Corey Flintoff

Crimea came back into the headlines this summer when Donald Trump suggested he was willing to consider recognizing Russia's takeover of the Ukrainian territory. Trump also said he'd think about lifting the sanctions the U.S. imposed on Russia after it annexed Crimea in 2014.

The Kremlin has been racing to cement its control over the Black Sea peninsula. A key part of this effort is the Crimea Bridge, and it's essential to President Vladimir Putin's plan to make the peninsula a viable part of Russia.

One part of the refugee crisis in Europe has largely been forgotten: the plight of people who've been displaced by the war in eastern Ukraine. Life is getting harder for some refugees who fled to Russia.

Russia's Federal Migration Service says more than a million people fled from eastern Ukraine to Russia to escape the warfare of the past two years. During the heaviest fighting, families crossed the border into Russia with everything they could carry in suitcases and sacks.

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You know, we've been wondering what the rest of the world thinks of this remarkable presidential election in 2016, so this morning we're hearing from some of our reporters overseas throughout the program. And now, we turn to NPR's Corey Flintoff in Moscow.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says last month was the warmest January on record. That sets off alarm bells for climate scientists, but for the average person living in a northern climate, it might not sound so bad.

That's what many people are saying these days in Russia, where the expected icy winter has failed to materialize this year – to widespread joy. Of course, any climate scientist will tell you that an unusually warm month — or even a whole warm winter — doesn't mean much. It's the long-term trend that counts.

Russians became enthusiastic travelers after the Soviet Union broke up, and two of their most cherished winter getaways were the sunny resorts of Egypt and Turkey.

But those countries are now off-limits, and Russia's sagging economy and sinking currency are also keeping many at home.

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Russia seems to be building up its military force in Syria, especially after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane along the Turkish-Syrian border late last month.

In his State of the Nation speech on Thursday, President Vladimir Putin warned the Russian people that the fight could be a long one.

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Police in Russia have arrested a dissident performance artist for setting fire to some doors at Russia's top security agency.

Images from the protest show Pyotr Pavlensky standing in front of two monumental wooden doors, their panels outlined in flame. The 31-year-old artist is a cadaverous figure, wearing a dark hoodie and holding a gasoline can.

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The nightly news on Russia's state-run television is full of the whine of jet engines as warplanes launch sorties from a dusty airfield in Syria. Russia has just over 30 fixed-wing combat planes in Syria. The Ministry of Defense says these planes are flying dozens of missions every day.

Russia's bombing campaign in Syria has entered its third week, and military officials are claiming daily successes in striking what they say are "terrorist targets."

There's a surge of interest in the work of 20th century Russian poet Anna Akhmatova. It's inspired in part by American country and folk singer-songwriter Iris Dement, who has an adopted daughter from Russia and has set some of the poet's work to music in a new album, The Trackless Woods.

Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated his 63rd birthday Wednesday, amid a controversial bombing campaign in Syria, a weakening economy and tensions with the U.S. and its Western allies. The Russian leader made a point of taking it all in stride — including adulation from his fans.

He occupied an even more prominent place than usual on Russian state television on Wednesday. Putin was shown receiving a briefing on the Russian military operation in Syria, including the news that Russian warships in the Caspian Sea fired more than two dozen rockets at targets in Syria.

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Russia has been displaying its military might lately, with war games and weapons shows. Even though his country is the midst of a recession, President Vladimir Putin is pushing ahead with a costly plan to modernize the military.

Top U.S. and NATO officials have identified Russia's war-making potential as a greater threat than Islamist terrorism, but is the hype justified?

There's a quote that's often attributed to Winston Churchill: "Russia is never as strong as you fear or as weak as you hope."

Russian tabloids and TV channels had a field day this week with newly released pictures of President Vladimir Putin working out at a gym with his prime minister.

In one of several high-profile cases that have drawn international criticism, a Russian military court has sentenced a Ukrainian film director to 20 years in prison for allegedly plotting terrorist attacks in Crimea.

The cases have provoked protests from human rights groups and Western governments, including the United States.

Throughout the week, Russians have been watching scenes of destruction on the evening news.

It's part of Russia's war against so-called contraband foods, as authorities crush, burn and bury Western food products.

Russian authorities are enforcing a ban on many foods from the European Union, the United States and other nations that have sanctioned Moscow for its aggression in Ukraine.

Last month, the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan made the news, as it competed with Beijing to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

Kazakhstan lost its bid, but the effort drew attention to the problems faced by the country's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Human rights campaigners were hoping that if Kazakhstan were chosen, the country would face international pressure to improve conditions for people with different sexual and gender orientations.

Given Russia's cyber skills, it's not surprising that a Russian entrepreneur, Eugene Kaspersky, runs one of the world's leading companies offering protection from malware and online crime.

But with the current tensions between Russia and the West, Kaspersky's ties to the Russian government have raised questions.

There's a line in the 2007 movie Die Hard 4: Live Free Or Die, when in the midst of a wave of cyberterrorism, the villain warns "you have no idea who you're dealing with."

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There has been a spate of suicides among cancer patients in Russia and family members say their loved ones took their own lives because of unbearable pain, the result of government rules that make it hard to get painkilling drugs.

A new Russian law aims to make the process more humane, but patient advocates say it doesn't go far enough.

There's a support hotline for cancer patients called Project Co-operate, where volunteers offer advice and information to callers from all across Russia.

Oleg Konstantinov, the editor of a news website called Dumskaya in Ukraine's port city of Odessa, pulls up a map on a computer screen in his small, crowded newsroom. It's dotted with red, yellow, orange and green fire-burst icons, indicating where 34 bombings have taken place in the city over the past year or so.

Fighting surged again this week in eastern Ukraine, where government troops are battling separatist militias and their Russian allies.

NATO is responding by sending troops and equipment to eastern Europe, and it's also giving defensive training to Ukraine's beleaguered army.

First, you need to know how bad things were for the Ukrainian army when separatist militias and their Russian allies began the fight in eastern Ukraine in April 2014.

Miroslav Gai volunteered for the army last winter.

When Mikheil Saakashvili was the flamboyant, provocative president of Georgia, he made an international name for himself with his willingness to take on Russia, his much larger neighbor to the north.

Saakashvili led his tiny country, a former Soviet republic, in the brief war with Russia in 2008, which Georgia quickly lost. Saakashvili, who was also known as an economic reformer, served two terms as president but left Georgia after his party suffered a crushing defeat in parliamentary elections.

Moscow this year is celebrating the 80th anniversary of its subway system — the Moscow Metro — a crowning achievement of the Soviet Union's unprecedented forced industrialization in the 1930s.

One of the world's biggest and busiest subways today, it has dark connections to the repressions of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

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Victory Day, which commemorates the Soviet Union's defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, is the biggest annual celebration in Russia. And Saturday's event, marking the 70th anniversary, will be among the largest ever held.

The centerpiece will be a giant military parade just outside the Kremlin walls in Red Square, where more than 16,000 troops will pass in review before President Vladimir Putin, VIPs and foreign leaders.

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