NEWSBRIEFS

RSF concerned over journalist’s “confession”
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says it fears that a detained Crimean journalist’s televised “confession” to spying on behalf of Ukraine was obtained under torture and has called for his immediate release and the withdrawal of the charges against him.

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Sanctions over Nord Stream 2 ‘possible’
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has told his German counterpart, Heiko Maas, that U.S. sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 pipeline are a real possibility. Mr. Blinken, speaking in Brussels on March 24 after private talks with Mr. Maas the previous day, reiterated U.S. President Joe Biden’s concerns about the pipeline from Russia to Germany.

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Ukraine sees record number of COVID deaths
Ukraine registered a record daily high of 289 coronavirus-related deaths over a 24-hour-period on March 17, leading the prime minister to urge local authorities to impose stronger restrictions to contain its spread. Ukraine last month prolonged a lockdown until the end of April but allowed regions with fewer COVID-19 cases to ease some curbs.

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Blinken says Biden opposes Nord Stream 2
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has assured members of Congress that the Biden administration opposes the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and said the administration continues to review further sanctions. Mr. Blinken told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that President Joe Biden thinks the nearly completed pipeline was a “bad idea” and had “been clear on this for some time.”

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Biden says U.S. stands with Ukraine
U.S. President Joe Biden said the United States will continue to back Ukraine against Russian aggression and will never recognize the Kremlin’s annexation of its neighbor’s territory. Mr. Biden made the comments of support on February 26 as Ukrainians mark the seventh anniversary of Moscow’s steps to seize Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

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U.S. awards Ukrainian anti-corruption figure
The editor-in-chief of a Kyrgyz investigative website and a former Ukrainian prosecutor general are among 12 people who have been recognized by the U.S. State Department as anti-corruption champions. The winners of the new International Anti-Corruption Champions Award were announced on February 23 by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said in a statement that the award recognizes people who have worked tirelessly, often in the face of adversity, to combat corruption in their own countries.

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Crimean Tatar activists detained
Russian authorities have detained several Crimean Tatar activists after their homes were searched in Ukraine’s Russian-controlled Crimea region. The Crimean Solidarity group told RFE/RL on February 17 that the searches were conducted at the homes of Abdulbori Makhamadaminov, Azamat Eyupov, Timur Yalkabov, Ernest Ibragimov, Oleh Fyodorov, Lenur Seydametov and Yashar Shikhametov in different towns and cities across Crimea. The official reason for the searches remains unclear.

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Yanukovych’s son likely off sanctions list
European Union diplomats are considering removing several of the 10 remaining Ukrainians – including Oleksandr Yanukovych, the son of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych – from a list of sanctioned people the bloc believes are responsible for the misappropriation of Ukrainian state funds. The EU imposed asset freezes on Viktor Yanukovych, part of his family, and his inner political circle shortly after the collapse of his government in late February 2014, but the list has slowly been whittled down over the years after some of them challenged, and sometimes won, court cases against the EU sanctions. The bloc’s losses in court have led to growing demands that the list should be pared down further or even annulled. Several EU diplomats who are familiar with the talks but not authorized to speak on the record told RFE/RL that there were “a number of ‘weak cases’ on the list that are bound to be challenged in the EU court” and that a lack of compelling evidence from Ukraine has forced the EU to consider the de-listings. Apart from Oleksandr Yanukovych, a businessman who became one of Ukraine’s richest men during his father’s reign, former Prime Minister Serhiy Arbuzov, ex-Minister for Duties and Revenues Oleksandr Klymenko, and Dmytro Tabachnyk, who worked as minister of education from 2010 to 2014, are the most likely candidates to be removed from the list.

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U.S. pledges economic, military support
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has pledged continued U.S. economic and military support to Ukraine under President Joe Biden’s new administration. In a phone call with Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba on February 1, Mr. Blinken “emphasized strong bipartisan support for Ukraine and the priority the United States places on Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and Euro-Atlantic aspirations,” the State Department said in a readout of the call.

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Mourning after deadly nursing home fire
Authorities in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv have declared January 22 a day of mourning for 15 people killed in a fire at a nursing home.