Stories by Nicholas Watson, journalist in Prague

Slovakia's political turmoil rumbles on month after journalist's assassination

Protesters, one carrying an "all for Jan" sign, march in Bratislava. Photo: VLADIMIR SIMICEK/AFP/Getty Images

Slovakia is expecting another wave of mass protests a month after the assassination of a journalist who was investigating links between politicians and criminal gangs like Italy’s ‘Ndrangheta. The demonstrations have already led to the resignation of the country's prime minister.

Why it matters: Jan Kuciak, a 27-year-old investigative journalist with Aktuality.sk, was murdered along with his girlfriend while working on an in-depth investigation into the infiltration of the ‘Ndrangheta, one of the world’s most powerful criminal groups, into Slovakia and the neighboring Czech Republic. What has followed is the biggest display of public anger in Slovakia since the Velvet Revolution of 1989.

Suspicions of poison and warnings to Russia over double agent's illness

Salisbury Cathedral early this morning, two days after Skripal was found unconscious. Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

U.K. counter-terror police have taken over the investigation into how former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia became critically ill after exposure to a suspected toxic substance, with the government warning on Tuesday of “harsh consequences” if any state, including Russia, is found to be involved.

Why it matters: Russia is already under mounting pressure over rising evidence of the hybrid war — which includes cyberwarfare, disinformation, targeted assassinations and support for proxies fighting wars abroad — that it is waging against the West. If the Kremlin is found to be involved in the poisoning of the former spy on U.K. soil, the British government pledged to explore further sanctions on Russia, on top of those already being applied by the U.S. and the E.U. for the annexation of Crimea and fomenting of conflict in eastern Ukraine.

U.S. seems to be winning tug of war with Russia over hacker's extradition

Photo: Sergei Konkov\TASS via Getty Images

Czech Justice Minister Robert Pelikan appears to be leaning toward extraditing Russian hacker Yevgeniy Nikulin to the United States rather than Russia, after telling parliament he will base his decision on where the most severe crimes were committed and which side requested his extradition first. Both criteria point to the U.S.

Why it matters: Nikulin is the centre of a tug-of-war between the U.S. and Russia after he was picked up by the Czech authorities in Prague in October 2016 on an international arrest warrant tied to the hacking of social networks including LinkedIn, Dropbox and Formspring. However, the U.S. authorities believe he may also have information about Russian state-sponsored cyber activities — a view politicians and analysts say is supported by Russia’s desperate attempts to have him sent back home.

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