Lucian Kim | KUOW News and Information

Lucian Kim

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When heavily armed Russian troops began fanning out across Crimea in February 2014, one man stepped out of the shadows to lead the movement to break off from Ukraine and join Russia.

Sergei Aksyonov, then the head of a small pro-Kremlin party, was appointed the leader of Crimea and oversaw a referendum in favor of the split that few countries recognized. The lightning Russian takeover was a watershed moment, leading to a downward spiral in relations between Moscow and the West.

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More than two months after a mysterious radioactive cloud was detected over Europe, Russia's nuclear industry went public Friday in an attempt to dispel fears that one of its facilities had released a plume of ruthenium-106.

Russia's state nuclear corporation, ROSATOM, released the findings of a special commission, which concluded that the Mayak nuclear reprocessing plant, near the border with Kazakhstan, could not have been the source of ruthenium-106, a radioactive isotope.

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Covering Russia could get tougher for foreign reporters there. Russia's lower house of parliament, the Duma, passed legislation today requiring international media to declare themselves as foreign agents. And as NPR's Lucian Kim reports, this is payback.

Gennady Gudkov, a retired KGB colonel, peered at me across his dark, vaulted office in an old Moscow manor house.

"I'm going to tell you something that I've never told anyone before," he said. "About 10 years ago, Russia had the opportunity to seriously influence election results in France."

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Being a member of Russia's democratic opposition has long meant coping with failure and irrelevance. In the carefully choreographed public life of Vladimir Putin's Russia, political campaigns lacking the Kremlin's blessing have usually failed.

But in early September, Russian democrats finally had something to celebrate: Almost 300 opposition candidates surprised everyone by winning majorities in 30 of Moscow's 125 local district councils.

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When Donald Trump Jr. agreed to meet Natalia Veselnitskaya last summer, she was introduced to him as a "Russian government attorney" with dirt on Hillary Clinton. After it turned out that Veselnitskaya couldn't deliver the goods, the meeting ended quickly.

Washington's most notorious ambassador is going home.

Sergei Kislyak, 66, has been due to return to Russia since last year, after serving throughout the Obama years. But his departure became the subject of fierce speculation when it emerged that Kislyak had communicated with key members of President Trump's team before he took office.

When Donald Trump meets Vladimir Putin on Friday, the whole world will be looking for clues as to where the fraught U.S.-Russian relationship goes next.

After months of speculation on the location and format of their first meeting, the two presidents will finally sit down together during a yearly gathering of Group of 20 leaders in Hamburg, Germany.

Residents in a suburb of Siberia's capital, Novosibirsk, like to say the world's smartest street runs through their leafy community.

The broad avenue that cuts through the taiga, or Siberian woodland, is named after Mikhail Lavrentyev, a mathematician who established the Soviet Union's version of Silicon Valley here during the Cold War.

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A wave of anti-government protests swept across Russia on Monday, starting in the Pacific port city of Vladivostok and rolling west, across half-a-dozen time zones.

About 2,000 miles from Moscow, thousands of people in Novosibirsk heeded the call of opposition leader Alexei Navalny for a second round of rallies after nationwide protests in March stunned the Kremlin.

Novosibirsk, the capital of Siberia and Russia's third most populous city, is becoming an important regional center in Navalny's quixotic campaign to run for president next year.

Russia's hottest political talk show isn't listed in any TV guides.

On Thursday evenings since April, Russians have been navigating to a new YouTube channel to get their weekly dose of biting commentary and political agitation from anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny.

Anna Sazonkina never used to go to rallies. The 41-year-old viola teacher and her husband, an oboist, were too busy raising their four boys.

But on Sunday, the couple went out to protest for the first time in their lives, joining thousands rallying in downtown Moscow to save their homes from the wrecking ball.

A couple of years ago, Kiev business journalist Yuliya Savostina decided to try an experiment: to spend a year living off food and other goods produced exclusively in Ukraine.

Inspired by the local food movement in the United States, Savostina started a blog to document her experience. She didn't expect it to last very long.

Paul Manafort quit as Donald Trump's campaign manager last summer amid questions about his consulting work for a disgraced Ukrainian leader who now is a wanted man in his own country.

While Manafort vanished from Ukraine's political scene even earlier, his name lives on in Kiev.

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