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.

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.

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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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.

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