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.

Following heavy shelling in what had been a Ukraine-controlled city, the central government's force is retreating from Debaltseve, a key railroad and transportation hub. Ukraine says it has now withdrawn 80 percent of its armed forces from the city.

"I can say now that the Ukrainian armed forces and the National Guard completed an operation on the planned and organized withdrawal of some units from Debaltseve this morning," Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko said, according to the Interfax news agency in Ukraine.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Peace talks between Russia and Ukraine have resulted in a cease-fire which is set to begin Sunday. But there's still a long ways to go before a lasting peace can exist between the two countries.

Former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman doesn't think the cease-fire will hold. He told CNN that the U.S. should send weapons to Ukrainian fighters to help counter Russian-backed troops and President Vladamir Putin.

"I think if we give them the weapons to defend themselves, it actually raises the prospects that the cease-fire will hold because it creates a little more balance on the ground and creates a bit of a disincentive for Putin and the separatists to keep moving through eastern Ukraine," said Lieberman.

A new cease-fire is set to begin Sunday in eastern Ukraine, in a deal after 16 hours of peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. The leaders of France and Germany helped broker the deal, which calls for a buffer zone free of heavy weapons. News of the temporary peace emerged along with a new international aid plan for Ukraine.

As has been the case in Ukraine's nearly yearlong conflict with separatists, the new arrangement established by Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko leaves some important issues unresolved.

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.

Evgeny Feldman / Wikimedia Commons

Updated at 11:36 a.m. 

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.

Apples and oranges / Creative Commons

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. 

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.

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.

As Oil Prices Fall, Who Wins And Who Loses?

Oct 16, 2014

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.

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.

Ukraine and the West, including the United States, insist that the Russian army has been fighting in eastern Ukraine, a charge that Russia just as vehemently denies.

But reports from Russia now acknowledge that Russian soldiers are part of the battle — though they are claimed to be volunteers, on leave from their army jobs.

Critics say the Russian military is ordering soldiers into the fight, and covering up the deaths of those who are killed, in an unacknowledged war on foreign soil.

This post was updated at 1 p.m. ET.

The government of Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists in the east say they have stopped fighting, honoring a cease-fire that took effect late Friday afternoon local time.

NPR's Corey Flintoff tells our Newscast unit that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko ordered a cease-fire once separatists agreed to peace talks at a meeting in Belarus.

During a televised press conference, Poroshenko said the peace deal was forged based on a phone conversation he had with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Can NATO Find A Way To Contain Russia?

Sep 3, 2014

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.

The morning started on a hopeful note: The office of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the two had agreed on a "permanent cease-fire."

But that was short-lived. As the state-funded Russia Today reports, the Russians quickly pointed out that they had reached no such agreement, because "Russia is not party to Ukraine conflict."

NATO To Create New 'Spearhead' Force For Eastern Europe

Sep 2, 2014

NATO leaders are expected to set up a rapid-response force to deploy quickly to eastern Europe to defend against potential Russian aggression at their meeting in Wales later this week.

The force of about 4,000 troops will be ready to move on 48 hours notice from a station in a member country close to Russia, The New York Times reported.

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."

Chion Wolf / WNPR

As the conflict between Ukraine and Russia continues to escalate, Democratic U.S. Senator Chris Murphy wants to call it what it is: a war.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk says his government has sent parliament a bill that allows Ukraine to open a path toward membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

"The main and only goal of Ukraine's foreign policy is to join the European Union," Yatsenyuk said in a statement.

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.