Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson

International correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin and covers Central Europe for NPR. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

She was previously based in Cairo and covered the Arab World for NPR from the Middle East to North Africa. Nelson returns to Egypt on occasion to cover the tumultuous transition to democracy there.

In 2006, Nelson opened the NPR Kabul Bureau. During the following three and a half years, she gave listeners in an in-depth sense of life inside Afghanistan, from the increase in suicide among women in a country that treats them as second class citizens to the growing interference of Iran and Pakistan in Afghan affairs. For her coverage of Afghanistan, she won a Peabody Award, Overseas Press Club Award and the Gracie in 2010. She received the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award from Colby College in 2011 for her coverage in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Nelson spent 20 years as newspaper reporter, including as Knight Ridder's Middle East Bureau Chief. While at the Los Angeles Times, she was sent on extended assignment to Iran and Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. She spent three years an editor and reporter for Newsday and was part of the team that won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for covering the crash of TWA Flight 800.

A graduate of the University of Maryland, Nelson speaks Farsi, Dari and German.

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The Ukrainian government claims its armed forces have recaptured a large part of the eastern city of Luhansk following fierce battles Wednesday with pro-Russian separatist fighters.

This is part of a broader campaign by the Ukrainians that has been marked by a number of successes recently. But as is often the case here, it's impossible to independently verify what either side says. Both the military and the rebels prevent reporters from getting near embattled areas, and in many places like Luhansk, phones and Internet are not working.

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There's been more heavy fighting in Eastern Ukraine today. Ukrainian government troops are said to be battling block-by-block inside the separatist-held city of Luhansk. In addition, they claim to be closer to retaking the major city in the region, Donetsk.

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Germany recently lowered its retirement age from 65 to 63 for longtime workers, a move Chancellor Angela Merkel's government says is aimed at easing the burden on older Germans in the workforce.

But the decision is not popular with German businesses or with governments in struggling eurozone countries, which accuse German officials of hypocrisy. They say it's wrong for Germany to demand sweeping cuts in their countries while Merkel's government beefs up benefits at home.

The trial of a 58-year-old truck driver who is accused of firing more than 700 shots at other vehicles on German highways over five years began today in the northern Bavarian city of Wuerzburg.

The man, who German media say was born in the former East Germany, was arrested at home in the small town of Kall in western Germany in June 2013. He is being identified by the German media only by his first names and last initial – Michael Harry K. — in accordance with German laws.

Stefan Daniel says he has no control over the multiple sclerosis that is short-circuiting his body.

The disease, which attacks the nervous system, has forced the 51-year-old German psychologist to give up his career and most hobbies, including running and photography.

He spends his days in an electric wheelchair and rarely ventures out of his Berlin apartment.

"It's so difficult for me to open the door," he laments.

In the waiting room at Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital, an Israeli woman was shouting at a Palestinian mother whose son was being treated for a beating he received from a Jewish mob.

"Go away you trash," the Israeli woman yelled at the Palestinian. "I would bury you in Gaza."

A second Israeli woman joined in the verbal barrage, complaining that her taxes shouldn't be paying for Palestinian treatment.

Two other Israeli women came over to comfort the Palestinian mother. But she is in no mood for reconciliation and retorted: "What good will your apologies do?"

The day began with Israel's military calling up 16,000 more reservists, stoking fears of a widening offensive in Gaza; it ended with a 72-hour cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas. The cease-fire is to begin Friday.

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Israeli officials say the country's deadly ground offensive won't end until its soldiers destroy a vast network of Hamas tunnels the militants use to try to attack Jewish communities outside the Gaza Strip.

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At least three times a day, Imad Abudayyah, 49, fires up his laptop at the West Bank hotel where he's currently living with his 11-year-old son, Ghassan, to reach out to relatives in the Gaza Strip. Abudayyah says Skype is the only way they can see the family members they have left behind.

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It's easy to miss the controversial bronze statue. It stands in front of a Soviet-style, high-rise apartment in the East German city of Schwerin.

Far removed from the ornate city center, this 13-foot-tall depiction of Vladimir Lenin has him looking relaxed. His hands are tucked in his coat pockets and he's gazing off into the distance.

But an angry message is scrawled in red paint across the sidewalk at his feet. In German, it reads: "LENIN STAYS."

Child psychiatrist Vero Buschmann says she was looking for a way to get rid of leftovers without having to throw them away. At the same time, the Berlin resident wanted to meet new people.

She found a nonprofit website in Germany that allows her to do both. On a recent evening, her doorbell rings and she buzzes Franzi Zimmerman in to her fifth-floor apartment.

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Of course, today's match drew big crowds in both the United States and Germany. We first go to NPR Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Berlin, who joined scores of Germans at a beer garden to watch the game on three screens outside.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Most Germans are uncomfortable displaying national pride because they are sensitive about their country's notorious history. But they make an exception during World Cup season, and today, thousands of Berliners carried German flags.

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DAVID GREENE, BYLINE: Now an election story in Europe with a strange twist. As we've been reporting, in European Parliament elections this week, far-right parties did particularly well including Hungary's Jobbik party. They are known for, among other things, being anti-Semitic. It turns out their former second-in-command is Jewish. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Budapest.

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CSANAD SZEGEDI: (Speaking foreign language).

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And the far right is poised to do well in Hungary's EU election tomorrow. Candidates blame the EU for many of that country's problems. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Budapest.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: To many Hungarians, a half-finished World War II monument next to a popular fountain in downtown Budapest highlights the extremist tenor of politics in this former East Bloc country.

The leading candidate in Sunday's presidential election is an oligarch. And the interim government is turning to other oligarchs to help restore calm in some crisis-plagued provinces.

Separatists in the eastern Ukraine regions of Donetsk and Luhansk asked voters to take part in an unauthorized referendum Sunday on whether to make their region independent.

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And I'm Robert Siegel. President Vladimir Putin travelled to Crimea today to mark the anniversary of Russia's victory in the Second World War. It was his first time there since the peninsula was annexed by Russia. His visit was criticized by the Ukrainian government and Washington, but Putin told Crimeans that by being together with Russia, they're stronger.

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: (Speaking foreign language)

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Pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine say they are going ahead with an independence referendum on Sunday. The pro-Western government in the capital, Kiev, argues this vote would be illegal. And this all has many Ukrainians worried about what happens next. This next story shows how far apart the two sides are. Two men each claim to be the leader of the region called Donetsk.

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports on both.

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And I'm Melissa Block. In eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian separatists have decided to go ahead with Sunday's referendum on independence. That's despite Russian President Vladimir Putin urging them yesterday to postpone that vote. Here's the self-declared governor in the eastern region of Donetsk earlier today.

VALERY BOLOTOV: (Foreign language spoken)

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Let's get an update now on a struggle starting to look more like a war in Ukraine. At least four Ukrainian soldiers and 30 pro-Russian fighters have been killed in this latest round of fighting as the government tries to retake cities near the border with Russia. Several Ukrainian helicopters have been shot down by well-armed separatists.

Tensions remain high in the former Soviet republic of Ukraine. Violence has led to the worst death toll since February, including more than 30 pro-Russian separatists who died in a building fire.

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