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Bucking Stereotypes, A More Sober Russia Emerges

Russia has long been viewed as one of the world's heaviest drinking countries. Or it certainly used to be. A recent global study found that alcohol consumption by Russians nearly halved over the past decade — and now sits at levels below western countries like France and Germany. From Moscow, Charles Maynes reports on the shift going on in the glass.

British Voters Unimpressed as Johnson and Corbyn Clash in TV Debate

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn clashed over Brexit in the first televised debate Tuesday, ahead of the December 12th election. Johnson promised to end what he called "this national misery" of Brexit, while Corbyn promised another referendum. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many voters appear unimpressed by either of the party leaders. 

Press Freedom Under Spotlight at Magnitsky Human Rights Awards

The Ukrainian journalist Oleg Sentsov, who was jailed in Russia for reporting on the country’s illegal annexation of Crimea, and murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi were among those honored at the recent Magnitsky Awards ceremony in London. The awards pay tribute to those who risk their lives to stand up for human rights. Henry Ridgwell reports from the ceremony

Riot Police Advance on Protesters in Tbilisi, Fire Water Cannons, Tear Gas

Riot police in Tbilisi have begun using water cannons and launching volleys of tear gas at protesters who were blocking the entrance to parliament until early elections are called.Hundreds of demonstrators were gathered for a fourth day on Monday to protest parliament's rejection of constitutional amendments on the transition to a proportional electoral system when riot police moved in.Live broadcasts from the scene showed demonstrators huddled in large groups as they were sprayed with water.The move appeared to have little immediate effect, and soon after clouds of tear gas could be seen wafting through the area and large groups of riot police slowly moved forward on the crowd, forcing many protesters to retreat.The rally "has gone beyond the law," the Interior Ministry said earlier in the day in a statement.Concern that the protest could spill over into violence has risen among Western diplomats.On November 17, the United States and the European Union called on the Georgian government, political parties, and civil society to engage in a "calm and respectful dialogue" over the snap elections.Changing the system from a mixed system to a proportional one from 2020 was one of the demands of thousands of demonstrators who rallied for weeks in Tbilisi in June and July.The legislature currently has proportional representation for about half of the body's seats.Opposition parties say the current electoral system unfairly favors the ruling Georgian Dream party.The Georgian Dream party, including its billionaire founder and leader Bidzina Ivanishvili, backed the accelerated reforms, but the measure still failed to pass.That prompted some lawmakers, including Deputy Speaker Tamar Khangoshvili, to resign from the party.Nonetheless, Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze, who is also the Georgian Dream general secretary, said voters should wait to voice their opinions at the ballot box."It's less than a year before an election. Accordingly, we are no longer going to consider any new initiative in connection with the election system. Elections will be held in constitutional terms, with the highest democratic standard and with a high inclusion of society," he said."Therefore, we urge opponents to prepare for the elections and not to blame the lack of popular support for the electoral system," the former international football star added.The EU delegation to Georgia and the U.S. Embassy said in a joint statement on November 17 that they "recognize the deep disappointment of a wide segment of Georgian society at the failure of Parliament to pass the constitutional amendments."The ...

Top Diplomats, Experts: US Support Essential to Ukraine's Fight Against Russia

The impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump centers on the question of whether he suspended close to 400 million dollars in U.S. military aid to Ukraine to pressure President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate one of his own political opponents. Top U.S. diplomats and other foreign policy experts said any threat to that U.S. security assistance sends the wrong signal, both to Ukraine, and to the stronger power it is fighting on its own soil, Russia. VOA’s Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports from Washington.

US Says It Won't Abandon Fight Against IS in Syria

The United States is promising not to abandon the fight to eradicate the Islamic State terror group, while pushing its coalition allies to take more responsibility for foreign fighters and rebuilding Iraq and Syria. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed visiting foreign ministers of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS to the State Department Thursday to discuss the way forward, as VOA's Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports.

British Refusal to Publish Russia Report Fuels Suspicions Of Kremlin Links

The British government is refusing to publish a report examining Russian interference in its democratic process – despite widespread calls for its release before the general election scheduled December 12. The report by the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee was completed months ago – and the head of the committee says it is ready for release. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the delay is fueling suspicions that it could be damaging for the ruling Conservative party 

Reborn Railroad is History Come Alive

At the dawn of the 20th century, a railway was born. It connected Austria and Germany with a major port in the Adriatic Sea. The railway carried critical World War I supplies, but it fell out of favor by the 1940s. VOA's Arash Arabasadi takes us on a coal-powered ride on a train that tourism may just save.

Merkel Urges Defense of Freedom on 30th Anniversary of Berlin Wall's Fall

Chancellor Angela Merkel led a series of commemorations in the German capital over weekend to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which divided the city during the Cold War until 1989. The wall was built by Communist East Germany to prevent its citizens fleeing to the capitalist west. As Henry Ridgwell reports, the hope and optimism in the years following the wall’s destruction have been replaced with fears over the resurgent tensions between Russia and the West

Trump Set to Welcome Erdogan Despite US Lawmakers' Anger over Syria

President Donald Trump prepares to welcome Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the White House Nov. 13, just weeks after Turkey launched an assault in Syria on Kurdish fighters — longtime allies of the United States in the fight against Islamic State terrorists. U.S. lawmakers from both  parties have slammed the president for his announcement that he plans to withdraw most U.S. troops from Syria, and Democratic lawmakers are also blasting his invitation to Erdogan while Turkey continues its attacks on the Kurds. VOA's Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports from the State Department.

Pompeo, Other NATO Members Reject Macron's Claim That Alliance is 'Brain Dead'

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says NATO remains one of the most important strategic partnerships in recorded history. Speaking Thursday in Germany at an event commemorating the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Pompeo said the alliance has a critical role amid dangers posed by communist governments around the world. Pompeo's remarks came after French President Emmanuel Macron said a lack of U.S. commitment is causing the "brain death" of NATO. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports.

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