August 5, 2021



Announcer calls Ukrainian medalists ‘Russian’
The organizers of the Tokyo Olympics have apologized after an announcer misidentified Ukraine’s artistic swimming medalists as being Russian. The Ukrainian pair of Marta Fedina and Anastasiya Savchuk won bronze in their duet free routine event on August 4, finishing behind pairs from the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and China. However, Fedina and Savchuk were named as ROC competitors by a French-language announcer, causing embarrassment for the organizers. “It was purely an operational mistake,” organizing committee spokesman Masa Tanaka said of the error on August 4 at the Olympic pool. The mistake is sensitive because of years-long diplomatic tensions between Ukraine and Russia. The Ukrainian region of Crimea was forcibly annexed by Russia in 2014. Fighting between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists continues in eastern Ukraine near the shared border between the countries. Announcements at Olympic venues are typically done in Japanese, English and French. At this year’s Euro 2020 tournament, an outline of Ukraine’s national border, including Crimea, was woven into the national football team’s jersey. Russian football officials complained to UEFA, which allowed the map outline to stay while asking for a slogan to be removed from inside the collar of the jersey. UEFA rules have prevented Ukrainian and Russian national and club teams from being drawn to play against each other for security reasons since 2014. During the Olympic opening ceremony on July 23, a Russian TV network cut to commercials just before the Ukrainian athletes entered behind their national flag. The broadcast returned after the Ukrainian team had passed. (RFE/RL, based on reporting by AP and dpa)

Man threatens to blow up government building
Police in Ukraine have arrested a man after an hours-long standoff that began when the suspect entered the building that houses the national government in Kyiv with “an object that resembled an explosive device” and threatened to detonate it. The chief of the Ukrainian National Police, Ihor Klymenko, identified the suspect as a veteran of the war against Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine’s east. He said the suspect had been wounded twice in that fighting, including suffering a head injury. Mr. Klymenko said an investigation was under way and the man’s motives were still unclear. Special police forces were called to the scene around 10 a.m. on August 4 after “an unknown man entered the building of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, took out an object looking like an explosive device from his pocket, and threatened to detonate it,” police said. Mr. Klymenko said the suspect threatened two security guards and a government administration employee. (RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service)

Russian court convicts Ukrainian
A court in central Russia has sentenced a Ukrainian citizen to more than three years in prison after convicting him of trying to smuggle parts from a Russian missile system to Ukraine. Ukraine is fighting a seven-year war against Russia-backed separatists and Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) alleged on August 2 that the man has “links to the Security Service of Ukraine.” Russian media reports about the conviction, by the Yoshkar-Ola City Court in the Volga region’s Republic of Mari El, did not disclose the man’s identity. A court in the southwestern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don last week sentenced a Russian and an Armenian to between 9 1/2 and 10 1/2 years in prison after finding them guilty of trying to smuggle parts of a S-300 missile system to Ukraine. Russia has arrested and convicted multiple Ukrainian and Russian citizens on charges of spying for Ukraine or providing Kyiv with classified information. Relations between Moscow and Kyiv have been tense since 2014, when Russia forcibly seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and armed Russia-backed separatists ignited a conflict in eastern Ukraine that has left more than 13,200 people dead. (RFE/RL, based on reporting by TASS and Interfax)

Belarusian athletes spurn homeland
Belarusian heptathlete Yana Maksimava says she and her Olympic-medalist husband have decided to stay in Germany with their child as the crackdown on pro-democracy groups and government critics continues in Belarus. Maksimova’s husband, Andrey Krauchanka, holds the Belarusian national record in the decathlon and won a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Maksimava said on Instagram on August 3 in connection with Belarus’s worsening situation and international isolation that “now one can lose not only his or her freedom, but life.” Her announcement came as a fellow Belarusian, Olympic sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, scrambled to avoid being repatriated from Tokyo and reports emerged from Ukraine of a murder investigation after an exiled Belarusian regime critic was found dead in Kyiv. “It is possible to breathe freely here and be one of those who is fighting for the liberty of their people, relatives and loved ones; we will prevail for sure,” Maksimava, who was born in Soviet-era Vilnius, wrote. Tsimanouskaya is currently seeking asylum in Poland after reportedly refusing to be forced aboard a plane for Minsk by Belarusian national team officials at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Twenty-six-year-old Belarusian activist Vital Shyshou was found hanged in a park near his home in Kyiv on August 3 after going missing a day earlier. Ukrainian police and friends from the Kyiv-based organization he runs to help persecuted Belarusians said he showed signs of having been beaten. That Olympic drama and Mr. Shyshou’s death have cast further light on Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s ruthless crackdown since protests erupted after he asserted victory in a presidential election in August 2020 that the opposition and international community say was fraudulent. Meanwhile, the Nasha Niva newspaper reported on August 3 on its Telegram channel that a coach of the Vitsyaz handball club in the Belarusian capital has fled Minsk for Ukraine. In June, the coach, Kanstantsin Yakauleu, was arrested and held for 15 days for taking part in an unsanctioned anti-government rally. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and other outside authorities are investigating Tsimanouskaya’s claims that she was in danger after running afoul of Belarusian officials for criticizing them for gaffes at the games. Tsimanouskaya was granted a humanitarian visa by Polish authorities after saying she feared jail if she returned to Belarus, and her Belarusian husband reportedly fled the country to eventually join her. (RFE/RL’s Current Time)

Ambassador to Russia dies ‘suddenly’
Serbia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry on August 4 announced the sudden death of Belgrade’s ambassador to Russia, 71-year-old former military analyst and journalist Miroslav Lazanski. It said only that he had “passed away suddenly,” but Serbian media cited officials as blaming his death on a heart attack at his home in Belgrade. “His dedication, commitment and devotion as the ambassador of our country will be remembered, as will his numerous activities aimed at further improving the cooperation and friendship between Serbia and Russia,” the ministry said in a statement. Mr. Lazanski was appointed as Belgrade’s top envoy to Russia in July 2019. He was a longtime journalist for the prominent Serbian daily Politika and a military analyst who had reported from conflict zones in Iran and Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Africa and the Middle East. Mr. Lazanski had also reported during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s from what are now Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia and Kosovo, and from Ukraine’s Crimea, which Russia invaded and annexed in 2014. He was also a frequent commentator for Russia’s state-run media organization Sputnik. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who along with his ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) allies has fostered close relations and a strategic partnership with Moscow, expressed his condolences. “Serbia has lost a great man, its ambassador to the Russian Federation, one of the best experts on geopolitical opportunities, military strategy and tactics, an exceptional journalist and publicist and, above all, a good man,” Mr. Vucic wrote. In a July 2020 report on “Russian interference” in North Macedonia, Bellingcat researchers linked Mr. Lazanski to a Moscow effort to “create a strip of militarily neutral countries” in the Balkans. Bellingcat said that Russian and Serbian intelligence officers “formed a connection” with Mr. Lazanski and asserted that “Macedonian counterintelligence also implicated Mr. Lazanski as one of the main pro-Kremlin propagandists in the country.” In July, Mr. Lazanski was at the center of an unconfirmed Serbian report claiming he had accused neighboring NATO member Montenegro of preventing weapons donated to Belgrade by Russia from being delivered. The Montenegrin Defense Ministry reportedly denied that such permission had even been requested. The Foreign Affairs Ministry said Mr. Lazanski’s funeral would be held in Belgrade on August 6. (RFE/RL’s Balkan Service, with reporting by AP)