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The oldest human rights organisation in Russia has been told by a court to shut down. The Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG), which was established in 1976, publishes a yearly report on the state of human rights in Russia.

The authorities have recently stated that it does not possess the proper registration. It is the most recent in a string of closures aimed at opposition and human rights organisations across Russia.

The justice ministry sued to dissolve the organisation in December, claiming that it was only registered to protect human rights in Moscow and not elsewhere in the nation. The decision follows the filing of that complaint. Despite the MHG always working with a wider scope, this is the case.

At the time, the group referred to the action as “disproportionate” and asserted that it would go on operating “regardless of the preferences of the authorities.” According to a statement released by MHG on Wednesday, the organization’s co-chair warned the judge and justice ministry representatives that by shutting it down, they were “committing a major sin.”

Valery Borshov remarked, “You are ruining the human rights movement, you are destroying it. “The group’s dissolution is a significant blow to the human rights movement everywhere, not only in Russia,” The group claimed that the ad hoc inspections of the MHG by the justice ministry were unlawful, which was the basis for the case. It has stated that it will challenge the ruling.

It was founded by a group of well-known Soviet dissidents and named for the Helsinki Accords, a comprehensive international pact that the USSR signed and supported fundamental freedoms and human rights. After the Soviet Union’s fall, the group was reactivated in the early 1990s.

MHG has compared the treatment it has received from the Russian government to that of Memorial, a well-known human rights organisation that was shut down in 2021. The Journalists and Media Workers’ Union was among the numerous rights organisations that Moscow courts disbanded last year.

International human rights groups have sharply criticised the Russian government for what they see as a widespread crackdown on independent journalism and dissenting voices that has gotten worse since its invasion of Ukraine.

That includes top opposition figures, the majority of whom are now either in prison or exiled.

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After a Russian missile struck an apartment building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro on Saturday, the mayor of that city issued a dire warning that there might be no more survivors.

25 people died in the attack, while another 43 are still missing, according to local officials. Borys Filatov, the mayor of Dnipro, said there was a “limited” prospect of discovering any survivors.

Russian President Vladimir Putin emphasised that military operations were going according to schedule while speaking to state television in Moscow. On Saturday, assaults that Moscow said were directed at Ukraine’s military and energy infrastructure also affected Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Odesa.

The nine-story building’s entryway was struck by the devastating attack in Dnipro, which reduced many levels to smouldering ruins.

The number of casualties, according to Mr. Filatov, is anticipated to be in the dozens. Ten of the about 70 people who needed medical attention were, according to him, “in a bad state.”

Mateusz Morawiecki, the prime minister of Poland, referred to the missile strikes as “inhuman” and said that “Russia deliberately keeps on committing war crimes against civilians.”

In an effort to “push Russian troops back,” UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that his country will provide Challenger 2 tanks to Kyiv’s military forces on the same day that Russia launched its missile attack.

Moscow’s argument was that giving Ukraine more weaponry will result in increased Russian military activity and civilian losses.

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After a protracted fight, the Russian military claims to have taken control of the Ukrainian salt-mine town of Soledar, describing it as a “significant” milestone in its offensive.  According to an spokeswoman, the win would enable Russian troops to advance to the adjacent city of Bakhmut and cut off the Ukrainian forces there.

Moscow made a statement that was both incredibly confident and ambitious. Officials from Ukraine, however, claimed that the battle for Soledar was still ongoing and blamed Russia for “information noise.”

The battle for Soledar has been one of the bloodiest of the war. The town is relatively small, with a pre-war population of just 10,000, and its strategic significance is debatable. But if it is confirmed that Russian forces have seized control of it, then there will likely be a big sigh of relief in the Kremlin.

Throughout the conflict, differences between the infamous Russian Wagner paramilitary group and the regular Russian forces have appeared, and a bitter turf war has developed about who should claim credit for the advance.

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky stated this week that hardly any walls in Soledar are still standing. He spoke of the neighbouring countryside as being scarred by missile attacks and covered in Russian bodies, painting pictures that were nearly post-apocalyptic.

Andriy Yermak, his chief of staff, compared the conflict between Soledar and Bakhmut to one of the bloodiest battles of World War One, at Verdun. As of Thursday, 559 residents, including 15 children, were still residing in Soledar and could not be relocated, according to regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.

In his nighttime address late on Thursday, President Volodymyr Zelensky cited Soledar, Bakhmut, and the broader defence of the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine as the most important issues.

According to Western and Ukrainian officials, the notoriously violent Wagner mercenary squad is responsible for a large portion of the combat near Soledar and Bakhmut.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, its 61-year-old leader, has asserted numerous times over the last few days that his soldiers are the only ones present in Soledar. He claimed on Tuesday night that his mercenaries had taken the town, but the next morning, the Russian defence ministry refuted him.

Daily updates from the Russian defence ministry have made no mention whatsoever of Wagner, and Friday’s briefing was no exception. The military said that paratroopers had played a key part in the capture of the town.

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After a protracted conflict with Ukrainian forces, the majority of the salt-mining town of Soledar in eastern Ukraine is “possibly” now under Russian control, according to the UK Ministry of Defence.

In the last four days, Russian troops and the mercenary Wagner Group, according to the UK, have advanced. Soledar is close to Bakhmut, the scene of another violent conflict with Ukraine.

According to President Zelensky, Soledar had “no full walls left” and “virtually no life.” He added, “The entire terrain around Soledar is littered with the occupiers’ corpses.”

Oledar, which prior to the conflict had a population of about 10,000, may be considered primarily as a stepping stone to seizing Bakhmut, and its strategic worth is debatable.

The creator of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, seeks ownership of the region’s significant salt and gypsum mines, a US official claimed last week.

The 200 km long abandoned tunnels were the subject of some fighting, according to the UK, and both Russia and Ukraine “are likely concerned that they could be exploited for infiltration behind their lines.”

Mr. Prigozhin has acknowledged his interest in the mines, referring to them as “the icing on the cake” for the Bakhmut region’s strategic importance.

He described them as a “network of underground cities” that can hold “a big group of people at a depth of 80-100 metres”, and can also allow tanks and other military vehicles to move freely.

Due to Ukraine’s “solid defence lines,” Russia is “unlikely” to soon seize Bakhmut, according to Britain.

Soledar is currently in Russian hands, according to a senior military officer from the US Department of Defense, who stated this on Monday.

Since Bakhmut has been the scene of fighting for months, the US source referred to the most recent skirmishes as “savage.” Two British nationals who were last spotted travelling to Soledar have vanished in the area.

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Nika Selivanova, 13, formed a heart shape with her hands as she waved goodbye to her closest friend Inna, who was leaning against the glass wall separating the waiting room from the entry hall of Kherson’s train station.

They had just hugged while their eyes were filling with tears. Asia, a tan dachshund puppy carried by Nika in her arms and covered in a warm blanket, had received a kiss from Inna. When they might meet one another again was unknown to the females.

The family of Nika was evacuating Kherson while unsure of their ultimate destination. For the time being, they were travelling to Khmelnytskyi in western Ukraine in the hopes that they would find assistance there. The past few days in Kherson had simply been too much for Nika’s mother Elena.

“Before, they [Russian forces] shelled us seven to 10 times a day, now it’s 70-80 times, all day long. It’s too scary.” Elena said. “I love Ukraine and my dear city. But we have to go.”

More than 400 people, including Elena and her three daughters, have evacuated Kherson since Christmas Day as a result of a substantial escalation in the Russian military’s bombardment of the city.

A hospital’s maternity ward was shelled on Tuesday. Although nobody was wounded, the situation has increased people’s concern. In an evacuation made possible by the Ukrainian authorities, Elena departed via train. A line of automobiles containing horrified bystanders is forming at the checkpoint leading out of Kherson while hundreds of individuals leave on their own.

We approached Iryna Antonenko’s car to speak with her, but she was in tears. We are at our breaking point. The shelling is really heavy. We believed it would last the entire time we were here.

The gateway to Crimea, or Kherson, is a strategically significant area. Many commentators claim that Russia has now been compelled to take a defensive stance in this situation.

It’s difficult to understand what it wants to achieve by pummeling Kherson. In addition to mortar shells, we have also witnessed the employment of incendiary weapons, which shower down burning sparks on the city in an effort to ignite objectives.

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According to Moscow, three people have died as a result of an attack by a Ukrainian drone on a bomber airbase in southern Russia. The drone was shot down by air defences close to the Engels base, but the falling debris killed three technical workers, according to the defence ministry.

Russia accused Ukraine of carrying out a similar strike on the airbase earlier this month, where aircraft that have launched missile attacks against Ukraine are stationed. Nearly 650 kilometres (400 miles) lie between the base and the Ukrainian border.

Although the air force spokesman, Yuriy Ihnat, claimed the explosions were a result of what Russia was doing on Ukrainian soil, the Ukrainian military did not formally acknowledge the latest strike.

Hours afterwards Russia’s FSB security service announced it had killed a four-strong “sabotage group” trying to enter the Russian border region of Bryansk from Ukraine armed with improvised explosive devices and German-made submachine guns. The FSB released video of what it said was the “liquidation” of the group, although there is no independent confirmation of the incident.

The most recent drone strike inside of Russia will humiliate Russian authorities because it occurred so quickly after the two attacks on December 5 that occurred hundreds of kilometres away from the front line, at the Engels base and in the Ryazan region. At the time, Russia also attributed the deaths of three military members and what it claimed as minor damage to two planes on falling debris.

Early on Monday, footage of explosions and air sirens near Engels Airfield were shared on social media.

The drone was downed by Russia’s air defences at around 1:00 AM on Monday, according to the country’s defence ministry (22:35 GMT Sunday).

Saratov governor Roman Busargin expressed his condolences to the men’s families and friends, and said there was “absolutely no threat to residents” in the town of Engels itself.

The full extent of Monday’s attack’s destruction will soon be seen in satellite imagery of the airfield, the spokesman for the Ukrainian air force said, adding that earlier explosions had damaged planes at the facility.

Since Moscow began its full-scale invasion on February 24, the Russian military has frequently launched missile attacks on numerous targets in Ukraine from the Engels air base. Although the Kremlin has previously accused Ukraine of invading its territory, the most recent instances occurred much farther into Russian territory.

There were many calls for increased security surrounding Russian military stations following the attacks on December 5; but, the most recent attack implies that has not happened.

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In an effort to raise morale, Russia claims it will send musicians to the front lines of its conflict in Ukraine. This week, the defence ministry made an announcement about the creation of the “front-line creative brigade,” saying it would include musicians and singers.

In a Sunday intelligence update, the UK’s ministry of defence emphasised the formation of the brigade. According to the government, Sergei Shoigu, the Russian minister of defence, visited Ukrainian frontline troops. The Russian military’s advanced positions in the area of the special military operation were verified by Mr. Shoigu, according to a statement sent to Telegram by the defence ministry.

Although it was noted that he “spoke with troops on the frontline” and at a “command post,” the BBC is unable to confirm the timing of the visit or whether Mr. Shoigu actually travelled to Ukraine. Low morale is reportedly still a “major weakness throughout most of the Russian army,” according to UK defence experts.

The UK claimed the new creative brigade is in keeping with the historical use of “military music and organised entertainment” to promote morale. This comes after a recent campaign inviting the public to donate musical instruments to troops. However, they questioned if the new brigade would actually divert troops from their main concerns, which were “extremely high mortality rates, weak leadership, pay problems, shortage of equipment and ammunition, and lack of clarity about the war’s objectives”.

Heavy fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces has been going on in the area for months as Russia tries to hold onto its territory after suffering a series of setbacks in eastern Ukraine early this year.

Russian attacks on the town, according to earlier claims made by Western intelligence sources, are being led by the Wagner Group, a private military contractor. In order to launch operations on the Ukrainian-held cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, Moscow intends to utilise the town as a staging area.

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The US claims that there is now a full-fledged defence alliance between Russia and Iran. According to John Kirby, a spokesperson for the US National Security Council, Russia is providing an unheard-of amount of military assistance.

The US is aware of rumours that the two nations are thinking about producing lethal drones together, he continues. It comes despite initial denials from Tehran after Ukraine charged Iran with providing Russia with “kamikaze” drones used in fatal assaults on October 17.

Later, the Middle Eastern nation acknowledged providing Moscow a small number of drones “several months” prior to the conflict. Volodymyr Zelensky, president of Ukraine, responded by claiming that this was untrue and that many more Iranian drones were in use.

In the early hours of Saturday, the Ukrainian air force claimed to have shot down 10 of the 15 such drones being deployed to strike southern regions. The majority of his territory experienced power outages, according to the governor of Odesa.

Australia has issued sanctions on three Iranian individuals and one Iranian company for providing drones to Russia for use against Ukraine.

Speaking on Friday, Mr. Kirby asserted that a joint drone-production venture between Iran and Russia would be detrimental to Ukraine, Iran’s neighbours, and the global community.

“Russia is seeking to collaborate with Iran in areas like weapons development, training,” he said, adding that the US fears that Russia intended to “provide Iran with advanced military components” including helicopters and air defence systems.

“Iran has become Russia’s top military backer…” he said. “Russia’s been using Iranian drones to strike energy infrastructure, depriving millions of Ukrainians of power, heat, critical services. People in Ukraine today are actually dying as a result of Iran’s actions.”

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly responded to Mr. Kirby’s remarks by claiming that Iran had turned into one of Russia’s primary military allies and that their alliance was endangering international security.

Iran has sent hundreds of drones to Russia as part of the “sordid negotiations” between the two nations, he claimed. Australia’s foreign minister, Penny Wong, issued the following statement on Saturday: “The sale of drones to Russia is proof of Iran’s contribution to the weakening of international security. This listing emphasises that individuals who give Russia material help will suffer the repercussions.”

Following the murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in jail earlier this year, she also announced actions against 19 additional people and two companies, including Iran’s Morality Police, for the cruel treatment of anti-government protestors.

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On the southern Russian shore of the Caspian Sea, authorities have discovered some 2,500 dead seals. According to officials, there is no evidence that they perished violently.

Although initially just 700 dead seals were recorded, later research has shown a substantially greater number, and counting is still ongoing. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed Caspian seals as endangered since 2008.

According to a statement from Zaur Gapizov, director of the Caspian Environmental Protection Center, the seals likely passed away two weeks ago. According to him, there is no proof that the animals were killed or caught in fishing nets.

A significant number had been discovered between the mouths of two rivers, the Sulak and the Shurinka, according to a Telegram post from the Dagestan region’s ministry of natural resources and the environment.

The ministry stated that experts have taken samples from the seals and that the causes of the deaths would be determined once the lab results are in. Through decades of overhunting and industrial pollution, the Caspian Sea’s seal population has significantly decreased.

Just 70,000 people remain today, according to the Caspian Environmental Protection Center, compared to more than a million a century ago.

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A senior Ukrainian official claims that Russia’s strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure constitute genocide. The prosecutor-general told the BBC that attacks on important buildings were intended to subdue Kyiv by targeting “the entire Ukrainian nation.”

An attempt to exterminate a group of people is referred to as a genocide. Russia denies having such objectives. Following persistent Russian strikes, millions of people in Ukraine are experiencing power outages in the chilly weather.

The task of re-connecting houses without electricity is ongoing. Following the city’s liberation by Ukrainian forces earlier this month, officials claim that Kherson has finally received a complete resupply.

According to President Volodymyr Zelensky, usage limitations continue to apply to residents of 14 areas, including the capital city of Kiev. According to the UN Genocide Convention’s definition, genocide comprises “the purpose to eliminate, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.”

Forcibly removing that group’s children or killing or seriously injuring its members are two examples of actions that may qualify. Andriy Kostin, the prosecutor general of Ukraine, stated in his BBC interview that 11,000 Ukrainian children had been forcibly transported to Russia in addition to the attacks on the electricity grid.

Since Russia started its full-scale assault on February 24, Mr. Kostin claimed that his office has been looking into reports of more than 49,000 war crimes and crimes of aggression.

In other news, the leader of Ukraine’s state nuclear business Energoatom claims there are indications that troops from Moscow may be getting ready to depart the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power facility.

The plant was captured by the Russians in March, and both sides have accused one another of bombarding it, raising concerns of a potentially disastrous nuclear explosion. Petro Kotin, however, issued a warning because there was currently no proof of a Russian departure.

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