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Ottawa Confirms Death Of Canadian Citizen In Ukraine

Canada has confirmed that one of its citizens died recently in Ukraine.

The confirmation came after a media report said the Canadian died while fighting alongside two U.S. citizens who also died while fighting in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

"Global Affairs Canada is aware of the death of a Canadian in Ukraine. Consular officials are in contact with the family and are providing consular assistance," a Canadian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on July 24.

The spokesperson said further details would not be shared due to privacy considerations.

The deaths of the two U.S. citizens were confirmed on July 23 by the U.S. State Department, which declined to provide details.

Based on reporting by Reuters

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Rare Public Protest Held In Krasnodar Over Electricity Blackouts

Cooling towers of the Rostov Nuclear Power Plant (file photo)
Cooling towers of the Rostov Nuclear Power Plant (file photo)

Residents of the Russian city of Krasnodar on July 20 staged a rare public protest to vent their anger over recent power cuts affecting southern Russia.

An estimated 200 to 300 people turned out for the protest to demand that the authorities resume the supply of electricity and water. They blocked a street in the north of the city as they voiced complaints about the cuts to services, which they said are becoming more frequent, Russian online media reported.

The protesters said that this summer their lights initially were turned off once a week, then three times a week, and now there is no electricity for 12-15 hours a day, the Baza Telegram channel reported.

People demand that they be given electricity for at least three hours, the online publication 93.RU reported.

Public protests are rare in Russia given the risk of arrest and detention and in light of a clampdown on dissent since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The protest in Krasnodar appeared to have been peaceful, though there were reports of two arrests.

Krasnodar Mayor Yevgeny Naumov, police officers, and members of the National Guard were at the scene, according to Russian media reports. The authorities promised to ensure the supply of water.

Authorities in the Krasnodar region earlier this week said the electricity blackouts were necessary due to restrictions on the supply of electricity from other regions and a heat wave in southern Russia.

Extreme temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius and a decrease in the flow of power to the region have meant “the equipment of the unified power system is under significant loads, especially in the daytime,” Krasnodar’s Ministry for Energy and Public Utilities said in a statement quoted by Interfax on July 17.

"There has been abnormal heat in the Krasnodar region for a week now. The load on the energy system is colossal. I know and understand all the indignation of residents due to power outages," regional Governor Veniamin Kondratyev said on Telegram.

The system operator said on July 16 that the energy system of the south of Russia set a power consumption record.

The following day, Russia's nuclear energy operator, Rosenergoatom, said a unit of the Rostov Nuclear Power Plant was switched off. The shutdown left some 1 million people in southern Russia and parts of occupied Crimea without electricity.

Rosenergoatom later said the shutdown was due to a "false alarm” but did not elaborate on the cause. The unit has been put back into operation.

The Rostov Nuclear Power Plant, also known as the Volgodonsk Nuclear Power Plant, has four units with a total capacity of more than 4,000 megawatts. The plant is located on the left bank of the Don River near the city of Volgodonsk, some 1,100 kilometers south of Moscow.

In recent months, Ukraine, whose energy infrastructure has been relentlessly pummeled by Russian strikes since the start of Moscow's unprovoked invasion, has in turn resorted to targeting Russian energy facilities, mainly oil refineries and those that work for the Russian military.

With reporting by Reuters and Interfax

Spain Detains 3 Over Cyberattacks On Pro-Ukrainian Nations

 A woman looks at screens during a NATO cyberdefense exercise in Estonia in 2019.
A woman looks at screens during a NATO cyberdefense exercise in Estonia in 2019.

Spanish police said on July 20 that they had arrested three people accused of taking part in cyberattacks by a pro-Russian group targeting public institutions and strategic sectors in Spain and other NATO countries. The attacks targeted countries that have supported Ukraine in its struggle against the Russian invasion. The three were arrested for "computer-related offenses with terrorist intent" over a string of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, which make websites or network resources unavailable by flooding them with malicious traffic. The attacks were "organized by the Russian-linked hacker group called NoName057(16)," it said, without giving further details.

Thousands Stage Sit-In Protest In NW Pakistan After Military Allegedly Fires On 'Peace March'

Organizers of the sit-in protest in the Bannu district of Pakistan's restive Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province say they will remain until the government provides assurances it will improve security.
Organizers of the sit-in protest in the Bannu district of Pakistan's restive Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province say they will remain until the government provides assurances it will improve security.

Thousands of demonstrators in northwest Pakistan are participating in a sit-in protest after authorities fired on participants of a “peace march” in the Bannu district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province on July 19.

Leaders of the rally told RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal that the Pakistani military fired on participants of the peace march, held as the region has experienced a spike in militant attacks.

Doctors at the Bannu district hospital said that they had received one dead body and 27 injured people following the march.

The military has so far not commented on allegations that it was responsible for the violence.

The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government, which has shut down mobile and Internet services in the Bannu district amid the unrest, on July 20 announced the formation of an investigative commission to look into the incident.

Nasir Bangash, a leader of the sit-in protest, told RFE/RL that the sit-in will continue until the government provides assurances that peace in the restive province can be restored.

Amnesty International sharply criticized the authorities’ use of violence to break up the march, saying that the “use of lethal force at a peaceful rally advocating for peace is unlawful” and calling for a prompt investigation to “hold to account officials responsible for the attack.”

The rights watchdog further said that restrictions on mobile and Internet services in Bannu “curtail the people’s ability to mobilize” and also “increase the spread of misinformation during emergencies and create panic.”

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has also urged the government to “hold to account those responsible for protesters' deaths and injuries.”

“This seemingly state-sanctioned violation of citizens' right to life and right to freedom of peaceful assembly is reprehensible and reflects a dangerous contempt for citizen-led calls for peace,” HRCP said in a statement on X on July 19.

The provincial assembly of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa denounced the violence against “peaceful protesters” in a session held late on July 19, as demonstrations spread to other cities in the province, including the regional capital, Peshawar.

Leaders of Pashtun nationalist political parties have also condemned the violence used against protesters in the Bannu district.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province has seen an increase in deadly attacks in the past two years, mostly blamed on Islamist extremist groups, including the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan and affiliates of the extremist group Islamic State.

A number of deadly incidents have taken place in recent months, leading to reports that the military is considering an operation to turn the tide of rising terrorism.

While residents of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province have complained that Islamabad is not doing enough to provide security, they have also expressed fears of a large-scale operation.

Pakistani security forces have recently said they have conducted targeted operations against militants in several parts of the province.

On July 15, eight Pakistani soldiers were killed when a militant rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into the outer wall of a garrison in Bannu.

Iran Says It Has Salvaged Capsized Warship

The Iranian destroyer Sahand is seen capsized in the port of Bandar Abbas.
The Iranian destroyer Sahand is seen capsized in the port of Bandar Abbas.

An Iranian warship that keeled over while under repair almost two weeks ago has been salvaged, according to the Fars news agency. Experts from the Iranian Navy managed to lift the vessel, the agency reported. Despite the damage sustained, naval experts were confident that the ship, the Sahand, could be repaired. The warship capsized in early July during repairs in the port of Bandar Abbas on the Strait of Hormuz, injuring many workers. Equipped with modern radar and missile systems, the destroyer was one of the country's most important warships and the pride of the Iranian Navy.

Updated

2 Dead After Ukrainian Energy Facilities Hit By Russian Drones, Missiles

A body is covered in the courtyard of an apartment building in Mykolayiv on July 19 after a deadly Russian missile attack.
A body is covered in the courtyard of an apartment building in Mykolayiv on July 19 after a deadly Russian missile attack.

Russia has continued its assault on Ukrainian energy infrastructure, with drones and missiles targeting facilities throughout the country early on July 20.

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.

Kharkiv region Governor Oleh Synyehubov said Iskander missiles killed two people and injured three in the eastern region.

Ukraine’s Air Force said that its air defenses shot down 13 of 17 Russian drones across five regions.

But officials in the Sumy and Chernihiv regions reported that Shahed suicide drones struck and damaged energy facilities in the northern territories.

The national grid operator Ukrenerho said an energy facility in the central Poltava region was also reportedly struck.

Thousands of people have been left without power or running water in the Poltava region, according to Governor Filip Pronin.

In recent months, Russia has increasingly targeted Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, leading to blackouts across the country and considerably reducing Ukraine’s capacity to produce electricity.

Following recent discussions with Ukrainian officials, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told the German news agency dpa on July 20 that the UN has seen an increase in the number of Ukrainian refugees over the past few months.

"They are worried to have to face winter -- or even this very hot season -- without power," Grandi said.

On July 20, Ukrainian officials also announced a higher death toll resulting from a Russian missile strike that hit a children’s playground in the southern city of Mykolayiv.

The number of people killed in the attack has risen to four, including one child, according to Mayor Oleksandr Syenkevych.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, commenting on the attack in a Telegram post on July 19, called on the world to take action to help Ukraine defeat the all-out Russian invasion launched in February 2022.

“This destruction of life must be stopped,” Zelenskiy wrote. “We need new solutions to support our defenses. Russia must feel the power of the world.”

Zelenskiy Congratulates Trump In Call, Agrees To 'Personal Meeting'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (left) and then-U.S. President Donald Trump in New York in September 2019
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (left) and then-U.S. President Donald Trump in New York in September 2019

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he spoke with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and agreed to a face-to-face meeting to discuss steps to a lasting peace with Russia.

Zelenskiy spoke with Trump on July 19, a day after the former U.S. president and again Republican candidate accepted his party’s nomination and vowed to end the war in Ukraine if elected.

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.

“I spoke with @realDonaldTrump to congratulate him on the Republican nomination and condemn the shocking assassination attempt in Pennsylvania. I wished him strength and absolute safety in the future,” Zelenskiy said in a post on X, referring to the July 13 shooting at a Trump rally that slightly injured the candidate.

Zelenskiy said he agreed with Trump “to discuss at a personal meeting what steps can make peace fair and truly lasting” without giving any details on when and where such a meeting would take place.

Trump said in a post on Truth Social on July 19 that he had a “very good call” with Zelenskiy in which they discussed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Trump vowed to “bring peace to the world and end the war that has cost so many lives” through negotiations.

"Both sides will be able to come together and negotiate a deal that ends the violence and paves a path forward to prosperity," Trump said.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which has killed tens of thousands on both sides, is now in its 29th month with no end in sight. Russia currently occupies about 17 percent of Ukraine.

Zelenskiy’s call comes as worries grow in Kyiv and other European capitals about another four years of Trump in the White House. The Republican’s chances of winning the November 2024 election improved following 81-year-old incumbent President Joe Biden’s poor performance in a debate last month that raised questions about his physical and mental state.

Trump-Putin Relationship

Trump has expressed admiration for authoritarian Russian President Vladimir Putin, called the Kremlin leader’s preinvasion tactics “genius,” and has repeatedly criticized NATO’s European allies for not spending more on collective defense.

Republican lawmakers in the House of Representative who are closely aligned with Trump blocked Biden's $61 billion aid package for Ukraine for months, leaving Ukraine’s force short on ammunition and air defense. Ukraine’s ammunition hunger contributed to Russian territorial gains this year, experts have said.

Trump has not made his opinion on future support to Ukraine clear, though this week he picked Ohio Senator J.D. Vance, an outspoken opponent of aid to Kyiv, as his running mate. The 39-year-old senator has said the United States does not have the military capacity to support Taiwan, Israel, and Ukraine and should prioritize the first two.

During his 92-minute-long acceptance speech on July 18, Trump said he would usher in global peace and stability if elected. He previously said he would “settle” the Ukraine war, should he win the election, before even setting foot in the White House in January 2025.

However, Trump has not said what terms he would propose to Russia and Ukraine. Zelenskiy has said his goal is to drive Russian forces out of Ukrainian territory, including Crimea, which the Kremlin seized in 2014. Following Ukraine’s failed counteroffensive in 2023, some experts say Ukraine’s objectives are unrealistic and that Kyiv will have to make concessions.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban flew to Florida on July 11 to discuss an end to the war in Ukraine with Trump. Orban’s meeting with Trump followed visits to Moscow and Beijing.

Zelenskiy and Trump have a complicated relationship going back to the Ukrainian president’s first days in office.

In a July 2019 call, two months after the former comedian became Ukraine’s president, Trump asked Zelenskiy to look into the Ukrainian business dealings of Biden’s son Hunter Biden.

Trump was charged by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives with using the power of his office to pressure Zelenskiy to interfere in U.S. politics in exchange for a White House visit, becoming the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. However, he was acquitted by the Senate.

Former Ukrainian Deputy Known For Promoting Language Shot Dead In Lviv

Iryna Farion gained notoriety for frequent campaigns to promote the Ukrainian language and discredit public officials who spoke Russian. (file photo)
Iryna Farion gained notoriety for frequent campaigns to promote the Ukrainian language and discredit public officials who spoke Russian. (file photo)

A gunman on July 19 shot and killed a former member of Ukraine's parliament known for campaigns to promote the Ukrainian language.

Iryna Farion, 60, was shot in the head on a street in the western city of Lviv. She died after being transported to a hospital, Lviv regional Governor Maksym Kozytskiy said on Telegram.

Natalya Matolinets, head of the anesthesiology service at the First Medical Association of Lviv, said Farion arrived at the hospital in critical condition "with a severe penetrating gunshot wound to the brain."

She was immediately operated on and then transferred to the intensive-care unit for continued treatment, but her heart could not take the strain, Matolinets said.

"Unfortunately, despite all the efforts of the doctors, despite all resuscitation measures, Iryna Farion's life could not be saved," Matolinets said.

Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said that the shooting was being treated as an assassination. Police launched a wide search for the gunman.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he was receiving regular reports on efforts to capture the gunman. He added that any act of violence was to be condemned.

Farion, a linguist, became a member of the nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) party in 2005 and was elected to parliament in 2012 but failed in subsequent attempts to win reelection.

She gained notoriety for frequent campaigns to promote the Ukrainian language and discredit public officials who spoke Russian.

Farion’s views were seen as radical by some critics, and some of her statements caused controversy.

In 2018, when Ukraine was fighting Russia-backed separatists who had seized territory in the east, she called for a drive to "punch every Russian-speaking person in the jaw."

In 2023, she was dismissed as a professor at the Department of Ukrainian Language at the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences at Lviv Polytechnic University due to her controversial statements.

At the end of May, the Lviv Court of Appeal issued a ruling reinstating her to the position.

With reporting by Reuters

Iran Can Produce Fissile Material For Bomb In 'Weeks,' U.S. Says

A photo released in 2019 by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran shows centrifuge machines in the Natanz uranium enrichment facility.
A photo released in 2019 by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran shows centrifuge machines in the Natanz uranium enrichment facility.

Iran is capable of producing fissile material for use in a nuclear weapon within "one or two weeks," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on July 19. Despite comments by Iran's new president, Masud Pezeshkian, who has said he favors reviving the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and global powers, Blinken said the United States had seen indications in recent weeks that Iran has moved forward with its nuclear program. Blinken blamed the collapse of the nuclear deal in 2018 for the acceleration in Iran's capabilities. "Instead of being at least a year away from having the breakout capacity of producing fissile material for a nuclear weapon, [Iran] is now probably one or two weeks away from doing that," Blinken said at a security forum in Colorado.

U.S. Imposes Sanctions On Russian Hacker Group

The United States on July 19 imposed sanctions on two leaders of the Russian hacktivist group Cyber Army of Russia Reborn (CARR). The U.S. Treasury and State departments said the two were designated for their roles in targeting U.S. critical infrastructure. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement that CARR also conducted malicious cyberactivities against Ukraine and governments that support Ukraine. The Treasury Department named the two as Yulia Vladimirovna Pankratova and Denis Olegovich Degtyarenko, saying they were the group's leader and a primary hacker. Brian Nelson, undersecretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, said CARR and its members' efforts to target U.S. critical infrastructure "represent an unacceptable threat to our citizens and our communities, with potentially dangerous consequences."

Germany's Scholz Praises Lithium-Mining Deal With Serbia, Says Environment Will Be Protected

(Left to right) German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, and European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic meet in Belgrade on July 19.
(Left to right) German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, and European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic meet in Belgrade on July 19.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on July 19 said a proposed lithium-mining project in Serbia was "an important European project" that is also good for Serbia, despite opposition from environmental activists and opposition parties.

Scholz attended a Critical Raw Materials Summit in Belgrade, where a memorandum of understanding between the European Union and the Serbian government on a "strategic partnership" on sustainable raw materials, battery supply chains, and electric vehicles was signed.

The mining of lithium is necessary for Europe "to remain sovereign in a changing world and not be dependent on others," Scholz said after the signing ceremony.

Germany is seeking to secure lithium for the manufacture of electric vehicles as the EU aims to reduce its dependence on imports from China of the critical substance used in batteries for electric vehicles.

Scholz and European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic attended the summit in Belgrade three days after the Serbian government reinstated a plan for the lithium mine in the west of the country near Jadar operated by the Anglo-Australian metals and mining giant Rio Tinto.

"I'm glad the decision was made," Scholz said, speaking at a joint news conference with Sefcovic and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. "I admit, this decision required courage, but it was made at the right moment."

Scholz pledged that mining would be carried out "in compliance with the highest standards of environmental protection, and Germany will help in this."

Asked how Germany can guarantee environmental protection, Scholz said that he asked the president of Rio Tinto to respect all environmental standards during exploitation and said that he had received guarantees for this.

"The standards for protecting the climate, the environment, and biodiversity are high. That's why I spoke very early with the head of Rio Tinto," Scholz said.

As the summit took place, environmental activists opposed to lithium mining gathered near the venue in central Belgrade. One banner said the EU should "leave lithium and democracy to the Serbian people."

The Serbian government rejected the project in 2022 after massive environmental protests, but on July 16 it reinstated the plan days after the Balkan state's Constitutional Court said the government of then-Prime Minister Ana Brnabic had acted unconstitutionally when it withdrew permits for Rio Tinto.

Scholz said that among the other reasons to support the project are that it will create new jobs in Serbia and help Europe meet its climate goals.

Sefcovic said that it was a historic day for both Serbia and the European Union.

"This will open the door for investments in Serbia. European companies will come and create jobs and create new economic growth," he said.

Serbia will occupy a central place in the most important strategic value chains and will be the first country in Europe with the entire value chain once batteries are produced in Serbia, Sefcovic said.

According to him, the first goal is to strengthen the Serbian economy with high-quality jobs throughout the supply chain.

He also said the memorandum of understanding and another signed agreement will further highlight the partnership between the EU and Serbia, which is a candidate for membership in the EU.

Vucic said he was proud of "what we started today," calling the memorandum of understanding important for Europe and Germany, but most important for Serbia. "This represents a turning point and a big change for us."

He said that lithium mining represented billions of dollars in direct foreign investment and Serbia should not miss this chance.

He added that Serbia did not hide the difficulties the government is facing in its support for the mining project but insisted that it was doing everything transparently.

"Never at any stage -- and there is a long way to the opening of the mine -- will we hide anything from our people," he added.

With reporting by AP

Russian Missile Strike Hits Playground In Mykolayiv, Killing 3, Zelenskiy Says

The body of a local resident killed in a Russian missile strike lies covered on a playground at an apartment building damaged during a Russian missile strike on Mykolayiv on July 19. Three people were killed, including a child.
The body of a local resident killed in a Russian missile strike lies covered on a playground at an apartment building damaged during a Russian missile strike on Mykolayiv on July 19. Three people were killed, including a child.

A Russian missile strike on the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolayiv hit a playground, killing at least three people, including one child, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on July 19.

The strike also wounded five people, Zelenskiy said on Telegram, calling on the world to help stop Russian "terror."

Mykolayiv Mayor Oleksandr Syenkevych confirmed on Telegram that three people, including a child, died in the attack.

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.

Zelenskiy published photos showing what appeared to be at least two bodies -- one lying under rubble by the entrance to a building and another lying in a wooded area near residential buildings. The photos also showed one person being carried away on a stretcher and the windows of the residential buildings blown out.

"This destruction of life must stop," Zelenskiy said. "New solutions are needed to support our defense. Russia must feel the power of the world."

The Ukrainian leader has repeatedly called for Kyiv's Western backers to deliver more air-defense systems to help the country protect its skies from Russian aerial attacks.

The port city of Mykolayiv and the surrounding region regularly come under Russian attacks. Regional Governor Vitaliy Kim said on Telegram that another missile landed elsewhere in the region on July 19.

Moscow denies targeting civilians or civilian infrastructure despite evidence and testimony to the contrary and the documented deaths of more than 10,000 people in its attacks since the launch of its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

Russian shelling earlier on July 19 from across the Dnieper River killed an elderly woman in the settlement of Bilozerka in Ukraine's Kherson region, Governor Oleksandr Prokudin said on Telegram.

A Russian strike on the town of Chuhuyiv in the northeastern Kharkiv region wounded at least seven people, regional head Oleh Synyehubov reported, while in the Sumy region close to the border with Russia, at least one civilian was wounded by Russian shelling, according to regional officials.

Meanwhile, Russia's Defense Ministry said that its air defenses had downed 19 Ukrainian drones over the western Kursk and Belgorod regions, as well as occupied Crimea.

With reporting by AFP

Homes Of Afghan Migrants Reportedly Attacked After Killing Of Iranian

Hundreds of Afghans are deported from Iran every day. (file photo)
Hundreds of Afghans are deported from Iran every day. (file photo)

The homes of several Afghan migrants in the southern Iranian city of Khur have reportedly been set on fire in apparent retaliation for the killing of an Iranian man allegedly by an Afghan national.

Hosna, an Afghan who lives in Khur, told RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi on July 19 that he moved his family from Khur to Shiraz in Fars Province out of fear for their safety.

"People in the region are very angry and set homes of several Afghans on fire," he claimed.

Hosna and others who spoke to Radio Azadi attributed the anger to the July 3 killing of a 62-year-old restaurant owner in the town of Khenj by his 17-year-old apprentice. Iranian media have not identified the nationality of the suspected killer, but Hosna said the suspect was an Afghan citizen.

"The people of the region have sworn not to sell 1 kilogram of meat, or even a piece of bread, to Afghan nationals," Hosna said. "So, many were forced to flee to Shiraz."

Anti-Afghan sentiment in Iran has been on the rise in recent years, especially after a mass influx of migrants following the Taliban's return to power in August 2021.

Occasionally, a hashtag that describes the expulsion of Afghan migrants as a "national demand" becomes a top trend on X, formerly Twitter, often boosted by anonymous accounts.

Last week, an unsubstantiated claim on social media blamed Afghan migrants for an alleged rise in leprosy cases in Iran.

The UN’s refugee agency says Iran hosts around 780,000 Afghan refugees, in addition to some 2.6 million undocumented Afghan migrants. But Iran claimed last year that the number of illegal Afghan immigrants was closer to 5 million.

The authorities have vowed to deport illegal refugees and hundreds of Afghan migrants are sent back to Afghanistan every day. They are also banned from living or working in half of Iran's 31 provinces.

Afghans living in Iran have complained to Radio Azadi about rising harassment, even during deportation.

Iranian Film Casts Real Refugees To Show Plight Of Displaced Afghans
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Tehran has for years maintained that it does not receive sufficient financial aid from international organizations to handle the number of refugees on its soil.

Serbian Police Kill Alleged Cop Killer After Manhunt

Serbian police at the Lipnicki Sor checkpoint in the city of Loznica in western Serbia, where two policemen were shot, one of them fatally, on July 18.
Serbian police at the Lipnicki Sor checkpoint in the city of Loznica in western Serbia, where two policemen were shot, one of them fatally, on July 18.

Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dacic said on July 19 that police had killed the suspect in the fatal shooting of a police officer near the western border with Bosnia-Herzegovina after a massive manhunt that involved authorities in several countries.

The Serbian Interior Ministry's initial statement did not identify the dead suspect.

But officials had previously identified the man being sought for the killing of one policeman and the wounding of another as Faton Hajrizi, a recent prison escapee from Kosovo with multiple convictions, including for violent crimes.

"Police officers liquidated the killer of a policeman in the vicinity of Loznica," Dacic was quoted as saying in a police statement.

Dacic later specified to journalists that police had "eliminated an Albanian terrorist" in the vicinity of the village of Banja Koviljaca after he fired on police responding to a resident's report that a man who didn't speak Serbian had approached the resident asking for water.

"The police eliminated him. He had no intention of surrendering," Dacic said. "This is a ruthless and hardened criminal, this is the fifth or sixth murder he has committed."

Helicopters, drones, and at least 150 police officers had been scouring areas near the Drina River that marks the Serbian-Bosnian border, according to Serbian deputy police director Dragan Vasiljevic.

Serbian police said they were working with law enforcement in the Serb-majority region of Republika Srpska, across the border in Bosnia. Vasiljevic said they had also established cooperation with central Bosnian and Croatian police, and with international institutions in Kosovo.

Kosovar authorities had issued a warrant for Hajrizi after his escape early this month from Smrekonica prison, a low-security facility.

Kosovo's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, the country's liaison office in Serbia, responded to the reports of the suspect's death by asking Serbian authorities to confirm the identity of the individual who was killed.

Serbian authorities say the shooting occurred during a routine vehicle control at the Lipnicki Sor border checkpoint, near Loznica, early on July 18.

They say the suspect fired on two police officers as he got out of the vehicle, killing one and injuring the other, before fleeing the scene toward the nearby river.

The Interior Ministry had circulated a photograph of Hajrizi and appealed to citizens for help finding him.

After initially calling it "a clear terrorist act coming from Kosovo by Albanian structures," Dacic said investigators were treating the crime as a "terrorist attack because it is an attack on officials."

Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti responded to reports of the killing by urging officials to avoid "politicizing" the tragedy.

Relations remain strained between Serbia and its partially recognized former province, which Belgrade still regards as part of Serbia despite a declaration of independence by Kosovo’s predominantly ethnic Albanian authorities in Pristina in 2008.

The Kosovo Correctional Service called Smrekonica an "open institution" and said two officers had been suspended after Hajrizi's escape earlier this month.

Hajrizi's criminal convictions in Kosovo included the killing of a Russian soldier 24 years ago when Hajrizi was still in his teens.

Reports suggested Hajrizi had escaped from prison as many as nine times, and the prison authority was quoted earlier this month as saying he had 7 1/2 years left to serve on his current sentence.

The Serbian Interior Ministry said a Kosovar passport in the name of Artan Hajrizi, Faton Hajrizi's brother, and a German identity card were found at the crime scene.

Artan Hajrizi announced in Germany on the day of the shooting that his brother had stolen his passport two days earlier.

Dacic suggested that the alleged document theft pointed to a premeditated attack.

Deputy police chief Vasiljevic told German media that police there had been contacted via Interpol.

On July 18, Dacic reported that the alleged driver of the vehicle in which the suspected shooter was riding had been apprehended in the city of Bijeljina, in Republika Srpska in Bosnia. He was identified as Zoran Radovanovic.

The Serbian Higher Court told RFE/RL's Balkan Service that Radovanovic had skipped bail five years ago before being tried in absentia and sentenced by a Belgrade court in 2020 for leading a criminal group involved in drug smuggling.

Radovanovic's wife was also arrested in Mladenovac, near Belgrade, on July 18 on suspicion of being an accomplice to a crime.

German Sentenced To Death In Belarus For 'Mercenary Activity'

Rico Krieger
Rico Krieger

The German Foreign Ministry confirmed on July 19 that a German national has been sentenced to death in Belarus and said Berlin was in intensive contact with authorities in Minsk over his fate.

The German ministry did not identify the man, but earlier on July 19 the Minsk-based Vyasna human rights group said that the man sentenced to death was Rico Krieger.

Vyasna said Krieger, 30, was taken into custody in November 2023, went on trial on June 6, and was sentenced on June 24 by the Minsk regional court.

The human rights group said it was the first trial in Belarus for "mercenary activity."

It said Krieger had been charged additionally with terrorism, creating an extremist group, intentionally damaging a vehicle, and illegal operations with firearms and explosives.

The Belarusian authorities have not commented on the case, and the court refused to give any information about the matter to RFE/RL by telephone.

The German Foreign Ministry said it and the German Embassy were giving "the person in question consular support and...working intensively with Belarusian authorities on his behalf."

Vyasna said the charges were connected to the Kalinouski Regiment, a group of anti-government Belarusian exiles fighting for Ukraine. The Kalinouski Regiment denies any connection to the case.

Belarusian authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka has supported Russia in the conflict in Ukraine.

"This is the first exceptional measure of punishment for a foreigner in Belarus," human rights activist Leanid Sudalenka told RFE/RL, noting that the death penalty was used in a case not involving a murder.

He believes the verdict is not accidental and the Belarusian authorities are counting on using the case to bargain with Germany, noting the lack of a death penalty there.

The German Foreign Ministry statement said Berlin considered the death penalty "a cruel and inhuman form of punishment" and that Germany rejected it in all circumstances. Belarus is the only European country that continues to use the death penalty.

Krieger was born in Berlin and worked as a paramedic for the German Red Cross, according to Vyasna. He has a young son, who lives in Germany.

Krieger worked previously as a special security officer for the U.S. State Department in Berlin, where he gained experience in armed security operations. He then moved to the field of health care and worked as a nurse specializing in emergency medical care.

In Historic Address To U.K. Cabinet, Zelenskiy Calls For Boosting Ukraine's 'Long-Range Capability'

U.K. Prime Minister Keir Starmer (left) and Defense Secretary John Healey (right) applaud Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (center) after he addressed an extraordinary meeting of the British Cabinet on July 19.
U.K. Prime Minister Keir Starmer (left) and Defense Secretary John Healey (right) applaud Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (center) after he addressed an extraordinary meeting of the British Cabinet on July 19.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy delivered a historic address before Britain's cabinet on July 19, calling for its help in halting Moscow's deadly missile strikes by allowing Ukrainian forces to launch attacks deeper inside Russian territory.

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.

Zelenskiy, the first foreign leader to address the cabinet since former U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1997, said Britain had the power to convince its NATO partners, some of whom have been reluctant to allow Kyiv to use Western-provided long-range weapons to strike targets hundreds of kilometers deep inside Russia, to reverse their stance and remove the limitations.

“I ask you to show your leadership," Zelenskiy told the British cabinet to a standing ovation at the start of the meeting at No. 10 Downing Street.

"Right now we are missing the main answer to this question and that is our long-range capability...Please convince the other partners to remove the limits. If the restrictions on using Western weapons against Russian military are lifted, we can strike further than just near the border," he said, adding that once we can strike further...including Russian military airfields, we will not only protect ourselves from any Russian offensives but also secure our frontline positions and cities from Russian bombs."

Britain has been one of Ukraine's staunchest supporters since the start of Russia's unprovoked invasion in February 2022, and Prime Minister Keir Starmer, who led his Labour Party to a landslide election victory earlier this month, was quick to reaffirm Britain's commitment to Kyiv despite the change of government.

Zelenskiy and Starmer met separately ahead of the cabinet meeting, and the Ukrainian leader thanked Britain for its sustained support.

“Ukraine is, and always will be, at the heart of this government’s agenda, and so it is only fitting that President Zelenskiy will make a historic address to my Cabinet,” Starmer said in a statement before the meeting.

“Russia’s incremental gains on the battlefield are nothing compared with the collective international support for Ukraine, or the strength of ties between our people.”

Russian forces over the past several months have made small advances in the east of Ukraine against exhausted Ukrainian forces who have lacked sufficient manpower and ammunition. At the same time, Moscow has also frequently targeted critical Ukrainian energy infrastructure and caused deaths and damage in cities.

Separately, Zelenskiy said on July 19 that Poland had made a decision that would speed up the delivery of F-16 warplanes to Ukraine.

"Today, we have a positive decision from the Polish government on a specific issue, which will allow Ukraine to receive F-16 jets sooner. I am grateful to Prime Minister Tusk for efficiently following up on our previous agreements. I am grateful to Poland for its strong support for Ukraine," Zelenskiy wrote on X, without giving details.

Earlier on July 19, Russian shelling from across the Dnieper River killed an elderly woman in the settlement of Bilozerka, in Ukraine's Kherson region, regional Governor Oleksandr Prokudin said on Telegram.

A Russian strike on the town of Chuhuyiv in the northeastern Kharkiv region wounded at least seven people, regional head Oleh Synyehubov reported, while in the Sumy region close to the border with Russia, at least one civilian was wounded by Russian shelling, according to regional officials.

Meanwhile, Russia's Defense Ministry said that its air defense systems had downed 19 Ukrainian drones over the Kursk and Belgorod regions, as well as occupied Crimea.

Updated

Plane Crash Kills 2 Pilots In Armenia

Both pilots on board the plane died in the crash on July 19.
Both pilots on board the plane died in the crash on July 19.

Armenia's Defense Ministry said on July 19 that one of its Yak-52 planes crashed near Yeghvard, a town 20 kilometers north of Yerevan, killing the two pilots on board. The ministry said the plane was on a training mission when it crashed at around 9:30 a.m. local time. The dead pilots were identified as Senior Lieutenant Armen Isakhanian and cadet Armen Khachatrian. The South Caucasus country's Investigative Committee said an investigation had been launched into the crash. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Armenian Service, click here.

Kyrgyz Citizen Among POWs Kyiv Returned To Russia In Recent Prisoner Swap

Kyrgyz citizen Alisher Tursunov was captured by Ukrainian armed forces during Russia's war against Ukraine.
Kyrgyz citizen Alisher Tursunov was captured by Ukrainian armed forces during Russia's war against Ukraine.

The Ukraine-Central Asia Telegram channel said on July 19 that a Kyrgyz citizen, Alisher Tursunov, was among the soldiers returned to Russia as part of a prisoner of war swap with Ukraine earlier this week.

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.

In late May, a video showing the 57-year-old Tursunov in Ukrainian custody appeared on the Internet. The man said police in the Russian city of Ryazan detained him and forced him to join the Russian military for its invasion of Ukraine. In return, he was promised money and Russian citizenship.

Tursunov then begged the Kyrgyz government to help him return home.

According to the Central Asian nation's laws, fighting in a foreign country for any side other than Kyrgyzstan is considered a crime.

Last month, another Kyrgyz man, whose name was not disclosed, was sentenced to five years in prison for joining Russian troops fighting in Ukraine.

The same month, a Kyrgyz man, Beknazar Borugul-uulu, who was sentenced to five years in prison in 2023 for joining Russia's Wagner mercenary group to fight in Ukraine was released due to a January presidential amnesty decree.

In January, a Bishkek court handed a suspended seven-year prison term to another Kyrgyz man, Askar Kubanychbek-uulu, for joining the Russian military in Ukraine.

According to the court's ruling, Kubanychbek-uulu was banned from leaving the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, while serving a three-year probation period that was part of his seven-year suspended sentence.

However, he managed to flee Kyrgyzstan and returned to Russia, where he signed a new contract with the Defense Ministry to join Moscow's armed forces.

Kyrgyz officials have said that the deaths of at least 10 Kyrgyz citizens have been confirmed in the war in Ukraine.

After Russia announced a partial mobilization in September 2022, Kyrgyz authorities warned Kyrgyz migrant workers in Russia that joining either the military occupying Ukraine or Ukraine's armed forces is considered “mercenary” work, which is punishable in the former Soviet republic by up to 15 years in prison.

The exact number of Kyrgyz nationals fighting in the conflict remains unknown.

Russian Independent Website Loses Registration

The It's My City media outlet covers news and current affairs in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg. (file photo)
The It's My City media outlet covers news and current affairs in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg. (file photo)

A court in Russia's Urals city of Yekaterinburg canceled the registration of the It's My City website on July 19 at the request of media watchdog Roskomnadzor. In March 2022, Roskomnadzor blocked the site over its coverage of anti-war rallies. It's My City said on Telegram that it will continue its work as the law allows its journalists to publish news and texts without registration, but bans them from getting accreditation for public events. The media outlet was established in 2012 and covers news and current affairs in Yekaterinburg. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.

Hungary's Orban Says Von Der Leyen 'Our Employee, Not Our Opponent'

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in the studio of Hungarian state radio (file photo)
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in the studio of Hungarian state radio (file photo)

Viktor Orban said on July 19 that Ursula von der Leyen -- who was reelected on July 18 for a second term as European Commission president and has been a constant critic of the Hungarian prime minister's close relationship with Moscow and his rule-of-law backsliding -- is just an "employee," not an adversary.

Orban, whose country took over the EU's six-month rotating presidency on July 1, has been a constant opponent of European support for embattled Ukraine and sanctions against Moscow.

Earlier this month he went on a self-styled "peace mission" to Moscow and Beijing that attracted the ire of the commission's chief and the leaders of the bloc's other member countries. He then met with former U.S. President Donald Trump, the Republican Party's candidate in the upcoming U.S. presidential election in November.

"Von der Leyen is not our political opponent, she is our employee, and yours too," Orban said during his regular Friday morning "interview" with Hungarian state radio on July 19.

"Von der Leyen's task is to implement the line outlined by the prime ministers. Since she receives her salary from member states, she is in a relationship of dependence," Orban said.

Orban's remarks came after von der Leyen, in her speech in the European Parliament ahead of the vote that reconfirmed her as commission chief, called Orban's trips an "appeasement mission."

Orban also urged the other EU heads of state and government to be more effective in holding von der Leyen "accountable," saying her performance had been "very poor."

During her first five-year term, von der Leyen, a former German defense minister, steered the EU through several crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and has been a main proponent of a Green Deal aiming to make the EU climate-neutral by 2050.

Under Orban, the leader of the right-wing populist Fidesz party who has been in power since 2010, Hungary has been accused of eroding the rule of law and democratic rights amid reports of growing corruption and cronyism. Billions of euros in EU funds earmarked for Hungary have been blocked over the bloc's concerns.

Orban told Hungarian state radio on July 19 that he would continue his "peace mission" and said that a Trump victory in the U.S. presidential election in the United States would bring "peace" to global politics.

"Trump is clear about what he is going to do. Why do we want to be left behind? This will also change the Europeans' situation. The essence of politics is to know where the epicenter of events will be," Orban said.

Orban's remarks come after he sent a letter to EU leaders on July 16 saying that while the United States is "at the moment heavily preoccupied with the presidential campaign," Trump is ready to act "immediately" as a peace broker if he gets reelected.

8 Kyrgyz Women, 14 Children Return Home From Syrian Camps With U.S. Help

Kyrgyz women and children return to Kyrgyzstan from Syria in August 2023.
Kyrgyz women and children return to Kyrgyzstan from Syria in August 2023.

The Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry said on July 19 that 8 Kyrgyz women and 14 children returned to the Central Asian nation from refugee camps in Syria's northeast. The ministry said the United States gave "direct support and assistance" in implementing another Aikol-6 humanitarian mission to repatriate Kyrgyz citizens from Syria. Hundreds of Kyrgyz citizens, mostly women and children, have been repatriated from Syria in recent years with the involvement of international organizations. Kyrgyz authorities said in 2018 that 850 Kyrgyz nationals, including about 140 women, had joined terrorist organizations in Syria and in Iraq, of whom 150 were killed in these places.

Notorious Uzbek Criminal Kingpin Gets 20 Years In Prison

Baxtiyor Qudratullaev, aka Bakhti Tashkentsky (file photo)
Baxtiyor Qudratullaev, aka Bakhti Tashkentsky (file photo)

A Tashkent court on July 19 sentenced notorious Uzbek criminal kingpin Baxtiyor Qudratullaev, known in the criminal world as Bakhti Tashkentsky, to 20 years in prison on charges of extortion and illegal drugs possession. The 53-year-old, who is considered a "thief in law," which gives him an elite status in the criminal hierarchy of the former Soviet Union, is a close associate of another Uzbek kingpin, Salim Abduvaliev, who was sentenced to six years in prison in March on charges of illegally possessing and transporting arms and explosives. Abduvaliev is believed to have ties with top Uzbek officials and leaders of the so-called Brothers' Circle, a Eurasian drug-trafficking network. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, click here.

Romanians Appear To Be Involved In Mass Riot In Leeds

Fires burn during unrest in the Harehills district of Leeds on July 18.
Fires burn during unrest in the Harehills district of Leeds on July 18.

An overnight mass riot in the British city of Leeds has been quelled, police said early on July 19, after a police car was overturned and a bus was set on fire by angry residents, most of whom spoke Romanian in videos posted on social media. Police said a “serious disorder incident” began in the late afternoon on July 18 in the northern city’s Harehills area after crowds gathered following a family disturbance that police had been called to. Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said she was “appalled at the shocking scenes” in Leeds

Pakistan Arrests Al-Qaeda Leader On Sabotage Rap

Pakistani counterterror officials have arrested an Al-Qaeda leader, Amin ul Haq, describing him as a close associate of the late Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on the United States. The Counterterrorism Department (CTD) in the most populous province of Punjab said it had registered a legal case against ul Haq, accusing him of having planned sabotage targeting important installations in the province. "In a significant breakthrough in the fight against terrorism, CTD, in collaboration with intelligence agencies, successfully apprehended Amin ul Haq, a senior leader of Al-Qaeda," the department's spokesperson added in a statement.

Updated

Russian Court Sentences U.S. Journalist Gershkovich To 16 Years In Prison

U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich appeared in court in Yekaterinberg on June 26
U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich appeared in court in Yekaterinberg on June 26

A court in Russia has found Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich guilty of espionage charges that he, his employer, and the U.S. government have rejected as politically motivated, and sentenced him to 16 years in prison.

After hearing closing arguments in the case on July 19, a day after both Gershkovich's employer and the U.S. State Department called for his immediate release, the court handed down its ruling behind closed doors, local media reported.

U.S. President Joe Biden said Gershkovich was sentenced despite having committed no crime. A White House statement quoted Biden as saying Gershkovich was targeted by the Russian government because he is a journalist and an American, adding that Washington was "pushing hard for Evan's release and will continue to do so."

Gershkovich's employer called it a "disgraceful, sham conviction" and vowed to continue to press for his release.

The conviction comes after Gershkovich spent 478 days in detention away from his family and friends and prevented from reporting, "all for doing his job as a journalist," Dow Jones CEO and Wall Street Journal Publisher Almar Latour and Editor in Chief Emma Tucker said in a statement.

A UN spokesman said the sentencing raises "serious concerns." Farhan Haq told reporters that journalists "should be able to perform their essential professional functions and work in a safe environment without fear of reprisals."

The European Union also slammed the lenghy prison sentence, describing it as a political gambit to "punish journalism."

European Parliament chief Roberta Metsola said Gershkovich had been the victim of a "sham trial."

"The 16-year prison sentence against WSJ journalist Evan Gershkovich is the antithesis of justice," he said.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Russia uses its politicized legal system to punish journalism, condemned the sentence, and called for his release.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refused to answer a journalist's question about the reasons for the expedited process of the court's decision, saying that he cannot comment on such a situation. He added that Gershkovich's trial is being held behind closed doors because of the "sensitivity of the case."

Some analysts said the move to expedite the case could be a sign that talks are heating up between Moscow and Washington on a possible prisoner exchange.

When asked in Moscow on July 19 about the talks on a possible prisoner swap involving Gershkovich, Peskov refused to comment.

The trial, which started on June 26, was held behind closed doors in the Sverdlovsk regional court in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg after being moved forward from August 13 at the request of the defense team.

Gershkovich, 32, was arrested in Yekaterinburg on March 29, 2023, while he was on a reporting trip and was subsequently charged with attempting to obtain information about a factory that manufactures tanks for Russia's war in Ukraine and pass it on to the CIA. He is the first U.S. journalist arrested on spying charges in Russia since the Cold War.

U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel on July 18 did not comment on possible negotiations on a prisoner exchange, but said Washington was seeking the release of Gershkovich and another imprisoned U.S. citizen, former Marine Paul Whelan, as soon as possible.

"The timeline of the trial and what route that takes does not have a bearing and has no impact on the urgency that the United States has.... We want both of them home immediately and we'll continue to work in this area until they're reunited with their loved ones," Patel said.

He said no U.S. Embassy representative was able to attend the July 18 session due to short notice.

Russia has complained about U.S. media reports on a possible swap involving Gershkovich. Speaking on July 17 at the United Nations in New York, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov again raised this reporting, blaming "the Americans" for publicly bringing up a possible exchange, which he said "isn't helping."

Lavrov told a news conference that confidential negotiations were still "ongoing." Russia has previously signaled the possibility of a swap, but it says a verdict would have to come first.

Gershkovich and Whelan, who is serving a 16-year sentence also on espionage charges, have been designated by the U.S. government as "wrongfully detained."

Such a designation ensures that the case is assigned to the office of the special envoy for hostage affairs in the U.S. State Department, raising the political profile of their situation and allowing the U.S. administration to allocate more resources to securing the prisoner's release.

Gershkovich is one of two American reporters currently being held by Russian authorities. The other is Alsu Kurmasheva, a veteran RFE/RL journalist who holds dual U.S.-Russian citizenship.

Russian Court Again Extends Detention Of RFE/RL Journalist Alsu Kurmasheva
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Kurmasheva, 47, was arrested in Kazan in October and charged with failing to register as a "foreign agent" under a punitive Russian law that targets journalists, civil society activists, and others. She’s also been charged with spreading falsehoods about the Russian military and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

RFE/RL and the U.S. government say the charges are reprisals for her work as a journalist for the broadcaster in Prague.

Unlike Gershkovich and Whelan, Kurmasheva has not been designated as " wrongfully detained," despite repeated calls by her employer and family for this to happen.

Another U.S.-Russian citizen, Ksenia Karelina, went on trial in Yekaterinburg in June on a treason charge.

Karelina, 33, was arrested in February during a visit to her native Yekaterinburg after security officers accused her of raising funds for Razom for Ukraine, a foundation that helps Ukrainian civilians affected by the war.

Updated

Trump Vows To End Wars, Free 'Hostages,' In Acceptance Speech 

Former U.S. President and 2024 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump raises a fist next to his wife, Melania, during the last day of the 2024 Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on July 18.
Former U.S. President and 2024 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump raises a fist next to his wife, Melania, during the last day of the 2024 Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on July 18.

Donald Trump vowed to end the wars in Ukraine and Gaza and free U.S. "hostages" as he accepted the presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention just days after an attempt on his life.

The 78-year-old Trump, wearing a bandage on his right ear injured in what the FBI says was an assassination attempt on the former president, also promised to revive a Cold War-era missile defense plan as he warned that the world was “teetering” on the brink of a third world war.

“War is now raging in Europe and the Middle East. This administration can’t come close to solving the problems,” Trump said in a 92-minute speech that closed out the four-day convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a key swing state in the November 5 election.

Trump blamed the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan under President Joe Biden, his Democratic opponent in the 2024, for emboldening Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine.

Hans Noel, a political scientist at Georgetown University's Department of Government, told RFE/RL that Trump’s speech brought “nothing new” on his foreign policy outlook, with his view on supporting Ukraine's defense against the Russian invasion diametrically opposed to that of the Democrats.

Trump's Convention Speech Underscores 'Different Framing' Of Russia's War On Ukraine, Expert Says
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“I think the thing that came through the most is just the different framing of the war in Ukraine,” Noel said. “It's not framed as Russia invaded Ukraine and Ukraine would like our help to defend itself, but rather that Ukraine and Russia got themselves into a war and maybe we don't want to get involved ourselves.”

Nuclear Submarines

Trump painted his four years in office as one of relative international peace and stability with rivals Russia and China at bay.

The Republican nominee boasted that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban even said that Russia and China were “afraid of him.” Orban flew to Florida to meet Trump on July 11 to discuss an end to the war in Ukraine following visits to Moscow and Beijing.

Trump said he would also free U.S. “hostages” without giving any details as to who and how.

The comments appeared to be a reference to the dozens of Americans detained abroad on trumped-up charges, several of whom are in Russia, including Alsu Kurmasheva, a veteran RFE/RL journalist who holds dual U.S.-Russian citizenship. The charges against Kurmasheva are reprisals for her work as a journalist , the broadcaster said.

The Biden administration has freed many Americans held abroad over the past three years through prisoner swaps and other means.

Trump's Pick Of Vance For VP 'Worrying' For Ukraine, Scholar Says
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Trump said that, if elected, he would revive former President Ronald Reagan’s plans to develop a space-based missile-defense system to protect the United States from long-range nuclear missiles. China and Russia have been developing their long-range conventional and nuclear weapons.

Trump claimed that technological advances made the project feasible. The United States abandoned the plan, nicknamed "Star Wars" by Reagan’s opponents, in the 1990s as the Cold War ended and relations with Moscow improved.

Trump’s nomination caps a remarkable political comeback for the former president, who was impeached twice while in office, convicted earlier this year of falsifying business records, and faces charges in three other cases, including conspiring to overturn the 2020 election. One of the cases involving Trump's handling of classified documents was recently dismissed but prosecutors have appealed.

Trump’s rebound from the assassination attempt comes as Biden, knocked off the campaign trail by COVID-19, faces rising calls from his own party to withdraw from the race.

Trump mentioned Biden only once in his speech amid news reports that the president could drop out of the race as early as this weekend. Instead, he focused his criticism on the "administration," which includes Vice President Kamala Harris, who many say could replace Biden atop the Democratic ticket.

Biden beat Trump in 2020, but there is growing fear in the Democratic party that the president cannot repeat that feat after his poor performance in a June 27 debate.

The 81-year-old Biden looked frail and confused and was incoherent at times during the debate against Trump, intensifying concerns about his physical and mental ability to serve another four years. In the weeks following the debate, Biden has rejected calls to leave the race, saying he can recover from the debate debacle and beat Trump.

However, leading Democrats have only stepped up their pressure. On the eve of Trump’s speech, Representative Adam Schiff (Democrat-California) called on the president to step aside, the most prominent lawmaker to publicly voice for change to the party ticket. Other powerful party members have this month privately urged Biden to leave the race, according to Axios.

The Democrats will hold their convention in Chicago on August 19-22.

The July 13 assassination attempt played a prominent role at the convention as Republicans leverage it to portray Trump as a “fighter” who was saved by “divine intervention.”

Trump began his speech by recounting the shooting in Butler, Pennsylvania, where he was speaking to supporters at a rally when the assassination attempt took place.

“I am not supposed to be here tonight,” he said as the now iconic images of a blood-stained Trump standing with his fist raised in the air and surrounded by a Secret Service detail flashed on the convention screens.

Trump, who opponents say expanded the boundaries of acceptable presidential discourse with consistent lies and derogatory labels for opponents, then segued into a call to lower the temperature of domestic political discussion.

“We must not criminalize dissent or demonize political disagreement, which is what's been happening in our country lately at a level that nobody has ever seen before,” he said.

He then presented himself as the biggest victim of the divisive political discourse, accusing the Democratic party of “weaponizing the justice system” to go after him and his family.

Trump spent considerable time during his speech discussing the domestic policies he would implement if elected.

He promised to curtail immigration, end electric vehicle mandates, increase U.S. oil and gas production, and cut taxes.

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