In Kyiv, UN Chief Urges Respect For Ukraine's Sovereignty
The UN chief was speaking after talks with acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov on March 21.
Ban, who held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow a day earlier, said he had urged both sides to engage in "direct and constructive" dialogue.
He also said both sides should refrain from inflammatory rhetoric, which he said could lead to "uncontrollable situations."
He said "the world is watching and history will judge us."
Turchynov said Ukraine will never accept the occupation of Crimea by Russia.
Ban's talks with Turchynov took place as Putin signed laws completing Crimea's annexation into the Russian Federation.
The world body also says a 34-member UN human rights monitoring mission is expected to deploy in eastern Ukraine to check for abuses.
Prosecution Witness At Trial Of Navalny Associate In Bashkortostan Says She Was Pressured
UFA, Russia -- A prosecution witness at the high-profile trial of Lilia Chanysheva, the former leader of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny's team in Ufa, the capital of Russia's Republic of Bashkortostan, has testified in court that she has been pressured by officers of the Interior Ministry's anti-extremist directorate.
The witness said at a hearing on March 22 that investigators also tried to recruit her as an informant during the preliminary investigations of Chanysheva’s case, Chanysheva's lawyer, Sergei Makarenko, told RFE/RL on March 23.
"The judge had to call a five-minute break after one of the witnesses started crying while answering questions. She said after she calmed down that the investigators imposed serious psychological pressure on her during a preliminary investigation, threatening her with repercussions. The witness also testified that she does not consider Chanysheva's activities in the Ufa headquarters of Navalny’s team illegal, emphasizing that Chanysheva is not guilty," Makarenko said.
Navalny's team said in a post on Telegram that the witness also testified that officers from the Interior Ministry's anti-extremism directorate forced her to sign a recruitment agreement, according to which she was supposed to become an informant with a monthly salary of 12,000 rubles ($155), about which she said she immediately informed Chanysheva at the time.
The witness, whose identity RFE/RL chose not to disclose, told RFE/RL that she was "ashamed" to testify at the trial.
"I am just horrified that I was even summoned to the trial. I thought I would manage to avoid the disgrace. I consider it torture of my conscience.... I actually answered all the questions of the investigator honestly, because Lilia [Chanysheva] did not do anything illegal. I know her as a decent person, and certainly I said at the trial that I consider the charges against her to be without grounds," the witness said.
She added that she "wanted to offer apologies to Lilia for this shame."
"I was not strong enough to keep silent during questioning. I chose my own safety, and now I wake up every day with these thoughts," the woman said.
Makarenko said the judge agreed with a prosecutor's request at the trial that the incident with the witness would not be shared with media, but he decided to make the situation public.
Chanysheva, 41, who was arrested in November, headed the local unit of Navalny's network of regional campaign groups until his team disbanded them after a Moscow prosecutor went to court to have them branded "extremist."
The court accepted the prosecutor's request, effectively outlawing the group.
Chanysheva's defense team said at the time that her arrest was the first since the movement was banned. The charges appear to be retroactive since the organization she worked for disbanded before it had been legally classified as extremist.
In January, Amnesty International urged Russian authorities to release Chanysheva "immediately," insisting that the extremism charges are absurd and should be dropped.
Navalny himself has been in prison since February last year, while several of his associates have been charged with establishing an extremist group. Many of his associates have fled the country.
Lawyer Who Defended Jailed RFE/RL Journalist Ihar Losik Handed 15-Day Jail Term
Artsyom Syamyanau, a Belarusian lawyer who defended jailed RFE/RL journalist Ihar Losik, was sentenced to 15 days in jail on March 22 on a charge of disobeying requests by authorities. A day earlier, Syamyanau and several other Belarusian lawyers who have defended journalists and opposition politicians in Belarus were detained in Minsk. Details of the detentions remain unclear. Syamyanau also defended Valyantsin Stefanovich of the Vyasna (Spring) human rights center who, along with Vyasna's chairman, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ales Byalyatski, and another colleague, Uladzimer Labkovich, were sentenced to lengthy prison terms earlier this month. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Belarus Service, click here.
Belarusian Journalist Gets Three-Year Prison Sentence Over Article About Deadly KGB Raid
MINSK -- A Belarusian journalist who wrote about a deadly raid by officers of the Committee of State Security (KGB) on a Minsk apartment in September 2021 has been sentenced to three years in prison.
On March 23, the Minsk City Court sentenced Henadz Mazheyka, a former correspondent for the Belarusian edition of the Moscow-based Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, after finding him guilty of inciting social hatred and insulting authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
Mazheyka was arrested in October after he was extradited from Russia. He was initially charged with inciting social hatred. Investigators said later they had found audio of Mazheyka “insulting Lukashenka” and filed an additional charge against the journalist.
Mazheyka is one of dozens of Belarusians detained across the country on similar charges related to a shooting in Minsk in late September 2021 in which an IT worker and a KGB officer died.
The arrests were connected to comments posted on social media about the incident.
Belarusian authorities blocked Komsomolskaya Pravda's website after Mazheyka's article was published about Andrey Zeltsar, an employee of the U.S.-based EPAM Systems IT company, who was shot dead during the incident.
In the article, a classmate of Zeltsar remembers him as a decent person.
Little is known about the shooting, during which Zeltsar allegedly shot and killed KGB officer Dzmitry Fedasyuk.
Authorities claimed at the time that “an especially dangerous criminal” had opened fire on security officers after they showed up at his apartment looking for “individuals involved in terrorist activities.”
Lukashenka has issued thinly veiled threats to people who post comments on social media praising Zeltsar and criticizing Fedasyuk, saying, "We have all their accounts, and we can see who is who."
Multiple individuals have received prison terms in recent months on charges related to comments about the incident.
Russia-Installed Law Enforcement Officers In Annexed Crimea Detain Crimean Tatar Activist, Son
Russia-installed law enforcement officers in Ukraine's Moscow-annexed Crimea have detained Crimean Tatar activist Mustafa Mustafayev and his son after searching their home on March 23, the Crimean Solidarity human right groups said. It is not clear why and on what charges the search and the detentions were based. Since illegally annexing Crimea in 2014, Russia has imposed pressure on Crimean Tatars, the peninsula's indigenous ethnic group, many of whom openly protested the annexation. Dozens of Crimean Tatars have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms by Russian authorities on extremism charges since then. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Crimea.Realities, click here.
Moscow Research Institute 'Postpones' Meeting With Nobel Laureate Muratov Amid Protests By War Supporters
MOSCOW -- The Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MFTI) says a planned meeting of its lecturers and students with Nobel laureate Dmitry Muratov has been postponed amid online protests against the meeting by supporters of Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine
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Muratov, the editor in chief of the independent newspaper Novaya gazeta and the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021, has openly called for Moscow to stop its war against Ukraine.
MFTI Rector Dmitry Livanov said in a March 23 statement that the forum with Muratov -- titled Conflict Of Generations After February 24 -- was postponed as "it was impossible to avoid politicizing the talk."
The discussion was scheduled for March 28. February 24 refers to the day the Kremlin launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year.
"Despite huge interest among [MFTI staff and students] for the talk with Dmitry [Muratov], just the announcement of the event caused a storm of negative emotions, mostly from people who have nothing to do with MFTI," Livanov's statement said. "I would like to emphasize that Dmitry Muratov was not added to the Russian Justice Ministry’s registry of foreign agents and there are no legal obstacles either for his talking with students, nor his teaching activities."
Livanov's statement came two days after several Telegram channels supporting Russias war in Ukraine called to cancel the meeting with Muratov, accusing him of having a pro-Ukrainian stance.
Muratov said in an interview with the Novaya gazeta Europe Telegram channel that when he was invited to the meeting at the MFTI in January he anticipated such a reaction from what he called "ultras."
"I surely understand the reason why the university informed me and the students about the postponement of the meeting," Muratov said.
Last month, the Moscow City Court upheld a lower court decision to withdraw the licenses of Muratov's Novaya gazeta newspaper and its Novaya rasskaz-gazeta magazine, two of the last independent media outlets in the country, amid a crackdown on the free press during the Kremlin's war against Ukraine.
Damage Being Assessed After Earthquakes Rock Tajikistan
DUSHANBE -- A pair of earthquakes rocked Tajikistan overnight, the European-Mediterranean Seismological Center (EMSC) said, shaking buildings in Dushanbe. The EMSC said the first quake, 5.8 on the Richter scale, hit late on March 22 northeast of the capital at a depth of 10 kilometers. Hours later, on March 23, people were sent back out into the streets as a 4.5-magnitude earthquake again shook buildings. There were no immediate reports of damages or casualties. The earthquakes were also felt in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Tajik Service, click here.
Zelenskiy Tours Kherson, As Ukrainian Military Points To Signs Of Russian 'Exhaustion' In Bakhmut
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on March 23 visited the partially occupied southern region of Kherson as Kyiv's forces continued to battle Russian troops in the east amid what the Ukrainian military said were the first signs of Russian "exhaustion" in the fierce fighting for the city of Bakhmut.
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, click here.
Ukrainian defenders repelled 83 Russian attacks over the past 24 hours, most of them directed at Bakhmut, the city in the Donetsk region that has become the epicenter of Moscow's offensive in the east, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in its morning bulletin on March 23.
Russians kept their pressure on other settlements in Donetsk, such as Lyman, Avdiyivka, Maryinka, and Shakhtarsk, the military said, adding that "the enemy is losing a significant amount of manpower, weapons, and military equipment."
The claims could not be independently verified.
General Oleksandr Syrskiy, commander of Ukraine's ground forces, said on March 23 that the Russians' relentless push in Bakhmut is beginning to take its toll on their strength and that Ukrainians are preparing to take advantage of their enemy's perceived weakness "very soon."
"The aggressor has not given up hope of taking Bakhmut whatever the cost, despite losses in manpower and equipment. Russia's main fighting force in this area is the Wagner mercenary group," Syrskiy said on Telegram.
"Not sparing anything, they are losing significant strength and becoming fatigued. Very soon, we will take advantage of this opportunity, like we did near Kyiv, Kharkiv, Balaklia and Kupyansk," he said.
British military intelligence has also suggested that Moscow's relentless pressure on Bakhmut, which has been mostly turned to rubble, is beginning to lose momentum in the face of Ukraine's staunch defense amid serious losses sustained by both sides.
But Serhiy Cherevatiy, a spokesman for the Eastern Group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, cautioned that Bakhmut is still seeing intense combat.
"So far, Bakhmut remains the epicenter of hostilities, the main target of the enemy's attack," Cherevatiy told national television, answering a question about whether the Russian offensive near Bakhmut has weakened.
Cherevatiy added that the second-most intense fighting was taking place on the alignment between Kupyansk, in the Kharkiv region, and Lyman, in Donetsk.
Zelenskiy on March 23 visited Kherson, one of four regions that Moscow has groundlessly claimed to have annexed, pledging to restore the region's badly damaged infrastructure as fast as possible.
"We will try to rebuild before winter. Our priority is to restore electricity. Drinking water will also be provided according to the schedule.... I believe that everything will be fine," Zelenskiy said, according to the Ukrainian presidency's webpage.
Zelenskiy's visit to Kherson, the site of a Ukrainian counteroffensive that liberated much of the region in November, marked his second trip to Ukrainian regions in as many days, after he met troops near Bakhmut on March 22, handing them decorations and visiting a military medical facility in the northern Kharkiv region.
WATCH: Residents who have remained in the eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiyivka are now deciding to move somewhere safer as danger grows. The badly battered municipality has seen growing Russian artillery shelling. As the enemy makes small gains in areas around Avdiyivka, Ukrainian soldiers, medics, and police remain committed.
His visits came after Russian air strikes on Ukrainian cities killed at least 10 people, at least eight of them when two dormitories were hit at a school in Rzhyshchiv, south of Kyiv, and one in Kherson city, where missiles struck a cardiology hospital.
Zelenskiy said Moscow's indiscriminate attacks on civilians shows Russia is not interested in peace and accused Russia of "bestial savagery" for targeting civilians.
Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin does not appear to be interested in immediate peace and was engaged "in a war of attrition."
In an interview with The Guardian, the NATO chief said Putin was “reaching out to authoritarian regimes like Iran or North Korea and others to try to get more weapons.”
He said Russia was boosting its military production capacity and cautioned that Ukraine's Western allies must be prepared to supply Kyiv with weapons, ammunition, and military equipment for a long period of time.
“President Putin doesn’t plan for peace. He’s planning for more war,” Stoltenberg said.
With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and dpa
IOC's Bach Defends Stance On Russian, Belarusian Athletes Amid Pro-Ukraine Protest
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach on March 22 defended the IOC's efforts to create a pathway for Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to competition. Bach reiterated the IOC's position that it would be discriminatory to exclude Russians and Belarusians based on citizenship alone and argued that the Olympics can help promote dialogue. German Public broadcaster WDR reported that nearly 200 pro-Ukraine protesters gathered outside the venue where Bach spoke, calling for Russia to be excluded from the Olympics. The IOC has argued in favor of letting the two countries' athletes compete as neutrals. To read the original story by AP, click here.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Urges Brussels To Speed Up EU Enlargement Process
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto has spoken out in favor of EU enlargement, saying that, if the countries in the Western Balkans were already in the European Union, migration problems could be handled more efficiently.
During a visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina on March 22, Szijjarto said that, if the Western Balkans were already EU territory, “we could deal with the problems and difficulties of migration that we face today much more efficiently, and the EU would be stronger.”
More than 265,000 migrants were stopped on Hungary’s southern border last year, Szijjarto said, adding that migration is the main point of cooperation between the Hungarian Interior Ministry and the Bosnian Security Ministry.
“We know that the better and more efficient the cooperation in the Western Balkan countries, the more efficient the migration management is," he said.
Hungary also wants the EU enlargement process to speed up because the stability of Bosnia “is also of great importance for us.”
The EU has promised Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia closer relations, but the integration process has been stalled for years. The EU last admitted a new member, Croatia, in 2013.
“We expect Brussels to take concrete steps on the path of faster accession of [Bosnia] to the EU," Szijjarto said after meeting with Bosnian Foreign Minister Elmedin Konakovic in Sarajevo.
He also addressed sanctions imposed by the EU on Western Balkan countries, saying they had been unsuccessful. Szijjarto's comments echoed those of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has called for the lifting of EU sanctions against Russia imposed over its war in Ukraine.
Critics have said Hungary's position on sanctions has placed short-term economic issues ahead of long-term security, democracy, and human rights.
Szijjarto added that Bosnia and Hungary achieved trade worth 600 million euros ($652 million) last year, which is an increase of 20 percent compared to the previous year.
Konakovic said that cooperation with Hungary is good, the volume of trade is growing, and new opportunities are opening up. He also thanked Szijjarto for supporting Bosnia’s EU candidate status and said Hungarian experts are helping Bosnia in the process.
Szijjarto said later at an energy summit in Trebinje that Hungary does not intend to stop purchasing natural gas from Russia. In the current geopolitical situation, a safe supply of natural gas to Hungary is impossible without Russian sources, he said.
"We are trying to diversify the supply, but with the purchase also from Russia. This is in our interest," said Szijjarto.
After Russia launched its war on Ukraine in February 2022, Brussels imposed several rounds of sanctions limiting the sale of Russian oil and natural gas in Western markets but allowed some carve outs for pipeline deliveries.
Szijjarto said that Hungarians want peace in Ukraine, but Budapest is in a specific situation regarding energy. He added that Hungary needs more time for its diversification efforts to be successful.
Konakovic said Bosnia is very eager to cooperate in the field of energy with all stakeholders.
Christian Schmidt, the international community's high representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina, also met with Szijjarto during his visit to Sarajevo. They discussed political developments in Bosnia with emphasis on the country’s progress toward Euro-Atlantic integration.
With reporting by Ermin Zatega from RFE/RL's Balkan Service in Sarajevo.
Russian Orthodox Church Shares Blame For 'Crimes' In Ukraine, Says Ecumenical Patriarch
The spiritual head of the world's Orthodox Christians said on March 22 that Russia's Orthodox Church shared responsibility for the conflict in Ukraine. "The church and the state leadership in Russia cooperated in the crime of aggression and shared the responsibility for the resulting crimes, like the shocking abduction of the Ukrainian children," Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said at a conference in Vilnius. The comments are a rebuke of Russian Patriarch Kirill, whose blessing for Moscow's invasion of Ukraine has splintered the Orthodox Church. Russian authorities are using the church as an "instrument for their strategic objectives," Bartholomew said. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Maria Pevchikh Named Chief Of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation After Volkov Stepped Down
Maria Pevchikh has been named chairwoman of Aleksei Navalny's International Anti-Corruption Foundation (ACF International) after Leonid Volkov announced his decision to suspend his political and public activities over a letter he signed arguing for lifting EU sanctions on some Russian oligarchs.
Navalny's social networks said on March 22 that Pevchikh is now the new leader of ACF International.
Pevchikh, who lives outside Russia, first became known as an associate of Navalny in 2020 when Navalny was poisoned with what European laboratries later determined was a Novichok-type nerve agent. She was leading the Navalny group’s investigative department at the time and was involved in the team’s most high-profile investigative reports revealing corruption among Russia’s top officials, including President Vladimir Putin.
"Her public work over the past two years has made her a bright political leader," Navalny said on Twitter. "You know her well, and I have no doubt that she will do a fine job in her new capacity as well."
Pevchikh was one of the producers of a film about Navalny that won Best Documentary at the Academy Awards earlier this month.
Volkov, who currently resides in an unspecified EU country, announced the suspension of his activities on March 9 after making "a big political mistake" by signing the letter regarding several London-based oligarchs.
The letter addressed to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell asked for sanctions imposed over Moscow’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine on Russian businessmen Mikhail Fridman, Pyotr Aven, German Khan, and Aleksei Kuzmichyov to be lifted.
The four businessmen are considered antiwar and have contributed to helping Ukraine and humanitarian causes. But they have not openly and clearly condemned the Kremlin's invasion in what some say is out of fear for their businesses in Russia.
Navalny, who is currently in prison serving sentences widely considered to be politically motivated, commented on Volkov's situation on March 22, saying that "Volkov made a mistake" and "took responsibility for it."
"I am grateful to Leonid for his quick and responsible reaction within the spirit of our principles. This is very important.... I also want to apologize to supporters, ACF donors, and the advisory board. We have corrected this mistake, but there has been a mistake, which makes me also responsible for it," Navalny's statement said.
The opposition politician also emphasized his group’s "full commitment to the idea of imposing sanctions against" Putin and his associates.
Volkov's announcement came after Aleksei Venediktov, who headed Ekho Moskvy, one of Russia's leading media outlets until it was taken off the air in March 2022 amid a Russian crackdown on independent media covering the invasion of Ukraine, published Volkov’s letter to Borrell. It was also signed by several self-exiled Russian journalists, public figures, and politicians.
Venediktov also published another letter also signed by Volkov and others that urged the European Commission to lift sanctions imposed on the Russian businessmen.
Volkov initially denied he signed the letter, claiming that his signature was forged. However, he later admitted to signing both of the letters.
Venediktov's decision to publish the letters appeared to be retaliation for an investigative report issued earlier by Navalny's group that listed Venediktov among pro-Kremlin journalists who received significant sums of money from Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin.
Venediktov accepted that his company, Education-21st Century, had received money from the Moscow mayor's office for a project that was stopped right after the Justice Ministry labeled Venediktov a "foreign agent."
Ban On Russian, Belarusian Ice Hockey Teams Extended Through 2023-24 Season
The ice hockey teams of Russia and Belarus will be barred from taking part in international competitions in the 2023-24 season, the sport's governing body said on March 22 citing safety concerns. The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) council determined that it is not yet safe to reincorporate the Russian and Belarusian teams back into IIHF competitions, the council said in a statement. The IIHF suspended all Russian and Belarusian national teams and clubs from international events following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine last year. It later moved the 2023 world championships out of St. Petersburg. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Ukraine's Recovery And Reconstruction Needs Will Cost $411 Billion, Says World Bank
Rebuilding Ukraine's economy after Russia's invasion more than a year ago is now expected to cost $411 billion, a new study by the World Bank, United Nations, European Commission, and Ukraine found. The estimate released on March 22 covers the period spanning one year from Russia's invasion and quantifies the direct physical damage to infrastructure and buildings, the impact on people's lives, and the cost to "build back better," the World Bank said. The amount is 2.6 times Ukraine's expected 2022 gross domestic product and is up sharply from an estimate of $349 billion released last September. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
- By AFP
International Criminal Court Regrets 'Threats' After Putin Arrest Warrant
The legislative body of the International Criminal Court (ICC) said on March 22 that it regretted "threats" against the tribunal over its war crimes arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev reportedly talked about targeting The Hague with a hypersonic missile as a reprisal for the warrant, according to Dutch media. Moscow says it has opened a criminal investigation into ICC prosecutor Karim Khan and several judges over the "unlawful" decision to seek Putin's arrest over the alleged deportation of Ukrainian children.
- By Current Time
Father, Brother Of Russian Activist Barred From Entering Russia For 50 Years
A Russian rights watchdog, Pervy Otdel (the First Unit), on March 22 cited the Federal Security Service as saying that the father and brother of self-exiled activist Arshak Makichyan have been barred from entering Russia for 50 years. A Russian court in October stripped Makichyan and his father, Artur, and brother, Gagik, of their citizenship. Arshak Makichyan, who is currently in Germany, said the court’s decision to strip him and his relatives of citizenship was linked to his position against the war in Ukraine. Arshak Makichyan is originally from Armenia but lived almost all his life in Russia. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.
Andrew Tate To Remain In Romanian Detention For 30 More Days
A Romanian court has ruled for the fourth time to extend by 30 days the preventative arrest of Andrew Tate, the divisive social media influencer who is held on suspicion of organized crime and human trafficking. Tate, 36, a British-U.S. citizen who has 5.4 million Twitter followers, was initially detained in late December in Bucharest, along with his brother Tristan and two Romanian women. None of the four has yet been formally indicted. A spokesperson for Romania’s anti-organized crime agency, DIICOT, said that a judge at the Bucharest Tribunal agreed to keep all four detained while investigations continue. To read the original story by AP, click here.
Concerts By Russian Rock Groups Canceled In Rostov-On-Don Over Anti-War Statements
Authorities in Russia's southwestern city of Rostov-on-Don, near the Ukrainian border, have canceled scheduled summer concerts of several popular rock groups -- including Mashina Vremeni (Time Machine), DDT, and Mumii Troll -- over their public statements condemning Moscow's ongoing unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Mashina Vremeni's leader, Andrei Makarevich, was labeled as a "foreign agent" in November. DDT's leader, Yury Shevchuk, was fined last year for criticizing the war in Ukraine at a concert by his group. Mumii Troll's members have also called for an end to the war. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.
Russian University Student Expelled For Commemorating Writer Killed By Soviet Regime
A university in Russia's Mari El region has expelled Viktor Novogorsky, an activist of the Mari Ushem (Union Of Mari People) organization, after he took part in a commemoration of the founder of the Mari people's literature, Sergei Chavain, who was executed by Josef Stalin's regime in 1937.
Novogorsky wrote on the VK social network on March 22 that the Mari State University in the republic's capital, Yoshkar-Ola, justified its decision to expel him as due to his "underperformance."
However, Novogorsky insists that his performance at the university was very high, as borne out in the school registry that shows his academic progress.
Novogorsky also posted an official letter from the Mari Ushem organization addressed to Russia's Higher Education Ministry and Mari El education officials, asking them to intervene in the situation and make the university reconsider the decision to expel him.
"We are confident that Viktor Novogorsky was expelled over his social activities and statements he placed on his social network accounts. Neither his articles, nor his statements contain anything that would contradict Russian laws and norms laid out in the Criminal or Administrative codes," the letter says, and demands the immediate cancellation of the university's decision to expel Novogorsky.
In November 2022, Novogorsky and another Mari activist, Kyrlya Lyzhin, held an action to commemorate Chavain by laying flowers under his bust in Yoshkar-Ola, visiting the memorial of victims of political repressions, and standing next to Chavain's monument for one hour.
In recent years, Mari Ushem activist have complained that the authorities were trying to restrict the practice of the Mari people's ancient religion, and attempts to preserve their culture and Finnish-Uralic language.
Tensions over languages in Russian regions with large populations of indigenous ethnic groups have increased since 2017, when President Vladimir Putin said children in those regions must not be forced to learn languages that are not their mother tongues, and ordered prosecutors to determine whether that was taking place.
That led officials to abolish mandatory indigenous-language classes in the regions.
The move caused an outcry in ethnic republics and regions where local languages have official status alongside Russian.
Around 52 percent of the 700,000 residents of the Mari El region in the Volga Federal Territory are ethnic Mari. Their traditional religion is based on worshipping forces of nature.
U.K. Inquiry Vows To Get To Bottom Of Afghan Extrajudicial Killings Allegations
The chair of a public inquiry examining "extremely serious" allegations that British armed forces carried out dozens of extrajudicial killings in Afghanistan said on March 22 that any soldiers who had broken the law should face investigation. The independent inquiry was ordered by Britain's Defense Ministry in December 2022 after a BBC TV documentary reported that soldiers from the elite Special Air Service (SAS) had killed 54 people in suspicious circumstances. It also came after two families, who accuse the SAS of killing their relatives in 2011 and 2012, began legal action to demand judicial reviews of their cases. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Kazakh Journalist Jailed After Expressing Plans To Hold Rally Against Election Results
Kazakh journalist Duman Mukhammedkarim was handed a 25-day jail term on March 21 after he announced his plan to hold a rally to protest the official results of parliamentary and local elections held over the weekend. Mukhammedkarim's lawyer, Ghalym Nurpeiisov, said his client was jailed on a charge of violating the laws on mass gatherings. The ruling Amanat party won a majority in the general elections on March 19. International observers said the polls showed some progress over previous votes, while several opposition politicians claimed that the balloting was unfair. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, click here.
Citizen Journalist Jailed In Russian-Occupied Crimea Starts Hunger Strike
A citizen journalist and nurse, Iryna Danylovych, who was sentenced last year to seven years in prison by the Russian-installed authorities in Ukraine's Crimea, launched a hunger strike on March 22 to back her demands for medical assistance. Danylovych insists that she suffered a minor stroke while in custody and her requests for medical attention have been ignored by the detention center's warden and guards. Danylovych was sentenced on a charge of illegally fabricating an explosive device, which she denies. She has reported on issues faced by medical personnel in Russian-occupied Crimea. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Crimea.Realities, click here.
Man In Germany Fined For T-Shirt Supporting Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine
A German court has fined a man for wearing a T-shirt with the letter "Z" -- a sign of support for Russia's war against Ukraine -- stenciled on it. The 49-year-old naturalized German citizen, who moved from Russia to Germany in 1992, was ordered to pay 1,500 euros ($1,612). The man pleaded guilty and apologized for wearing the T-shirt in question. Russian military vehicles in Ukraine are marked with "Z" and "V" letters, and the symbols have been promoted by Russian state media and other Kremlin supporters as patriotic emblems expressing support for the invasion of Ukraine. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.
Academics Commemorate Jailed Tatar Scientist Miftakhov On 30th Birthday
A group of mathematicians from universities in the United States, Europe, Japan, and Russia has commemorated the 30th birthday of jailed Tatar scientist Azat Miftakhov, his fifth while incarcerated on charges he rejects, with a raft of messages and renewed calls for his freedom.
The group on March 21 posted dozens of photos and messages on a website set up to bring attention to Miftakhov's case, which has widely been rejected as politically motivated.
Moscow's Golovinsky district court sentenced Miftakhov, who was then a postgraduate mathematics student at Moscow State University, to six years in prison in January 2021 after finding him guilty of involvement in an arson attack on the ruling United Russia party's office in Moscow in 2018.
Miftakhov has vehemently denied the charges while his lawyers say he is being persecuted for his anarchist beliefs and support for political prisoners.
The group of academics wishing Miftakhov well includes professors, teachers, and postgraduate and graduate students from Harvard University, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the French Academy of Science at Sorbonne University, the Max-Planck-Institut in Germany, the University of Tokyo, and Moscow State University.
RFE/RL correspondents reported that leaflets congratulating Miftakhov on his birthday and reminding people about his case were distributed in several Russian cities including Saratov, Perm, Rostov-on-Don, Yekaterinburg, and Novosibirsk.
Miftakhov was arrested in early 2019 and accused of helping make an improvised bomb found in the city of Balashikha near Moscow.
He was released several days after the initial charge failed to hold, but was rearrested immediately and charged with being involved in the attack on an office of the United Russia political party in January 2018.
The Public Monitoring Commission, a human rights group, has said that Miftakhov's body bore the signs of torture, which the mathematician claimed were the result of investigators unsuccessfully attempting to force him to confess to the bomb-making charge.
A prominent Russian human rights organization, Memorial, recognized Miftakhov a political prisoner at the time, while 2,500 mathematicians from fifteen countries then signed a letter urging the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) to assist in Miftakhov's release.
Former Local Russian Chief Investigator Jailed For 20 Years In Murder Plot
A Russian court on March 22 sentenced the former chief of the Investigative Committee directorate in Volgograd, Mikhail Muzrayev, to 20 years in prison on a charge of organizing the attempted assassination of the regional governor, Andrei Bocharov, in 2016. The court also deprived the 64-year-old Muzrayev, who pleaded not guilty, of the rank of lieutenant general and state honors he was awarded. Muzrayev led the Investigative Committee directorate in Volgograd from 2007 to 2018. In 2019 he was appointed an adviser to Investigative Committee chief Aleksandr Bastrykin. Bocharov survived an arson attack in November 2016. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.
As Xi Ends Russia Visit, Blinken Says China's Diplomatic Support For Moscow Is Counter To U.S. Interests
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has told U.S. lawmakers that China's diplomatic and political support for Russia goes against Washington's interests.
Blinken testified on March 22 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee just as Chinese President Xi Jinping left Russia, wrapping up a three-day visit during which he and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a series of documents on "strategic cooperation."
"I think their diplomatic support, their political support, and to some extent material support for Russia certainly goes against our interest in bringing this war to an end," Blinken said.
Xi's visit was his first to Russia in four years and came amid Moscow's deepening international isolation over its invasion of Ukraine.
Putin described as "successful and constructive" talks at the Kremlin, while Xi said one of the agreements signed by the two authoritarian leaders brings ties into a "new era" of cooperation.
"We signed a statement on deepening the strategic partnership and bilateral ties which are entering a new era," Xi said following talks with Putin on March 21 intended to cement the "no limits" partnership the two leaders announced just weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
On the war in Ukraine, Xi said Beijing backed a diplomatic resolution to the conflict.
"We are guided by the principles of the United Nations...and promote a peaceful settlement" of fighting in Ukraine, Xi said. "We are always for peace and dialogue," he added, reiterating China's "neutral position" on Ukraine.
Western countries have dismissed a Chinese peace proposal -- a 12-point paper calling for a de-escalation and eventual cease-fire in Ukraine -- because it echoes Russian talking points.
Blinken has said that China would cross a red line if it provided substantial military support to Russia. He told lawmakers on March 22 that China thus far has not provided military assistance to Moscow despite ramping up diplomatic support.
"As we speak today, we have not seen them cross that line," Blinken said in response to a question at a Senate committee on whether China was providing "lethal aid" to Russia.
Blinken said China has been warned that it would face serious problems not just from the United States but also other allies of Ukraine if it provided substantial military aid.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on March 21 dismissed Xi's mediation efforts, saying China does not have an impartial position on the war.
Kirby also told reporters at the White House that nothing that came out of the Xi-Putin meeting indicated the war would end soon.
Kirby said it was clear to see during the meeting that Putin hopes to obtain lethal weapons from China.
"You can see in what Mr. Putin is doing...that he's having resource difficulties" and is trying to overcome them, Kirby said.
Kirby added that one reason the United States opposes a cease-fire at this time is because it would give Putin time to make up for the resource shortfall.
During the visit, Xi paid tribute to the "constructive talks" he held with Putin, referring to an expansion of trade and economic cooperation with Russia, including the export of more Chinese electronic goods.
Putin said that additional gas deliveries to China had been agreed, and that the two countries planned to expand their transport links by building roads and bridges.
A joint statement said the burgeoning partnership between the two countries had reached its highest level ever, but the statement said it was not directed against any other country and did not constitute a "military-political alliance."
Relations between Russia and China "do not constitute a bloc, do not have a confrontational nature and are not directed against third countries," the joint statement said.
With reporting by Reuters and AP
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