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.

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.

Lyubov Sobol looks frail after ending a monthlong hunger strike. The unexpected protagonist of equally unexpected anti-government demonstrations in the Russian capital this summer, she speaks softly and chooses her words deliberately.

"My daughter is 5 years old," she says in an interview with NPR. "I want her to live in a country where human rights and freedoms are respected, where the courts are independent, and where there is a free press. I want her to live in this country. I don't want to move away."

Disgust fills Mikhail Mulenkov's voice when he talks about politics. But life became so tough in his town in central Russia, he says, that he was "forced" to run for city council last year. Much to his surprise, he won a seat.

"This wasn't my success, it was a protest by the people," says Mulenkov, 37, who works in a building management company in Pereslavl-Zalessky. "People here hate the government because of the pension reform, because it's cold in their homes during the winter and because garbage is being dumped here and even more landfills are planned."

On a recent Sunday morning at 11 o'clock, a dozen people, mostly elderly, gathered in front of an elegant apartment building on a sun-dappled street in central Moscow.

Ksenia Polunina stepped up to remember her father Sergei Polunin, a scientist who was hauled from the building, her childhood home, on a February night in 1938 — and then shot by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's secret police.

Ukrainians are so fed up with their politicians that many are seeking political relief from a TV comic in presidential elections taking place this weekend.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy's only connection to politics is the role he plays in a hit TV series about a man who accidentally becomes Ukraine's president. Now, the real-life Zelenskiy, 41, is the unexpected leader in opinion polls, which consistently show him winning up to 25 percent of the vote.

In 1982, Igor Yerin was working in a Moscow car plant when he was drafted into the Soviet army at age 20 and sent to Afghanistan to fight U.S.-backed guerrillas known as the mujahedeen. He ended up serving as a platoon sergeant with the 149th Motorized Rifle Regiment based in the northern city of Kunduz.

Paul Whelan was wearing a blue button-down Oxford shirt and glasses when he made his first and only public appearance in a Moscow courtroom last month after being arrested as a suspected spy.

The 48-year-old Michigan resident stood in the glass box customary for defendants in Russian courtrooms. Two defense lawyers leaned into a tiny window to talk with him while a plainclothes officer in a balaclava and jeans stood by.

The Chistye Prudy neighborhood is one of Moscow's liveliest, with restaurants and cafes clustered along a boulevard with a tram line and grand old apartment buildings.

Updated at 3 p.m. ET

Nearly two months after a rocket malfunction forced NASA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos to abort the launch of a Soyuz mission, a new crew blasted off on Monday for the International Space Station and arrived safe and sound.

Igor Korobov, the head of Russian military intelligence, has died amid mounting accusations that his agency, commonly known as the GRU, was behind subversive attacks on Western countries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was fielding questions from a hall of sedate academics last month when suddenly, Oleg Sirota's riotous head of curly brown hair popped out of the crowd of dark suits.

"I'm a farmer and cheesemaker from the Moscow region," Sirota declared on national TV. "I wanted to thank you for the sanctions."

Nelli Tachko stood on Moscow's Lubyanka Square and pronounced the name of her father, Stanislav Frantsevich Tachko, a postal worker who was executed at age 41 by the Soviet secret police.

Tachko, 93, was one of hundreds of Muscovites who waited for hours in frigid temperatures Monday to take part in an annual tradition in which anybody who wants to can read the name, age, profession and date of execution of a victim of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's Great Terror eight decades ago.

A cacophony of languages fills Riga's historic center, as foreign tourists pack the cobblestone streets of the Latvian capital. But eavesdrop on residents and you're just as likely to hear Russian as you are the national language, Latvian.

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton arrived in Moscow this weekend to a murmur of dampened outrage over President Trump's announcement to leave the 1987 arms control treaty that marked the end of the Cold War.

Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader who signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with then-President Ronald Reagan, called the decision a "mistake" that didn't originate from a great mind.

For decades, the principals at a boxy, two-story kindergarten in downtown Vilnius, Lithuania's capital, unwittingly pored over their lesson plans just a few feet above one of the city's most sacred sites.

This week 140 schoolchildren in St. Petersburg, Russia, became the latest victims of the chill in U.S.-Russian relations, when they were forced out of their school in a matter of days.

On Thursday the Anglo-American School in St. Petersburg, founded during the Cold War, posted a statement on its website, saying, "It is with great disappointment that we have to say good-bye." Just a week earlier, city authorities had informed the school that their building was to be vacated by midnight Wednesday.

The ground trembled as Russian Sukhoi attack jets blasted off at the Shagol airfield in the Ural Mountains. Close behind them, fighters from China and assault planes from Kazakhstan roared into the late-summer sky.

The multinational air force was assembled 900 miles east of Moscow last week to take part in an "anti-terrorist" exercise called "Peace Mission 2018." According to the drill's scenario, Islamic extremists had established a foothold in "Country A" in Central Asia.

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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