Originally published on Wed December 31, 2014 11:39 am
A year ago, Russia's economy was riding high. Today, the country is widely thought to be entering a recession, if it's not already there.
The plunge in oil prices has been the main culprit, but Russia's economy has had trouble regaining its footing because of sanctions imposed by the West after the annexation of Crimea. President Obama and other Western leaders were quick to condemn Russia when it annexed the Crimean Peninsula last March, and they struggled to find a way to show their outrage.
A Russian activist with ties to Yale University has received a suspended sentence on fraud charges. Alexei Navalny has become a prominent political opposition leader in Russia, leading protests over the years against President Vladimir Putin.
According to the Associated Press, thousands of protestors took to the streets outside the Kremlin in response to the conviction. Navalny was subsequently arrested for breaking the terms of his house arrest and joining the protestors.
It’s been just over a year since Russian authorities arrested 30 activists aboard Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior III -- a ship protesting Russia’s controversial oil rig in the Arctic. Among those arrested was the ship’s captain, Peter Willcox, a Greenpeace veteran and resident of Norwalk, Connecticut.
Originally published on Sun November 16, 2014 2:17 pm
President Obama departed the venue of the annual G20 summit in Australia today, declaring it had been a "strong week for American leadership."
The gathering wrapped up by promising to fight climate change and work toward boosting economic growth even as leaders made it clear that new sanctions would be imposed on Russia if Moscow doesn't back down in Eastern Ukraine.
Originally published on Mon October 27, 2014 11:34 am
Elections in Ukraine are pointing to a new parliament that will be dominated by pro-Western parties, a result that President Petro Poroshenko is hailing as a "course toward Europe" but one that is likely to further anger Russia.
NPR's Corey Flintoff reports from Kiev that exit polls show the bloc supporting Porsohenko is projected to win about 23 percent of the vote, followed closely by an allied party, the People's Front, with around 21 percent.
Originally published on Thu October 16, 2014 2:47 pm
With oil around $85 a barrel and tumbling to its lowest levels in several years, here's the upside: Gasoline prices are down, the U.S. is feeling less dependent on foreign crude, and serious economic pressure is growing on oil producers such as Iran and Russia.
Here's the downside: The low demand for oil reflects a fragile global economy that's vulnerable to additional shocks, like falling stock markets around the world.
A group of hackers, allegedly from Russia, found a fundamental flaw in Microsoft Windows and exploited it to spy on Western governments, NATO, European energy companies and an academic organization in the United States.
That's according to new research from iSight Partners, a Dallas-based cybersecurity firm.
Originally published on Tue September 9, 2014 3:29 pm
An initial investigation by Dutch experts appears to support the long-held theory of what happened to MH17 over eastern Ukraine: The Malaysian airliner was brought down by multiple "high-energy objects from outside the aircraft."
Although the preliminary technical report by the Dutch Safety Board did not directly say the objects were surface-to-air missiles, it left little room to conclude otherwise.
Originally published on Wed September 3, 2014 3:44 pm
Ever since the Cold War ended, the armies of NATO and Russia have been moving warily toward each other while their political positions keep moving further apart.
Twelve Eastern European countries have joined NATO since the Soviet breakup, and NATO is now on the verge of creating a rapid-reaction force for the region. Russia has sent troops into two former Soviet republics, Ukraine and Georgia, that have relationships with NATO, but not membership.
Originally published on Mon September 1, 2014 4:45 pm
Update at 3:21 p.m. ET
Pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine are no longer demanding full independence, telling negotiators in Belarus that they will respect Ukraine's sovereignty in exchange for autonomy.
The Associated Press adds:
"It's a shift that reflects Moscow's desire to strike a deal at a new round of peace talks — possibly avoiding tougher Western sanctions. The talks follow last week's meeting between the presidents of Russia and Ukraine. Similar talks earlier this summer produced no visible results."
Originally published on Fri August 29, 2014 10:26 am
Updated at 4:47 p.m.
President Obama blamed Russia for the violence in Ukraine and said its "incursion" into the former Soviet state will only carry additional costs.
"Russia has deliberately and repeatedly violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and the new images of Russian forces inside Ukraine make that plain for the world to see," Obama said at a White House news conference on Thursday.
Originally published on Fri August 22, 2014 4:59 pm
Update at 5:00 p.m. ET
After being halted at the border for more than a week, a Russian aid convoy is rumbling into eastern Ukraine without permission, prompting Kiev to label the move a "direct invasion" of sovereign territory.
Karoun Demirjian, reporting for NPR from Moscow, says 150 Russian trucks arrived in the rebel-held city of Luhansk on Friday.
Originally published on Tue August 5, 2014 5:29 pm
Russia and Ukraine are holding large military exercises along their shared border as the Ukrainian military claims to be closing in on rebel strongholds in Donetsk and Luhansk, NPR's Karoun Demirjian reports from Moscow.
Government troops and separatists have been fighting for months for control of eastern Ukraine, Karoun says, and Ukrainian leaders say Russia has been supplying the separatists with weapons and strategic assistance — a charge Moscow denies.
Ukrainian forces were reportedly advancing on rebel positions near the key eastern town of Donetsk on Saturday, as they try to retake the separatist stronghold.
Donetsk is the region where Malaysia Airlines MH17 was shot down on July 17, killing nearly 300 people. Pro-Russian rebels have been blamed for downing the plane and they have hampered international efforts to access the site of the wreckage.
The U.S. says it has "new evidence" that Russian forces have been firing artillery across the border to attack Ukrainian military positions, and that Moscow is planning to ship powerful rocket artillery to the rebels it backs in the country's east.
"We have new evidence that the Russians intend to deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers to the separatist forces in Ukraine, and have evidence that Russia is firing artillery from within Russia to attack Ukrainian military positions," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said during a daily briefing.
A refrigerated train carrying the remains of the people who died aboard the downed Malaysia Airlines plane arrived in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday. That's a city controlled by the central government in Kiev and 17 hours away from the chaos of Hrabove, the eastern city controlled by pro-Russian separatists, where the debris and remains were scattered.
Pro-Russian separatists have given what they say are Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17's data recorders to Malaysian officials in Donetsk, the city in eastern Ukraine that has been the militants' stronghold.
Along with the release of victims' bodies hours earlier, the transfer of the black boxes fulfills part of a deal Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said he had reached with the rebels Monday.
On Monday at the White House, President Obama urged Russian President Vladmir Putin to order Russian separatists in Ukraine to allow international investigators unfettered access to the crash site of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17.
President Barack Obama spoke about the downed plane in eastern Ukraine from the White House Monday morning. He called for international investigators to have "immediate and full access" to the site where a passenger jet was shot down last week.
U.S. officials have been seeking to build a case that the plane was shot down by pro-Russian separatists.
In the most emphatic U.S. statement to date on culpability for the downing of a Malaysian airliner over Eastern Ukraine that killed 298 people, Secretary of State John Kerry says evidence overwhelmingly points to Russian-backed separatists.
In an interview with CNN, he says that U.S. intelligence, as well as social media put out by the rebels, "obviously points a very clear finger at the separatists.
Moscow has issued a quid pro quo for sanctions imposed on it by Washington, banning a U.S. congressman and 12 other Americans from entering Russia.
NPR's Hansi Lo Wang reports that the Foreign Ministry in Moscow says the new blacklist is in response to U.S. visa restrictions on Russian citizens in the wake of Moscow's annexation of Crimea and its continuing support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Originally published on Sat July 19, 2014 11:45 pm
Updated at 4:35 p.m. ET.
International investigators say armed rebels have limited their inspection of the Eastern Ukraine site of the downed Malaysian Airlines flight that killed nearly 300 passengers and crew, as Kiev accused pro-Russian separatists of destroying evidence at the scene.