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.

There are increasing signs of friction between pro-Moscow separatists and local residents in eastern Ukraine, as some local people demand an end to the violence and lawlessness in the region. Meanwhile, one of Ukraine's richest men has repeated his call for a return to stability, calling on workers to show their support for a unified country.

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.

Barricades in the eastern Ukrainian town of Mariupol have been dismantled, following a deal between separatist leaders, police and steelworkers from the city's biggest steel mill. The deal came after steel mill owner, billionaire Rinat Akhmetov, issued a statement saying the region's economic future depended on staying united with Ukraine.

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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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine declared independence for two regions today, after announcing the results of a much-disputed referendum. Separatist leaders in the Donetsk region asked to join Russia. The Kremlin said it respected the vote but it has not yet responded to that request. The Ukrainian government maintains the referendum was illegal, and it threatened criminal prosecution for those who organized it. NPR's Corey Flintoff reports from Donetsk.

Residents of two regions of eastern Ukraine wrapped up voting on Sunday in a controversial referendum over independence from the central government in Kiev. The vote has been rejected as illegitimate.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Now to the conflict in Ukraine. Today, Russian President Vladimir Putin made some conciliatory sounding statements. He called on the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine to postpone their planned referendum on autonomy. That vote is currently scheduled for Sunday. Putin also said that Russian troops had withdrawn from the Ukrainian border and that Russia is ready for more talks on ways to resolve the crisis.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new measure that will give the government much greater control over the Internet.

Critics say the law is aimed at silencing opposition bloggers and restricting what people can say on social media. It would also force international email providers and social networks to make their users' information available to the Russian security services.

The Ukrainian government is describing its offensive against pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of the country as an "anti-terrorist operation," language that offends the separatists and Russia.

In turn, Russia is using even stronger language, saying that the Ukrainian military has launched a "punitive operation." While that may not carry any special meaning to Western ears, it has far more sinister implications for Russians.

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Russia reacted to news of the Ukrainian offensive in Slavyansk with outrage. The Russian mission at the United Nations has called for a meeting of the Security Council to discuss the issue. A spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said the action had effectively destroyed all hope for the Geneva Peace Accords. NPR's Corey Flintoff reports on the view from Moscow.

Russia reacted angrily to new EU and U.S. sanctions, which were imposed in response to Russian interference in Ukraine. Russia's deputy foreign minister vowed to deliver a "painful" response.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Let's examine just how much U.S. sanctions could affect Russia. President Obama yesterday announced the latest measures aimed at punishing Russia for its links to violence in Eastern Ukraine. Russia is accusing the U.S. and its allies in Europe and Japan of resorting to Cold War tactics.

NPR's Corey Flintoff is covering this story from Moscow. Hi, Corey.

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: So what will the latest sanctions do?

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.

Russia says it is once again staging military drills near the border of eastern Ukraine.

Russia's defense minister says the exercises are a reaction to NATO maneuvers in Eastern Europe and what he calls "Ukraine's military machine."

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

As talks over the future of Ukraine were going on yesterday in Geneva, President Vladimir Putin was talking to the Russian people in his yearly television call-in show. It was over before an agreement was reached in Geneva between Ukraine and Russia, but Putin's comments gave us a sense of how hard it might be to get Russia to keep its part of the deal.

NPR's Corey Flintoff reports.

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.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Throughout the crisis in Ukraine, Russia's state-run news media have run intense coverage. They consistently portray the new government in Kiev as neo-Nazis who seized power in a violent coup, and the pro-Russian militants occupying government buildings in eastern Ukraine are shown as citizens set up and frightened by what they see as an illegitimate junta. NPR's Corey Flintoff is on the line with us now from Moscow. And Corey, first, just give us a picture here what the Russian people are hearing about the crisis in Ukraine.

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.

Russian politicians are all voicing the same narrative: Ukraine's legitimate government was overthrown by neo-Nazis, while the armed men in Crimea are not Russian troops but local self-defense groups.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The Obama administration's announcement of sanctions comes as Crimea's parliament voted to unite with Russia. It's also called for a referendum on the issue in 10 days. At the same time, lawmakers in Russia began taking steps that could streamline the process of making Crimea a part of Russia.

NPR's Corey Flintoff joins us on the line from Moscow. And, Corey, how has this sanctions announcement from the U.S. been received there?

President Vladimir Putin isn't the first Russian leader to try to create a world-class resort in Sochi. That story is told in one of Sochi's best attractions, an excellent city history museum.

The closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi featured a particularly captivating image: an aerial view of the coastal Olympic village, with the stadiums set like jewels among sparkling avenues, set off by the flash of fireworks in the night sky.

It seemed as if Russia, and especially President Vladimir Putin, had achieved everything that could be hoped for from a world-class sporting event.

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.

Long before it became an Olympic host city, Sochi was a favorite getaway for one of history's most ruthless dictators: Josef Stalin.

The Soviet leader had a villa built in the hills overlooking the Black Sea, and he visited it during some of the most tumultuous years of his reign.

The villa, known as Stalin's dacha, or summer house, was built in 1934, and he used it until the end of World War II in 1945. No Soviet or Russian leader after Stalin is known to have visited it.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This next story is a mindboggling mix of Russia's past and present. It involves members of the Russian band Pussy Riot. We heard them talk with David Greene on this program. You know, they're the music group imprisoned largely for opposing Russia's president. Yesterday they were at the Sochi Olympics and they were attacked by Cossacks.

There are probably fewer American fans in Sochi than at previous Winter Games, partly because of concerns about security, and partly because of the time and expense it takes to get to the Russian resort town on the Black Sea.

But Americans are represented there, with gusto, by a group of evangelical Christians who call themselves the International Sports Chaplains. Members of the group have been going to the Olympic Games since 1988.

Social activists say they're being silenced by local authorities for calling attention to problems such as corruption and environmental degradation related to the Winter Olympics.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The 2014 Winter Games officially kick off today. And we're going to spend a few minutes to talk about the driving force behind them, Russian President Vladimir Putin. He's been in power since Russia began bidding for the games back in 2005, and he's made it a mission to bring them to Sochi. NPR's Corey Flintoff is on the line with us from Sochi to talk about why these games are so important to the man at the top. Hi there, Corey.

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: Hi, Audie.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Workers in the Russian resort town of Sochi are scrambling to put the finishing touches on President Vladimir Putin's multibillion dollar Winter Olympics. The 2014 Winter Olympics officially open on Friday, but it looks like some of the elements, including hotel rooms, may not be ready. NPR's Corey Flintoff reports from Sochi.

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It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep, with Renee Montagne.

Ukraine's parliament tried last night to defuse the country's protests. The parliament offered amnesty for demonstrators who are in jail, but only if the demonstrators who are still free agree to leave buildings they're occupying. Opposition leaders said no. They want unconditional amnesty for those arrested. More important, they want the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych. His government is accused of using both arrests and brutality.

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