Corey Flintoff

Corey Flintoff is NPR's international correspondent based in Moscow. His journalism career has taken him to more than 50 countries, most recently to cover the civil war in Libya, the revolution in Egypt and the war in Afghanistan.

After joining NPR in 1990, Flintoff worked for many years as a newscaster during All Things Considered. In 2005, he became part of the NPR team covering the Iraq War, where he embedded with U.S. military units fighting insurgents and hunting roadside bombs.

Flintoff's reporting from Iraq includes stories on sectarian killings, government corruption, the Christian refugee crisis and the destruction of Iraq's southern marshes. In 2010, he traveled to Haiti to report on the massive earthquake its aftermath. Two years before, he reported on his stint on a French warship chasing pirates off the coast of Somalia.

One of Flintoff's favorite side jobs at NPR is standing in for Carl Kasell during those rare times when the venerable scorekeeper takes a break from Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me!

Before NPR, Flintoff served as the executive producer and host of Alaska News Nightly, a daily news magazine produced by the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage. His coverage of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill was recognized with the 1989 Corporation for Public Broadcasting Award.

In 1977, Flintoff got his start in public radio working at at KYUK-AM/TV, in Bethel, Alaska. KYUK is a bilingual English-Yup'ik Eskimo station and Flintoff learned just enough Yup'ik to announce the station identification. He wrote and produced a number of television documentaries about Alaskan life, including "They Never Asked Our Fathers" and "Eyes of the Spirit," which have aired on PBS and are now in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution.

He tried his hand at commercial herring fishing, dog-mushing, fiction writing and other pursuits, but failed to break out of the radio business.

Flintoff has a bachelor's degree from the University of California at Berkeley and a master's degree from the University of Chicago, both in English literature. In 2011, he was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Drexel University.

As war rages in eastern Ukraine, European Union foreign ministers are preparing to meet Thursday to consider drastic new sanctions against Russia.

The EU and the United States say Moscow's troops and weapons are directly involved in an offensive by anti-government militias in Ukraine's eastern provinces.

The offensive is the latest phase in a war that has racked the region since last April — and it's grinding hard on the civilians who are caught in the middle.

In times of turmoil, Russians turn to their great writers for inspiration.

One of those writers is Mikhail Bulgakov, who died 75 years ago. Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin liked some of Bulgakov's work, but he considered most of it too dangerous to publish. A museum in Moscow shows that the work is just as relevant as ever.

One is a pioneering fighter pilot, another is a decorated intelligence agent and the third is a celebrated film director. Right now, all three are sitting in Russian jails.

The cases are not directly related, but all three are citizens of neighboring countries in conflict with Russia. Two are from Ukraine, arrested after Russia's annexation of Crimea and the war with Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine's eastern provinces. The third is from the Baltic nation of Estonia.

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Even as tensions have grown between the United States and Russia, both countries have worked with an autocratic leader who rules a strategic nation in Central Asia.

The country is Uzbekistan, and the leader is Islam Karimov, the 76-year-old former Communist Party boss who has been president since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Despite a long record of human rights violations, Uzbekistan has been a key partner for the United States during the Afghan War.

Last spring, eastern Ukraine was a struggling, rust-belt region of mines and metal works. Now it's a battle zone where armies face off with heavy weapons, and where nearly 5,000 people have died.

In Russia, one man claims to have touched off the conflagration, and he says he's proud of what he did. His name is Igor Girkin, and he has a knack for turning up in tumultuous places.

In this instance, Girkin made his appearance in April of last year, shortly after Ukraine's pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted after months of street protests.

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Our own Russian correspondent, Corey Flintoff, spends much of his time reporting on the activities of Vladimir Putin in Russia. But sometimes it's what's outside his own window in Moscow that captivates him.

The conflict over Russia's role in Ukraine is spilling over into many aspects of Russian life, including its music scene. Some of the country's most popular musicians have taken stands against the annexation of Crimea and Russia's support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

And those who oppose Russian involvement have been facing a backlash from the authorities.

The veteran band Televizor is a case in point.

Russia's economy has taken a series of heavy hits in the past few months, and now it seems to be in the midst of a perfect storm.

The country depends heavily on oil exports, and prices are down sharply. The Russian currency is losing value fast. And U.S. and European sanctions, imposed after Russia's takeover of Crimea, are biting hard.

President Vladimir Putin remains defiant, saying sanctions will never bring Russia to its knees.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, in the radio business, we think a lot about sound and what it means. Sound is not always what it seems, as NPR's Corey Flintoff reminds us from Moscow.

Dasha Daunis is a lively 15-year-old who loves animals. She talks with her mother, Anastasia, about a recent trip to the circus, where they saw her favorite, bears.

Dasha was born with Down syndrome, and Anastasia says the doctors at the hospital told her that her baby would never thrive.

"Everyone was saying, the most reasonable decision is to abandon the child, because it's a cross you'll have to bear all your life," she recalls. "This child will never even understand that you are its father and mother. And your friends and your family will turn away from you."

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It's been six weeks since Moscow slapped a ban on foods imported from the United States, the European Union and other countries that sanctioned Russia for its involvement in Ukraine. The implications of that move are just beginning to be felt.

Many of the Russian capital's trendiest restaurants have been hit hard because they get most of their ingredients from Europe. So they've had to scramble to find replacements.

Russia and its tiny neighbor, Estonia, are embroiled in a spy controversy worthy of a John le Carré novel.

Estonia says Russian agents kidnapped one of its intelligence officials in a cross-border raid. Russia says the man was caught spying on its territory.

Ukraine and the West, including the United States, insist that the Russian army has been fighting in eastern Ukraine, a charge that Russia just as vehemently denies.

But reports from Russia now acknowledge that Russian soldiers are part of the battle — though they are claimed to be volunteers, on leave from their army jobs.

Critics say the Russian military is ordering soldiers into the fight, and covering up the deaths of those who are killed, in an unacknowledged war on foreign soil.

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U.S. intelligence officials outlined today what they know so far about the downing of the Malaysian Airlines flight in Ukraine. A U.S. spy satellite detected the launch of a surface to air missile from eastern Ukraine at the time the plane went down.

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They were also able to verify the identities of separatist leaders on an intercepted phone call. But U.S. intelligence does not yet know yet who - and this is a quote - "who pulled the trigger."

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Secretary of State John Kerry spent a lot of time on TV yesterday, laying out what he says is extraordinary circumstantial evidence that rebels in Eastern Ukraine shot down the Malaysia Airlines jetliner. Kerry said on NBC's "Meet The Press" they did it with Russian help.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MEET THE PRESS")

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: It is clear that Russia supports the separatists, supplies the separatists, encourages the separatists, trains the separatists and Russia needs to step up and make a difference here.

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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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The Ukrainian military ramped up air and artillery strikes against pro-Russian separatists today. The offensive in Ukraine's eastern provinces resumed after President Petro Poroshenko declared he would not renew a 10-day ceasefire. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow would protect the interests of ethnic Russians in other countries but he didn't offer a specific support to the rebels in Ukraine. Here's NPR's Corey Flintoff.

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