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UN Security Council Convenes Over Damage, Russian Actions At Ukrainian Nuclear Plant

An administrative building of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant can be seen on fire on March 4.

Diplomats say the UN Security Council has scheduled an emergency meeting for March 4 following a fire at a nuclear power plant that Russian forces have seized in northeastern Ukraine that left atomic experts scrambling to monitor for radiation leaks.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Ukraine's nuclear agency, and nuclear officials from around the world said no leak had been detected from the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant after responders finally put out the fire that burned out of control overnight after nearby shelling by invading Russian forces.

Local officials said Russian forces opened fire as their column approached Zaporizhzhya.

The incident prompted the UN and international atomic authorities to adopt emergency postures, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's office said he would request an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the situation.

"Changes in the radiation situation have not been registered," Ukraine's State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate (SNRIU) said later.

WATCH: Staff at Ukrainian nuclear sites, Zaporizhzhya and Chernobyl are being held by Russian forces and working under the barrel of a gun, according to the former head of Ukraine's nuclear inspectorate.

Ukrainian Nuclear Plant Staff 'Being Held,' Says Atomic Safety Expert
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The nuclear plant at Zaporizhzhya, on the banks of a reservoir on the Dnieper River, is the largest in Europe and generates more than one-fifth of Ukraine's domestic electricity.

The IAEA said it was putting its incident and emergency center into full response mode due to the situation.

IAEA Director-General Raphael Grossi later said a "projectile" had struck an area that was "not part of the reactor" and described the situation as "normal operations." But he added that, "in fact, there is nothing normal about this."

Grossi praised the plant's Ukrainian staff for their bravery and resilience under "very difficult circumstances."

He said only one of six reactors was working, at around 60 percent capacity.

Video overnight showed a building, reportedly a training facility, burning at Zaporizhzhya.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed, without evidence, that a Ukrainian "sabotage group" had set fire to the building.

But Zaporizhzhya Mayor Dmytro Orlov said Russian forces had opened fire on a checkpoint a few kilometers from the nuclear plant and civilians there and shelling pounded the area for at least an hour. He said the city had no water supply and power outages.

The regional administration in Zaporizhzhya later said Russian troops had seized the plant and "operational personnel are monitoring the condition of power units."

A protocol to the Geneva Convention restricts military attacks on nuclear facilities.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy issued a video address after the fire began, urging Europeans to "please wake up. Tell your politicians -- Russian troops are shooting at a nuclear power plant in Ukraine."

Zelenskiy spoke with U.S. President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to update them about the situation at Zaporizhzhya.

Johnson's office said "the reckless actions of [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin could now directly threaten the safety of all of Europe."

With reporting by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, AP, and Reuters

More News

Lithuania Calls For Extra NATO Forces On Border

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda (file photo)

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda is urging a stronger NATO presence on the alliance's eastern flank as Russia's war on Ukraine continues. "This is a front line that needs to be very strong. We need air and missile defense and a greater presence of allied forces in the region," Nauseda said on May 30 after a meeting with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Vilnius. "Germany's long-term commitment to Lithuania's security is indispensable for NATO's entire eastern flank," he said. Currently, 760 German soldiers belong to a NATO combat unit in Lithuania led by Germany.

Pushkin Statue Removed From Latvian Park

The Pushkin statue ,which was removed from a Latvian park, will be transferred to a local art museum, according to reports. (file photo)

Authorities in Latvia's capital, Riga, have moved a statue of 19th-century Russian poet Aleksandr Pushkin from a downtown park to a warehouse, local media reported on May 30. The statue is to be transferred to a local art museum, reports said. The statue, made by Russian sculptor Aleksandr Tartynov, was erected in 2009 as a gift from the city of Moscow. However, Latvian authorities never gave official approval for the statue to be placed in Riga's Kronvalda Park. In August, authorities demolished a monument in Riga dedicated to the Red Army. In October, two monuments to Soviet soldiers were dismantled in the city of Daugavpils. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.

Moscow Court Rules To Keep Director Berkovich In Pretrial Detention Over Play

Russian theater director Yevgenia Berkovich in court (file photo)

A Moscow court on May 30 rejected a request by theater director Yevgenia Berkovich to have her pretrial detention changed to a different form of restraint such as house arrest. No reason for the decision was given and Berkovich will remain in detention until at least July 4 on suspicion of justifying terrorism for her production of the play Finist -- The Brave Falcon. The production is about Russian women who married Muslim men and moved to Syria. Berkovich has pleaded not guilty. The author of the play, Svetlana Petriichuk, has also been detained. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Thousands Of Striking Romanian Teachers March In Bucharest For Higher Pay, More Investment

Teachers protest in Bucharest on May 30.

Tens of thousands of striking Romanian primary and secondary school teachers marched to the government building in downtown Bucharest on May 30, calling for better pay, more investment in education, and a reform of the country's education system. Union organizers have estimated that 15,000-20,000 teachers are attending the protest march, which will then head toward Cotroceni Palace to call for a meeting of their representatives with President Klaus Iohannis. Union leaders have rejected the government's compromise offers during several rounds of negotiations since the strike started on May 22. Health-care employees and railway workers have also signaled that they are preparing to go on strike. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Romanian Service, click here.

Russian Drone Attack Damages High-Rise Apartment Building In Kyiv

Russian Drone Attack Damages High-Rise Apartment Building In Kyiv
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At least one person was killed, several wounded, as Russia launched a fresh wave of drone attacks on Kyiv in the pre-dawn hours of May 30. According to authorities, 29 out of 31 Iranian-made drones were shot down by air defenses; however, falling debris caused fires in several districts of the Ukrainian capital, including a high-rise apartment block. Its upper floors were decimated, windows shattered throughout, and parked cars damaged below.

Japarov Says Former Kyrgyz Leader Bakiev To Be Arrested If He Returns

Former Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov

Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov says the government has no plans to invite former President Kurmanbek Bakiev to the country, but if he does try to come back he will be arrested given there is an outstanding criminal case against him.

Speaking in an interview with the state news agency Kabar on May 30, Japarov said a court sentence handed to Bakiev was still in effect and there was currently no legal basis to annul it.

“There is a decision by the court. He was sentenced to 30 years. That decision is still in force today. If he comes, of course, he will be arrested. We all must learn to live under the law,” Japarov said.

Bakiev, 73, fled Kyrgyzstan for Belarus with members of his family following anti-government protests in 2010. A Bishkek court sentenced him in absentia to life in prison after convicting him of involvement in the killing of almost 100 protesters during the uprising.

Former Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev (file photo)
Former Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev (file photo)

In Kyrgyzstan, many people see their former leaders as stained by corruption and, in some cases, with blood on their hands.

Japarov has moved recently to try and reconcile differences over the former leaders, including holding an unprecedented summit in February that saw all five of the country’s previous presidents since Kyrgyzstan regained independence 31 years ago meet with the current head of state in a bid to foster forgiveness and unity.

The summit has raised speculation that Japarov is looking to allow former leaders the freedom to return without facing legal consequences.

But inside the Central Asian nation, Bakiev, Kyrgyzstan’s second president, remains arguably the biggest pariah.

Japarov said in the interview with Karab that he feels the sentence should be annulled, but that’s not a decision he can make at the moment.

“I want to cancel the court's decisions. But I have no right either. I only have the right to grant or refuse clemency if Kurmanbek Bakiyev asks for mercy.,” Japarov said.

“I have to make a decision whether to grant it or not, taking into account the opinion of the people who suffered in 2010," he added.

Pro-Imran Khan Pakistani TV Journalist Returns Home After Being Freed

Pakistani journalist Sami Abrahim (file photo)

A prominent Pakistani television journalist who went missing last week, apparently because of his public support for former Prime Minister Imran Khan, returned home early on May 30 after being released by his captors, his family and his employer said. Sami Abrahim’s brother, Ali Raza, took to Twitter to confirm his release. BOL TV confirmed his release in a news announcement. Abrahim went missing last week when eight people in four vehicles intercepted his car on his way back home from work in the capital, Islamabad, and took him away, according to his family and BOL TV where Abrahim works.


Ethnic Serbs Gather In Northern Kosovo Amid Flurry Of Diplomatic Efforts To Calm Tensions

Polish KFOR members guard a municipal office in Zvecan in northern Kosovo on May 30.

Ethnic Serbs continued to gather in front of town halls in northern Kosovo following a day of violence that led to the intervention of KFOR forces, resulting in dozens of injuries among troops and protesters as EU officials scrambled to bring leaders of Serbia and Kosovo together to find a way out of the situation.

On May 30, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell urged Kosovar authorities and ethnic Serb protesters to "immediately de-escalate" tensions in Kosovo's north, while sources told RFE/RL that the special representative of the European Union (EU) for dialogue, Miroslav Lajcak, was trying to organize a meeting between Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and the prime minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti.

The sources cautioned, however, that it appears unlikely either side is ready to meet or hold talks, making Lajcak's chances of success minimal.

Vucic asked the leader of the Quint group -- an informal decision-making group comprising Germany, Britain, France, the United States, and Italy that focuses on major international issues -- to urge Pristina to guarantee the safety of Serbs in Kosovo.

Both Vucic and Kurti were supposed to travel to Bratislava for a global security conference, but neither now appears likely to attend as they deal with the crisis.

While diplomatic efforts buzzed behind the scenes, Kosovo police said that the situation in the ethnic Serb majority towns of Zvecan, Leposaviq, and Zubin Potok was calm as protests continued.

"We recorded no incidents. The police are performing their duties according to the commitments they have," Veton Elshani from the Kosovo Police told RFE/RL.

On May 2, NATO-led KFOR troops dispersed ethnic Serb demonstrators who had ignored warnings to move away from the municipal headquarters in Zvecan as violent clashes broke out in the standoff between majority local Serbs and ethnic Albanian authorities, leading to dozens of injuries among troops and protesters.

Kosovo Serb Blockade Turns Violent, KFOR Troops Injured
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Some 30 members of the KFOR forces-- 11 soldiers from the Italian contingent and 19 from the Hungarian contingent -- were injured during the "containment of protesting demonstrators," KFOR said in a statement.

“To avoid the clashes between the parties and to minimize the risk of the escalation, KFOR peace-keepers prevented threats to the lives of Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Albanians. Both parties need to take full responsibility for what happened and prevent any further escalation, rather than hide behind false narratives,” KFOR Mission Commander, Major General Angelo Michele Ristuccia said in the statement.

Zvecan, a town of some 16,500 people, is one of three hotspots in northern Kosovo where authorities from Pristina have attempted to install ethnic Albanian mayors following boycotted elections that raised the ire of the local ethnic Serb communities and neighboring Serbia.

The mayors were all sworn in despite a turnout of under 3.5 percent in the April 23 by-elections in those four areas amid a Serb boycott.

Crowds of several hundred people had gathered outside municipal headquarters in Zvecan, Leposavic, and Zubin Potok, with alarm sirens sounding and pepper spray and bottles flying, as local and international pressure mounted for Kosovar officials to de-escalate the situation.

KFOR soldiers, wearing full riot gear, have put a metal barrier around the municipal building in Zvecan, and are attempting to maintain cordons to keep the two sides apart in the three municipalities and to prevent the crowds from overrunning the buildings where so-called “parallel” administrations backed by neighboring Serbia operate.

Charles Kupchan, a member of the American Council on Foreign Affairs and professor at Georgetown University, told RFE/RL on May 30 that the government of Kosovo should withdraw from efforts to appoint Albanian mayors in municipalities with a Serbian majority in the north as such moves "are useless and counterproductive in the long run."

"We need to see the government of Serbia and the government of Kosovo sit down together and try to work out the details of the agreement [on the normalization of relations]. Self-governance for the Serbian community seems to be one of the main obstacles. I think what is happening in the north now is a distraction from this important step of the agreement," he said.

With reporting by AFP, dpa, and AP

Russia Launches New Deadly Air Strikes On Kyiv; Drones Hit Moscow Buildings

A woman looks at her Kyiv apartment building, which was damaged in an early morning drone strike on the Ukrainian capital on May 30.

Russia launched a fresh wave of drone attacks on Kyiv early on May 30, killing at least one person and wounding several others, Ukrainian authorities said, adding that the most of the drones were shot down by Ukraine's air defenses.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

The mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, said on Telegram that fires broke out in several districts of the capital, and falling debris set a high-rise building on fire in Kyiv's Holosiyivskiy district.

"One person died. In total, four victims were hospitalized in the Holosiyivskiy district. Medics provided help on the spot," Klitschko wrote, adding that 20 people were evacuated.

The acting head of Ukraine's National Police, Ivan Vyhivskiy, said on Telegram that 13 people were wounded in the attack on Kyiv and its surroundings in addition to the person who died -- a young woman.

"Nine people were wounded in Kyiv, and a 33-year-old woman died. Four citizens were injured in the Kyiv region," the press service of the National Police quoted Vyhivskiy as saying.

The Ukrainian military said the attack solely consisted of Iranian-made drones and it lasted from shortly before midnight until 4:30 a.m. local time.

"A total of 31 kamikaze drones attacked from the north and south. The air defense forces destroyed 29 drones," the military said.

Almost all drones were shot down on the outskirts of Kyiv and above the capital.

Bolstered by sophisticated Western-supplied equipment, Ukrainian air defenses have been adept at thwarting Russian air attacks -- both drones and aircraft missiles.

Russia has intensified missile and drone strikes on Ukraine after a lull of nearly two months, targeting military facilities and supplies with waves of attacks several times a week.

The capital's military administration said only Iranian-made drones were involved in the May 30 attack -- the 17th on Kyiv this month.

Russian Drone Attack Damages High-Rise Apartment Building In Kyiv
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Meanwhile, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin reported on his Telegram channel that a drone attack took place in the Russian capital on the morning of May 30.

"Several buildings suffered minor damage" in the attack, Sobyanin said. "No one has been seriously wounded," he added.

Telegram channels report that more than 10 drones were shot down in the Moscow region on the morning of May 30.

An emergency services representative told RIA Novosti that drones hit two residential buildings in Moscow. The information could not be independently verified.

Russia's Investigative Committee said no one was injured.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak told the "Breakfast Show" YouTube channel on May 30 that the country had nothing to do with the drone attack.

"Of course we are pleased to watch and predict an increase in the number of attacks. But, of course, we have nothing directly to do with this," he said. Ukraine has denied similar attacks in the past.

The latest attack on Kyiv came a day after Russian forces carried out rare daytime air strikes on the Ukrainian capital on May 29.

Eyewitnesses said they heard at least 10 explosions in Kyiv, as the sky above the city filled with blast clouds and smoke trails.

The city’s military administration said that air defenses shot down all 11 Iskander missiles launched in the daytime attack. The claim could not be independently verified.

Kyiv Residents Shelter In Subway Amid Russian Air Strikes
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Speaking to RFE/RL near a metro station in Kyiv’s Podil district, several locals said air raids have become the reality of their everyday lives since the war began.

“These attacks are yet another problem we have to deal with because of this war," pensioner Ivan Chihir said.

A military officer who didn’t want to give his name told RFE/RL that the latest Russian attack on Kyiv was a “failure” because Ukraine’s defense system managed to repel it completely.

"It's Russia's last breath," he said.

Elsewhere, the governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine’s Kharkiv Province, said on May 29 that Ukrainian forces were shelling several border settlements.

Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Telegram that two industrial facilities in the border town of Shebekino had been shelled and four employees had been wounded.

Several villages were left without electricity in the aftermath of the shelling, he added.

Belgorod has repeatedly come under attacks from Ukrainian forces since the Russian invasion began in February 2022.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP

Drone Attack Causes 'Minor Damage' In Moscow, Says Mayor

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin (file photo)

A drone attack took place in Moscow on the morning of May 30, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on his Telegram channel. As a result of the attack, "several buildings suffered minor damage," Sobyanin said. "At the moment, no one has been seriously wounded," Sobyanin added. Telegram channels report that more than ten drones were shot down in the Moscow region on the morning of May 30. An emergency services representative told RIA Novosti that drones hit two residential buildings in Moscow. According to him, there were no casualties. The information could not be independently verified. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.

Belarus Has No Immediate Plans To Adopt Russian Currency, Lukashenka Says

Alyaksandr Lukashenka (file photo)

Belarus and Russia have no plans to adopt a joint currency in the near future, Belarus's strongman leader announced on May 29. Alyaksandr Lukashenka, speaking at a meeting with the head of Russia's central bank, said that introducing the Russian ruble in Belarus would not be "an easy process," and that the authorities in Minsk had no intentions so far of doing so. "When it comes to creating a single currency and so on, this is not an easy process and, probably, not [one] for today," Lukashenka said during talks with Bank of Russia chief Elvira Nabiullina. To read the original story by AP, click here.

Zelenskiy Pays Tribute To Americans Who Fought For Ukraine In Memorial Day Message

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (file photo)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on May 29 thanked U.S. citizens who have fought for Kyiv following Russia's full-scale invasion of February 2022. Speaking in English in a video address marking the U.S. Memorial Day holiday, Zelenskiy said it was important to remember the price paid by many to "give light to freedom." "We Ukrainians will always be grateful to the U.S. and every American for extraordinary support which helps us [fight] Russian tyranny." An unknown number of Americans have volunteered along with other foreign nationals to fight alongside Ukrainian soldiers. Casualty figures are not known.

Kosovo Ex-President Thaci, On Trial For War Crimes, Allowed To Visit Sick Mother

Hashim Thaci (file photo)

Former Kosovar President Hashim Thaci, who is on trial in The Hague on 10 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, was in Kosovo on May 29 to visit his sick mother, the court said. The Kosovo Specialist Chambers said that "due to compelling humanitarian grounds...the Trial Panel has instructed the Registry to manage a custodial visit to Kosovo for Hashim Thaci to meet family." Thaci remained in the custody of the Specialist Chambers, it added. Local media reported that Thaci, 55, who has been in custody since November 2020, was in the village of Buroje at his mother's house. To read the original story by AP, click here.

Ukrainian Lawmakers Approve Sanctions On Iran For 50 Years

Kyiv has accused Tehran of providing Moscow with military drones for use in Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which Iran has vehemently denied.

Ukrainian lawmakers on May 29 approved a bill proposed by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to impose sanctions on Iran for 50 years. The sanctions, among other restrictions, include a complete ban on trade with Iran, investments, and transferring technologies. The restrictions also forbid Iranian transit across Ukrainian territory as well as the use of its airspace and prevents the withdrawal of Iranian assets from Ukraine. The bill has already been approved by the National Security and Defense Council. Kyiv has accused Tehran of providing Moscow with military drones for use in Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which Iran has vehemently denied. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, click here.

Iran Wants To Upgrade Syria's Air Defense

Iran wants to boost Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's military by upgrading the country's air-defense system, the Fars news agency reported on May 29. In an interview with the news agency, Iranian General Said Hamzah Kalandari said that although Syria had its air-defense capabilities, the "Syrian brothers" will be supported with equipment and tactical upgrades. The general, who is active in the Defense Ministry, said the aim was to contain Israeli attacks. Along with Russia, Iran is Assad's most important ally. Iran has been expanding its political and military relations in the region since the 1990s.

House Arrest Of Orthodox Metropolitan Pavlo Extended In Kyiv

Metropolitan Pavlo appears in court in Kyiv on April 1.

A court in Kyiv on May 29 extended until at least July 1 the pretrial house arrest of Metropolitan Pavlo of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), a former abbot at the famed Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery. Pavlo, who is accused of inciting religious enmity and denying Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine, was sent to house arrest for at least two months on April 1 after Ukraine's Security Service searched his residence. Although the UOC officially cut its traditional ties with the Russian Orthodox patriarch in Moscow, it has been accused of maintaining links to Russia. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, click here.

Ukrainian Lawmakers Move Victory Day From May 9 To May 8

On May 2, Ukrainian deputies approved the bill proposed by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. (file photo)

In another move to distance their country from Russia, Ukrainian lawmakers on May 29 approved a bill proposed by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to set May 8 as the Day of Remembrance and Victory over Nazism in World War II, instead of the Soviet-inherited celebrations of Victory Day on May 9. Most European countries celebrate Victory in Europe Day on May 8 to mark the anniversary of Nazi Germany's defeat in 1945. May 9 will be a working day in Ukraine but marked as the Day of Europe. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Poland Puts Sanctions On 365 Belarusians Over Journalist's Jailing

Andrzej Poczobut (file photo)

Poland has imposed sanctions on a further 365 Belarusian citizens over the imprisonment of a journalist of Polish origin in Belarus, the Interior Ministry said on May 29, amid rising tensions between Warsaw and Minsk. Poland has been an important refuge for opponents of authoritarian Belarusian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka. On May 26, a Belarusian court upheld an earlier decision to sentence journalist Andrzej Poczobut to eight years in prison. Poczobut was jailed on charges of encouraging actions aimed at harming the national security of Belarus, trying to rehabilitate Nazism, and inciting ethnic hostility. Poland says the charges are unjust and politically motivated. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Iranian Women Reveal Degrading Tactics Employed By Security Authorities

Activists say many female detainees are being mistreated in the country's prisons. file photo)

Several female Iranian activists are following the lead of women's rights leader Mojgan Keshavarz by speaking out about degrading and dehumanizing methods -- including sexual harassment -- being employed by staff at the country's prisons.

Keshavarz revealed on social media on May 28 that she had been forced to undress completely after being arrested in 2019 and forced to spread her legs and sit and stand at the direction of guards under the pretense of ensuring she had not concealed a mobile phone inside her body. During the ordeal, she said she was photographed.

Keshavarz's narrative was echoed soon afterward on social media by other women who said they had been subjected to similar acts.

Zeynab Zaman, a civil activist who was recently detained, disclosed that she was forced to completely undress twice -- once at the detention center and once at the court -- to supposedly ensure she wasn't smuggling anything.

"The most ridiculous, illogical, and stupid reason for normalizing the suffering of others, is to say that it is the same everywhere! Wherever suffering is imposed on a human being, it's wrong, it's inhumane, it's filthy, it's a crime," she wrote of her experience.

Several political and civil prisoners have repeatedly reported inhumane and illegal behavior toward prisoners in Iran and have called for institutions and international organizations to devote attention to the situation in Iranian prisons.

The number of females detained in Iran has grown since the death of Mahsa Amini in September while in police custody for an alleged head scarf offense.

Women have been at the forefront of the unrest that Amini's death unlocked in Iran, posing one of the biggest challenges to authorities since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Gender equality activist Nasibeh Shamsaei described similar experiences, saying security officials forced her to undress at a time when she was menstruating, describing the tactics as "humiliation" and "psychological torture."

Prominent Iranian actress Mahnaz Afshar said the tactics are not new.

Afshar said that several years ago, she was summoned to an intelligence office following the release of a video featuring a "naked" girl, falsely identified as her. A female agent at the office forced Afshar to strip completely for photographs to prove it wasn't her. Afshar described the ordeal as a "violation of my spirit and psyche."

She added that she fears others will be like her, hiding the experience while feeling "shame" and being gripped by the fear that the pictures of her would be misused.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda

Families Of Executed Iranian Protesters Say The Government Continues To Pressure Them

Saeed Yaqoubi (left), Saleh Mirehashemi (center), and Majid Kazemi were executed by Iranian authorities in Isfahan on May 19.

The family of executed protester Majid Kazemi says Iranian authorities have launched a campaign against it, suspending Kazemi's father's retirement benefits and firing his sister from her job just 10 days after his death sentence was carried out.

Mohammad Hashemi, Kazemi's cousin, also revealed on Twitter on May 29 that Kazemi's brothers, Mehdi and Hossein, remain in the custody of the Islamic republic's security institutions after speaking out and pleading for a stay of the death penalty prior to his May 19 execution.

According to a correspondent for RFE/RL’s Radio Farda, Amir Kazemi, another cousin of Majid, confirmed that the family remains in the dark about the whereabouts and condition of Majid's brothers. Amir Kazemi suggested that the arrest of these family members -- his sister was also detained but later released -- was an attempt to prevent a memorial service for Majid Kazemi.

Following the execution of Kazemi and two other young protesters, the government has ratcheted up pressure on their families. The executions sparked widespread public outrage, with rights groups and several governments criticizing the authorities for conducting hasty trials, forcing "confessions," and denying the accused due process.

Majid Kazemi, Saleh Mirehashemi, and Saeed Yaqoubi were arrested for the alleged killing of two Basij paramilitary force members and a law enforcement officer during protests in November 2022.

However, based on a picture of the court verdict made public by the defendants' families, the death sentences for the three were not issued for murder, but instead for "waging war against God," a crime often applied to political dissidents.

The Basij members died at the height of widespread protests ignited by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September 2022 while she was in police custody for allegedly breaking rules concerning the Islamic head scarf, known as a hijab. All three said they were innocent of the charges and were being made scapegoats for the deaths.

Saleh Mirehashemi's mother released an audio file on social media three days after the executions saying her husband had been handcuffed by government forces and prevented from holding a ceremony honoring their son. Videos have also emerged showing security forces stationed around Saeed Yaqoubi's house in recent nights.

Authorities warned for months after unrest broke out following Amini's death that they would react harshly to any dissent. Lawmakers have pushed the judiciary to render the death penalty in trials for those arrested during the protests, which are seen as one of the biggest threats to the Islamic leadership since it took power in 1979.

So far, Iranian authorities have followed through with their threats by executing at least seven protesters, including the three on May 19.

Human rights activists say authorities in Iran are using the executions to try to instill fear in society rather than to combat crime.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda

Navalny Group's YouTube Anchor Says Barred From Entering Turkey

Russian journalist Irina Alleman (file photo)

Irina Alleman, an anchor of the Popular Politics YouTube Channel of jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny's team, was refused entry to Turkey. Alleman said on Telegram on May 29 that her trip to Turkey to cover the runoff presidential poll did not take place, as Turkish border guards informed her at the airport in Istanbul on May 25 that she had been barred from entering the country for five years due to "national security" issues. It remains unclear what prompted the decision. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Toqaev 'Appreciates' Lukashenka's 'Joke' Proposal For Kazakhstan To Join Russia-Belarus Union

Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev (file photo)

Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev has called a proposal by the authoritarian ruler of Belarus, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, for Kazakhstan to join the so-called Russia-Belarus Union State a "joke" that has no resonance in the Central Asian country, given its commitments to other international treaties.

Toqaev said on May 29 while meeting with farmers of the North Kazakhstan region that he "duly appreciated the joke" by Lukashenka that he expressed in a televised interview with a Russian journalist over the weekend that Kazakhstan should join the union, which was created on paper in the 1990s and has been negotiated off and on since, but "there is no need" to join.

"Because there are other integration groupings, first of all the Eurasian Economic Union," Toqaev said.

He also touched on Russia's controversial plans to place tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, which borders NATO members Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland.

"As for the nuclear weapons, we do not need them because we joined the Nonproliferation Treaty and the Partial Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. We remain loyal to our obligations defined by these two international documents," Toqaev said.

Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Ukraine gave up their nuclear weapons in the 1990s after they joined the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The three former Soviet republics also signed the Budapest Memorandum in 1994 -- as did Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom -- which barred the superpowers from threatening or using military force or economic coercion against the three.

However, Russian authorities have repeatedly raised the specter of the potential use of nuclear weapons since launching the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, with the frequency of the warnings increasing as Moscow's aggression against Ukraine continues.

Last week, Toqaev said at a Eurasian Economic Union (EES) meeting in Moscow that integration within the group was different from the controversial Russia-Belarus Union State.

"I am sorry, even nuclear weapons are being shared by the two," Toqaev said as he tried to emphasize that other EES states such as Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan were attempting to stay away from getting involved in Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

In a televised interview aired on May 28, Lukashenka commented on Toqaev's statement at the EES session regarding the nuclear weapons "shared" by Belarus and Russia, saying that former Soviet republics, including Kazakhstan, longing to own nuclear weapons can join Russia-Belarus Union State as well.

With reporting by Tengrinews,, and Rossia TV

Family Of Missing Pakistani Journalist Fears For His Life

Riaz Khan, known for his support of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, was arrested on May 11 at Punjab's Sialkot Airport during a crackdown on Khan's party for violent protests over his arrest.

The family of a prominent TV anchor and YouTuber who has gone missing amid political turmoil in Pakistan fears for his life as the authorities remain clueless about his whereabouts. "We are extremely worried and fear for his life," Usman Riaz Khan, brother of the missing journalist, told dpa on May 29. Riaz Khan, known for his support of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, was arrested on May 11 at Punjab's Sialkot Airport during a crackdown on Khan's party for violent protests over his arrest. Police told the family he was subsequently released.

Putin Signs Law Allowing Elections In Russian-Occupied Ukrainian Regions

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 29 signed into law a bill legalizing elections planned for later this year on Ukrainian territories that Moscow took over during its ongoing invasion. Putin had announced martial law in parts of four regions of Ukraine that are under Russian control, but previously Russian law did not allow for holding elections during such conditions. The new law allows elections during martial law with the approval of defense and security organs.

Polish President To Sign Russian Influence Bill, Despite Opposition Protests

Poland's President Andrzej Duda

Poland's president said on May 29 that he would sign a bill authorizing a panel to investigate Russian influence, despite opposition criticism that it creates a witch hunt against government opponents in an election year. The ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party says the liberal opposition Civic Platform (PO) party allowed Poland to become dangerously dependent on Russian fossil fuels when it was in government from 2007 to 2015, raising questions about whether PO members were under Moscow's sway. Duda said he would ask the Constitutional Tribunal to look at the law after it takes force due to criticism it is unconstitutional. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

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