Corey Flintoff

Russian officials are working to make sure that Sunday's parliamentary elections aren't a replay of the last such vote, in 2011.

That election triggered protests in which tens of thousands of Russians cried out against allegations of widespread vote-rigging and fraud. It was the biggest challenge to President Vladimir Putin, who has now been either president or prime minister for the past 17 years.

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It started with a report and erupted into a controversy involving a mufti, a Russian Orthodox priest and a rabbi.

The subject: female genital mutilation.

Last month, when Wikileaks published 20,000 emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee, cyber-security experts quickly said that the hack bore a Russian fingerprint.

Russia denies that it is trying to meddle in the U.S. presidential election. But Mark Galeotti, who follows cyber-crime for the Institute for International Relations in Prague, says worldwide research points in the Russians' direction.

Crimea came back into the headlines this summer when Donald Trump suggested he was willing to consider recognizing Russia's takeover of the Ukrainian territory. Trump also said he'd think about lifting the sanctions the U.S. imposed on Russia after it annexed Crimea in 2014.

The Kremlin has been racing to cement its control over the Black Sea peninsula. A key part of this effort is the Crimea Bridge, and it's essential to President Vladimir Putin's plan to make the peninsula a viable part of Russia.

President Vladimir Putin says he'll beef up Russia's military force in Crimea, after Russia's security service claimed that it thwarted a would-be terrorist incursion from Ukraine over the weekend.

The Federal Security Service, the FSB, said that teams of commandos from Ukraine's defense forces made two attempts to enter the Black Sea peninsula, with the intention of sabotaging vital infrastructure. The FSB said Ukrainian forces attempted to cover the infiltration by directing heavy fire at the Russian side, killing two Russian servicemen.

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Russia is indignant about allegations that it was involved in hacking the Democratic National Committee and releasing thousands of embarrassing emails through WikiLeaks.

Democrats have charged that the exploit was designed to hurt Hillary Clinton's campaign and favor Donald Trump's. Russia denies any involvement, but the incident helps shed light on how Russia's political establishment perceives the two major-party presidential nominees.

Amid rising tensions between NATO and Russia, the two sides are building up forces in several key places, including the Black Sea.

Crimea, which Russia seized from Ukraine two years ago, is on the Black Sea, and that's also where Russia recently stationed a new frigate, the Admiral Grigorovich, inviting journalists on board at the Russian base in Sevastopol.

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Russia's top prosecutor is threatening to ban the Jehovah's Witnesses for alleged "extremism."

The religious denomination has faced growing pressure in Russia over the past several years, with church members arrested and confiscations of church property.

The Jehovah's Witnesses aren't alone. Other denominations, such as the Mormons, are also under pressure.

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Every May 9, Russian television footage is dominated by one of the country's most important holidays, which speaks to both the past and the present.

The programming consists of tanks and other military vehicles rolling through Red Square as President Vladimir Putin and other dignitaries watch. Jet fighters scream overhead, streaming the white, blue and red of the Russian flag in their vapor trails.

Russian officials are trying to discredit a new report that implicates the Russian military in the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines flight 17. Nearly two years ago, that attack in the skies over eastern Ukraine killed 298 people.

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.

One part of the refugee crisis in Europe has largely been forgotten: the plight of people who've been displaced by the war in eastern Ukraine. Life is getting harder for some refugees who fled to Russia.

Russia's Federal Migration Service says more than a million people fled from eastern Ukraine to Russia to escape the warfare of the past two years. During the heaviest fighting, families crossed the border into Russia with everything they could carry in suitcases and sacks.

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.

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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.

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