Kyiv Slams Russia’s ‘Provocative Actions’ In Black Sea

The Turkish vessel that had warning shots fired at it had been bound for the Ukrainian port city of Izmail. (file photo)

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on August 14 condemning what it called Russia’s “provocative actions” after Moscow said one of its warships fired warning shots at a cargo vessel in the Black Sea. The Ukrainian ministry “strongly condemns the provocative actions carried out by the Russian Federation on August 13 in the Black Sea in relation to the Turkish dry cargo vessel ‘Sukru Okan,’ which was en route to the [Ukrainian Danube] port of Izmail,” it said in a statement. “The Russian Navy grossly violated the UN Charter, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and other norms of international law,” the statement said. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, click here.

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Munition Explodes At Military Airport In Kazakhstan, Killing Personnel Member

A military airbase in Kazakhstan (file photo)

A munition exploded while a military plane was being prepared for a flight at an airport in Kazakhstan’s southeastern city of Taldyqorghan on August 15, wounding two people, one of whom died later. The Central Asian nation’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that no other details could be made public as investigations are under way.

This a developing story.

Iranian Director Saeed Roustayi Sentenced For Award-Winning Film

A still from Leila’s Brothers, a 2022 Iranian film directed and written by Saeed Roustayi that was banned by the authorities before its release.

Celebrated Iranian director and screenwriter Saeed Roustayi has been sentenced to six months of correctional imprisonment for the production and screening of his film Leila’s Brothers at the Cannes Film Festival.

The verdict, issued by Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Court, stated that 1/20th — or about nine days — of the sentence will be enforced, with the remainder suspended for five years.

Before its release last summer, Iran’s Cinema Organization at the Ministry of Islamic Guidance banned the film about the tribulations of a woman trying to keep her family solvent amid corruption and the effects of international sanctions, saying the producer and director “violated and disobeyed regulations.”

The ban came after the critically acclaimed film won the FIPRESCI Prize from international critics at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. It was also nominated for the Palme d’Or award for best film.

While accepting the FIPRESCI award, Roustayi said it was made in honor of the grieving people of Abadan after the deadly collapse of a tower building in the southwestern Iranian city killed 43 people. The collapse of the partially finished 10-story Metropol building sparked angry protests in solidarity with the families of the dead.

Roustayi’s speech angered authorities who quickly moved to prevent the film from screening in Iran.

Additionally, the court has ordered Roustayi to refrain from associating with individuals active in the film industry and to complete a 24-hour filmmaking course at the Qom Sound and Vision Academy, focusing on national and ethical interests.

As part of the suspended sentence’s conditions, Roustayi is required to “refrain from activities related to the committed crime or using tools effective in it,” “avoid contact and association with individuals active in the film industry,” and “attend a filmmaking course at the Qom Sound and Vision Academy.”

Such acts of civil disobedience have increased in Iran since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the morality police last September for an alleged hijab offense.

While the protests appear to be waning, resistance to the hijab is likely to increase, analysts say, as it is seen now as a symbol of the state’s repression of women and the deadly crackdown on society.

Several Iranian cinematographers and prominent public figures have also been summoned by the police or arrested, including director Hamid Porazari.

Other celebrities, including prominent Iranian actresses Afsaneh Bayegan, Fatemeh Motamed-Arya, Katayon Riahi, and Pantea Bahram, have been interrogated and faced legal action after they made public appearances without wearing the mandatory hijab to show support for the protesters.

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

Retired Russian Intelligence Colonel Who Supports War In Ukraine Fined For Posts He Says Weren’t His

Retired intelligence Colonel Vladimir Kvachkov (left) told a court on August 15 that Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Defense Ministry “discredit the armed forces as they do not know how to conduct a war.”

A Moscow court on August 15 ordered retired intelligence Colonel Vladimir Kvachkov, an ardent supporter of Russia’s war in Ukraine, to pay a 40,000 rubles fine ($400) for discrediting Russian armed forces. The charge against Kvachkov stemmed from his online posts criticizing the country’s top military officials. Kvachkov told the courtroom that he had nothing to do with the posts. However, he added that in his opinion, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Defense Ministry “discredit the armed forces as they do not know how to conduct a war.” Kvachkov was released from prison in 2019 after serving more than eight years on terrorism charges. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Russian Service, click here.

U.S. State Department Confirms Dalili Not Part Of Iran Swap Package

Relatives of Shahab Dalili protested outside the White House on August 13 with signs calling for his release.

The U.S. State Department has confirmed that Shahab Dalili, an Iranian who has U.S. residency, is not among the detainees set to be released as part of a deal between Tehran and Washington.

Vedant Patel, a deputy spokesman at the State Department, said on August 14 that Washington can’t yet designate Dalili’s case as “wrongfully or unjustly detained in Iran” to include him in any swap. Dalili, who holds U.S. permanent residency, has been imprisoned in Iran since 2016.

Under an agreement announced earlier this month, Iranian and U.S. officials said five Americans, all of whom are U.S.-Iranian dual citizens, have been moved to house arrest from the notorious Evin prison where they were being held. Only three of the five — Siamak Namazi, Emad Sharghi, and Morad Tahbaz — were identified. The other two did not want their names released.

The release of the Americans is part of a larger deal involving $6 billion to $7 billion frozen in South Korea, Iran acknowledged. The United States has declined to confirm the amount of money involved but said it was not U.S. taxpayer dollars and denied it was a ransom.

Senior Iranian officials have stated that the five will remain in Iran until all conditions — which also includes the release of several Iranian prisoners in the United States — are met. The identities of the Iranians have not been disclosed.

According to Patel, Abram Paley, the deputy special envoy for Iran, has been in communication with Dalili’s family regarding the matter. Patel added that the U.S. government is actively reviewing certain cases and continues to assess criteria for “wrongful detention.”

Dalili was arrested seven years ago when he returned to Tehran to attend his father’s funeral. He was detained by security forces while en route to the airport in the capital to return home. Dalili’s family has said he was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of “collaborating with a hostile government.”

Darin Dalili, Shahab’s son, began a hunger strike outside the White House on August 13 to protest against the government’s failure to recognize his father as an unjustly detained American in Iran. Upon learning of his son’s hunger strike, Dalili also began a hunger strike.

The agreement to release the funds, frozen from oil sales to South Korea, has faced sharp criticism from U.S. Republicans who describe it as a ransom payment for dual-national detainees.

Mike Turner, the Republican head of the Intelligence Committee in the House of Representatives, has said Congress should consider a travel ban to prevent Americans from traveling to Iran.

The Biden administration has repeatedly emphasized its efforts to end the suffering of unjustly detained individuals and the pain their families suffer during their detention.

Iranian security forces have taken some 40 foreign nationals into custody during a current wave of unrest, often without revealing any charges.

Western countries have repeatedly said Iran is trying to take advantage of foreign countries by taking dual and foreign nationals hostage to use in prisoner swaps.

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

Belarus Shuts Down Opposition United Civil Party As Civil Society Crackdown Continues

A 2022 congress of the United Civil Party in Belarus

Amid an intense crackdown on dissent, Belarus’s Supreme Court ordered the closure of the longstanding opposition United Civil Party, the Vyasna rights group said on August 15. This follows the recent dissolution of the prominent Belarusian Popular Front Party on August 14. United Civil Party leaders, including Nikolay Kozlov, Oksana Alekseeva, and Antonina Kovaleva, were earlier sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for taking part in 2020 Minsk protests. Since the start of this year, Belarusian authorities have also stopped the activities of the Green Party, the Republican Party, the Social Democratic Party of People’s Accord, and the Belarusian Social Democratic Party. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Belarus Service, click here.

Three Bulgarians Suspected Of Being Russian Spies Arrested In Britain

Biser Djambazov and Katrin Ivanova

Three Bulgarian nationals suspected of spying for Russia in the U.K. have been arrested and charged as part of a major national security investigation, the BBC reported on August 15. RFE/RL contacted the Bulgarian Embassy in London for confirmation, but it said it had no information at the moment and had not been contacted by British authorities. The BBC named the suspects as Orlin Rusev, 45, Biser Djambazov, 41, and Katrin Ivanova, 31. The A spokeswoman for the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said the department is still investigating the case. The accused were arrested in February and have been in custody since then, according to the BBC. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Bulgarian Service, click here.

Russian Court Issues Arrest Warrant For Self-Exiled Journalist Sergei Podsytnik

Sergei Podsytnik, the editor of Protokol.Samara, had reported about Russian troops’ shelling of the Ukrainian eastern city of Makiyivka in late December.

A court in Russia’s Volga city of Samara has issued an arrest warrant for Sergei Podsytnik on a charge of distributing false news about Russia’s armed forces involved in Moscow’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. In June, the editor of Protokol.Samara, who fled Russia last year, was added to the wanted persons registry. His colleagues have suggested the charge against him stems from his report about Russian troops’ shelling of the Ukrainian eastern city of Makiyivka in late December. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Idel.Realities, click here.

Turkey Detains Woman Suspected Of Involvement In 2016 Russian Ambassador’s Assassination

Mevlut Mert Altintas, an off-duty policeman, shouts after shooting Andrei Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Turkey (right), at an art gallery in Ankara on December 19, 2016.

Police in Istanbul reportedly detained a woman on April 14 who was allegedly involved in the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Ankara, Andrei Karlov, in 2016. Turkish media on August 15 aired a video showing police detaining a woman whose identity was not disclosed. Reports cited police officials as saying the woman was an acquaintance of Mevlut Mert Altintas, who was killed by police at a public event in Ankara in late 2016 right after he shot Karlov. In 2021, 13 Turks were handed prison terms, including five life sentences, for their roles in the assassination preparations. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Echo of the Caucasus, click here.

Russian Central Bank Hikes Key Interest Rate As Ruble Weakens Sharply

On August 14, the Russian currency broke through 101 rubles to the dollar, putting its loss at more than 40 percent since January.

Russia’s central bank on August 15 raised its key interest rate to 12 percent as the ruble fell sharply amid Western sanctions imposed over Moscow’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. A day earlier, the Russian currency broke through 101 rubles to the dollar, putting its loss at more than 40 percent since January. After the central bank announced its decision to raise rates, the ruble firmed before losing most of its gains to trade at around 98 to the dollar. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Russian Service, click here.

Police Detain Mother Of Belarusian Activist Fighting With Ukrainians Against Russian Invasion

The Vyasna (Spring) human rights center said on August 15 that Ina Kalatskaya is suspected of “involvement in extremism.”

Police in the western Belarusian city of Brest have detained Ina Kalatskaya, the mother of noted activist Tsikhan Klyukach, who is currently fighting alongside Ukrainian armed forces against invading Russian troops. The Vyasna (Spring) human rights center said on August 15 that Kalatskaya is suspected of “involvement in extremism.” Klyukach served an 18-month prison handed to him in 2021 for taking part in rallies challenging the official results of the August 2020 presidential election that declared the country’s authoritarian leader, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the winner. He was released in March and left Belarus for Poland and later joined Ukrainian armed forces. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Belarus Service, click here.

Police In Daghestan Search Apartment Of Self-Exiled Rights Defender Accused Of Discrediting Russia’s Armed Forces

Russian rights activist Svetlana Anokhina (file photo)

Police in Russia’s North Caucasus republic of Daghestan have searched the apartment of Svetlana Anokhina, a self-exiled rights defender who is under investigation over her posts on Instagram that are critical of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Anokhina wrote on Facebook that the search on August 14 was conducted while her 93-year-old mother and her daughter were present, adding that police did not confiscate anything as she had taken all of her electronic devices with her. Anokhina, who founded the Marem human rights center in Daghestan, is known for her activities defending the rights of women and the LGBT community in the mostly Muslim-populated region. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Russian Service, click here.

Kyiv Says Russia Has Detained Scores Of Ukrainian Citizens In Crimea

Police officers arrest a local resident in the Crimean capital, Simferopol. (file photo)

The office of the President of Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea says Russian-imposed authorities in the region have detained 180 citizens, including 117 Crimean Tatars, for politically motivated reasons. The office said 138 remain in custody while others have been found guilty and fined for offenses including discrediting Russia’s army, having a Ukrainian state emblem as a tattoo, and dancing to a Ukrainian song. Since Russia seized Crimea in 2014, Russian authorities have prosecuted dozens of Crimean Tatars on various charges that rights organizations say have been trumped up. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Crimea.Realities, click here.

UN Confirms 9,444 Civilian Deaths In Ukraine Since Start Of Russia’s Invasion

A Ukrainian civilian lies dead on the streets of Mariupol during Russia’s brutal siege of the city last year.

The United Nations has confirmed the deaths of 9,444 civilians in Ukraine as a result of Russia’s full-scale invasion. The UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said on August 15 that 545 children were among the dead. The office also confirmed that 16,940 people have been injured, including 1,126 children, since the Kremlin launched its invasion in February 2022. The actual number of casualties is thought to be much higher as information from some places where fighting has been intense has yet to come in, while many other reports of deaths still need to be verified, the UN said. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, click here.

Kyrgyzstan Arrests Citizen On Charge Of Serving With Wagner Group In Ukraine

A second Kyrgyz citizen, who was part of the private Wagner mercenary group, has been detained on a charge of taking part in Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, relatives and several sources told RFE/RL.

The 27-year-old man from the Naryn region of north Kyrgyzstan, left the country for Russia in 2020. Russian police arrested him in 2021 on suspicion of carrying drugs and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The father of two, whose identity was not disclosed, was detained on August 1 after returning from Russia, according to his wife.

“My husband was detained under false accusations. He was always complaining about the poor condition of the Russian prison and was forced to join Wagner. He went to fight in Ukraine and in July, his contract ended,” she said.

Wagner, a private Russian mercenary group, has recruited tens of thousands of prisoners in Russia to bolster its ranks. The recruits are promised clemency if they complete a six-month stint with Wagner, which recently pulled its troops out of Ukraine after a short-lived mutiny against Russia’s military leaders.

Central Asian-born migrants, either with or without Russian citizenship, have emerged as key targets of Russia’s military recruitment drive, either through Wagner or a partial mobilization announced by President Vladimir Putin last September.

Relatives of the Kyrgyz man arrested have appealed to the local court for his release to house arrest. A court hearing has been set for August 28, local officials said.

Kyrgyz authorities have urged citizens to avoid participating in military activities abroad as it violates the country’s Criminal Code. Citizens found guilty can face up to 10 years in prison.

In May, a Kyrgyz citizen was sentenced to 10 years for joining Russia-backed separatists fighting in Ukraine’s eastern region of Luhansk. The 31-one-year-old Kyrgyz man was found guilty of being a mercenary.

Investigators say the man joined the separatists in June 2022 shortly after Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and fought against Ukrainian armed forces until his discharge in November.

Emergency Declared In Russia’s Far Eastern Primorye Region Over Typhoon Khanun

Rescuers use inflatable boats to evacuate residents from a flooded area in the city of Usuriisk on August 12.

The governor of Russia’s Far Eastern region of Primorye, Oleg Kozhemyako has announced a state of emergency in the region hit by floods caused by Typhoon Khanun. Kozhemyako said on August 15 that the move was needed due to the absence of resources at the Ussuriisk city’s administration to deal with damage caused by the ongoing floods, adding that the Emergency Ministry will assist municipal authorities. The typhoon-caused floods have cut off 27 towns and villages from major roads, and killed at least three people, including two children. Some 800 houses have been either destroyed or damaged by the floods. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Siberia.Realities, click here.

Major Russian Air Attacks On Western Ukraine Kill At Least Three People

Flames rise from a building in Lviv hit by a Russian rocket attack on August 15.

Russia launched a major air attack using cruise missiles on western Ukraine early on August 15, with officials reporting at least three people dead and many others injured.

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.

Ukraine’s Air Force said it shot down 16 of the 28 cruise missiles launched from both air and sea, but it appeared as though some got through and hit areas in the Lviv and Volyn regions, which lie near the border with NATO member Poland.

Yuriy Pohulyaiko, the governor the Volyn region, said in a post on Facebook that three people were killed in the town of Lutsk in the attack, while officials said there were no casualties reported in Lviv, though some residential buildings were on fire. It was not clear whether the buildings were hit directly by incoming missiles or were damaged by debris after the missiles were knocked out of the sky by defense systems.

“Many missiles were shot down, but there were also hits in Lviv,” Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said on Telegram.

Lviv, far from the front lines of eastern and southern Ukraine where fighting has raged since the early part of Russia’s full-scale invasion was launched in February 2022, has been a center for many Ukrainians who fled other parts of the country during the war.

Lviv regional governor Maksym Kozytskiy said the attacks at around 5:30 a.m. local time injured 15 people, including a 10-year-old boy, but no fatalities were reported. One of the missiles hit a kindergarten, he added.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said Russia’s constant strikes on civil infrastructure had a single goal: “to break us, our spirit for fighting.”

Russia Launches Air Strikes On Ukraine's Western Regions

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“This will not happen,” he said, adding that a separate strike overnight on the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro that hit a sports complex was another piece of evidence showing why Russian athletes should be banned from competing in international competitions, “even under a neutral flag.”

Officials say Ukraine’s counteroffensive continues to make incremental gains as the international community watches intently and mulls further moves to bolster Kyiv’s military strength.

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner paid a surprise visit to Kyiv on August 14, saying that his country stood “shoulder to shoulder” with Ukraine.

Lindner, who arrived by train, said he would hold “very concrete” talks with Ukrainian officials, adding that Germany has given Ukraine some 22 billion euros ($24 billion) in humanitarian, financial, and military aid since the start of the war.

Berlin is under growing pressure from Ukraine to send long-range Taurus cruise missiles.

The United States said on August 14 that it was sending another $200 million in security assistance to Ukraine, including additional munitions for Patriot air-defense systems and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS).

In a sign of increased global tensions, the Dutch and British militaries said they scrambled fighter jets on August 14 when Russian warplanes were tracked flying in international airspace but toward the airspace of the Netherlands and Scotland before turning back.

German Foreign Minister Calls Taliban Rule Step Backward ‘Toward The Stone Age’

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (file photo)

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has marked the second anniversary of the Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan with a condemnation of the Islamist group’s governance of the country. “Two years of Taliban rule mean two years of regression toward the Stone Age for the people of Afghanistan,” Baerbock said in a statement issued on August 14. Millions of people in the country were suffering from hunger and almost every week the Taliban was taking away another part of the freedom of women and girls, she said. Baerbock ruled out normalizing relations with the Taliban government, which has so far not been recognized by any country.

No Casualties Reported After Huge Fire At Tehran’s Grand Bazaar

Shoppers at Tehran’s Grand Bazaar (file photo)

A large fire broke out at the grand bazaar in Iran’s capital of Tehran, though it did not cause any casualties, the semiofficial Tasnim news agency reported on August 15. “A fire broke out in Ahangaran’s Bazaar in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar and about 30 warehouses and shops were caught in flames,” the spokesperson of Tehran’s fire department said. Firefighters have managed to control the massive fire without any injuries, but many financial losses are expected, Tasnim reported. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Death Toll In Daghestan Gas Station Blast Rises To At Least 35, Officials Say

Deadly Explosion Rips Through Gasoline Station In Russia's North Caucasus

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MAKHACHKALA, Russia — At least 35 people have been killed in a powerful explosion that rocked a gasoline station in the capital of Russia’s North Caucasus republic of Daghestan late on August 14.

Russia’s Health Ministry said that at least three children were among those who lost their lives, while the Emergency Ministry said more than 80 were injured.

Daghestan’s leader, Sergei Melikov, declared August 15 to be a day of mourning across the republic and announced a state of emergency in the Kumtorkala district, where rescue teams continue to search for victims as medical evacuation helicopters and planes evacuated those who are critically wounded.

Videos posted on local Telegram channels showed others being transported to local hospitals.

An Emergency Ministry plane arrived in Makhachkala to transport some severely wounded individuals to hospitals in Moscow.

According to investigators, a fire broke out at an automobile service station at around 10 a.m. on August 14, which then spread to a nearby gasoline distribution station, causing a powerful explosion, presumably of two tanks with liquefied gas.

Media reports cited local emergency officials as saying that a huge amount of the blazing fuel covered people who had come to watch the fire at the service station.

The two facilities are located close to the Globus shopping center and the fire at the technical point attracted many customers.

The fire was extinguished four hours later.

The Investigative Committee said it has launched a probe into “providing services that do not correspond to the safety regulations, which led to the death of people.”

Russia’s Criminal Code envisions a penalty of up to 10 years in prison for the crime.

Last weekend, a gas leak caused an explosion in Daghestan’s city of Derbent, killing a teenager and injuring four people.

Last week, another explosion caused by a gas leak, injuring eight people, including a child.

With reporting by TASS and Shot

U.S. Ambassador To Russia Visits WSJ Journalist Gershkovich In Jail

Russia has said Evan Gershkovich was caught trying to obtain military secrets while on a trip to Yekaterinburg, but it has provided no details supporting that assertion.

U.S. Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy met with jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich on August 14, a State Department spokesperson said, in her third such visit since his March detention on espionage charges he denies. “Ambassador Tracy said that Evan continues to appear in good health and remains strong, despite his circumstances,” the spokesperson said, adding that it was Washington’s expectation that Moscow would provide continued consular access. Russia has said Gershkovich was caught trying to obtain military secrets while on a trip to Yekaterinburg, but it has provided no details supporting that assertion. The WSJ also denies the allegations. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.

Ukraine’s Zelenskiy Meets With Commanders In Donetsk Frontline Positions

Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy poses for photos with troops in the Donetsk region on August 14.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on August 14 said he visited troops in the Donetsk region on the front line of the war against Russia. Zelenskiy said in a Telegram post that he “discussed with the brigade commander the problems faced by the soldiers and proposals for their solution. I get general information every day…but I wanted to visit all the brigades separately in order to understand the problems of each of them.” Heavy fighting has been taking place over recent weeks in Ukraine’s eastern and southern regions.

Kazakhstan Refuses To Grant Asylum To Karakalpak Activists Facing Extradition To Uzbekistan

A protest in Karakalpakstan on July 3

Kazakh authorities have refused to grant asylum to two Karakalpak activists who face extradition to Uzbekistan, where supporters say they would face serious risk of politically motivated prosecution and torture over last year’s mass protests in Uzbekistan’s Karakalpak Autonomous Republic.

A Karakalpak activist based in Kazakhstan, Aqylbek Muratbai, wrote on X social network, formerly known as Twitter, on August 14, that asylum requests filed by Koshkarbai Toremuratov and Zhangeldy Zhaksymbetov had been rejected on July 31 but only became known now.

Kazakh officials have not announced the decision.

Toremuratov and Zhaksymbetov were arrested in September 2022 at the request of Uzbek officials, who accused the two men of undermining of Uzbekistan’s constitutional order.

In January, an Uzbek court sentenced 22 Karakalpak activists to prison terms on charges including undermining the constitutional order for taking part in the mass protests in Karakalpakstan in July last year.

In March, another 39 Karakalpak activists accused of taking part in the protests in the region’s capital, Nukus, were convicted, with 28 of them sentenced to prison terms of between five and 11 years. Eleven defendants were handed parole-like sentences.

Uzbek authorities say 21 people died in Karakalpakstan during the protests, which were sparked by the announcement of a planned change to the constitution that would have undermined the region’s right to self-determination.

However, the Austria-based Freedom for Eurasia human rights group said last month that at least 70 people were killed during the unrest.

The violence forced President Shavkat Mirziyoev to make a rare about-face and scrap the proposal.

Mirziyoev accused “foreign forces” of being behind the unrest, without further explanation, before backing away from the proposed changes.

Karakalpaks are a Central Asian Turkic-speaking people. Their region used to be an autonomous area within Kazakhstan before becoming autonomous within the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic in 1930 and then part of Uzbekistan in 1936.

The European Union has called for an independent investigation into the violence.

U.S. Announces Additional $200 Million In Security Assistance To Ukraine

The $200 million package includes High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS).

The U.S. Defense Department on August 14 announced a new package of security assistance for Ukraine as it continues to battle against Russia’s full-scale invasion. The $200 million package includes additional munitions for Patriot air-defense systems and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS). Mine-clearing equipment and systems is also included, the Pentagon said. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, click here.

Soros Group Warns Hungary NGOs Of ‘Extremely Limited’ Resources For Europe

The entrance of the building that houses the Open Society Foundationsm run by U.S.-Hungarian billionaire George Soros

BUDAPEST — Open Society Foundations (OSF) has informed organizations in Hungary that rely on its support that a recent decision by the OSF’s board effectively puts an end to most of its activities in the European Union to dedicate those resources to other parts of the world, RFE/RL’s Hungarian Service has learned.

The OSF’s resources for Europe will be “extremely limited,” an August 11 e-mail told those local groups.

The OSF, formerly known as the Open Society Institute, has spent hundreds of millions of dollars since it was established with a multibillion-dollar endowment from Hungarian-born founding Chairman George Soros to boost civil society around the world since the fall of communism in 1989.

Several Hungarian NGOs confirmed to RFE/RL’s Hungarian Service their receipt on August 11 of the OSF e-mail, which cites the board’s decision “on a radical strategic change of direction” to achieve maximum impact.

With the organizational restructuring planned for next year, many European programs could be concluded as early as 2024.

An OSF spokesperson confirmed the strategic reorganization in statements to RFE/RL while saying the group would “continue to fund civil-society groups across Europe,” including those that work on EU external affairs or support Romany communities.

“We will also continue to be a funder of human rights, democracy, and accountable government across the region, most notably in Ukraine, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, and the Western Balkans through the work of our national foundations,” the statement said.

It added that the organization of most of its specific grants would be “determined over the coming months.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and many of his Fidesz allies have been vocal critics of Soros’s role in the region, as well as of the Open Society groups’ long-term efforts to advance education, justice, and independent media in former Soviet and Eastern Bloc states.

The OSF closed its Budapest offices in 2018 and moved them to Berlin, citing “an increasingly repressive political and legal environment in Hungary.”

George Soros, 93, put son Alexander Soros in charge of Open Society Foundations earlier this year ahead of expected layoffs and “significant changes” to its structure.

In late June, the OSF announced “significant changes to the Foundations’ operating model” and said management would implement the changes in “the coming months.”

Two Children Die Amid Measles Outbreak In Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan, like other former Soviet republics, has seen a surge in measles cases this year. (illustrative photo)

A measles outbreak in Kyrgyzstan has led to the deaths of two unrelated children, aged 3 and 1, over the past six months, officials said on August 14. Both fatalities resulted from the refusal of vaccinations by the children’s parents, who cited religious beliefs, officials said. The Health Ministry reported a total of 1,704 confirmed cases this year. The surge in cases extends to other former Soviet republics, with Russia reporting more than 5,000 cases, Kazakhstan at least 3,000, and Tajikistan with 528 cases since the beginning of the year. Measles is a preventable but highly contagious disease that can kill a child or leave it disabled for life. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, click here.

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