Corey Flintoff

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The crash site of the Malaysia Airlines flight in eastern Ukraine holds many important clues about what happened to the plane. But that site is under the control of pro-Russian separatists who are suspected of involvement in shooting the plane down.

The rebel fighters say they are giving access to investigators, including those from the Ukrainian government, though one Ukrainian official who visited the scene Friday said he was not given full access.

Here are some of the key questions on the investigation into Flight MH17:

Russia's recent involvement in Ukrainian political turmoil touched a raw nerve in the Baltic countries of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. All three are now members of the EU and NATO, but they have painful memories of the Soviet occupation. Leaders of the Baltic states are asking for a bigger NATO presence in their countries, a move Russia angrily opposes.

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Russia says it has cut natural gas supplies to Ukraine after Kiev missed a deadline to pay part of its huge outstanding energy debt. The Russians say that in the future the state-run company Gazprom will only supply gas to Ukraine in return for pre-payment.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

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As Ukraine prepares for presidential elections on Sunday, a social media struggle is underway in the country's eastern provinces.

That's where pro-Russian separatists have seized government buildings in many towns and declared independence after a much-disputed referendum. The separatists have vowed to block the vote in at least two key regions, Donetsk and Luhansk.

In eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian separatists are claiming independence based on a victory in a hastily organized referendum. Now, they're resisting a nationwide presidential election that's scheduled for May 25.

With Russian troops still massed near the border, Ukrainian and international mediators are trying to find a solution for the crisis.

There are some very different visions of the future for the volatile region.

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Ukraine's interim government is facing major obstacles: a separatist uprising in the east of the country, an economy in tatters and a presidential election next month.

But the leadership is also facing a longer-term challenge, one that will shape the future of the country: the creation of a new constitution.

The task will be complicated by pressure from Russia, which has already made clear what kind of constitution it thinks Ukraine should have. Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, laid out Russia's position in an interview last month.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he hopes he won't have to move troops into Ukraine to protect the local Russian-speaking population, but he reserves the right to do so. He made the comments on a televised call-in show.

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In the political battle between Ukraine and Russia, one of the biggest pawns is chocolate.

That's because the current front-runner in Ukraine's presidential race is Petro Poroshenko, known as "the Chocolate King." His billion-dollar empire was founded on candy factories.

The contrast couldn't have been greater: the protest band Pussy Riot in colorful ski masks and mini dresses, attempting to film a segment for a new video on Sochi's waterfront; and Cossacks in traditional uniform with black sheepskin hats and riding boots, patrolling Sochi streets as part of security for the Olympics.

The Cossacks, trying to enforce a government ban on protests, knocked band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova to the ground, lashed her with a horse whip, and roughed up other musicians.

Forests cover about half of Russia's land mass, an environmental resource that President Vladimir Putin calls "the powerful green lungs of the planet."

But Putin himself acknowledges that Russia, the world's biggest exporter of logs, is having its timber stolen at an unprecedented rate.

The demand for high-value timber is fueling organized crime, government corruption and illegal logging in the Russian Far East. The hardwood cut in the endless forests often ends up as flooring and furniture in the United States, Europe, Japan and China.

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On the first Monday of the rest of your life, it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

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Greenpeace reports that its vessel, the Arctic Sunrise, has been boarded by the Russian Coast Guard after a protest against oil and gas drilling in the Russian Arctic.

The crew of the vessel tweeted throughout the drama. A tweet by Greenpeace HQ indicated that everyone was safe but that the crew was not "in control of the ship at this point."

For months, Russia has been playing a defensive game on Syria, blocking U.N. resolutions that could have led to the ouster of its ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad.

But Russia is now on the offense, running with a plan that could avert U.S.-led strikes against Syria by having Syria place its chemical weapons under international control.

So why the change in tactics?

There are several different strands in Russian thinking on the issue.

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You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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Russia's immigration issues would be familiar to Americans: Millions of impoverished migrants have come and found low-wage jobs. Some are in Russia illegally and are exploited by their employers. And a growing number of Russians fear this influx of migrants, many of whom are Muslim, is changing the face of the country.

At 3:30 on a recent morning, the train from Dushanbe, Tajikistan, pulls into Moscow after a four-day journey. The passengers hauling their bags out onto the damp, ill-lit platform are mostly men. Russian police eye the new arrivals with suspicion.

While gay rights have been gaining ground in the West, they've been facing a strong backlash in many countries of the former Soviet Union.

Russia recently passed a law that makes it a crime to give information about "non-traditional sexual relationships" to minors.

Russian President Vladimir Putin keeps insisting that he doesn't want the case of a fugitive American intelligence contractor to harm relations between Russia and the United States.

But Edward Snowden remains an irritant, stuck in diplomatic limbo in the transit area of a Moscow airport.

A Putin spokesman said Friday that the issue is being discussed by the Russian federal security service — the FSB — and the FBI, but it may be that Snowden has become a problem that can only be solved at the top of the two governments.

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Tucked between Russia and Turkey, the Republic of Georgia is renowned for great food: cheese dishes, pickles, breads and stews. This is a cuisine that you should not miss.

And on summer evenings in the capital, Tbilisi, the air is fragrant with the smells of one of Georgian cookery's highlights: grilled meat, or shashlik.

You can find good shashlik at restaurants with white tablecloths, but the very best in all Tbilisi is said to be at a roadside stop called Mtsvadi Tsalamze. It's an unassuming place with rows of wooden picnic tables in an open yard.

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Russia is confronting one of its most serious public health threats since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The threat is tuberculosis, but with a dangerous twist: Strains of the bacteria are widely circulating that are resistant to ordinary anti-TB drugs, and far harder to cure.

In parts of Siberia, nearly 30 percent of all tuberculosis cases aren't treatable by two of the most potent medications, the World Health Organization reported last year.

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