached the Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor.
"All judicial authorities agreed with our position that the absence of a law providing for the procedure for the implementation of constitutional rights cannot deprive citizens of this right," lawyer Aleksandr Peredruk said of the decision.
According to the decision, when calling on citizens to mobilize, it is necessary to take into account the constitutional right to alternative civil service.
EU's Frontex To Provide Additional Support To Help Finland Patrol Russian Border
The European border protection agency Frontex plans to send 50 border guards and other staff to Finland to bolster the country's border security after an increase in the number of asylum seekers crossing from Russia.
The influx has already prompted Finland to close all but one of the border crossing points along its 1,340-kilometer border with Russia.
Frontex said in a statement on November 23 that the "significant reinforcement" it plans to send is expected to be on the ground as soon as next week, with the first group of officers to be provided on November 29 to expand an existing mission of 10 officers.
The reinforcements will include border surveillance officers, support for registering migrants, document experts, and interpreters, Frontex said.
The statement emphasizes that events on the Finnish-Russian border affect the security of the entire European Union and says that Frontex's involvement entails "the humanitarian aspect of this scenario," especially in the harsh weather conditions and lack of preparation among the people arriving.
According to Finnish public broadcaster YLE, about 100 people asked for asylum at the Vartius and Salla crossings on November 23. They are citizens of Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Yemen, Morocco, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, and Syria, YLE said.
Helsinki has accused Moscow of funneling migrants from a range of countries to the border.
"Finland cannot be influenced, Finland cannot be destabilized," Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said in an address to parliament on November 23. "Russia started this, and Russia also can stop it.”
The Kremlin denies the charge.
Finland announced the closure of all but one of the crossing points along its border with Russia from November 24 in a bid to stem the flow of asylum seekers. Orpo said at a news conference on November 22 that the move would leave only the northernmost border crossing open.
According to Finland's border control, that crossing, Raja-Jooseppi, known as Lotta on the Russian side, was calm on November 23, but Finnish authorities are preparing for an onslaught of migrants.
The governor of Russia's Murmansk region, Andrei Chibis, said on Telegram that there was a "congestion of refugees from other countries who want to get to Finland" in the Kandalaksha region.
Chibis said border guards and police "check the documents of foreigners in detail," but did not specify whether foreigners who do not have the right to enter Finland will be allowed to proceed through the checkpoint.
Helsinki claims that in the past the Russian authorities did not allow citizens without the necessary documents to cross but without explanation suspended the practice.
Finnish border guards and soldiers on November 22 began erecting barriers, including concrete obstacles topped with barbed wire, at some crossing points.
With reporting by AP
Armenia Says No Intention Of Quitting Russian-Led CSTO Despite Summit Snub
Armenia is not considering quitting the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a senior official in Yerevan said on November 23, despite Yerevan's decision not to attend a CSTO summit in Minsk on November 23.
Deputy Foreign Minister Mnatsakan Safarian also told reporters that Armenia also had no intention of raising the issue of the withdrawal of Russia's military base in the northwestern Armenian town of Gyumri, where several thousand Russian troops are stationed.
"At the moment, there are no such topics on our agenda," Safarian said.
Armenia drew criticism from Russia earlier this month after Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said he would not attend the CSTO summit. Other Armenian officials have also declined to participate in events held by the CSTO, which also includes Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
Armenia has previously opted out of CSTO maneuvers in Kyrgyzstan and ignored ministerial meetings of the CSTO, and its absence at the summit, which Russian President Vladimir Putin is attending, highlights a growing rift between Yerevan and Moscow.
Armenian authorities have also accused Russian peacekeepers deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020 of failing to stop Azerbaijan's lightning offensive in September that ended three decades of rule by ethnic Armenians in the breakaway Azerbaijani region.
Moscow has rejected the accusations, arguing that its troops didn't have a mandate to intervene and charging that Pashinian had effectively paved the way for the collapse of separatist rule in the region by previously acknowledging Azerbaijan's sovereignty over it.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on November 23 that Yerevan's decision not to attend the CSTO summit was not in the "long-term interests of the Armenian people" and chided Armenia for what she described as veiled efforts by Yerevan to change its foreign policy in favor of the West.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also lamented Armenia's decision not to attend the summit but said that the Kremlin expected that Armenia "will continue its work within the framework of this organization."
Summit host Alyaksandr Lukashenka was more outspoken, saying, "Some of our partners took steps and made statements that were provocative."
The Belarusian strongman said complaints should be voiced "in an eye-to-eye conversation instead of dumping stuff into the media." He added that it was "irresponsible and short-sighted" to create a "conflict situation" in the group to the benefit of the West.
Pashinian told the Armenian parliament earlier this month that the fundamental problem with the CSTO was that it had failed to legally fixate what its area of responsibility would be in case Armenian territory and its borders needed protection.
He and other Armenian officials have said that the CSTO's failure to respond to the security challenges facing Armenia meant that "it is the CSTO that is quitting Armenia and not Armenia that is quitting the CSTO."
Speaking in parliament on November 15, however, Pashinian refused to be drawn into the discussion of whether Armenia planned to formally quit the CSTO or speak about any security alternatives.
"We are not planning to announce a change in our policy in strategic terms as long as we haven't made a decision to quit the CSTO," Pashinian said.
With reporting by AP
CSTO Summit In Minsk Forges Ahead Without Armenia
Leaders of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) discussed "urgent problems of international and regional security" at a summit in Minsk on November 23 that was notable for the absence of a representative from member-state Armenia.
Belarusian Foreign Minister Syarhey Aleynyk acknowledged before the leaders of Belarus, Russia, Kygyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan gathered for the summit that Armenia's absence meant the lack of a quorum, but he told journalists that all the decisions approved would be "absolutely legitimate."
Aleynyk said he had discussed "issues and mechanisms for approving decisions" with Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan in a phone call. The Belarusian minister said that according to the CSTO rules, all decisions are made in consultation with all countries.
"We agreed that after the summit, the secretary-general of the CSTO will visit Yerevan. And, of course, we will pass all the decisions that were finalized here as part of the conciliation commission to our Armenian partners. And we will count on them to join us," Aleynyk said.
The summit was hosted by authoritarian Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka and attended by Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov, Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Kremlin said it "regretted" Armenia's decision to skip the summit amid concerns that Yerevan could pull out of the alliance.
"We hope that Armenia does not change the vector of its foreign policy and remains our ally.... We will continue to talk to them," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told state TV.
Pashinian last year criticized the CSTO for its refusal to support Armenia when it faced "Azerbaijani aggression," saying this had been damaging to the CSTO's image in Armenia and abroad.
Lukashenka said the situation in the Caucasus "and some dissatisfaction of one of the members" of the CSTO had been discussed.
"We will not hide the fact that we also discussed the situation in the Caucasus and the certain dissatisfaction of one of the CSTO members," Lukashenka said. "We have come to the joint conclusion that there have always been problems, there are and there will be problems. But if we are to solve these problems, we should do it at the negotiation table and not through unreasonable demarches.”
At the same time he expressed hope that "we will see our Armenian friends" in St. Petersburg at an economic forum.
Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Mnatsakan Safarian told reporters in Yerevan earlier on November 23 that Armenia was not considering quitting Russian-led alliances, including the CSTO.
An official statement from the Belarusian president's office said the summit discussed "current problems of international and regional security, definition of new tasks, as well as approval of a number of documents aimed at ensuring the interests of collective security."
Among the decisions made at the summit was the approval of Russian Colonel General Andrei Serdyukov to the post of the head of the Joint Staff of the CSTO. A decision was also made on the allocation of quota positions in the CSTO for the next three years.
It also was decided that the chairmanship of the CSTO will pass from Belarus to Kazakhstan from January 1, 2024.
Additionally, the leaders signed documents on measures to develop the CSTO crisis-response system and approved a new provision on the order of response of the CSTO to crisis situations and on the order of adoption and implementation of collective decisions on the use of forces.
They also approved a regulation on the joint press center of the CSTO and discussed issues related to the strengthening and development of CSTO military cooperation and the organization's budget.
With reporting by AFP
Iran 'Secretly Executes' Man Convicted Of Killing Member Of Security Forces
Iran has secretly executed a man convicted of killing a member of the security forces during mass protests that swept the country last year, the Norway-based Hengaw organization said on November 23. Milad Zohrevand, 21, was executed at dawn in a prison in the western city of Hamadan, the rights group said. Zohrevand received no prior notification that his execution was imminent and was not granted a final meeting with his family, the group added. It was the eighth execution carried out in cases related to protests that erupted after the death of Mahsa Amini in morality-police custody.
Former Ukrainian Agency Chief Detained Under Suspicion Of Graft
A specialized court in Ukraine has accepted a request by anti-corruption prosecutors and ruled to place the ex-chief of the country's special communications agency in custody, setting his bail at 25 million hryvnyas ($687,000).
Yuriy Shchyhol, the chief of Ukraine's State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection (SSSCIP), was fired by the government on November 20 when he was officially declared a suspect in an investigation into the embezzlement of 62 million hryvnyas ($1.72 million).
Ukraine's Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office (SAP) and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) said in a statement that Shchyhol was one of six suspects into the investigation of the purchase of information systems intended for the creation of a network of protected data registers in 2021.
The SAP on November 22 announced that the anti-corruption court agreed with the joint SAP and NABU request to keep Shchyhol in custody.
Earlier on November 22, the SAP reported that the anti-corruption court also ruled to hold in custody the alleged organizer of the fraudulent scheme regarding the purchase of information systems, whose bail was set at 50 million hryvnyas ($1.375 million).
The suspect's identity was not made public by the SAP, but Ukraine's Anti-Corruption Center named him as entrepreneur Roman Koval.
Anti-corruption prosecutors allege that during 2020-2022, Koval, in collusion with Shchyhol's agency, developed a fraudulent scheme to seize budget funds allocated for the purchase of equipment and software.
According to the investigation, a procurement contract went to a company controlled by "the organizer of a criminal network that supplied software to a an enterprise called Ukrainian Special Systems, which belongs to SSSCIP, at an inflated cost."
On November 4, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy announced new reforms aimed at boosting Ukraine's efforts to join the European Union that include a draft law increasing the powers of the SAP, a move that Zelenskiy said "should have been implemented decades ago."
In its annual progress report, the EU earlier this month recommended opening up accession negotiations with Ukraine once it meets all conditions but urged Kyiv to continue to take firm steps in the fight against endemic corruption.
EU Executive Approves $1 Billion In Funds For Hungary
The European Union executive on November 23 approved Hungary's revised economic recovery plan, paving the way to pay out 900 million euros ($1 billion) to Budapest as the bloc seeks to overcome Prime Minister Viktor Orban's veto on more aid to Ukraine. The EU's Brussels-based executive, the European Commission, froze Hungary out of the bloc's post-pandemic economic stimulus due to concerns over corruption and backpedaling on democratic checks and balances under Orban.
Ukrainian Sentenced In Russia To 18 Years For 'Terrorism'
A military court in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don has sentenced Ukrainian citizen Dmytro Holubyev to 18 years in a maximum-security prison for terrorism, a court spokesperson said on November 23. Russia's Federal Security Service claimed that Holubyev orchestrated a blast in the traffic police building in the occupied Ukrainian city of Melitopol and was planning two more attacks. The court said Holubyev had been recruited by Ukrainian intelligence in March 2022. Ukraine did not comment on the verdict. Melitopol was captured by Russian troops in early March 2022, shortly after Russia's full-scale invasion. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.
Armenian PM Says No Mass Migration Of Karabakh's Displaced Observed
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian says there is no mass migration from Armenia of ethnic Armenians displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh, despite large numbers having left the country in the immediate aftermath of Azerbaijan's lightning offensive in late September.
An overwhelming majority of Nagorno-Karabakh's estimated population of 100,000 people fled their homes and crossed into Armenia following Azerbaijan’s one-day military offensive on September 20.
Pashinian, speaking during the government’s weekly session on November 23, said that "a rather disturbing number" of Karabakh Armenians left the country in the first days after their exodus from Nagorno-Karabakh.
In September, he had put the number of those who left at an estimated 3,000.
"We assumed then that in most cases people were just going abroad at the invitation of their relatives and that they would later return," Pashinian said on November 23, claiming that the situation "has stabilized" currently.
The Armenian government provided the displaced people with both financial assistance and housing relief.
Karabakh Armenians who did not have a place to stay in Armenia were provided with temporary shelters in community housing. The government further allocated financial aid to the displaced people to help them pay for rent and utilities.
Armenia is a strategically located but relatively poor Caucasus country, where an estimated quarter of its 2.8 million people live below the poverty line, and its economy has been impacted in recent years by the COVID-19 pandemic and a second war with neighboring Azerbaijan in late 2020 that lasted six weeks and left 7,000 soldiers on both sides dead.
Pashinian, however, said in his address that Armenia had created some 180,000 new jobs over the past five years despite all difficulties, bringing the number of registered jobs to what he said was a record 730,000.
Pashinian said that the influx of displaced Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh, despite all the current difficulties, will eventually have a beneficial effect and "jobs will continue to be created as a result of the full involvement of our brothers and sisters forcibly displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh in the labor market."
Three Patients Die In Romanian Psychiatric Hospital After Eating Donated Food
Three patients at a psychiatric hospital in eastern Romania have died and 29 others have been transferred to other hospitals, one of them in critical condition, after eating fish-based food donated by a monastery, Romania's Health Ministry said on November 23. The ministry has opened an investigation into the incident, which occurred on November 22 at Floresti Hospital, in Vaslui County, which houses 100 psychiatric patients. The food was reportedly donated by the Floresti monastery. In July, Romania grappled with a nationwide scandal after a media investigation revealed that hundreds of elderly people were being mistreated in retirement homes. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Romanian Service, click here.
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Scholz Tells Putin To 'End His Attack On Ukraine'4
EU's Frontex To Provide Additional Support To Help Finland Patrol Russian Border5
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Poland Charges 16 Foreigners With Spying For Russia8
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