Lucian Kim

MOSCOW — Darya Apakhonchich never considered herself a foreign agent.

She taught Russian to refugees in her hometown, St. Petersburg, and took part in street performances against militarism and violence against women. The activism of Apakhonchich's art group was quirky and local, and their performances typically got a couple of hundred views on YouTube.

MOSCOW — John Kerry, the U.S. special presidential envoy for climate, quietly traveled to Moscow this week, becoming the highest-ranking White House official to visit Russia since President Biden took office.

Kerry told NPR that his three days of talks with Kremlin officials were "exclusively" dedicated to climate change. But coming less than a month after Biden's first summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and amid a series of ransomware attacks blamed on Russian cybercrooks, Kerry's trip was clearly aimed at improving the bilateral climate as well.

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MOSCOW — The British Defence Ministry has denied a claim that a Russian vessel fired warning shots at a Royal Navy warship approaching the Crimean Peninsula in the Black Sea Wednesday.

Earlier, the Russian Defense Ministry said that a warplane had also dropped four bombs in the path of the British destroyer, HMS Defender, to force it to change course.

MOSCOW — Catherine Serou, a 34-year-old U.S. citizen studying in Russia, has been found dead after she went missing on Tuesday, Russia's Investigative Committee said in a statement.

A man in his early 40s with past convictions, has been arrested and is cooperating with investigators, the committee said. His name was not released.

MOSCOW — Catherine Serou, a U.S. citizen studying in Russia, has been missing since she got into a car with a stranger on Tuesday. The authorities in Nizhny Novgorod, 250 miles east of Moscow, have started a criminal investigation and are searching a forested area outside the city where Serou's cell phone was last picked up.

On the day of her disappearance Serou managed to send a text message to her mother in Vicksburg, Miss. — the last sign of life from the 34-year-old graduate student and former Marine.

MOSCOW — Not so long ago, the image of Belarus was of a peaceful, if tightly controlled, former Soviet republic, squeezed between Poland and Russia. Now the country's pro-democracy leaders are warning their country could turn into a North Korea in Europe: a state run by a dangerous, unpredictable leader who survives through fear and repression.

The Biden administration wants a more stable and predictable relationship with Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to show that his country is taken seriously as a world power. That is the backdrop for the first summit between the U.S. and Russian presidents, which will take place in Geneva on Wednesday.

"Russia is quite invested in having a very friction-filled rather than friction-free relationship with the United States," warns Fiona Hill of the Brookings Institution.

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Editor's note: The fight against disinformation has become a facet of nearly every story NPR international correspondents cover, from vaccine hesitancy to authoritarian governments spreading lies. This and other stories by correspondents around the globe focus on different tactics to combat disinformation, the impacts they've had and what other countries might learn from them.

Updated May 11, 2021 at 11:48 AM ET

A gunman in the Russian city of Kazan opened fire at a school early Tuesday, killing at least seven students, a teacher and a school worker, and injuring 21 others, Russian officials said.

The governor of Tatarstan, an oil-rich, Muslim-majority region where Kazan is the capital, said seven of the dead were eighth-grade students at Kazan's School No. 175.

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MOSCOW — Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the exiled leader of Belarus' pro-democracy movement, is calling on Belarusians to take to the streets this week and revive the mass protests that swept the Eastern European country last fall.

"I know that the Belarusian people are not giving up. They have this inner demand for demonstrations because they want to build a new country. They want new elections," she tells NPR in a phone interview from Lithuania. "This is the beginning of a second wave of protests."

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This week I got vaccinated with Sputnik V, the COVID-19 vaccine that Russian President Vladimir Putin is promoting as the best in the world.

As a resident of Moscow and a journalist, I'm entitled to the two-dose vaccine. So on Wednesday morning I walked up the street to City Polyclinic No. 5, a nondescript brick building in central Moscow, where I'd scheduled an appointment at 10:48 a.m.

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Updated at 5:06 p.m. ET

A Moscow judge ruled Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny must go to prison for violating the terms of a 2014 conviction. Navalny has called the old conviction politically motivated.

Police have detained more than 900 people who protested his sentencing, according to Reuters on Tuesday.

Prosecutors pushed to turn Navalny's 3.5-year suspended sentence into actual prison time, which the judge accepted, even though the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2017 that Navalny had been tried unfairly.

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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny called on his supporters to protest after he was arrested at a Moscow airport Sunday.

"Don't be afraid. Take to the streets. Don't do it for me, do it for yourselves and your future," Navalny said in a video posted to YouTube, the social media platform that has brought his anti-Kremlin message to the farthest corners of Russia. Navalny's supporters say they will organize nationwide protests on Jan. 23.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has turned the success of his country's COVID-19 vaccine into a matter of personal pride — and national prestige.

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Russia has the world's fourth largest COVID caseload after the United States, India and Brazil. President Vladimir Putin is counting on a Russia-produced vaccine, but as NPR's Lucian Kim reports, there's a lot of public reluctance.

As the news broke in November that Joe Biden had won enough states to be declared president-elect, congratulations poured in from world leaders. Russian President Vladimir Putin was conspicuously absent from the list of well-wishers — and waited for more than a month, until the Electoral College vote last week, before congratulating him.

When President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into office next month, he will immediately be faced with the task of saving the last arms control treaty between the United States and Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered mass immunization against COVID-19 as Russia races to reverse a surge in coronavirus cases and be the first in the world to distribute its vaccine widely.

Putin issued the order in a videoconference with officials, just hours after health authorities in Britain approved Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine.

On Sunday afternoon, President Trump tweeted his congratulations to the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan for agreeing to a cease-fire in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. "Many lives will be saved," Trump wrote.

The U.S.-brokered truce — the third attempt by outside powers to end hostilities that erupted a month ago — went into effect at 8 a.m. local time on Monday. But it wasn't long before the two sides were accusing each other of violating it.

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