Russia

In 2014, Sergei Roldugin told the New York Times, "I don't have millions."

Associates of President Vladimir Putin of Russia have channeled as much as $2 billion through offshore accounts, banks and shadow companies, according to a massive leak of documents from a Panamanian law firm.

More than 11 million documents, dubbed the Panama Papers, show how dozens of rich and powerful people around the world have used offshore and secret accounts to dodge taxes and sanctions and launder money.

Russian President Vladimir Putin just made another shrewd and decisive move with his surprising decision to start withdrawing forces from Syria. Or, the Russian leader was overextended abroad and short of cash at home and was looking for a quick exit.

Putin wants everyone to believe the former, claiming the Russian airstrikes and the Syrian government army have achieved a "fundamental turnaround in the fight against international terrorism."

The fifth year of the Syrian conflict was the worst yet for civilians — and Russia, the U.S., France and Britain are partly to blame. That's according to a new report from 30 aid and human rights groups, including Oxfam and Care International.

It wouldn't end all the violence that's torn at Syria for years now, but two key parties — President Bashar Assad's government and a main opposition group — have agreed to a truce, according to a joint statement by the U.S. and Russia.

Feryal Salem

The 2016 presidential race has been loaded with rhetoric about a so-called “ISIS caliphate." But what exactly is a caliphate? And what does it mean to say that ISIS has one? This hour, local Islamic scholar Dr. Feryal Salem fills us in. 

Nearly 10 years after Kremlin critic and former spy Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with a rare radioactive element and died in London, a retired British judge has issued a report concluding that Russian President Vladimir Putin "probably" approved a plan by Russia's security service to kill the former FSB agent.

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Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Alphaville / Flickr Creative Commons

Justin Lifflander wanted nothing more than to become a spy for the CIA. Growing up during the Cold War, he practiced spying on friends, family, and schoolmates in preparation for what he thought would be a career full of high-tech gadgetry and secret rendezvous. When Lifflander was finally assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in 1987, he thought his dream was coming true.

What followed was something Lifflander could never have predicted. He was a mechanic at the embassy, then an inspector of Soviet missile sights, and then a suspected American agent followed at every turn by the KGB. Lifflander found himself living in a world which very much resembled his childhood dream -- but he was never a spy.

Saying his country will not apologize for downing a Russian warplane, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu struck a defiant note after meeting with his NATO allies.

The Associated Press reports that Davutoglu said his country was simply defending its airspace last week when two of its F-16s fired at a Russian Sukhoi SU-24.

One of two crew members survived the shooting down of a Russian warplane by Turkey on Tuesday, Russian officials say, and was rescued by a Syrian commando unit in an operation that ended early Wednesday.

Let's start with one thing that's clear and simple in Syria's messy war: Many foreign powers are engaged in the battle, and all share the goal of beating back the Islamic State.

This very loose grouping includes Turkey and Russia, who aren't best friends, but at least have this common interest in Syria that would seem to override any inclination to confront one another.

Turkey says that after issuing 10 warnings in five minutes, two of its F-16s shot down a Russian warplane that Turkey claims violated its airspace.

When the French nuclear aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle reaches its position near Syria's coast, it will find what until recently might have seemed an unlikely ally: a Russian guided missile cruiser. A U.S. official says Russia is newly receptive to cooperation in Syria.

Following a meeting of the Group of 20 in Turkey, Russian president Vladimir Putin signaled that his country's isolation from the West may soon be a thing of the past.

Putin said Russia had proposed cooperating with the United States and others in the fight against terrorism, but that the U.S. rebuffed Russia's offer.

"Life indeed moves on, often very quickly, and teaches us lessons," Putin said. "It seems to me that everyone is coming around to the realization that we can wage an effective fight only together."

Plane Crash Was A 'Terrorist Act,' Russian Officials Say

Nov 17, 2015

The Russian government has determined it was a bomb that brought down a Russian plane over Egypt, killing all 224 people on board.

"One can unequivocally say that it was a terrorist act," Alexander Bortnikov, head of Russia's Federal Security Service, said at a meeting chaired by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Bortnikov said that "traces of foreign explosives" were found on the wreckage.

A Russian aircraft carrying 217 passengers and seven crew members has crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, according to Egyptian authorities. The Airbus A321 lost contact with both Egyptian and Russian officials after it took off from Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on a flight to St. Petersburg, Russia.

The Russian Aviation Agency says the airliner was a charter flight carrying tourists back from a popular Russian vacation spot, NPR's Corey Flintoff tells our Newscast unit. The plane was operated by Metrojet, a small airline formerly called Kolavia.

In his first known international trip since civil war began in Syria, President Bashar Assad has just returned from a quick visit in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Assad reportedly briefed Putin on Syria's current and future military operations.

Assad's trip was kept secret until after Tuesday's meeting — and after the Syrian leader's safe return home.

Secretary of State John Kerry stepped before a packed auditorium Thursday. He was at Indiana University for the opening of a school of international studies.

"I have managed to completely forget that when running for president in 2004, I was crushed in Indiana," he quipped.

Kerry was welcomed Thursday as he promoted the Obama administration's recent international agreements, like deals on Pacific trade and Iran's nuclear program.

After a 15-month probe, investigators with the Dutch Safety Board have concluded that a Russian Buk missile took down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine last year.

The crash in July 2014 killed all 298 people on board, most of whom were from the Netherlands.

Russian cruise missiles that were fired from warships in the Caspian sea and were intended to hit Syrian targets crashed in Iran, instead, a U.S. official tells NPR's Tom Bowman.

Tom reports that the missiles landed in a rural area of Iran. Local television, Tom reports, said "that something crashed and exploded near the northern city of Tekab, shattering windows and leaving a large crater."

A day after the Russian navy fired cruise missiles at targets in Syria — and two days after Russia's warplanes veered into Turkey's airspace — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the alliance "is able and ready to defend all allies, including Turkey, against any threat."

Updated at 11:20 a.m. ET

In a new development that could change the dynamic of Syria's civil war, Russian military began carrying out airstrikes in Syria on Wednesday. Russia says it will target ISIS fighters as part of a plan to fight terrorism.

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby says a Russian official informed the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad about the missions and also requested that American military aircraft avoid Syrian airspace during Russian operations.

Updated 9:20 p.m. ET

A senior Obama administration official described Monday's 90-minute meeting between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin as "productive," though it left several key issues unresolved.

The official said it was a "business-like back and forth. I think they worked through a lot of different issues. This was focused."

The first half of the meeting focused on Ukraine, while the second centered on Syria.

President Obama is set to have a one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

It's not clear exactly when the two leaders would meet, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the encounter would happen Monday when Putin is scheduled to deliver remarks at the U.N.

The White House confirmed the meeting would take place, but did not specify when.

According to a senior administration official:

Stalin's Ghost

Jul 14, 2015
Eugene Zelenko / Wikimedia Commons

Joseph Stalin's only daughter grew up the beloved pet of a man responsible for a decades-long campaign to arrest, torture, execute or forcibly imprison millions of Soviet citizens, including children and members of his own family. That's what we know now.

Sean Scanlon / Office of Sen. Chris Murphy

Ukrainian Americans, many with family members still living in the country, packed Hartford's Ukrainian National Home for the town hall meeting about the situation in the Eastern European country.

Dhārmikatva / Creative Commons

A Fairfield University professor is joining international calls for a full and transparent investigation into the killing of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.  

David McFadden is director of the Russian and East European studies program at Fairfield. He said he doesn’t believe Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the murder, “but there are plenty of right-wing people close to the regime, or on the fringes of the regime, that wanted him dead because he was a great opposition alternative,” he said.

In a claim that's meeting with skepticism in Kiev, Russian-backed separatists say they've started to withdraw heavy weapons in eastern Ukraine, as required by a recent cease-fire. Ukraine's military says separatist attacks are ongoing.

The development comes after Russia's President Vladimir Putin said he thinks a war with Ukraine would be "apocalyptic" — but that the area is now on a path to stability, after the recent Minsk agreement.

British fighter jets scrambled from their base on Wednesday after two Russian long-range bombers skirted the coast of Cornwall, in the southwest of England. The incident comes one day after British Foreign Secretary Michael Fallon warned about Russia's intentions in Europe.

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