Corey Flintoff

Corey Flintoff is NPR's international correspondent based in Moscow. His journalism career has taken him to more than 50 countries, most recently to cover the civil war in Libya, the revolution in Egypt and the war in Afghanistan.

After joining NPR in 1990, Flintoff worked for many years as a newscaster during All Things Considered. In 2005, he became part of the NPR team covering the Iraq War, where he embedded with U.S. military units fighting insurgents and hunting roadside bombs.

Flintoff's reporting from Iraq includes stories on sectarian killings, government corruption, the Christian refugee crisis and the destruction of Iraq's southern marshes. In 2010, he traveled to Haiti to report on the massive earthquake its aftermath. Two years before, he reported on his stint on a French warship chasing pirates off the coast of Somalia.

One of Flintoff's favorite side jobs at NPR is standing in for Carl Kasell during those rare times when the venerable scorekeeper takes a break from Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me!

Before NPR, Flintoff served as the executive producer and host of Alaska News Nightly, a daily news magazine produced by the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage. His coverage of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill was recognized with the 1989 Corporation for Public Broadcasting Award.

In 1977, Flintoff got his start in public radio working at at KYUK-AM/TV, in Bethel, Alaska. KYUK is a bilingual English-Yup'ik Eskimo station and Flintoff learned just enough Yup'ik to announce the station identification. He wrote and produced a number of television documentaries about Alaskan life, including "They Never Asked Our Fathers" and "Eyes of the Spirit," which have aired on PBS and are now in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution.

He tried his hand at commercial herring fishing, dog-mushing, fiction writing and other pursuits, but failed to break out of the radio business.

Flintoff has a bachelor's degree from the University of California at Berkeley and a master's degree from the University of Chicago, both in English literature. In 2011, he was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Drexel University.

An independent Russian newspaper has come under fire after it published stories about the business interests of President Vladimir Putin's family and friends.

The Kremlin insists that it's not applying pressure on any media, but observers say there's a climate where journalists don't know how far they can go without risking reprisals from the government.

The drop in world oil prices is still biting hard at Russia's economy. As oil has collapsed, so has the value of the ruble. And the people who've been hit hardest — pensioners and people who aspire to join the middle class — are groups that are important to President Vladimir Putin's political base.

For many Russians, the symbol of entering the middle class was the ability to buy a house or apartment. In the growing prosperity of the mid-2000s, people began taking mortgage loans to make that possible, and home sales took off.

The United States and Russia haven't been cooperating much in these days of heightened tensions, but the U.S. Embassy in Moscow this week returned 28 valuable historical documents to Russia.

They were stolen from Russian collections and archives during the turbulent 1990s, in the wake of the Soviet collapse. The documents were believed to be stolen by Russian insiders and then made their way to U.S. dealers and auction houses.

U.S. and Russian officials met at the American ambassador's residence to exchange friendly words and speeches of thanks.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says last month was the warmest January on record. That sets off alarm bells for climate scientists, but for the average person living in a northern climate, it might not sound so bad.

That's what many people are saying these days in Russia, where the expected icy winter has failed to materialize this year – to widespread joy. Of course, any climate scientist will tell you that an unusually warm month — or even a whole warm winter — doesn't mean much. It's the long-term trend that counts.

The Russian punk band Pussy Riot has just released a new music video lampooning the country's prosecutor-general, Yuri Chaika.

The prosecutor-general, who is supposed to be one of Russia's top crime fighters, has been accused of massive corruption. The song revels in it.

In Soviet times, it was common for government critics to be branded as "traitors" and "enemies of the people." That sort of rhetoric largely faded away after the Soviet Union fell a quarter-century ago.

But now, it's returned — and much of it is coming from Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of the Russian republic of Chechnya.

Kadyrov likes to portray himself as an action hero from the rugged Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia.

Tuesday was an important holiday in the Russian Orthodox Church: Epiphany, which celebrates the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan.

Russian believers mark the event by re-enacting that baptism in ponds and rivers, and since Russia is far north of the Jordan, that means plunging into freezing water through holes cut in the ice.

Big cities like Moscow often set up elaborate stations where people can take the plunge, but people in other cities go for the do-it-yourself approach.

Russians became enthusiastic travelers after the Soviet Union broke up, and two of their most cherished winter getaways were the sunny resorts of Egypt and Turkey.

But those countries are now off-limits, and Russia's sagging economy and sinking currency are also keeping many at home.

Protests are rare in today's Russia, but there's one expression of discontent that's not going away.

For weeks now, long-distance truck drivers have been protesting against a new system of fees for using the highways. They say the fees will bankrupt them and drive up prices for Russian consumers.

What makes this protest significant is that it's not coming from the Russian middle class or liberal intellectuals. It's coming from people who are part of President Putin's working-class base.

Russian investigators have opened the tomb of 19th century Czar Alexander III in search of evidence that may help confirm the remains of his grandchildren, who were executed shortly after the Russian Revolution.

Alexander III, who went by the title "Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias," died in 1894. His reign was conservative and repressive, and may have spurred the discontent that eventually engulfed his son, Czar Nicholas II, in revolution.

"The grave's a fine and private place," but (with our apologies to English poet Andrew Marvell) not when it's in cyberspace.

The city of Moscow says it is extending free Wi-Fi to cemeteries. It's part of a campaign to make Internet access available in public spaces throughout the city.

The service has already earned the sobriquet "Die-Fi."

The organization that combats drug use in world sports has officially declared that Russia's anti-doping agency doesn't comply with international rules. It's another blow to Russian track and field stars, who already face a provisional ban — which Russia says it won't contest — for alleged doping violations that could keep them from competing at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Moscow may be projecting a tough image abroad, but Russia is facing severe internal problems, including worrying trends that suggest the world's biggest country could run short of people.

That's not what you might assume, judging by the number of babies in buggies and strollers in any large Russian city. At a neighborhood park in St. Petersburg full of young families with children and toddlers, it looks like this country is in the midst of a baby boom.

Police in Russia have arrested a dissident performance artist for setting fire to some doors at Russia's top security agency.

Images from the protest show Pyotr Pavlensky standing in front of two monumental wooden doors, their panels outlined in flame. The 31-year-old artist is a cadaverous figure, wearing a dark hoodie and holding a gasoline can.

The nightly news on Russia's state-run television is full of the whine of jet engines as warplanes launch sorties from a dusty airfield in Syria. Russia has just over 30 fixed-wing combat planes in Syria. The Ministry of Defense says these planes are flying dozens of missions every day.

Russia's bombing campaign in Syria has entered its third week, and military officials are claiming daily successes in striking what they say are "terrorist targets."

Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated his 63rd birthday Wednesday, amid a controversial bombing campaign in Syria, a weakening economy and tensions with the U.S. and its Western allies. The Russian leader made a point of taking it all in stride — including adulation from his fans.

He occupied an even more prominent place than usual on Russian state television on Wednesday. Putin was shown receiving a briefing on the Russian military operation in Syria, including the news that Russian warships in the Caspian Sea fired more than two dozen rockets at targets in Syria.

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Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Russia has been displaying its military might lately, with war games and weapons shows. Even though his country is the midst of a recession, President Vladimir Putin is pushing ahead with a costly plan to modernize the military.

Top U.S. and NATO officials have identified Russia's war-making potential as a greater threat than Islamist terrorism, but is the hype justified?

There's a quote that's often attributed to Winston Churchill: "Russia is never as strong as you fear or as weak as you hope."

Russian tabloids and TV channels had a field day this week with newly released pictures of President Vladimir Putin working out at a gym with his prime minister.

In one of several high-profile cases that have drawn international criticism, a Russian military court has sentenced a Ukrainian film director to 20 years in prison for allegedly plotting terrorist attacks in Crimea.

The cases have provoked protests from human rights groups and Western governments, including the United States.

Given Russia's cyber skills, it's not surprising that a Russian entrepreneur, Eugene Kaspersky, runs one of the world's leading companies offering protection from malware and online crime.

But with the current tensions between Russia and the West, Kaspersky's ties to the Russian government have raised questions.

There's a line in the 2007 movie Die Hard 4: Live Free Or Die, when in the midst of a wave of cyberterrorism, the villain warns "you have no idea who you're dealing with."

There has been a spate of suicides among cancer patients in Russia and family members say their loved ones took their own lives because of unbearable pain, the result of government rules that make it hard to get painkilling drugs.

A new Russian law aims to make the process more humane, but patient advocates say it doesn't go far enough.

There's a support hotline for cancer patients called Project Co-operate, where volunteers offer advice and information to callers from all across Russia.

Oleg Konstantinov, the editor of a news website called Dumskaya in Ukraine's port city of Odessa, pulls up a map on a computer screen in his small, crowded newsroom. It's dotted with red, yellow, orange and green fire-burst icons, indicating where 34 bombings have taken place in the city over the past year or so.

Fighting surged again this week in eastern Ukraine, where government troops are battling separatist militias and their Russian allies.

NATO is responding by sending troops and equipment to eastern Europe, and it's also giving defensive training to Ukraine's beleaguered army.

First, you need to know how bad things were for the Ukrainian army when separatist militias and their Russian allies began the fight in eastern Ukraine in April 2014.

Miroslav Gai volunteered for the army last winter.

When Mikheil Saakashvili was the flamboyant, provocative president of Georgia, he made an international name for himself with his willingness to take on Russia, his much larger neighbor to the north.

Saakashvili led his tiny country, a former Soviet republic, in the brief war with Russia in 2008, which Georgia quickly lost. Saakashvili, who was also known as an economic reformer, served two terms as president but left Georgia after his party suffered a crushing defeat in parliamentary elections.

Moscow this year is celebrating the 80th anniversary of its subway system — the Moscow Metro — a crowning achievement of the Soviet Union's unprecedented forced industrialization in the 1930s.

One of the world's biggest and busiest subways today, it has dark connections to the repressions of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

Victory Day, which commemorates the Soviet Union's defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, is the biggest annual celebration in Russia. And Saturday's event, marking the 70th anniversary, will be among the largest ever held.

The centerpiece will be a giant military parade just outside the Kremlin walls in Red Square, where more than 16,000 troops will pass in review before President Vladimir Putin, VIPs and foreign leaders.

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Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

General Motors announced last week that it's closing its auto plant in St. Petersburg, Russia, and Volkswagen says it will lay off workers and reduce shifts at a plant in central Russia.

The latest auto industry troubles highlight a dismal picture for foreign investment in Russia, which could see a 35 percent drop in sales this year.

Seven years ago, GM was looking at a bright future in the Russian market. Cars sales were taking off and would eventually grow at a rate of more than 10 percent a year.

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