Lucian Kim

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On a bright Sunday afternoon last November, Anastasia Popova was picketing outside the Russian Embassy in Washington with a dozen other activists.

"Russia will be free! Russia will be free!" they chanted at the hulking white building on the other side of the street.

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We begin with Russia a day after President Obama announced sanctions against the Kremlin for allegedly interfering in U.S. elections. Among other measures, Obama ordered out 35 Russian diplomats believed to be intelligence agents.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin downplayed Donald Trump's tweet Thursday calling for the United States to expand its nuclear capabilities.

"There's nothing out of the ordinary here," Putin said, since the U.S. president-elect had advocated a stronger military throughout his election campaign.

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Russia is paying its last respects to the country's ambassador to Turkey, who was assassinated in Ankara Monday night. As NPR's Lucian Kim reports from Moscow, political life in the Russian capital came to a halt to remember the service of Andrei Karlov.

Tuesday was supposed to be a day of triumph for Russian diplomacy, when Russia aimed to replace the United States as the indispensable power in the Middle East. Instead, it became a day of mourning, with a Turkish honor guard in Ankara loading the flag-draped coffin of Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov onto a Moscow-bound plane.

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