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Oleg Orlov, a prominent Russian human rights activist and chairman of the now-banned Memorial human rights group, recently compared Russia’s judicial system to that of Nazi Germany during his appeal against a prison sentence. Orlov, aged 71, was appealing a two-and-a-half-year prison term he received five months ago on charges of discrediting the armed forces by criticizing Russia’s actions in Ukraine and labeling the country a fascist state.

During his appeal, Orlov, speaking via video link from custody in Syzran, made a poignant statement asserting that he regretted nothing and would not repent for his actions. He quoted Telford Taylor, a US prosecutor involved in the Nuremberg trials after World War II, who described the Nazis as having utterly destroyed justice and law, turning the judicial system into a tool of dictatorship. Orlov remarked that Taylor’s words could now be applied to the current state of Russia’s judicial system, particularly for political prisoners.

The appeal hearing, held at the Moscow city court, drew international attention with ambassadors from the US, UK, and several other Western nations present. Orlov’s original conviction and subsequent sentencing earlier this year followed a retrial, where an earlier fine was replaced with imprisonment after prosecutors argued the original sentence was too lenient.

Oleg Orlov has been a pivotal figure in Memorial, a group dedicated to commemorating victims of Soviet oppression while advocating against contemporary human rights abuses in Russia. Despite Memorial being banned in Russia in 2021, it received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022 alongside Belarusian activist Ales Bialiatski and the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties for its contributions to civil society, peace, and democracy.

Orlov’s case is widely viewed as part of a broader crackdown on dissent in Russia, reflecting growing concerns about the state of civil liberties and the rule of law in the country.

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A court in Moscow has issued an arrest warrant for Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, on charges related to her alleged involvement in an extremist organization, as reported by state media. Navalnaya, who resides outside of Russia, faces these charges in absentia. Alexei Navalny, widely regarded as Russia’s most prominent opposition figure in recent years, passed away earlier this year while in custody at a Russian prison. Russian authorities officially stated that his death was due to natural causes, but Navalnaya has publicly accused the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, of torturing and ultimately causing her husband’s death.

The Moscow court’s decision to issue the arrest warrant declared Navalnaya wanted, meaning she would be subject to arrest should she return to Russia. These charges appear to be linked to a June 2021 ruling by another Moscow court that outlawed three organizations associated with Navalny, branding them as extremist entities.

Despite being unable to attend her husband’s funeral in March, Yulia Navalnaya has continued to advocate for justice and human rights. She has met with several Western leaders, including US President Joe Biden. Recently, she was elected to chair the Human Rights Foundation, a US-based non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and safeguarding human rights worldwide. In her new role, Navalnaya has pledged to intensify the struggle her late husband fought against Vladimir Putin’s government.

This development underscores the ongoing tension between the Russian government and dissenting voices, both within the country and abroad, amid international scrutiny and condemnation of Russia’s human rights record and treatment of political opposition.

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In recent events in Russia’s Dagestan region, attacks on police officers, churches, and synagogues in cities like Derbent and Makhachkala have resulted in multiple fatalities. More than 15 police officers and several civilians, including a longstanding Orthodox Church priest, were killed. The attackers, some of whom were killed and others still sought by police, have not been definitively identified, though Dagestan has previously experienced Islamist violence.

The assaults targeted Orthodox churches and Jewish synagogues during Pentecost celebrations. Footage shared on social media depicted gunmen in dark clothing attacking police vehicles and setting ablaze religious buildings in Derbent, a city with a historic Jewish community. The violence extended to other locations like Sergokal, where even a police official was detained due to alleged family involvement.

Dagestan, known for its significant Muslim population, has endured previous jihadist attacks by groups such as the Caucasus Emirate and the Islamic Emirate of the Caucasus from 2007 to 2017. Despite recent tensions linked to Ukraine and the West, Russian authorities have responded to these incidents, concluding a counter-terrorism operation following the attacks.

President Vladimir Putin has previously emphasized Russia’s stance against Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, emphasizing the nation’s unity across diverse faiths and ethnicities. However, recent events challenge this narrative amid ongoing security concerns and geopolitical tensions.

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A fleet of Russian warships departed from the port of Havana after a five-day stay, during which they conducted planned military exercises. The fleet, which included a nuclear-powered submarine and a frigate, had been anchored in Havana Bay, approximately 90 miles (145km) from Florida, USA. The United States stated that it viewed the visit as non-threatening but closely monitored the vessels. In response, the US stationed its submarine, the USS Helena, at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba.

As the Russian vessels departed on Monday, locals reportedly waved Russian flags. Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel visited the frigate during its stay and interacted with the sailors. Cuba’s foreign ministry assured that none of the visiting vessels carried nuclear weapons and emphasized that the visit posed no threat to the region.

However, Russia’s defense ministry highlighted that both the Admiral Gorshkov frigate and the Kazan submarine were equipped with advanced weaponry, including hypersonic missiles like the Zircon, and had recently conducted missile drills in the Atlantic. The visit was seen as a symbolic show of support for Cuba’s communist government and its ally Venezuela, potentially indicating the warships’ next destination.

While Russia and Cuba have a history of military cooperation, the timing of these exercises drew attention due to ongoing tensions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Some observers interpreted the operation as Moscow’s way of asserting itself amidst international scrutiny.

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Kyiv would hold peace talks with Russia immediately if Moscow withdrew from all Ukrainian territories, according to President Volodymyr Zelensky. Speaking at the conclusion of a peace summit in Switzerland, Zelensky expressed skepticism about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s willingness to end the conflict, emphasizing the need to stop him by any means necessary, whether military or diplomatic. He acknowledged that Western aid alone was insufficient to secure victory but noted that the summit demonstrated sustained international support for Ukraine.

The summit ended with many countries reaffirming their commitment to Ukraine’s territorial integrity and adopting a document that attributed the war’s suffering and destruction to Russia. However, some attendees, including India, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia, did not sign the document. The summit aimed to gather broad backing for efforts to end the war, attracting over 90 countries and international organizations. Notably, Russia and its ally China were absent, casting doubt on the summit’s effectiveness. Some participants, like Saudi Arabia and Kenya, were not Ukraine’s staunchest supporters.

The final document called for Ukrainian control over the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, currently occupied by Russia, and referred to the conflict as a “war,” a term Moscow rejects. It also demanded the exchange of all prisoners and the return of children abducted by Russia. Contentious issues, such as the status of territories under Russian occupation, were deferred for future discussion.

After the summit, Zelensky thanked the attendees for their independence in attending despite Russian pressure. He reiterated that Ukraine had always sought peace and that Russia could start negotiations by withdrawing from Ukrainian territories. He also clarified that China was not Ukraine’s enemy and called on Beijing to engage seriously in peace efforts.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte highlighted the unity among attendees in seeking peace, despite differing opinions on achieving it. He emphasized shared principles, such as opposing invasions, child abductions, manipulation of food supplies, and threats to nuclear safety.

While there was an expectation for unanimous condemnation of Russia’s invasion, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer indicated that not all delegations supported the final statement. Zelensky stated that the summit’s results would be communicated to Moscow, aiming for a conclusive peace agreement at a subsequent summit.

Russia dismissed the Swiss event as unproductive. Putin proposed a ceasefire if Ukraine withdrew from four regions claimed by Russia, but this was strongly rejected by Western leaders, with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni calling it propaganda and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak accusing Putin of spinning a false narrative. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later mentioned that Putin did not rule out talks with Ukraine but insisted on guarantees for their credibility, excluding Zelensky as a participant.

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The G7 has agreed to utilize frozen Russian assets to raise $50 billion (£39 billion) for Ukraine to aid in its defense against Russian forces. President Joe Biden emphasized this decision as a signal to Russia that the support for Ukraine remains steadfast. However, Moscow has warned of “extremely painful” retaliatory actions. The funds, anticipated to be available by the end of the year, are intended to support Ukraine’s war effort and economic stability in the long term.

At the G7 summit in Italy, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Biden signed a 10-year bilateral security agreement between the US and Ukraine, which Ukraine hailed as “historic.” This agreement involves US military and training aid but does not commit US troops to combat. It aims to enhance Ukraine’s defense capabilities, support its defense industry, and aid in economic and energy recovery. It also stipulates consultations at the highest levels in case of future Russian attacks on Ukraine to decide necessary support measures.

Separately, about $325 billion in Russian assets were frozen by the G7 and the EU following Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. These assets generate approximately $3 billion annually in interest. The G7 plan involves using this interest to cover the annual interest on a $50 billion loan for Ukraine, sourced from international markets.

President Biden, at the summit in Puglia, Italy, reiterated that the $50 billion loan would support Ukraine and send a strong message to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Zelensky expressed gratitude for the continued support from the US and other allies, calling the security deal with the US the strongest since Ukraine’s independence in 1991. Other G7 leaders, including UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, praised the loan deal as transformative.

The $50 billion loan compares significantly with the $61 billion in US military aid agreed upon in May. A senior White House official noted the loan would support various needs, including military, budget, humanitarian, and reconstruction efforts. While the frozen funds’ interest is seen as a symbolic victory for Ukraine, some in Kyiv had hoped for the release of the entire $300 billion frozen fund. However, the European Central Bank opposed this, citing risks to international order.

The funds from the loan will not immediately impact the war, as they are expected later in the year. Ukraine continues to seek more immediate military aid, such as air defense systems and F-16 fighter jets, which could start arriving in the summer. Zelensky mentioned that the new security agreement includes US shipments of these aircraft.

The loan arrangement symbolizes a significant move where Russia’s frozen assets are repurposed to support Ukraine’s defense. Although this marks a turning point, it is unlikely to change Russia’s stance on the war. Most of the frozen Russian central bank assets are in Belgium, and international law prevents their direct confiscation for Ukraine’s benefit. Russia has condemned the West’s actions as criminal and has hinted at severe retaliatory measures. European investors have around €33 billion stuck in Russia, complicating the situation further.

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French authorities have arrested a 26-year-old man of Russian-Ukrainian descent on suspicion of attempting to manufacture explosives and planning a violent act. The suspect sustained severe burns in an explosion on Tuesday in a hotel room in Roissy-en-France, near Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport.

The National Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor’s Office reported that investigators discovered bomb-making materials and equipment in the hotel room. Additionally, firearms and counterfeit passports were found, as reported by French media.

Anti-terror prosecutors have launched an investigation and are collaborating with France’s domestic intelligence agency, according to a source from the Reuters news agency.

The suspect, identified as a Russian-speaker from the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, currently occupied by Russia, is being questioned in the hospital following his treatment and subsequent arrest.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued a warning that Moscow may consider arming other countries to target Western interests in response to the West providing long-range weapons to Ukraine. He criticized Western nations, including the United States and Germany, for enabling Ukraine to strike targets within Russia, which he claimed could result in “very serious problems.”

Putin argued that if the West supplies weapons to attack Russian territory, Moscow has the right to reciprocate by supplying similar weapons to regions that could strike sensitive targets in those countries. He did not specify which countries Russia might arm but suggested the response would be asymmetric.

Germany was specifically mentioned by Putin, who said that Berlin’s decision to allow Ukraine to use German-made long-range weapons against Russia has definitively harmed Russian-German relations. He also noted that while U.S. President Joe Biden has permitted Ukraine to use American-supplied weapons in the Kharkiv region, the White House has restricted the use of long-range ATACMS missiles on Russian soil.

Recent reports indicate that Ukraine has used U.S. weapons to strike targets inside Russia. Meanwhile, intense fighting continues near Kharkiv, close to the Russian border.

UK Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron emphasized that it is Ukraine’s decision how to use British-supplied weapons, asserting Ukraine’s right to target Russian territory. Additionally, Ukraine claims North Korean missiles are being used against them, and Western intelligence suggests Russia is deploying Iranian-made drones in the conflict.

Putin reiterated Russia’s nuclear doctrine, warning that Moscow might use nuclear weapons if its sovereignty and territorial integrity are threatened. He criticized the West for assuming Russia would never resort to nuclear escalation and dismissed the notion that Russia intends to attack NATO territories as “complete nonsense.”

These statements were made at the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, where Putin also underscored that portraying Russia as an enemy only harms those who do so.

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French intelligence officials believe Russia orchestrated a stunt involving five coffins draped in French flags, labeled “French soldiers of Ukraine,” placed near the Eiffel Tower. Three men, seen arriving in a van on Saturday morning, left the coffins, which contained plaster sacks. Police quickly apprehended the driver, a Bulgarian who claimed he was paid €40 by two others to transport the coffins. These two, a Ukrainian and a German, were later caught at Bercy coach station while attempting to board a bus to Berlin. They admitted to being paid €400 to deposit the coffins. All three were presented before a judge on Sunday as a judicial investigation began for “violence with premeditation.”

This incident is being investigated to determine if it was orchestrated from abroad, recalling two recent events where French police suspect Russian involvement. In October, Stars of David resembling the Israeli flag were stenciled in Paris after a Hamas attack on Israel. A Moldovan couple, believed to have been paid by Russian intelligence, was arrested. Last month, red hands were painted on a Holocaust memorial in Paris, with suspects fleeing abroad. One individual involved in the coffins incident had contact with a Bulgarian suspect linked to the red-hands affair, identified as Georgi F. by Le Monde.

Tensions between France and Russia have risen, partly due to President Emmanuel Macron’s stance on potentially sending French soldiers to Ukraine. Recently, discussions about sending French military instructors to Ukraine have intensified, which investigators think might have prompted Russian intelligence to stage the coffins stunt to demonstrate opposition to deeper French involvement in the Ukraine war. Previous incidents included teams with photographers whose images appeared on Russian propaganda websites.

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Ukrainian President Zelensky has accused Russia and China of trying to sabotage his upcoming global peace summit in Switzerland. He claims Russia is pressuring countries not to attend and alleges China is assisting in this effort. Zelensky made these statements at an Asian security forum, where he urged delegates to attend his summit focused on nuclear security, food security, and the release of prisoners of war and Ukrainian children held in Russia.

Despite 106 countries confirming attendance, Russia has not been invited and China is not participating. Zelensky criticized China for being an instrument in Putin’s hands and accused China of supplying elements for Russia’s weaponry. However, China denies supplying weapons to either side of the Ukraine conflict and asserts its commitment to peace.

Zelensky also discussed with US Secretary of Defense Austin the US decision to allow Ukraine to use American weapons on Russian territory, albeit with restrictions. This move by the US and other Western states has drawn warnings from Russia about serious consequences.

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