Corey Flintoff

Russian officials are working to make sure that Sunday's parliamentary elections aren't a replay of the last such vote, in 2011.

That election triggered protests in which tens of thousands of Russians cried out against allegations of widespread vote-rigging and fraud. It was the biggest challenge to President Vladimir Putin, who has now been either president or prime minister for the past 17 years.

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Crimea came back into the headlines this summer when Donald Trump suggested he was willing to consider recognizing Russia's takeover of the Ukrainian territory. Trump also said he'd think about lifting the sanctions the U.S. imposed on Russia after it annexed Crimea in 2014.

The Kremlin has been racing to cement its control over the Black Sea peninsula. A key part of this effort is the Crimea Bridge, and it's essential to President Vladimir Putin's plan to make the peninsula a viable part of Russia.

Amid rising tensions between NATO and Russia, the two sides are building up forces in several key places, including the Black Sea.

Crimea, which Russia seized from Ukraine two years ago, is on the Black Sea, and that's also where Russia recently stationed a new frigate, the Admiral Grigorovich, inviting journalists on board at the Russian base in Sevastopol.

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The International Olympic Committee has announced some stiff penalties for Russia in the midst of a sport doping scandal. NPR's Corey Flintoff joins us now from Moscow to talk about what we know so far. Welcome.

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