Lucian Kim | KUER 90.1

Lucian Kim

Lucian Kim is NPR's international correspondent based in Moscow. He has been reporting on Europe and the former Soviet Union for the past two decades.

Before joining NPR in 2016, Kim was based in Berlin, where he was a regular contributor to Slate and Reuters. As one of the first foreign correspondents in Crimea when Russian troops arrived, Kim covered the 2014 Ukraine conflict for news organizations such as BuzzFeed and Newsweek.

Kim first moved to Moscow in 2003, becoming the business editor and a columnist for the Moscow Times. He later covered energy giant Gazprom and the Russian government for Bloomberg News. When anti-government protests broke out in Moscow in 2011, he started a blog. In the following years he blogged about his travels to Chechnya and to Sochi, site of the 2014 Olympics.

Kim started his career in 1996 after receiving a Fulbright grant for young journalists in Berlin. There he worked as a correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor and the Boston Globe, reporting from central Europe, the Balkans, Afghanistan, and North Korea.

He has twice been the alternate for the Council on Foreign Relations Edward R. Murrow Fellowship.

Kim was born and raised in Charleston, Illinois. He earned a bachelor's degree in geography and foreign languages from Clark University, studied journalism at the University of California at Berkeley, and graduated with a master's degree in nationalism studies from Central European University in Budapest.

Today, white yachts bob on the turquoise surface of Balaklava Bay, a quiet inlet hidden from the open waters of the Black Sea. But 30 years ago, the bay was a restricted military zone, filled with submersible giants of the Soviet navy.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, a master of diplomatic verbosity and sardonic barbs, summed up the results of the Helsinki summit in just three exuberant words: "better than super."

After four years of getting short shrift by his American counterparts, Russian President Vladimir Putin was standing side by side with President Trump, who lavished him with the words of praise, respect and awe normally only heard on Russian state television.

At last, Donald Trump will get the chance to meet with Vladimir Putin at the formal summit both men have been seeking for months.

After watching as President Trump held one-on-one talks with leaders from around the world — even North Korea — the Russian president will finally have his American counterpart's undivided attention when they meet on Monday in the Finnish capital Helsinki.

In the United States, the curious magnetism between the two presidents has fueled speculation about Trump's open admiration for Putin.

As guests arrived at the U.S. ambassador's residence for the annual Independence Day party in Moscow on Wednesday, the band onstage was covering songs by the rock group Chicago.

"Only the beginning!" the lead singer belted out as local dignitaries juggled hotdogs, tacos and cocktails across a soggy lawn. The buoyant lyrics seemed symbolic of President Trump's quiet détente with Russia as he prepares for the first full-fledged summit on July 16 with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin opened soccer's World Cup in Moscow's gleaming Luzhniki Stadium last week, it was a moment of personal triumph for a leader who craves the prestige of international sporting events.

But more than 1,000 miles away, in an Arctic prison camp nicknamed "Polar Bear," another drama was unfolding that Putin would prefer to keep out of the limelight: Oleg Sentsov, a 41-year-old Ukrainian filmmaker, was entering his second month of a hunger strike.

The campus of Moscow State University is located in Sparrow Hills, a leafy haven overlooking Luzhniki Stadium, the main arena for this year's soccer World Cup.

A simple tombstone marks the grave of the lone American buried in the vast Naval Cemetery in Vladivostok overlooking Russia's Pacific coast.

The words "Secretary H. B. Emmez, American YMCA" are carved in English above a cross into the granite slab. There are no dates, epitaphs or other inscriptions.

When Emmanuel Macron visited the White House a month ago, commentators nicknamed the French president the "Trump Whisperer" for establishing a close personal rapport with President Trump.

Now Macron is in Russia, where he is sidling up to Vladimir Putin on a two-day trip to St. Petersburg, the splendorous czarist-era imperial capital and the Russian president's hometown.

Room 615 in Vladivostok's Hotel Gavan is a cramped, two-room "business suite" with green wallpaper and carpeting. Yet when former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il traveled to Russia's Pacific coast in 2002, the modest digs served as his presidential suite.

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Vladimir Putin won a fourth term as Russia's president on Sunday in a vote designed to be more of a referendum on his 18 years in power than a competitive election.

According to official results as of Monday morning, Putin swept up almost 77 percent of the vote, with Communist candidate Pavel Grudinin trailing in a distant second with less than 12 percent. None of the other six pre-approved candidates rose above the single digits.

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On the day Olga Skripnik fled her home in Crimea, many of her fellow Crimeans were celebrating.

On March 16, 2014, separatist leaders in the Ukrainian province rushed through a referendum on joining Russia in violation of Ukraine's constitution. The controversial measure, which few countries recognized, passed overwhelmingly under the watchful eyes of a Russian occupation force that had seized the Crimean Peninsula two weeks earlier.

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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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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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