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U.S. Charges Dual Russian-Canadian Of Ties To Notorious Ransomware Gang

A dual national of Russia and Canada who authorities say participated in a ransomware campaign that extracted tens of millions of dollars from victims has been charged in the United States, the Justice Department announced on November 10. Mikhail Vasiliev is in custody in Canada and awaiting extradition to the United States on charges of involvement in the Lockbit ransomware operation. No lawyer for the 33-year-old Vasiliev of Ontario, Canada, was listed on the court docket. He faces charges of conspiracy to intentionally damage protected computers and transmit ransom demands. To read the original story from AP, click here. To read the press release from the U.S. Justice Department, click here.

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Unknown Assailants Kill 2 Police Officers In Separate Attacks In Daghestan

A rabbi stands in a synagogue in the ancient city of Derbent. (file photo)
A rabbi stands in a synagogue in the ancient city of Derbent. (file photo)

Two police officers were killed on June 23 when gunmen opened fire at a synagogue, an Orthodox church, and a police station in Russia's North Caucasus region of Daghestan, Russian news reports said.

One officer was killed and another was injured in the shootings at the synagogue and church in Derbent, the Interior Ministry of Daghestan said, according to TASS.

A fire broke out in the synagogue after the attack, and the attackers fled in a car.

The attack on the police station occurred in Makhachkala, the capital of Daghestan.

Unknown assailants attacked a traffic police post, killing one police officer and injuring six others, according to Russian news reports.

To read the full report by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Albanian Forward Daku Gets 2-Game Suspension After Leading Offensive Chants At Euro 2024

Albanian forward Mirlind Daku during the UEFA Euro 2024 match against Croatia
Albanian forward Mirlind Daku during the UEFA Euro 2024 match against Croatia

Albania forward Mirlind Daku has been suspended for two games for leading his team's fans in offensive chants about Serbia and North Macedonia at Euro 2024. Daku used a megaphone for joining in the chanting of slogans against the two countries following his side's 2-2 draw with Croatia on June 19 in Hamburg. He later apologized. UEFA said in a statement on June 23 that the Daku had violated the basic rules of decent conduct. It added that an investigation into potential racist and discriminatory conduct by fans at the match was ongoing.

Police In Pakistan's Swat District Arrest 22 Following Mob Killing, Rioting

The aftermath of the June 20 mob violence in the Swat District
The aftermath of the June 20 mob violence in the Swat District

Twenty-two people have been arrested in the restive Swat District of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province following mob violence and the killing of a local tourist accused of blasphemy. Bacha Hazrat, the head of the Swat Police investigative unit, said on June 23 that those arrested are being investigated for murder and terrorist acts in connection with the killing and the subsequent storming of a local police station on June 20. Hazrat also said that a charge of blasphemy had been filed against the victim, who was beaten and set alight after he was accused of defiling a local shrine. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal, click here.

Anniversary Of Prigozhin Mutiny Marked By Detention Of Media Ally

Members of Prigozhin's Wagner mercenary force are seen in southwestern Russia as they marched toward Moscow last year.
Members of Prigozhin's Wagner mercenary force are seen in southwestern Russia as they marched toward Moscow last year.

On the anniversary of the mutiny carried out in Russia by the late mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Federal Security Service (FSB) has detained a top manager of his purported “troll factory.” Ilya Gorbunov, a former top manager of Patriot media, was detained on June 22 in St. Petersburg, according to the local newspaper Fontanka. Gorbunov has reportedly been accused of extorting money from a member of the Public Chamber and former director of the St. Petersburg television channel. Gorbunov was allegedly responsible for covering the march on Moscow by Prigozhin’s Wagner mercenary force on June 23, 2023. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.

Metropolitan Ionafan, Imprisoned By Ukraine For Supporting Russia, Being Sent To Moscow

Metropolitan Ionafan
Metropolitan Ionafan

Metropolitan Ionafan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), who was sentenced to five years in prison in August for his support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has reportedly been released and will be sent to Moscow following the intervention of Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

The development regarding Ionafan of the UOC, formerly known as the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), was announced on June 22 by the Russian Orthodox Church.

The separate Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) gained its ecclesiastical independence from the UOC-MP and the Russian Orthodox Church in 2019. Following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, authorities in Kyiv have accused some UOC-MP clerics of supporting Moscow in the war.

Metropolitan Ionafan, or Anatoliy Yeletskykh, was accused last year of distributing pro-Russian leaflets to his congregation, posting statements on his diocese’s website declaring the primacy of the UOC-MP over the OCU, and of supporting the Russian invasion.

Ionafan was sentenced on August 8 to five years in prison after a court in the Ukrainian city of Vinnytsya found him guilty on four counts, including calling for the violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, taking actions against Ukraine’s constitutional order, and the premeditated violation of citizens’ rights.

Ionafan was the first working UOC diocese head to be sentenced to a prison term in Ukraine in relation to the war. A former metropolitan, Iosaf, was previously sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for distributing pro-Russian propaganda.

Ionafan had been under house arrest following his appeal of his sentence and reportedly suffered a stroke during his incarceration. On June 18, an appeals court upheld his original sentence.

The UOC-MP said that Ionafan had lost his Ukrainian citizenship and would “soon arrive in Moscow,” without providing further details of his release.

Updated

Russia Targets Kyiv Region As Moscow Claims 4 Killed In Attacks On Sevastopol, Belgorod

Residential buildings damaged during a Russian missile strike are seen in the Kyiv region on June 23.
Residential buildings damaged during a Russian missile strike are seen in the Kyiv region on June 23.

Russia launched three missiles targeting Kyiv region in an early morning strike on June 23 after at least two civilians were killed when a residential building was struck by a Russian bomb in the northeastern city of Kharkiv a day earlier.

Ukraine’s Air Force said that two of the three missiles fired at the Kyiv region on June 23 were downed. It was unclear whether the third missile caused any injuries or damage.

The strike came on the same day that Russian officials announced that Ukraine had launched dozens of drones and missiles targeting Russian-occupied territory on Crimea and the southern Russian city of Belgorod.

Russian Strike On Kharkiv Apartment Building Leaves Dead, Injured
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Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Moscow-installed governor of Sevastopol on the occupied Crimean Peninsula, said three people were killed and more than 100 injured in the strike on the peninsula. Razvozhayev said missile fragments fell near a beach on the north side of Sevastopol in a park.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said Ukraine fired five long-range missile systems known as ATACMS, short for Army Tactical Missile System. It said four were shot down and the fifth exploded in midair.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

In Russia’s southwestern Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine, one person was killed and three were injured by Ukrainian drones, said regional Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov.

More than 30 drones were reportedly destroyed over Russia’s western Bryansk, Smolensk, Lipetsk, and Tula regions, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

No casualties were reported by Russian authorities in the two regions.

The General Staff of Ukraine’s’ Armed Forces said on June 23 in its afternoon report on fighting that Russian troops made 81 attempts to advance, most of them in the areas around Kupyansk and Pokrovskiy, where 17 attacks were ongoing as of 4 p.m. local time.

Russia's attacks on Kyiv and Kharkiv earlier on June 23 came a day after Russia launched a large-scale missile and drone attack on Ukraine’s battered energy infrastructure. The strikes damaged power transmission systems in the southeastern Zaporizhzhya and western Lviv regions, Ukrenerho said.

Ukrenerho said the attack was the eighth large-scale strike targeting the country's energy grid over the past three months. Rolling electricity blackouts will be imposed nationwide throughout June 24 as a result of the attack, Ukrenerho announced.

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry said on June 22 that three people were killed in the Kharkiv bombing and at least 56 were injured. The State Emergency Service on June 23 issued revised the figures downward to two killed and 53 injured, including three children.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who has called in recent days for measures to protect Ukraine’s energy system, said during his nightly televised address on June 22 that Russia has dropped more than 2,400 guided bombs on Ukraine this month, including about 700 on Kharkiv alone.

Zelenskiy repeated his plea for additional air defenses from his Western allies and for decisions that would allow Ukraine to destroy Russian combat aircraft "where they are."

With reporting by Reuters, AP, dpa, and AFP

Thousands Gather In Sofia For Annual LGBT Celebration

Bulgarians participate in Pride events in the capital, Sofia, on June 22.
Bulgarians participate in Pride events in the capital, Sofia, on June 22.

Thousands of people gathered in central Sofia on June 22 for the annual LGBT Pride celebration in the Bulgarian capital. "I would define Pride as a celebration of freedom and acceptance. An opportunity and an invitation to be ourselves, not to judge, not to hate, and to love a little more," host Karina Okolies said during the opening of a concert at the event. The LGBT community in Bulgaria has been subject to frequent homophobic attacks in recent years. Earlier this year, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) obliged Bulgaria to provide legal recognition for same-sex relationships. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Bulgarian Service, click here.

Thousands Join Budapest Pride March To Protest Anti-LGBT Policies

People attend the annual Budapest Pride march on June 22.
People attend the annual Budapest Pride march on June 22.

Carrying rainbow flags and dancing through the streets, thousands of Hungarians celebrated the annual Budapest Pride parade on June 22 and vowed to keep protesting the government's anti-LGBT policies. Prime Minister Viktor Orban, in power since 2010, promotes a Christian-conservative agenda and in 2021 banned the "promotion of homosexuality" among under-18s despite strong criticism from rights groups and the EU. Gay marriage is not recognized in Hungary and only heterosexual couples can legally adopt children. Orban's government has redefined marriage as the union between one man and one woman in the constitution and has limited gay adoption.

North Macedonia's Parliament Begins Debates Ahead Of Vote On New Government

North Macedonia's parliament meets on June 22 ahead of its vote on a new government.
North Macedonia's parliament meets on June 22 ahead of its vote on a new government.

North Macedonia's parliament on June 22 began debates ahead of voting on the formation of a new government in the NATO-member nation. The right-wing nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party won a clear victory in both presidential and parliamentary elections on May 9, raising concerns of colder relations with Balkan neighbors and more difficult membership negotiations with the European Union. In line to become prime minister after voting concludes on June 23 is Hristijan Mickoski, 46, a former professor who has vowed to continue North Macedonia's efforts to join the EU, although he has suggested he might seek a renegotiation of terms over issues relating to the small nation's ethnic Bulgarian minority, moves that likely would anger Sofia. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Balkan Service, click here.

Kazakh Authorities Say Suspect Arrested In Attempt In Kyiv On Activist's Life

Aidos Sadyqov is an outspoken critic of Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev and his government.
Aidos Sadyqov is an outspoken critic of Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev and his government.

One of two suspects wanted in connection with the attempted murder in Kyiv of Kazakh opposition activist and journalist Aidos Sadyqov was arrested by Kazakh authorities after turning himself in, Kazakhstan's Prosecutor-General's Office said on June 22.

Sadyqov, an outspoken critic of Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev and his government, was shot on June 18 while he was in his car in the Ukrainian capital and is currently in intensive care. His wife, Natalya Sadyqova, who is also a journalist, was in the vehicle during the attack but was unharmed.

Ukrainian police said investigators established that Sadyqov was shot by two Kazakh suspects -- Altai Zhaqanbaev, born in 1988, and Meiram Qarataev, born in 1991 -- who were added to an international wanted list.

The Kazakh Prosecutor-General's Office said in a statement on June 22 that Zhakanbaev on June 21 "contacted the internal affairs bodies of the Republic of Kazakhstan on his own and was questioned about the circumstances of the case. On the same day, he was arrested on suspicion of committing this crime."

Kazakh Authorities Arrest Suspect In Connection With Journalist's Shooting In Kyiv
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The statement did not say where the arrest took place or in whose custody Zhakanbaev was, adding that it would not release more details "in the interest of the investigation."

It said investigations are under way "to determine the location" of the second suspect, Meiram Qarataev.

Sadyqova has said that Qarataev worked as a police officer in the northern Qostanai region. The Kazakh Interior Ministry, however, claimed that Qarataev had been sacked from the police force in 2019.

Ukraine's Interior Ministry said Zhaqanbaev and Qarataev arrived in Ukraine on June 2 from Poland, renting an apartment and buying a car in Kyiv, after which they surveyed Sadyqov's daily routines.


"On June 18, one of the suspects approached [Sadyqov's] car and shot him, while his accomplice was near the building to act as a lookout. After that, they fled the crime scene," the statement said, adding that the two suspects then left Ukrainian territory via the Ukrainian-Moldovan border.

It was not immediately known who may have ordered the attempt on Sadyqov's life.

The Sadyqovs, along with their children, moved to Kyiv in 2014 after Kazakh authorities launched a case against Sadyqova, who worked as a journalist for the independent Respublika newspaper at the time. She was accused of slander.

Natalya Sadyqova said the attempted assassination against her husband appeared to be a "professional" operation.
Natalya Sadyqova said the attempted assassination against her husband appeared to be a "professional" operation.

On June 19, Sadyqova told RFE/RL that, hours before the attack, she and her husband had issued a new video titled Toqaev Is Putin's Puppet on their YouTube channel.

The video criticizes Toqaev's "pro-Russian politics" and looks at the activities of Russian oligarchs and agents of influence in Kazakhstan, some of whom obtained Kazakh citizenship after Russia launched its ongoing invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

She added that Toqaev would have stood to gain from her husband's killing but did not present any evidence that connected the president in any way to the shooting.

Toqaev's spokesman, Berik Uali, said on June 21 that the Kazakh president "had ordered law enforcement entities to find the two suspects' whereabouts and undertake corresponding measures."

"Kazakhstan's side is ready to cooperate with Ukraine's law enforcement structures, including via Interpol," Uali said.

Sadyqov used to lead a branch of the opposition Azat Social Democratic Party in his native Aqtobe region in Kazakhstan's northwest until 2010. He later headed a group that was a major force for establishing a union to defend the rights of Kazakh workers at the Chinese-owned CNPC-Aktobemunaygaz oil company.

Iran's Supreme Court Overturns Rapper's Death Sentence

Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi had been sentenced to death for "corruption on Earth." (file photo)
Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi had been sentenced to death for "corruption on Earth." (file photo)

Iran's Supreme Court has overturned popular rapper Toomaj Salehi's death sentence, his lawyer said on June 22.

In April, Salehi was sentenced to death by a court in Isfahan on a new charge, "corruption on Earth," as he was serving a six-year prison sentence for his involvement in the 2022 protests that rocked Iran for months.

"As expected, the Supreme Court avoided an irreparable judicial error," Salehi's lawyer, Amir Raisian, wrote on X. "The death sentence was overturned and, based on the appeal decision of the Supreme Court, the case will be referred to a parallel branch for reconsideration."

Salehi, 33, was initially arrested in October 2022 after making public statements in support of the protests that had erupted the previous month following the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died while in police custody for allegedly wearing her head scarf improperly.

After spending much of his pretrial detention in solitary confinement, he was sentenced to six years in prison but released after the Supreme Court, on appeal, found "flaws in the original sentence." His case was sent back to a lower court for reexamination and possible retrial.

He was temporarily released on bail in November after spending over a year in prison, including 252 days in solitary confinement, but then was rearrested shortly after publicly talking about his alleged torture in prison in a video.

Raisian said on June 22 that the Supreme Court also annulled the previous six-year sentence because "it is in excess of legal punishment."

Salehi gained prominence for lyrics that rail against corruption, widespread poverty, executions, and the killing of protesters in Iran.

His songs also point to a widening gap between ordinary Iranians and the country's leadership, accusing the authorities of "suffocating" the people without regard for their well-being.

Ex-Marine Paul Whelan Urges U.S. To Step Up Efforts To Free Him From Russian Prison

Paul Whelan marked 2,000 days in Russian detention by speaking with CNN by telephone from prison. (file photo)
Paul Whelan marked 2,000 days in Russian detention by speaking with CNN by telephone from prison. (file photo)

Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who is serving a 16-year prison sentence in Russia on charges he and the U.S. government have rejected as politically motivated, has asked the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden to step up pressure on Russia to secure his release and that of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich.

Whelan, 54, was arrested in Moscow in December 2018 on espionage charges and sentenced to 16 years in prison in May 2020 following a trial that was condemned by the United States as a "mockery of justice.”

As he marked 2,000 days in Russian detention, Whelan on June 21 told CNN by phone from prison that the U.S. government should take more decisive action to secure his and Gershkovich's release, possibly in a prisoner exchange.

"The U.S. needs to go out and do something, fill up Guantanamo Bay [detention facility] with Russian officials, arrest Russian spies -- do something that makes the Kremlin sit up and take notice and say, 'OK, yeah, right. Now it's time that we're gonna get Evan [Gershkovich] and Paul back and then we want back what you've got of ours, and we'll call it a day,'" Whelan told CNN.

Gershkovich became the first U.S. journalist arrested on spying charges in Russia since the Cold War when he was detained in March 2023 and charged with trying to obtain military secrets. He and his employer have vehemently denied the charges as politically motivated.

Gershkovich, who like Whelan has been designated by the U.S. government as "wrongfully detained," is being held in pretrial detention and is due to go on trial on June 26.

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

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

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

Unlike Whelan and Gershkovich, Kurmasheva has yet to be designated as "wrongfully detained."

Such a designation would ensure that her case would be assigned to the office of the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs in the U.S. State Department, raising the political profile of her situation and allowing the Biden administration to allocate more resources to securing her release.

Russia Prosecutes Artists, Historian For Alleged 'Foreign Agent' Violations

Russian pop singer Monetochka
Russian pop singer Monetochka

Moscow's Prosecutor-General's Office has demanded that Russia's Investigative Committee open criminal cases against three women who have been on placed on the "foreign agent" register: singer Monetochka, actress Yana Troyanova, and historian Tamara Eidelman. Monetochka, whose real name is Elizaveta Gyrdymova, is accused of continuing to distribute materials on social networks without indicating that she is on the "foreign agent" list. Troyanova is accused of inciting hatred or enmity on the basis of nationality after giving an interview to Novaya Gazeta Europe. Eidelman is accused of “voicing clear disrespect" for Russia's military in her regular YouTube history program. To read the original story by Current Time, click here.

Former Regional Governor In Russia Released After Serving 8-Year Term

Former Kirov Governor Nikita Belykh attends a court hearing in Moscow on April 27, 2018.
Former Kirov Governor Nikita Belykh attends a court hearing in Moscow on April 27, 2018.

The former governor of Russia's Kirov region, Nikita Belykh, was released from prison on June 21 after serving an eight-year prison term on a bribe-taking charge that he has rejected.

Belykh's lawyer, Andrei Grokhotov, said his client will attend a hearing in five days into an appeal filed by prosecutors and Belykh's defense team regarding a court ruling last year on a different case against the former governor.

In late December, a court in the Kirov region sentenced Belykh to an additional 2 1/2 years in prison on a charge of abuse of power but spared him from serving the punishment citing the statute of limitations.

Meanwhile, prosecutors sought an additional 12 years for Belykh on two charges of abuse of power, but the judge acquitted Belykh of the more serious of the two charges due to lack of evidence, handing him only a 2 1/2-year sentence on the lesser of the two charges. Statute of limitations deadlines also mean he won't serve that prison term.

The 12 years requested by prosecutors would have included the time Belykh had already served, meaning the additional charges filed against Belykh in 2021 would have added about four years to his prison time.

However, Belykh's eight-year prison term was not changed.

One of the highest-ranking officials to be arrested in office since President Vladimir Putin was first elected in 2000, Belykh maintained his innocence, saying he is the victim of a provocation by law enforcement authorities.

Once a leader of a liberal opposition party, the Union of Right Forces, Belykh was one of the few provincial governors in Russia not closely allied with Putin.

Before serving as Kirov governor, Belykh was a deputy governor of Perm Oblast and a lawmaker in the Perm Oblast Legislative Assembly.

He conducted several political campaigns in opposition to Putin's policies and was sharply criticized by liberals, such as former ally Boris Nemtsov -- who was assassinated in February 2015 -- when he accepted the appointment in 2009 by then-President Dmitry Medvedev.

Putin fired Belykh in July 2016, shortly after his arrest.

Russia Adds Director Roman Kachanov, Others To 'Foreign Agent' List

Russian film director Roman Kachanov
Russian film director Roman Kachanov

Russia's Justice Ministry has added prominent film director Roman Kachanov, who has condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine, to its "foreign agent" list, the ministry's website said. The ministry also added to the list St. Petersburg regional politician Nikita Kirillov, political strategist Sergei Antonov, and St. Petersburg municipal deputy Vladimir Volokhonsky, who had been previously included by Rosfinmonitoring on a list of “extremists and terrorists.” Another new name on the list is French political scientist Laurent Vinatier, who was arrested in Moscow earlier this month and is now in pretrial detention on a charge of violating the "foreign agent" law. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Russian Service, click here.

Updated

Kyiv Reports 'Massive' Attack Targeting Energy Infrastructure; 3 Killed In Kharkiv

Rescue workers remove the body of a local resident killed by a Russian air strike in the center of Kharkiv on June 22.
Rescue workers remove the body of a local resident killed by a Russian air strike in the center of Kharkiv on June 22.

Ukraine's Energy Ministry and the national grid operator Ukrenerho say the country's battered energy infrastructure was targeted again in a large-scale Russian missile and drone attack early on June 22.

Separately, Mayor Ihor Terekhov said that at least three people were killed and at least 38 injured in a Russian bomb attack on a civilian site in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city some 30 kilometers from the Russian border.

“There are dead and wounded. The strike hit a residential building,” Terekhov wrote on Telegram.

Regional Governor Oleh Synyehubov said on Telegram that "doctors are fighting for the lives of four of the patients -- two women and two men, who are in serious condition."

The latest series of strikes damaged power transmission systems in the Zaporizhzhya and Lviv regions, Ukrenerho said in a statement on Telegram, adding that two employees needed hospitalization after sustaining injuries in the attack in the Zaporizhzhya region.

Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine

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

The Energy Ministry said that, because of the attack, the overhead power lines in eastern Ukraine were disconnected, which led to a decrease in energy supply in the region.

Ukrenerho said the attack was the eighth large-scale strike targeting the country's energy grid over the past three months.

Ukraine's military, meanwhile, said its air defense systems shot down 12 of 16 missiles and all 13 drones launched by Russia overnight.

Russia's Defense Ministry has not commented on the attack, which was the second one in as many days.

In the June 21 attack, five residents of the Donetsk region were killed and seven others were wounded, the head of the regional military administration, Vadym Filashkin, announced on June 22 on Telegram.

Over the past several months, Russia has systematically targeted Ukraine's critical energy infrastructure, causing enormous damage and triggering rolling blackouts affecting the civilian population.

According to estimates, about half of Ukraine's power-generating capacity has been destroyed.

Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address of June 22 that Russia has fired 2,400 guided bombs against Ukraine this month, including some 700 against Kharkiv alone.

The president repeated his constant plea for additional air defenses from his Western allies.

"We need strong decisions from our partners so that we can destroy Russian terrorists and Russian combat aircraft where they are," he said. "We are grateful for the approved [weapons] packages, but we need them in full supply and on the battlefield – without delays."

Zelenskiy said during a June 20 meeting with senior Ukrainian military officials that he hopes to develop a renewable energy infrastructure to offset the energy crisis caused by the Russian attacks.

In return, Ukrainian drones have struck deeper inside Russia, damaging energy facilities critical for Moscow's military effort, mainly oil installations.

On June 22, Russia's Defense Ministry said its air defense systems downed five Ukrainian drones over the Sea of Azov and the Bryansk and Smolensk regions. It did not say if the Ukrainian attack had caused any damage or injuries.

On June 21, Ukraine's military said its long-range attack drones had struck four oil refineries and radar stations inside Russia.

The claim could not be independently verified.

Balkan Nations Work To Restore Electrical Supplies Following Major Power Outage

A massive Balkan power outage caused traffic lights to go dark in Sarajevo on June 21.
A massive Balkan power outage caused traffic lights to go dark in Sarajevo on June 21.

Authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, and Albania are working to stabilize electrical supplies following a major power outage on June 21. Montenegrin Energy Minister Sasa Mujovic said the shutdown was caused by a sharp increase in electricity consumption due to high temperatures, but also by the heat itself. Electricity distribution systems are interconnected in countries across the Balkans. Enver Kreso, the former director of the Electric Power Industry of Bosnia-Herzegovina, told RFE/RL that "if the problem persists, there will be big consequences. Hospitals are switching to generators, traffic is in trouble, the consequences can be very big. There will be problems with communications, but also with water supply," Kreso said. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Balkan Service, click here.

Russian Citizen Detained In Montenegro At U.S. Request Over Alleged Election Interference

A Russian citizen has been detained in Montenegro at the request of the United States over alleged illegal interference in the 2020 U.S. election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
A Russian citizen has been detained in Montenegro at the request of the United States over alleged illegal interference in the 2020 U.S. election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

A Russian citizen has been detained in Montenegro at the request of U.S. authorities on suspicions of having illegally interfered in the 2020 U.S. election, according to Russian and Montenegrin media on June 21. The person detained was identified only as "A.M." Montenegro’s Justice Ministry declined to comment on the matter when contacted by RFE/RL. The DAN media portal of Montenegro reported that Justice Minister Andrej Milovic approved the "temporary detention" of the Russian citizen for alleged illegal interference in the U.S. election and unlawful financing in the United States.

Pakistani Security Forces Killed In Bomb Attack Claimed By Tehrik-e Taliban

Residents of Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province protest against a lack of security in the region in a June 15 demonstration that condemned both the government and extremists.
Residents of Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province protest against a lack of security in the region in a June 15 demonstration that condemned both the government and extremists.

Pakistan's military said at least five soldiers in a troop convoy were killed by a roadside bomb in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province near the Afghan border in an attack claimed by the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a longtime ally of the Afghan Taliban. The attack comes after the group announced a unilateral cease-fire on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr holiday from June 17-19. The region has seen an increase in the number of deadly attacks in the past year attributed to the TTP. Relations between Afghanistan's Islamist rulers and Pakistan have been tense since the Taliban returned to power in 2021, with Islamabad blaming the Taliban for sheltering the TTP. Residents of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have protested against the lack of security provided by Islamabad and against the actions of extremists. To read the original story by Radio Mashaal, click here.

No Afghan 'Reintegration' Without Progress On Rights, Says UN

Afghan women on June 10 protest against the Taliban's upcoming participation in a UN conference in Doha.
Afghan women on June 10 protest against the Taliban's upcoming participation in a UN conference in Doha.

Restrictions on women's rights continue to prevent Afghanistan's "reintegration" into the international community, a senior UN official said on June 21, adding that the Taliban's participation in talks in Doha on June 30-July 1 is not legitimization of the isolated hard-liners' government. Since their 2021 return to power, Taliban authorities have not been formally recognized by any nation and apply a rigorous interpretation of Islam, leading to suppression of women's freedoms that the UN has described as gender apartheid. Restrictions on women and girls, particularly in education, "deprive the country of vital human capital" and lead to a brain drain that undermines the impoverished country's future, Roza Otunbayeva, head of the UN mission in the country, UNAMA, told the Security Council.

U.S. Sanctions Senior Kaspersky Officials Day After Setting Plans To Bar Antivirus Sales

The United States has sanctioned top leaders of Kaspersky Labs, which it says is under the "control" and "direction" of the Russian government.
The United States has sanctioned top leaders of Kaspersky Labs, which it says is under the "control" and "direction" of the Russian government.

The United States imposed sanctions on 12 members of the Kaspersky Lab leadership team on June 21, a day after announcing plans to bar sales of antivirus software made by the Russian firm, citing cybersecurity risks. The U.S. Treasury targeted the company’s chief operating officer, Andrei Tikhonov, although the chief executive and the company itself weren’t directly sanctioned. The action "underscores our commitment to ensure the integrity of our cyber domain and to protect our citizens against malicious cyber threats," the Treasury said. A State Department statement said the company is “subject to jurisdiction, control, or direction of the Russian government, which could exploit the privileged access to obtain sensitive data." Kaspersky denied it is a threat to U.S. security.

Zelenskiy Hails Ukraine's Soccer Victory, Draws Parallels To War Effort

The Ukrainian soccer team poses before its June 21 victory over Slovakia in a Euro 2024 match.
The Ukrainian soccer team poses before its June 21 victory over Slovakia in a Euro 2024 match.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on June 21 congratulated the country's national soccer team's victory over Slovakia at the Euro 2024 championships in Germany, drawing parallels to the country's fight against Russia's full-scale invasion. "Believe in each other! Support each other! Fight for each other! This is what should unite each of us. And now each of us in his place must fight: for freedom, life, and for the correct perception of Ukraine in the world," he wrote on Telegram. "This is exactly what the Ukrainian national team is doing today. Keep it up, men!" he added following the team’s 2-1 win, it's first of the tournament, over Slovakia in Dusseldorf.

Blinken Condemns Steps By Russia, North Korea To Deepen Military Ties

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned moves this week by Russian President Vladimir Putin with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to deepen military cooperation. (file photo)
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned moves this week by Russian President Vladimir Putin with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to deepen military cooperation. (file photo)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned deepening military cooperation between the North Korea and Russia, including the transfer of arms in violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions, the State Department said on June 21. In a call with South Korean Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul, the top U.S. diplomat also reaffirmed the vital importance of the "ironclad" U.S.-South Korea alliance in "promoting peace, security, and prosperity around the world," spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement. Blinken also thanked the South Korean minister for his country’s continued support for Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this week signed a defense deal during Putin's visit to Pyongyang.

Orban Adopts 'MEGA' Trump-Like Motto For Hungary's EU Presidency

A Fidesz party supporter wears a T-shirt with a portrait of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during the EU elections in Budapest on June 9.
A Fidesz party supporter wears a T-shirt with a portrait of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during the EU elections in Budapest on June 9.

Hungary, led by the Donald Trump-friendly Prime Minister Viktor Orban, has announced a new motto for when it takes over the European Union's rotating presidency next month: "Make Europe Great Again."

The decision by Budapest to use the motto that emulates Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan, has been met with incredulity among EU officials, who see it, as one told RFE/RL, as "jaw-dropping."

"We know them, and we are not stupid, so we see it for what it is: trolling, by lack of any substantive policy," said another diplomatic source from a Western EU nation.

In announcing the slogan, the Hungarian presidency made no mention of Trump or the motto emblazoned on the red hats of almost every one of his supporters, saying it was inspired by the "world-famous Hungarian invention, the Rubik's cube," a puzzle created by Erno Rubik half a century ago.

But Trump and Orban enjoy a close political relationship that both have played up over the years.

In March, the Hungarian politician known for his populist, right-wing views visited Trump at his Mar-a-Lago U.S. compound where the former president said there's "no better leader" than Orban.

Countries are allowed to adopt a slogan for their EU presidency -- Hungary officially takes its seat on July 1 -- and they rarely consult with the other 26 EU member states if they do.

One official from the European Parliament admitted to RFE/RL that "everyone was first shocked. We thought it was a joke but then everyone said the same: classic Orban."

"Classic Orban" has come to mean a thorn in the side of Brussels in recent years.

Orban, who has governed Hungary with a parliamentary supermajority since 2010, has angered many leaders in the EU with perceived attacks on democracy and the bloc's founding principles and inclusivity, his opposition to sanctions on Russia and military aid for Ukraine, and his close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

His Fidesz party campaigned heavily during European parliamentary elections earlier this month on Hungarians' fears of being drawn into the war in neighboring Ukraine.

Fidesz won 11 of Hungary's 21 European Parliament seats, but that is one fewer than it previously held as Peter Magyar, a former Orban loyalist mounted a more EU-friendly challenge with a new party, Respect and Freedom (Tisza), that took seven seats.

These days the EU presidency is largely symbolic. Since 2009 there is a permanent President of the European Council, currently held by the Belgian Charles Michel, who chairs the important EU summits of leaders.

Officials from the presidency holder are essentially tasked with chairing ministerial meetings and diplomatic working groups in Brussels.

While a country often tries to add a certain "accent" to its presidency by pushing a particular political file, the main task tends to be one of an honest broker, trying to forge compromises between EU member states.

Many diplomats have said they doubt Budapest will be able to impact policy too much since the agenda for the second half of 2024 will be dominated by filling the bloc's tops jobs and getting a new European Commission, the EU's executive body, in place by the end of the year.

One official told RFE/RL that while the Hungarian motto "is of course provocative...luckily, Hungary doesn't have the influence in the EU that Orban thinks and wants."

Former Chairman Of Tajik Parliament Reportedly Detained Amid Arrests

Akbarshoh Iskandarov was summoned to the Prosecutor-General's Office for questioning on June 13 and 14 and has been held in custody since the second visit. (file photo)
Akbarshoh Iskandarov was summoned to the Prosecutor-General's Office for questioning on June 13 and 14 and has been held in custody since the second visit. (file photo)

DUSHANBE -- The former chairman of Tajikistan's parliament, which was known as the Supreme Council until the early 1990s, has reportedly been detained on unspecified charges.

Several sources told RFE/RL on June 21 that Akbarshoh Iskandarov was summoned to the Prosecutor-General's Office for questioning on June 13 and 14 and has been held in custody since the second visit.

They added that about 50 people in total were summoned to the Prosecutor-General's Office at the time, all of whom were released but ordered not to leave Dushanbe.

Neither Tajik officials nor Iskandarov's relatives would comment on the situation.

The 73-year-old veteran politician briefly served as the acting president of the Central Asian nation in the wake of uprisings in the early 1990s that led to a devastating five-year civil war that started in 1992.

Recently, Iskandarov worked at the Tajik Science Academy's Institute of Philosophy, Political Sciences, and Law.

In the past, he served as Tajikistan's ambassador to Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Turkmenistan.

RFE/RL's Tajik Service sent an official query to the Prosecutor-General's Office asking for comments regarding the case but did not receive a response.

A day earlier, several other sources told RFE/RL that Tajik authorities had detained former Foreign Minister Hamrohkhon Zarifi on unspecified charges last week.

One source close to law enforcement said Zarifi was suspected of financial crimes related to the construction of the Foreign Ministry's new building.

Zarifi served as the tightly controlled former Soviet republic’s foreign minister from 2006 to 2013. From 2015 until his retirement in 2018, Zarifi served as Tajikistan's ambassador to Japan.

Last week, investigators also arrested lawmaker Saidjafar Usmonzoda on a charge of "usurping power." No further explanation of the charge was given, and it remains unclear if the arrests are linked.

On June 14, Tajik Prosecutor-General Yusuf Rahmon publicly said that "Usmonzoda and other individuals" are suspected of attempted power seizure.

Rahmon did not specify who the "others" were.

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