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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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