- By Gregory Feifer
Russia-Ukraine Honeymoon Over As Gas Dispute Deepens
The Kremlin called it historic. The deal reversed the policies of Yanukovych's pro-Western predecessors, under whom diplomatic relations with Moscow were all but cut off. In return, Russia gave Ukraine a temporary discount on the amount it paid for Russian natural gas, easing a landmark 10-year agreement reached in 2009 that some hoped would end decades of bitter acrimony over prices by establishing market-based gas relations.
But a little more than one year on, the honeymoon is over. Now Ukraine says it's preparing to take Russia to international court over the 2009 deal, saying it's overcharging Kyiv by up to $6 billion a year compared to other European countries such as Germany.
But Moscow says it would consider a new deal only if Ukraine drops its objections to joining a Russian-led customs union. Yanukovych has called that stance "humiliating."
"We will not allow them to talk to us in such a way," he said last weekend. "They pushed us into a corner, then started to dictate terms. It humiliates not only me but also the state, and I cannot allow it."
'Soon Find A Solution'
Ukraine is threatening to sue Russia in the Stockholm Arbitration Tribunal, although Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kostiantyn Hryshchenko said on September 5 he hoped that wouldn’t be necessary.
"Although, of course, we have enough arguments to present our case in any international court," Hryshchenko said, "we think, however, that we'll very soon find a solution that would suit the modern market situation and modern contract practice."
Both sides have said they want to avoid a repetition of past disputes, during which Russia twice cut off supplies during bitter cold spells, disrupting deliveries to other European countries and leaving millions without heat. That's because up to 80 percent of Russia's gas exports to the EU pass through Ukraine.
But Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ratcheted up the tension on September 5, saying a new pipeline to Germany set to begin pumping gas later this year would weaken the "diktat of transit countries."
According to Ukraine's agreement with Russia, Kyiv paid about $230 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas in 2009, an amount that's expected to rise to $400 later this year.
Ukraine says it wants to at least reduce the amount of gas it buys from Russia by more than one-third, but even that amount is fixed.
The high prices are exacerbating an economic crisis in a country that depends heavily on natural gas for producing its top exports of metals and chemicals, especially from Yanukovych's support base in the industrial east.
Providing A Pretext
Many believe the rift with Moscow to be partly responsible for the trial of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, accused of abuse of office for signing the 2009 gas deal.
Analysts say prosecuting her is part of an attempt to delegitimize the deal's legal basis. Tymoshenko's conviction may provide a pretext to file suit against Russia, which has criticized the trial.
Kyiv has also threatened to break up its state oil and gas enterprise Natfogaz in line with EU recommendations as another possible excuse to revise the deal with Moscow.
Volodymyr Fesenko of Kyiv's Penta Center for political studies traces the disagreement to last year's Kharkiv deal, saying Yanukovych stumbled by giving Moscow far too much and expecting more in return.
"The deal raised expectations on both sides," Fesenko says. "Yanukovych believed he had gone a long way to accommodate the Russians, but it turned out they weren't willing to make any further compromises."
Fesenko says the deal convinced the Kremlin that Yanukovych was a weak leader to be pressured for reestablishing Russia's influence over Ukraine. But when Moscow proposed merging its state Gazprom monopoly with Ukraine's Naftogaz, Kyiv balked.
Relations soon began souring, stalling a drive toward integrating the two countries. When Yanukovych stepped up integration talks with the European Union earlier this year -- which is incompatible with joining a Russian-led customs union -- along with negotiations to join the World Trade Organization, Fesenko says Moscow was caught off guard.
"That was a very unpleasant surprise for the Russians," Fesenko says. "They were expecting Ukraine to join their customs union [together with Kazakhstan and Belarus], but when Yanukovych said European integration was his priority, they pushed back, starting by threatening sanctions."
Part Of Political Ploy?
Putin has said Moscow will consider revising the gas deal only if Ukraine agrees to merge its Naftogaz with Gazprom, reinforcing the view that Moscow's intransigence over gas prices is part of a political ploy to force Ukraine into a closer orbit.
Fesenko believes Yanukovych's personality has contributed to the mounting friction.
"He doesn’t like being pressured," Fesenko says of the man who was jailed for assault in his youth. "He's used to tough talk in domestic as well as international politics because his life experience has taught him not to display weakness."
But analysts say schemes such as the threat to reorganize Naftogaz -- long recommended by the International Monetary Fund -- smack of desperation. In Moscow, former Russian Deputy Energy Minister Vladimir Milov told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service that Ukraine has little legal basis for forcing Moscow to revise the gas deal.
"Besides, Russia has often threatened to take Ukraine to court during arguments in the past," Milov says, "but that never happened because Gazprom is a big beast that's hard to budge and doesn’t respond well to international legal mechanisms."
Even as Ukraine is using its negotiations with the EU to leverage its relations with Russia, Yanukovych is coming under heavy criticism from Western critics worried that the prosecution of Tymoshenko is politically motivated and symbolizes the reversal of the democratic gains of the Orange Revolution in 2004. Last week, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the trial would figure during a meeting with EU foreign ministers in Poland on September 5.
"We will think about our Eastern partners and Eastern neighbors with a special focus on what is happening in Ukraine and our concerns for Yulia Tymoshenko and the trial there," she said.
It's not clear how the mounting disagreement between the estranged allies will play out. For now, Yanukovych warned in an interview with "Kommersant" newspaper published on September 6 that Ukrainians aren't Moscow's "poor relations."
"Talking to us with ultimatums from a position of strength," he said, "won’t bring success."
Belarusian Leader Pardons Russian Jailed After Forced Landing Of Commercial Flight
MINSK -- Authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka has pardoned Sofia Sapega, a Russian citizen who was serving a six-year prison term in Belarus on charges related to civil disturbances that followed a disputed 2020 presidential election.
Sapega was handed to a delegation from Russia's Far Eastern region of Primorye on June 7 after she was released from prison following Lukashenka's decree pardoning her, the BelTA state news agency said.
She thanked Lukashenka for pardoning her, allowing her to return home, and giving her a second chance, according to BelTA.
Earlier reports said the Russian and Belarusian authorities had agreed to allow Sapega to serve her prison term in Russia.
The Crisis In Belarus
Read our ongoing coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka continues his brutal crackdown on NGOs, activists, and independent media following the August 2020 presidential election, widely seen as fraudulent.
Sapega and her then-boyfriend, dissident blogger Raman Pratasevich, were detained after their commercial flight from Athens to Vilnius was forced to land in Minsk in May 2021.
Sapega was accused of administering a channel on Telegram that published the personal data of Belarusian security forces. She was sentenced in May 2022.
Belarus said it had ordered the plane to land after an anonymous bomb threat. Evidence later revealed Belarusian officials conspired to fake the bomb threat as a pretense for diverting the plane so they could detain the two.
Pratasevich, who fled Belarus in 2019, worked as an editor at the Poland-based Nexta Live channel on Telegram that extensively covered the violent crackdown on unprecedented protests in Belarus following an August 2020 presidential election that the opposition and Western governments say was stolen by Lukashenka, who has run the country with an iron fist since 1994.
Last month, Pratasevich told journalists he had received a pardon from Lukashenka.
In early May, a Minsk court sentenced Pratasevich to eight years in prison, and his co-defendants, Stsyapan Putsila and Yan Rudzik, who were tried in absentia, to 20 years and 19 years in prison respectively, on charges stemming from their online coverage of the 2020 anti-Lukashenka protests.
Lukashenka has denied stealing the election and has since cracked down hard on the opposition, whose leading members were either jailed or forced to flee the country in fear of their safety.
With reporting by BelTA
Six Arrested In Romania, Germany, Bulgaria In Probe Of People-Smuggling Ring
Six people have been arrested in Romania, Germany, and Bulgaria in raids targeting a network alleged to have smuggled hundreds of migrants into Romania and Germany, officials said on June 7. Fifteen properties were searched, 11 of them in Romania, German federal police said in a statement. Four of the arrests were made in searches of accommodation in Romania used to house migrants. There was one arrest in Germany and one in Bulgaria. The suspects are accused of smuggling more than 560 people into Germany and more than 300 into Romania, according to German police.
Ukraine's Prosecutor To Provide ICC With Data On Kakhovka Dam Destruction
Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Andriy Kostin on June 7 signed a decree on providing the prosecutor's office at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague with data related to the destruction of the Kakhovka dam. According to a statement by his office, Kostin also informed ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan about the situation caused by the dam breach. Ukrainian and Russian officials traded blame over the breach on June 6 of the Russian-controlled dam, which prompted the evacuation of thousands of local residents.
Former Kazakh President Nazarbaev's Office Being Canceled
The office of former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, known as the office of the First President of Kazakhstan, will cease to exist within the next 45 days, the Central Asian nation's Finance Minister Erulan Zhamaubaev said on June 7.
According to Zhamaubaev, the closure of the office will free up to 3 billion tenges ($6,675,000) of state money, which will be used for other needs.
Zhamaubaev's statement came less than a week after the Justice Ministry said that parliament is poised to scrap an article in the Criminal Code that envisions punishment by up to five years in prison for insulting Nazarbaev.
President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev has taken a series of moves since January 2022 to push Nazarbaev, who ruled the tightly controlled former Soviet republic with an iron fist for almost three decades, further into the background following his resignation in 2019.
Though he officially stepped down as president, Nazarbaev retained sweeping powers as the head of the country's powerful Security Council. He also enjoyed substantial powers by holding the title of "elbasy."
Earlier this year, Kazakh lawmakers annulled the Law on the First President -- the Leader of the Nation (Elbasy).
Although the law was canceled, Nazarbaev himself continues to have immunity from prosecution in accordance with the law on presidents.
Even after Nazarbaev's resignation, many Kazakhs remained bitter over the oppression felt during his reign.
Those feelings came to a head in January last year when unprecedented anti-government nationwide protests were sparked by a fuel price hike.
The demonstrations unexpectedly exploded into deadly countrywide unrest over perceived corruption under the Nazarbaev regime and the cronyism that allowed his family and close friends to enrich themselves while ordinary citizens failed to share in the oil-rich nation's wealth.
Toqaev subsequently stripped Nazarbaev of his Security Council role, taking it over himself. Since then, several of Nazarbaev's relatives and allies have been pushed out of their positions or resigned. Some have been arrested on corruption charges, of whom some were handed prison terms.
On June 7, Kazakhstan's Anti-Corruption Agency said Nazarbaev's once powerful nephew, Qairat Satybaldy, who was sentenced to six years in prison in September after being found guilty of fraud and embezzlement, will hand over his property, including the Double Tree by Hilton Almaty hotel, as well as jewelry, automobiles, and cash to the state treasury to compensate damages caused by his crimes.
The agency added that investigations into Satybaldy's alleged tax evasion and money laundering activities are under way.
With reporting by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, KazTAG, and Tengrinews
Kazakh Opposition Politician Detained On Bribe-Taking Charge
Nurzhan Altaev, the leader of Kazakhstan's unregistered El Tiregi (People's Pillar) party has been detained on a charge of taking a bribe, the Central Asian nation's Anti-Corruption Agency said on July 7. Altaev quit the ruling Nur-Otan (now called Amanat) party in 2021 and has been trying to register his party since then, accusing the Justice Ministry of refusing to do so. In April, a court in Astana sentenced Altaev to 15 days in jail on a charge of violating regulations on holding public gatherings after he openly supported protesting oil workers who demanded jobs. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, click here.
Russia Claims Ukrainian 'Saboteur' Group Blew Up Ammonia Pipeline, Kyiv Yet To Comment
Russia's Defense Ministry claims a Ukrainian "saboteur group" blew up a segment of the Tolyatti-Odesa pipeline, the world's largest ammonia conduit, in Ukraine's Kharkiv region. Kyiv has not commented on the statement but previously it has said that the pipeline has come under repeated Russian shelling. Ammonia is a main ingredient in production of nitrate fertilizer, of which Russia is one of the world's leading producers.
Banks In Kazakhstan, Armenia, Hong Kong Block Payments For Electronics Deliveries To Russia
Banks in Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Hong Kong have started blocking payments for deliveries of electronics to Russia to avoid U.S. sanctions for helping Moscow evade Western penalties imposed over its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Kommersant newspaper cited sources as saying on June 7. In March, the United States said Russian companies evaded sanctions using intermediaries in other countries. The same month, the EU's special sanctions envoy, David O'Sullivan, publicly questioned the final destination of many goods imported to Kazakhstan, Armenia, and several other nations. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Siberia.Realities, click here.
Belgrade To Prod Ethnic Serbs In North Kosovo To Vote In Elections
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said he will try to use his influence to persuade Serbs in northern Kosovo to take part in elections, the U.S. envoy for the Western Balkans, Gabriel Escobar, told journalists on June 7 in Belgrade.
Escobar was speaking after he and the EU's special envoy for dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia, Miroslav Lajcak. held talks with Kosovar and Serbian leaders in Pristina and Belgrade.
The U.S. and EU envoys were trying to ease tensions in northern Kosovo over the installation of ethnic Albanian mayors that triggered clashes last week between ethnic Serbs and NATO peacekeepers, leaving dozens -- including the peacekeepers -- injured.
The ethnic Albanian mayors were installed with the help of Kosovar police in three towns with an overwhelming ethnic Serbian majority -- Zvecan, Leposaviq, and Zubin Potok -- following by-elections in April with a turnout of under 3.5 percent amid a boycott by ethnic Serbs.
"We must immediately de-escalate the situation. This means that we hope the [ethnic Albanian] mayors will not try to [enter] the municipal buildings and [Kosovar] police units will withdraw -- but we want to be sure that [ethnic Serb] protesters will also withdraw," Escobar said.
The West has increased diplomatic pressure on Kosovo to reduce tensions in the northern part of the country and organize new local elections.
"If there are new elections, and we hope there will be, we want Serbs to participate in them without preconditions," said Escobar.
He added that the biggest challenge for the authorities in Belgrade is to convince the local Serbs in the north of Kosovo to return to the institutions, and that it must be ensured that the representatives of the Serbs who participate in the elections and institutions in Kosovo are "welcome."
The U.S. envoy also warned that Kosovo has to ensure that Serb-majority municipalities in its northern part enjoy greater autonomy if it wants to make progress toward eventual NATO and EU integration.
Kosovo is a majority ethnic Albanian former Serbian province. Kosovo declared independence in 2008, but Serbia as well as its traditional ally, Russia, has refused to recognize it.
With reporting by Reuters
Richard Branson Calls For Release From Prison Of Iranian Rapper Salehi
Billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist Richard Branson has called for Iranian authorities to release popular rapper Toomaj Salehi, whose health has reportedly deteriorated since he was arrested during Tehran’s clampdown on nationwide anti-government protests in October. "As his life hangs in the balance after 8 months+ of imprisonment and torture, we all must give our voice to him and call for his release," Branson said in a tweet. In November, Iran’s judiciary charged Salehi with spreading “corruption on earth,” a charge that could see him sentenced to death. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Radio Farda, click here.
Local Official Throws Molotov Cocktails At Military Recruitment Center In Russia
A local official in the Russian city of Vladimir, 200 kilometers east of Moscow, was detained on June 7 after she threw Molotov cocktails at a military recruitment center. Media reports identified the woman as Zhanna Romanovskaya, a 55-year-old official from the local Architecture and Construction Ministry. Since Russia launched its ongoing unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, dozens of military recruitment centers have been targeted by arsonists, but Romanovskaya appears to be the first official to have done so. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.
EU Launches Case Against Poland Over 'Russian Influence' Panel
The European Commission said on June 7 that it is launching legal action against Poland over its creation of a controversial body probing "Russian influence," which is seen as targeting the opposition. The announcement of the infringement procedure came despite Polish President Andrzej Duda saying last week that he would propose amending the law on the panel after criticism from the EU's executive and the United States.
Poland Deports Former FSB Officer To Russia After Rejecting His Asylum Request
Poland has deported to Russia a former officer of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Emran Navruzbekov, who fled the country in 2017 and claimed the FSB fabricated terrorist cases against residents of the North Caucasus. The Vot Tak media project quoted Navruzbekov on June 6 as saying Polish authorities had handed him to Russian officials in the Kaliningrad exclave. Polish authorities rejected Navruzbekov’s asylum request, citing security issues. Navruzbekov's wife said earlier that she and the couple's children were granted political asylum in Poland. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Caucasus.Realities, click here.
Norway Rescues Russian By Helicopter Near North Pole
Norway rescued a Russian in need of emergency medical assistance on board a scientific vessel stuck in ice near the North Pole in a spectacular helicopter operation, its rescue services said on June 7. The evacuation took place on June 6 in the evening from the Russian ship Severny Polyus located at the 86th parallel north, some 444 kilometers from the North Pole. "It's the extreme limit of what the helicopter can do" in terms of range, a Norwegian spokesman told the AFP news agency. The operation was carried out despite a deterioration of relations between the two countries since the start of Russia's war in Ukraine.
NATO Allies Prepare Unprecedented Air Deployment Exercise Over Europe In Show Of Force To Russia
Germany is preparing to host the biggest air deployment exercise in NATO’s history, a show of force intended to impress allies and potential adversaries such as Russia, German and American officials said. Air Defender 23 exercise starting next week will see 10,000 participants and 250 aircraft from 25 nations respond to a simulated attack on a NATO member country. While the drill, which is being led by Germany, has been planned since 2018, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year has jolted NATO into preparing in earnest for the possibility of an attack on its territory. To read the original story by AP, click here.
Wife, Teenage Son Of North Korean Diplomat Go Missing In Russia's Far East
Russia's Investigative Committee said on June 7 that it has started investigating the disappearance of the wife and teenage son of the North Korean Council Choi En Nam in the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok. Media reports quoted sources as identifying the missing persons as Kim Kum-Sun, 43, and Park Kwon-Chu, who went missing on June 4. Some investigators suggested that the woman and her son are on their way to defect to South Korea via China. Some reports say the two used a taxi to reach the city of Khabarovsk, from where they took a plane to the city of Krasnoyarsk. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Siberia.Realities, click here.
Another Resident Of Russia's Far East Detained On Treason Charge
Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said on June 7 that a resident of the country’s Far East had been detained on a charge of high treason amid a growing number of such cases in recent months. According to the FSB, the suspect, whose identity was not disclosed, had allegedly passed classified information about law enforcement and military infrastructure to Ukrainian intelligence. In the last five months, 20 treason probes have been launched, while in 2022, the number of such cases launched in the country was 22. Almost half of the probes were launched against residents of Russia's Far East. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Siberia.Realities, click here.
Jury Finds Moscow Anti-War Activist Not Guilty Of Attempted Murder
A jury at the Moscow City Court has found 45-year-old Moscow activist, Vitaly Koltsov, not guilty of attempting to murder 12 Russian National Guard officers. However, the jury concluded on June 6 that Koltsov was guilty of an arson attack but recommended a lenient punishment. The charge against Koltsov, who went on trial on May 10, stems from his throwing two Molotov cocktails at a bus that was parked near Teatralnaya Square in Moscow after it brought National Guard troops to the site to prevent anti-government rallies a year ago. Koltsov was found guilty of deliberately setting fire to a police vehicle. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.
Flood Levels Up In Kherson As Evacuations Continue Amid Fears Of Water Contamination
Thousands of Ukrainians sought shelter amid cresting floodwaters after the destruction of a major dam on the Dnieper River sparked massive flooding, putting in peril Europe's largest nuclear power station and the source of fresh water for hundreds of thousands of civilians amid a war between Russia and Ukraine.
Water levels have risen several meters in the Kherson area, trapping dozens of people in their homes and killing scores of animals.
Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy again on June 7 pointed the finger at Russia as the perpetrator of an "absolutely deliberate" act. Russia, in turn, has blamed Kyiv for the incident.
"At least 100,000 people lived in these areas before the Russian invasion," Zelenskiy said on Telegram, referring to Moscow's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
"At least tens of thousands are still there. Hundreds of thousands of people have been left without normal access to drinking water. Our services, all those who can help people, are already involved. But we can only help on the territory controlled by Ukraine. In the Russian-occupied part, the occupiers are not even trying to help people," Zelenskiy said.
While water levels were rising in some areas, they began dropping upstream, where ponds are crucial in supplying the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant -- Europe's largest -- with cooling water. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says that while levels were falling, "backup options are available" and there is "no short-term risk to nuclear safety and security."
Ihor Syrota, the head of Ukrhydroenerho, Ukraine's hydroelectric power authority, said the water -- more than 30,000 cubic meters of which has poured out of the reservoir held back by the Soviet-era dam -- was expected to peak early on June 7 and would recede over the following days.
Ukraine's Energy Ministry said on June 7 that as many as 20,000 people in the Kherson region had been left without electricity in the aftermath of the destruction of the dam. Two solar power plants were also flooded in the Mykolayiv region, the ministry added.
Adding to the crisis, the Ukrainian Health Ministry on June 7 warned about the possible contamination of water in wells, rivers, and lakes in the flooded area.
"Chemicals, agents of infectious diseases from cemeteries, latrines, and landfills may end up in wells and open bodies of water in the flooded area," the ministry said on Telegram, also warning against the consumption of fish from the area.
Ukrainian authorities meanwhile continued the evacuation of tens of thousands of people as the flooding was expected to peak downstream on June 7.
Ukraine has estimated that some 42,000 people were at risk from flooding.
"I woke up several hours ago and realized that the first floor of my building is underwater," 66-year-old Volodymyr Barsak told RFE/RL as he stood meters away from the floodwater in Kherson after being evacuated by a team of rescuers from his third-floor apartment.
"I don't know what I'm going to do yet," said Barsak, who was clad only in black swimming shorts, before adding, "but this is nothing compared to the oppressive atmosphere of the Russian occupation."
"I knew they would blow the dam in the end," he said.
The Russian-installed mayor of Nova Kakhovka, Vladimir Leontyev, said "thousands of animals" at the Nizhnedniprovsky National Nature Park had been killed in the flooding, along with other domesticated and farm animals in the region.
In the Moscow-controlled part of Kherson, Russian-installed authorities imposed a state of emergency on June 7, the TASS news agency reported.
The British Defense Ministry estimated that, since the reservoir had been filled to a record level, continued water pressure will further erode the breach and more flooding could be expected.
"The water level in the Kakhovka Reservoir was at a record high before the collapse, resulting in a particularly high volume of water inundating the area downstream," the ministry said in its daily intelligence report on June 7.
WATCH: Boat after boat of exhausted and stressed civilians arrived in the flooded streets of Kherson on June 7. Some of the people had made it here from Russian-occupied areas on the east bank of the Dnieper River.
"The dam's structure is likely to deteriorate further over the next few days, causing additional flooding," it said.
The breach of the Russian-held dam early on June 6 unleashed a massive torrent of water that flooded tens of settlements downstream and sent tens of thousands people fleeing.
"Such deliberate destruction by the Russian occupiers and other structures of the hydroelectric power station is an environmental bomb of mass destruction," Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres labeled the destruction of the dam a "monumental humanitarian, economic, and ecological catastrophe" in a statement but stopped short of blaming Russia directly.
Ahead of an emergency UN Security Council meeting, Guterres called it “another devastating consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
The UN’s humanitarian agency said it was gravely concerned about the destruction of the dam and the severe humanitarian impact on hundreds of thousands of people on both sides of the front line.
UN aid chief Martin Griffiths told the Security Council's emergency meeting late on June 6 that thousands of people in southern Ukraine were facing "the loss of homes, food, safe water, and livelihoods."
Oleksiy Kuleba, deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, said the destruction of the dam will cause a large ecological problem, noting that more than 400 tons of lubricating oil had been stored in tanks at the Kakhovka hydropower plant.
"We cannot be sure yet what amount has already ended up in the Dnieper River, but it will be a huge problem and an ecological disaster," Kuleba told RFE/RL.
"We are also anticipating that the water level in the Kakhovka basin will drop dramatically and this will lead to a complete change of the ecological environment of the Kherson region. It is necessary to get ready for that as well," he said.
Russia denied it carried out the attack, with the Kremlin instead calling it "deliberate sabotage" by Kyiv.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu charged that Ukraine destroyed the dam to prevent Russian attacks in the Kherson region after what he alleged was a failed Ukrainian counteroffensive.
The Nova Kakhovka dam -- which is 30 meters tall and 3.2 kilometers long -- is part a vital route for transport and irrigation, as well as supplying water to Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and the Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant, which are both under Russian control.
The Nova Kakhovka dam -- which is 30 meters tall and 3.2 kilometers long -- is part a vital route for transport and irrigation, as well as supplying water to Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and the Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant, located some 150 kilometers to the northeast.
Both Crimea and the nuclear plant are under Russian control.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said the power plant has enough water to cool its reactors for "several months" from a pond located above the reservoir.
With reporting by Aleksander Palikot in Kherson, AP, and Reuters
Ukrainian Military Says Forces Making Advances In Bakhmut Area
Ukrainian forces have gone on the offensive in Bakhmut, the Donetsk city that has been the epicenter of the war in eastern Ukraine, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said on Telegram on June 7. She said Ukrainian troops advanced in different areas by as much as 1,100 meters over the past day. "The enemy in this direction went on the defensive, trying to hold occupied positions," Malyar said. Earlier, the commander of Ukraine's ground troops, Oleksandr Syrskiy, said his forces continued to advance on the northern and southern flanks of Bakhmut. Ukrainian defenders put up a stark, monthslong defense in Bakhmut. To read the original stories by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, click here and here.
Finland To Expel Nine Russian Embassy Employees Over 'Intelligence' Activities
Finland will expel nine diplomats from the Russian Embassy in Helsinki for "acting in an intelligence capacity," the Finnish president's office said on June 6. "Their actions are contrary to the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations," the president's office said in a statement, adding that it would inform the Russian ambassador of the expulsions. The decision was made at a meeting between Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and the country's ministerial committee on foreign and security policy. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Iranian Students Say Authorities Ratcheting Up Pressure On Campus Over Dress Code
Iranian student organizations have reported a significant wave of summonses at the University of Science and Technology in Tehran in a continued tightening of supervision of the dress code after months of unrest sparked by the death of a young woman for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly.
The country's Student Guild Councils reported on June 5 that, during the past week, a significant number of students from the University of Science and Technology were summoned to the Disciplinary Committee, as well as at least 11 professors. The reasons cited for these summonses ranged from a refusal to comply with mandatory hijab rules to what university authorities have termed "inappropriate dress".
In addition to the summoning of students to the Disciplinary Committee, patrolling security forces have reportedly harassed students under the pretext of the dress code while they are walking on the university campus.
The Student Guild Councils said the intrusion into the lives of students has even extended to the dormitories, where curfew infractions have been cited.
In addition to students, at least 11 professors at the University of Science and Technology have also been summoned by the Faculty Disciplinary Board in recent days. They said they were summoned for signing a statement protesting against "the attacks carried out on schools and female students."
Iranian universities have become a hotbed for unrest since the death of Mahsa Amini in Tehran in September. The 22-year-old died while in police custody for an alleged violation of the country's mandatory head-scarf law.
Police have tried to shift the blame onto Amini's health, but supporters say witnesses saw her being beaten when taken into custody. Her family says she had no history of any medical issues and was in good health.
There have been clashes at universities and schools between protesters and the authorities, prompting security forces to launch a series of raids on education facilities across the country, violently arresting students, especially female students, who have defiantly taken off their head scarves, or hijabs, in protest.
According to a report by the "Committee for Following Up on the Situation of Detainees," since the beginning of the nationwide protests in September 2022, more than 720 students have been arrested, some of whom are still under arrest.
Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda
Iranian Embassy Reopens In Saudi Capital
Iran reopened its embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on June 6, Saudi media reported, months after the two regional rivals agreed to end a diplomatic rift under a China-mediated deal. Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed in March to reestablish relations following years of hostility that has endangered stability in the Middle East and fueled regional conflicts including in Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon. The deal was struck seven years after Sunni Saudi Arabia severed relations with Shi'ite Iran following the storming of its embassy in Tehran during a dispute over the execution of a Shi'ite Muslim cleric. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
- By Current Time
Russian Anti-War Activist Deported From Kyrgyzstan Charged With Arson Attack
Russian anti-war activist and anarchist Aleksei Rozhkov was deported from Kyrgyzstan in late May and is currently in pretrial detention in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg for allegedly setting the building of a military recruitment center in the town of Beryozovsky on fire in March 2022, the Zona Solidarnosti (Solidarity Zone) rights project said on June 6. Rozhkov left Russia for Kyrgyzstan in December after Russian authorities equated arson attacks targeting military recruitment centers to terrorism amid a sharp rise in such incidents after Russia launched its ongoing invasion of Ukraine. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.
Sabalenka Says She Does Not Support War, Lukashenka After Defeating Ukrainian At French Open
Belarusian tennis star Aryna Sabalenka says she does not want her country to be in any conflict and she does not support the war in Ukraine or its authoritarian ruler. "I don't support war, meaning I don't support Alyaksandr Lukashenka," Sabalenka told a press conference on June 6 after her quarterfinal victory against Elina Svitolina of Ukraine at the French Open. Sabalenka opted out of press conferences last week, citing mental health reasons after being grilled about Russia's invasion of Ukraine and Belarus being used as a staging ground for Russian troops. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Belarusian Prosecutors Seek 25 Years In Prison For Self-Exiled Activist
Prosecutors have asked the Minsk City Court to sentence self-exiled opposition activist Vadzim Prakopyeu to 25 years in prison on multiple charges, including coordinating an attempted arson attack at the house of a pro-government lawmaker, the chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus, Aleh Haydukevich, in June 2021.
Prosecutor Maksim Chuprys asked Judge Syarhey Khrypach on June 6 to convict Prakopyeu on 14 charges related to terrorism and the illegal possession of firearms.
Prakopyeu and two former law enforcement officers, Ihar Chamyakin and Dzyanis Khamitsevich, are being tried separately in absentia after they fled the country and whose current whereabouts are unknown.
Fifteen other defendants in the case are involved in a separate trial that started on March 6.
Also on June 6, the @MAYDAYMog human rights group said that police in the city of Barysau near Minsk had arrested noted rights defender Aleh Matskevich on unspecified charges last week.
Separately, the Belarusian Interior Ministry published a video on June 6 which shows the leader of the People's Student Chorus at the Belarusian State University, Volha Minyankova, offering an apology for her refusal to bring her chorus to parts of Ukraine's eastern Donbas region controlled by Russian troops.
It is not clear whether Minyankova's "repentance" video statement was recorded under duress, or if she is currently in custody.
Many journalists, rights activists, and representatives of democratic institutions have been jailed in Belarus since an August 2020 presidential election where Lukashenka was officially announced as the winner.
Rights activists and opposition politicians say the poll was rigged. Thousands have been detained during countrywide protests over the results and there have been credible reports of torture and ill-treatment by security forces. Several people have died during the crackdown.
Lukashenka has refused to negotiate with the opposition and many of its leaders have been arrested or forced to leave the country.
The United States, the European Union, and several other countries have refused to acknowledge Lukashenka as the winner of the vote and imposed several rounds of sanctions on him and his regime, citing election fraud and the crackdown.
Destruction Of Major Dam In Ukraine Causes Massive Flooding, Raises Fears Of Environmental Disaster2
Kyiv Using 'Ukrainian Storks' For Reconnaissance Over Bakhmut3
Zelenskiy Says Ukraine Ready To Launch Its Long-Awaited Counteroffensive4
Ukrainian Military Says Forces Making Advances In Bakhmut Area5
Kremlin Says Putin Mobilization Announcement Broadcast On Radio Stations Was 'Fake'6
Wagner Group Posts Video Of Russian Officer In Sign Of Rising Tensions With Army7
Belarusian Tennis Star Says She Does Not Support Ukraine War Or Lukashenka8
Live Briefing: Russia Invades Ukraine9
Has Ukraine's Long-Awaited Counteroffensive Finally Begun? Maybe.10
After The Flood: What We Know About The Destroyed Ukrainian Dam And Its Consequences