Monthly Archives : October 2020

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Deadly Earthquake Warms Relations Between Greece and Turkey 

31
Oct,2020

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Rescue teams on both sides of the Aegean Sea searched Saturday through crushed buildings and concrete rubble, pulling out at least 27 dead and hundreds more injured after a powerful earthquake toppled buildings in the Turkish city of İzmir and created sea surges on at least two Greek islands.    At least 60 separate aftershocks have jolted the Greek islands of Samos and Ikaria since the deadly 7.0 earthquake hit the region, experts in Athens said Saturday.   Damaged buildings at the port town of Vathy following an earthquake, on the island of Samos, Greece, Oct. 30, 2020. (Samos24.gr via Reuters)The powerful tremor originated from a 250-kilometers-long fault line off the coast of Samos, streaming across the Aegean Sea that divides the two adversaries.   Yet just hours after Greece and Turkey were struck by the deadly quake, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis placed a rare telephone call to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to offer his condolences.   “Whatever our differences, these are times when people need to stand together,” Mitsotakis posted on Twitter.   And his gesture was met.   Turkey’s strongman replied in a twin tweet: ‘That two neighbors show solidarity and support in difficult times is more valuable than many things in life.”   Although Greece and Turkey are both members of NATO, there are perhaps no two allied, neighboring nations whose dealings have been marked with so much conflict and mistrust. And most recently, both sides have been embroiled in a heated energy standoff in the eastern Mediterranean, bringing them to the brink of war during the summer.   FILE – Warships from Greece, Italy, Cyprus and France, participate in a joint military exercise which was held from 26-28 of August, south of Turkey in eastern Mediterranean sea, Aug. 31, 2020.The European Union and the United States have been working for months in hope of sitting both sides down to negotiate their differences — but to no avail.   It remains unclear whether the deadly earthquake can warm up ties.   Unlike a set of devastating quakes that hit the two countries in 1999, both sides have settled for diplomatic niceties. Greece has not offered rescue crews and supplies to assist Turkey’s quake-hit Izmir and surrounding provinces.   Athens and Ankara only recent re-established a military hotline but diplomatic talks planned initially for the start of October were scrapped. Still, millions of Greeks kept glued to their television sets watching their neighbor’s tragedy unfold alongside their own.   Dramatic footage broadcast by Turkish television was interplayed against domestic stills of search efforts in Samos, where two teenagers were crushed to death by a building whose walls crumbled and balcony fell as the pair were walking home from school. In Izmir, cars and household contents such as refrigerators, chairs and tables were seen floating through the main streets — an almost mirror image of the calamity that cloaked port towns in Samos and Ikaria. All but two of the people killed — the two teenage students — were from Turkey. Experts anticipate the death toll will rise. Rescue workers search for survivors at a collapsed building after an earthquake in the Aegean port city of Izmir, Turkey Oct. 31, 2020.Greek seismologist Akis Tselentis warned that aftershocks could prove powerful because of the shallow depth of the quake — roughly 10 kilometers. He said post tremors were expected for as long as two months. On Saturday, France offered assistance to both countries, extending “full solidarity to both Greece and Turkey.”  

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Former James Bond Actor Sean Connery Dies Aged 90 

31
Oct,2020

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Scottish movie legend Sean Connery, who shot to international stardom as the suave, sexy and sophisticated British agent James Bond and went on to grace the silver screen for four decades, has died aged 90. The BBC and Sky News reported his death on Saturday. “I was heartbroken to learn this morning of the passing of Sir Sean Connery. Our nation today mourns one of her best loved sons,” said Scottish First Minster Nicola Sturgeon. “Sean was a global legend but, first and foremost, he was a patriotic and proud Scot.” 
 
Connery was raised in near poverty in the slums of Edinburgh and worked as a coffin polisher, milkman and lifeguard before his bodybuilding hobby helped launch an acting career that made him one of the world’s biggest stars. 
 
Connery will be remembered first as British agent 007, the character created by novelist Ian Fleming and immortalized by Connery in films starting with “Dr. No” in 1962. 
 FILE – In this file photo taken on Oct. 22, 1982 British actor Sean Connery is seen during the making of the film “Never say, never again” in Nice.As Bond, his debonair manner and wry humor in foiling flamboyant villains and cavorting with beautiful women belied a darker, violent edge, and he crafted a depth of character that set the standard for those who followed him in the role. 
 
He would introduce himself in the movies with the signature line, “Bond – James Bond.” But Connery was unhappy being defined by the role and once said he “hated that damned James Bond.” Tall and handsome, with a throaty voice to match a sometimes crusty personality, Connery played a series of noteworthy roles besides Bond and won an Academy Award for his portrayal of a tough Chicago cop in “The Untouchables” (1987). 
 
He was 59 when People magazine declared him the “sexiest man alive” in 1989. 
 
Connery was an ardent supporter of Scotland’s independence and had the words “Scotland Forever” tattooed on his arm while serving in the Royal Navy.FILE – Sir Sean Connery, with wife Micheline (R), pose for photographers after he was formally knighted by the Britain’s Queen Elizabeth at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh July 5.When he was knighted at the age of 69 by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth in 2000 at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, he wore full Scottish dress including the green-and-black plaid kilt of his mother’s MacLeod clan. 
 Became fed up with ‘idiots’  
 
Some noteworthy non-Bond films included director Alfred Hitchcock’s “Marnie” (1964), “The Wind and the Lion” (1975) with Candice Bergen, director John Huston’s “The Man Who Would be King” (1975) with Michael Caine, director Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989) and the Cold War tale “The Hunt for Red October” (1990). 
 
Fans of alternative cinema will always remember him starring as the “Brutal Exterminator” Zed in John Boorman’s mind-bending fantasy epic “Zardoz” (1974), where a heavily mustachioed Connery spent much of the movie running around in a skimpy red loin-cloth, thigh-high leather boots and a pony tail. 
 
Connery retired from movies after disputes with the director of his final outing, the forgettable “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” in 2003. 
 
“I get fed up dealing with idiots,” he said. The Bond franchise was still going strong more than five decades after Connery started it. The lavishly produced movies, packed with high-tech gadgetry and spectacular effects, broke box office records and grossed hundreds of millions of dollars. 
 
After the smashing success of “Dr. No,” more Bond movies followed for Connery in quick succession: “From Russia with Love” (1963), “Goldfinger” (1964), “Thunderball” (1965) and “You Only Live Twice” (1967). 
 
Connery then grew concerned about being typecast and decided to break away. Australian actor George Lazenby succeeded him as Bond in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” in 1969. 
 
But without Connery it lacked what the public wanted and he was lured back in 1971 for “Diamonds Are Forever” with temptations that included a slice of the profits, which he said would go to a Scottish educational trust. He insisted it would be his last time as Bond. 
 
Twelve years later, at age 53, Connery was back as 007 in “Never Say Never Again” (1983), an independent production that enraged his old mentor, producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli. 
 Preferred beer to martinis  
 
In a 1983 interview, Connery summed up the ideal Bond film as having “marvelous locations, interesting ambiance, good stories, interesting characters — like a detective story with espionage and exotic settings and nice birds.” 
 
Connery was a very different type from Fleming’s Bond character with his impeccable social background, preferring beer to Bond’s vodka martini cocktails that were “shaken not stirred.” 
 
But Connery’s influence helped shape the character in the books as well as the films. He never attempted to disguise his Scottish accent, leading Fleming to give Bond Scottish heritage in the books that were released after Connery’s debut. 
 
Born Thomas Connery on Aug. 25, 1930, he was the elder of two sons of a long-distance truck driver and a mother who worked as a cleaner. He dropped out of school at age 13 and worked in a variety of menial jobs. At 16, two years after World War II ended, Connery was drafted into the Royal Navy, and served three years. 
 
“I grew up with no notion of a career, much less acting,” he once said. “I certainly never have plotted it out. It was all  happenstance, really.” 
 
Connery played small parts with theater repertory companies before graduating to films and television. It was his part in a 1959 Disney leprechaun movie, “Darby O’Gill and the Little People,” that helped land the role of Bond. Broccoli, a producer of the Bond films, asked his wife to watch Connery in the Disney movie while he was searching for the right leading actor. 
 
Dana Broccoli said her husband told her he was not sure Connery had sex appeal. 
 
“I saw that face and the way he moved and talked and I said: ‘Cubby, he’s fabulous!'” she said. “He was just perfect, he had star material right there.” 
 
Connery married actress Diane Cilento in 1962. Before divorcing 11 years later, they had a son, Jason, who became an actor. He married French artist Micheline Roquebrune, whom he met playing golf, in 1975.   

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At Least 27 Dead as Powerful Quake Hits Major Turkish City, Greek Islands

31
Oct,2020

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Rescue teams in Turkey working around the clock recovered another body Saturday from the rubble of a collapsed building in Bayrakli district in Izmir struck by a strong earthquake.The quake hit Turkey’s third-largest city and a nearby Greek island on Friday morning, killing at least 27 people and injuring more than 800.Haluk Ozener, director of the Istanbul-based Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute, said that Izmir was the hardest-hit and most-damaged area.Izmir’s Governor Yavuz Selim Kosger said at least 70 people were rescued from the wreckage of four destroyed buildings and from more than 10 other collapsed structures.As the quake hit, residents were seen running into the streets in panic in Izmir, which has a population of 4 million.The European-Mediterranean Seismological Center said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.9 with an epicenter 13 kilometers north-northeast of Samos and 32 kilometers off the coast of Turkey.The U.S. Geological Survey put the magnitude at 7.0. It is common for preliminary magnitudes to differ in the early hours and days after a quake.The quake triggered a surge of water into Izmir’s Seferihisar district.On the nearby Greek island of Samos, a teenage boy and girl were found dead in an area where a wall had collapsed.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said all means necessary would be used to assist rescue efforts.Many of Izmir’s inhabitants, fearing for their safety, were spending the night outside, in parks and open land or in their cars. Soup kitchens have been set up to feed those in need.Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis offered his condolences to Erdogan. The quake comes amid high tensions between the neighbors over disputes over territorial waters, but Mitsotakis tweeted, “Whatever our differences, these are times when our people need to stand together.”Erdogan thanked Mitsotakis and offered assistance, “We are standing with Greece if there is anything we can do for them.”Turkey is no stranger to powerful earthquakes, developing a large pool of expertise in rescue operations.The provincial city of Izmit, close to Istanbul, was devastated by an earthquake in 1999, killing at least 17,000 people. Many of those killed died in collapsed buildings.Since the 1999 quake, stringent building regulations have been introduced, along with a program of strengthening old structures. 

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Hundreds of Romanians Form Human Chain on Fifth Anniversary of Deadly Fire

31
Oct,2020

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On the steps of a Bucharest court on Friday, Adrian Albu pointed to his sister among the pictures of the 65 people who died in a nightclub fire five years ago, triggering mass protests across Romania at a culture of graft and lack of accountability.Hundreds of people wearing protective masks and standing 4 meters apart lit candles and formed a socially distanced human chain between the site of the former Colectiv club and the Bucharest Court of Appeals where the trial against those responsible is still taking place.”We should know who is guilty and people should know that the same thing can happen again at any moment and we are as unprepared now as we were then,” said Albu, 43, who survived the fire but lost both his sister and his cousin.The fire broke out when fireworks used during a concert by rock band Goodbye to Gravity ignited non-fireproofed insulation foam, triggering a stampede toward the single-door exit.Prosecutors have shown the club’s owners allowed it to fill beyond capacity and that Bucharest officials gave it an operating license while safety inspectors allowed it to run despite knowing it did not have a fire safety permit.A trial resulted in preliminary prison sentences last year, but the decision is on appeal.Badly burned patients were treated in improper conditions in Romanian hospitals, where many contracted infections that are still hampering their recovery.On Friday, centrist President Klaus Iohannis signed into law a bill that covers all future medical expenses of those injured at Colectiv. Albu said the legislation does not account for hundreds of non-Colectiv burn victims Romania records every year.Romania, which has one of the European Union’s least developed health care infrastructures, currently has one of the EU’s highest coronavirus death rates.”Change must start with us citizens,” said Marian Raduna, one of the human chain organizers. “We are the ones who tolerate corruption cases and incompetent authorities, and, sadly, we forget quickly.”

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Thousands in Warsaw Join Biggest Protest so far Against Abortion Ruling

31
Oct,2020

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Tens of thousands of Poles joined a march Friday in Warsaw, the biggest in nine days of protests against a ruling by the country’s top court last week that amounted to a near-total ban on abortion in the predominantly Catholic nation.Defying strict rules that restrict gatherings to five people during the coronavirus pandemic, demonstrators walked through central Warsaw streets carrying black umbrellas, a symbol of abortion rights protests in Poland, and banners that read “I think, I feel, I decide” or “God is a woman.”Military police, some in riot gear, lined the streets as the demonstration began.Organizers and the city of Warsaw said some 100,000 people took part, one of the largest protest gatherings in years, following a Constitutional Court ruling on Oct. 22 outlawing abortions because of fetal defects. It ended the most common of the few legal grounds left for abortion in Poland and set the country further apart from Europe’s mainstream.Daily protests have taken place across the country in the past week and have turned into an outpouring of anger against five years of nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) rule and the Roman Catholic church, which is an ally of the government.Far-right groups which support the court ruling also turned out in small gatherings in Warsaw on Friday, and TV footage showed police clashing with them to keep one group away from the protesters.The leader of the abortion rights movement in Poland, Marta Lempart, told activists to report any attacks and to resist any threats of prosecution or fines for taking part. “We are doing nothing wrong by protesting and going out on the streets,” she told a news conference.After the ruling goes into effect, women will only be able to terminate a pregnancy legally in the case of rape, incest or a threat to their health.Dancing on tramsIn an effort to ease tensions, President Andrzej Duda proposed legislation on Friday reintroducing the possibility of terminating a pregnancy due to fetal abnormalities, although only limited to defects that are immediately life-threatening.Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki pledged lawmakers would proceed with the legislation quickly, but demonstrators were unimpressed.”This is an attempt to soften the situation for PiS, but no sane person should fall for it,” activist and leftist lawmaker Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus told Reuters.The government has accused demonstrators of risking the lives of the elderly by defying strict pandemic rules against large gatherings. Poland reported a daily record of more than 21,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.Health Minister Adam Niedzielski drew comparisons between the Polish protest and the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality, saying demonstrations across the United States caused an “escalation” of the pandemic.Public health experts say there has yet to be conclusive evidence of large-scale spread from the U.S. events.Five women were charged with organizing an illegal protest which attracted 850 people in the town of Police on Thursday, officials said.The Roman Catholic Church has said that while it opposes abortion, it did not push the government or the court to increase restrictions.PiS, however, has sought to instill more traditional and Catholic values in public life, ending state funding for in vitro fertilization, introducing more patriotic themes into school curricula and funding church programs.It has also launched a crackdown on LGBT rights and a reform of the judiciary the European Union says subverts the rule law. PiS says it seeks to protect traditional Polish values against damaging western liberalism.Opinion polls have shown its support falling sharply in recent weeks.

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Powerful Quake in Aegean Sea Leaves 6 Dead; Buildings Toppled in Turkey, Greece

31
Oct,2020

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Officials in Greece and Turkey say rescue efforts are continuing into the night after a powerful earth struck Friday in the Aegean Sea between the Turkish coast and the Greek island of Samos, killing at least 14 people and injuring hundreds amid collapsed buildings and flooding caused by a minor tsunami.
Video clips showed several damaged buildings, some partially or completely collapsed, as emergency services attended the scene.
Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency reported12 people died, one due to drowning, while 419 people were injured.
On the Greek island of Samos two teenagers, a boy and a girl, were found dead in an area where a wall had collapsed. Haluk Ozener, director of the Istanbul-based Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute, reported a small tsunami struck the Seferihisar district south of Izmir, the city in western Turkey that was the worst affected.
Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency  said search and rescue operations continued at 17 collapsed or damaged buildings. Izmir’s governor said 70 people had been rescued from under the rubble.
The European-Mediterranean Seismological Center said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.9 with an epicenter 13 kilometers north-northeast of Samos and 32 kilometers off the coast of Turkey. The United States Geological Survey put the magnitude at 7.0. It is common for preliminary magnitudes to differ in the early hours and days after a quake.
Multiple aftershocks struck the region.
Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency said three injured people were pulled from the wreckage of a building in Izmir. Izmir mayor Tunc Soyer told CNN Turk that about 20 buildings collapsed. The city is the third largest in Turkey with about 4.5 million residents.
Media reports say the quake was felt as far away as Britain and Bulgaria. 

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Pope Francis Focused on Fighting Vatican Corruption

30
Oct,2020

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Pope Francis said he is focused on fighting corruption in the Catholic Church, despite the challenges.”I know I have to do it (fight corruption), I was called to do it, but it will be the Lord to decide if I did well or not. Sincerely, I am not very optimistic,” he said during an interview Friday with Italian news agency AdnKronos.Pope Francis also said he is not deterred by criticisms in whatever area, noting he takes them “on board because it can lead to self-examination.” He added he will not let himself be “dragged down by every non-positive thing written about the pope.”In 2013, Pope Francis was elected by cardinals on a mandate to clean up the Vatican’s finances, after a series of corruption scandals.Last month, Francis fired a former top Vatican official, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, for alleged embezzlement in the purchase of a luxury London building for the Vatican. Becciu has denied all accusations.A former worker of Becciu, 39-year-old Cecilia Marogna, was released Friday after spending at least two weeks in jail. Marogna is awaiting a judge’s decision on extradition from the Vatican.Francis says he is worried the “cases of malfeasance, of betrayals” hurt believers of the Catholic faith.

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German Third Quarter Economy Grows 8.2 Percent

30
Oct,2020

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German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier expressed optimism Friday when data for the third quarter of 2020 showed the German economy bounced back strongly compared to the previous three months, when the country was hit by the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
 
At a news conference in Berlin, Altmaier said figures from the Federal Statistical Office indicate the country’s gross domestic product grew by 8.2% from July to September compared to the second quarter, “well above” expectations, and the government now expects a full-year decline in GDP of 5.5%, down from the September forecast of a 5.8%.
 
Altmaier said the good third quarter suggests the German economy can continue to grow even during a pandemic. He said that also gives the government hope as it faces a second wave of COVID-19 and heads into what could be difficult winter months.
 
Germany is set to enforce new restrictions on Monday, closing bars, restaurants and other “leisure” sections of the economy to slow the current surge in infections.
 
Altmaier told reporters, as optimistic as he is, the recovery is “subject to further developments of the pandemic.”
 
But, he added, “we have a real chance of achieving this growth.”
 
Altmaier said he expects the economy to fully recover from the pandemic by 2022.

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НБУ зберігає курс у парі долар-гривня на рекордному рівні

30
Oct,2020

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Національний банк України встановив опівдні 30 жовтня довідкове значення курсу 28 гривень 44 копійки за долар. Це не відрізняється від офіційного курсу на сьогодні, який був рекордним за останні 26 місяців – із вересня 2018 року.

На українському міжбанківському валютному ринку торги відбуваються з мінімальними коливаннями, станом на 12:30 котирування становлять 28 гривень 44–45,5 копійки за одиницю американської валюти (долар втратив пів копійки порівняно з показниками відкриття, свідчать дані Finance.ua).

«На фоні зростання котирувань долара на вчорашніх торгах і певного дефіциту валюти, який закривав НБУ своєю інтервенцією, вчора частина клієнтів перенесла свої заявки з купівлі долара на сьогодні. Тобто вони залишили свої зовнішньоекономічні розрахунки на останній день звітного періоду, чого зазвичай по великих сумах ніхто не робить. Сьогодні тягнути їм вже немає часу, і ці компанії будуть закривати свої угоди за чинним на момент курсом», – писали аналітики сайту «Мінфін» перед початком торгів.

 

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НБУ прогнозує відновлення економіки України від «коронакризи» у 2022 році

30
Oct,2020

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Економіка України у 2022 році повністю надолужить втрати від кризи, спричиненої COVID-19 і запровадженими через пандемію обмеженнями, ідеться в підготовленому Національним банком України Інфляційному звіті за жовтень 2020 року.

«За підсумками цього року падіння ВВП становитиме 6%, а далі вийдемо на зростання приблизно на 4% щорічно», – стверджують експерти центробанку.

 

Також, за прогнозом регулятора, реальна заробітна плата у 2020 році зросте на 6,2%, а в 2021 році – на 9,5%.

«Доходи українців після нетривалої паузи на етапі жорсткого карантину відновили зростання. Подальше пожвавлення економіки й зростання соціальних стандартів підтримає цей процес. Номінальна зарплата зросте на майже 9% у 2020 році й на 16% у наступному. Реальна – на 6,2% і 9,5% відповідно», – ідеться в повідомленні.

Раніше у жовтні МВФ покращив оцінки падіння української економіки з мінус 8,2% в 2020 році, за оцінками, оприлюдненими у червні, до мінус 7,2% за оцінками в жовтні у зв’язку зі швидшим, ніж очікувалось, відновленням української економіки.

Загалом, за оцінками МВФ, падіння ВВП в Європі складе 7% в 2020 році, що є найбільшим падінням з часів Другої світової війни.

 

Економічне відновлення в Європі буде нерівномірним і тривалим, прогнозує фонд. В 2021-му, за прогнозами фонду, ВВП зросте на 4,7%. Більшість європейських країн вийдуть на рівень ВВП 2019 року лише в 2022-2023 роках, вважають у МВФ.

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Culture War Erupts in Poland After Court Decision to Ban Most Abortions

30
Oct,2020

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Women’s rights activists have called a national strike and thousands of people have joined demonstrations to protest a decision by Poland’s Constitutional Court to ban nearly all abortions. Roderick James narrates this report filed by Pablo Gonzalez in Warsaw for VOA.
Camera: Pablo Gonzalez
Video editor: Henry Hernandez
Contributor: Ricardo Marquina

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Ukraine’s Zelenskiy Promises Action as Allies Sound Alarm Over Reform Rollback

30
Oct,2020

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President Volodymyr Zelenskiy promised swift action on Thursday and warned Ukraine could lose international aid and support after a Constitutional Court this week ruled to abolish some anti-corruption laws. The court said it saw as excessive the punishment set for false information on officials’ asset declarations and struck down some critical powers of the key anti-graft body NAZK, which in turn said the court had destroyed the anti-corruption system. Ukraine’s patchy performance on reforms and tackling entrenched corruption has derailed a $5 billion program agreed in June with the International Monetary Fund at a time its economy is in sharp downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic. FILE – The International Monetary Fund logo is seen in Washington, April 21, 2017.The European Union’s delegation to Kyiv warned that its financial assistance was tied to Ukraine’s performance on corruption. A further deterioration could threaten Ukraine’s prized visa-free access to the EU countries, a member of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee has warned. “We will not have money. We will not have support. Projects on which agreement was reached will be canceled, as well as World Bank support. We will have a big hole in the budget,” Zelenskiy said in a statement. “The recent decisions of the [court] undermine trust in Ukraine, outrage Ukrainians,” he said in a separate post on Twitter, adding that he wanted new legislation introduced as soon as possible to rectify the situation. The United States, Canada, Britain and the European Union have backed Ukraine with aid and sanctions on Russia after the 2014 Maidan street protests that ousted a Kremlin-backed leader but have repeatedly pressed Kyiv to quicken the pace of reforms. “The G-7 ambassadors are alarmed by efforts to undo the anti-corruption reforms that followed the Revolution of Dignity,” a statement said. “Too much progress has been made, Ukraine must not go back to the past.” In a separate statement, the EU said the court decision “calls into question a number of international commitments which Ukraine assumed in relation to its international partners, including the EU.”  
 

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NATO Allies Growing Weary of Turkish Aggression

30
Oct,2020

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The United States is pushing NATO countries to work with Turkey in hopes of healing divisions that have seen Ankara move closer to Russia, but at least one of those allies is bracing for more turmoil.Greece, embroiled in a dispute with Turkey over rights and resources in the eastern Mediterranean, has repeatedly put its FILE – Greek Minister of National Defense Nikos Panagiotopoulos speaks to journalists in Kastanies on March 1, 2020.Turkey has “become increasingly more self-confident … coupled with a rising element of aggressive rhetoric, a confrontational attitude and the revisionist political position,” Greek Minister of National Defense Nikos Panagiotopoulos said Thursday, during a virtual talk sponsored by the German Marshall Fund.”At some point, something needs to be done,” he said. “Unfortunately, this entails elements of being unpleasant.”Panagiotopoulos and others say that newfound aggressiveness was on display Wednesday, when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at the West, and France, during a speech to members of his political party.FILE – Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his ruling party lawmakers at the parliament, in Ankara, Oct. 28, 2020.”They literally want to relaunch the Crusades,” Erdogan said, referring to the French government’s defense of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.The Turkish leader also said the West is “once again headed to a period of barbarity.”Turkey has also incurred the wrath of Western countries, specifically fellow NATO allies, after carrying out tests last week of its Russian-made S-400 air defense system.Talking to reporters Wednesday, a top U.S. State Department official said Washington was prepared to take a harder line with Ankara, warning the threat of sanctions was very real.“Sanctions is very much something that is on the table,” Assistant Secretary of State R. Clarke Cooper told reporters. “Operationalizing such an asset or system incurs further risk of sanctions and further risks of restrictions.”The United States has banned Turkey from participation in its F-35 stealth fighter jet program, and threats of additional sanctions, from the U.S. or other European countries, are not new.But Panagiotopoulos said Thursday that he believed Turkey was likely to make the Russian air defense system operational sooner rather than later and that NATO might be running out of time to take meaningful action.A U.S. Marines F-35B Lightning II fighter aircraft prepares to land on the flight deck in the South China Sea.Such concerns, though, have repeatedly been cast aside by Turkish officials, something that troubles Panagiotopoulos.“Russia cannot be counted out,” he said, adding Ankara’s purchase of the S-400 air defense system is “enough to prove that potentially Turkey, whether it wanted to or inadvertently, would prove to be a source of undermining NATO’s cohesion from within.”Reuters contributed to this report.

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Spain Investigates Russian Links to Catalan Separatists

30
Oct,2020

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Russian agents offered military aid to Catalan separatists at the height of their failed bid to break away from Spain in 2017, according to a judicial investigation in Spain.These are the extraordinary allegations at the heart of an investigation launched by a judge in Barcelona who is probing alleged links between the Catalan independence movement and a Russian misinformation campaign designed to destabilize Europe.Police arrested 21 suspects in Barcelona on Wednesday on the orders of Judge Joaquin Aguirre, including three men who were close to the former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont who fled Spain shortly after the failed declaration of independence three years ago.In one recording presented in court documents, one of those detained by police allegedly mentions an offer by Russian agents to provide Puigdemont with 10,000 troops to help in a theoretical armed conflict with Spanish forces. The offer never materialized.Fake news offensive”Russian interference as a geopolitical strategy was a fact during the fall of 2017 when (the Russians) spread fake news and disinformation,” Judge Aguirre said in a ruling, citing online items backing the Catalan separatists spread by Russian news platforms.The Spanish government had accused Russia in 2017 of meddling in the Catalan conflict, a charge that Russian officials denied at the time.
In what appeared to be an ironic repost to the court allegations, the Russian Embassy in Madrid tweeted: “It is necessary to add two zeros to the number of soldiers and the most shocking thing about this conspiracy: the troops should be transported by Mosca and Chato, airplanes assembled in Catalonia during the (Spanish) Civil War and hidden in a safe place in the Catalan Sierra until they receive the order to act through encrypted publications.”A woman holds a sign during a protest against police raids and the arrest of Catalan separatists, in Barcelona, Spain, Oct. 28, 2020.TimingThough the investigation relates to events three years ago which threatened to tear apart one of Europe’s largest economies, it has ramifications in today’s polarized political environment.Spain’s minority left-wing coalition government depends on the Catalan separatist party Esquerra Republicana, ERC, for support as talks are under way to pass a budget for 2021.  Spain has had no full year spending plan for the past four years and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic this budget is crucial to finance the country’s recovery.“It is evident that the Spanish government has no appetite to find a solution to the conflict in Catalonia,” said Raul Murcia, a spokesman for ERC, told VOA.Regional elections are planned in Catalonia in February when separatist parties are likely to win a majority but not more than 50% of the vote, according to recent polls.The Catalan separatist movement has always proclaimed non-violent beliefs, even though last year there were violent clashes with police after nine leaders were jailed for up to 13 years for their roles in the 2017 breakaway bid.Wider investigationThe investigation also targets the alleged misuse of public funds for the separatist movement in Spain as well as the allegedly active role of Russian-backed disinformation campaigns to discredit Madrid.Those arrested face allegations of embezzlement and money laundering.Investigations revealed that money intended for Barcelona’s provincial government and a regional entity for promoting sports teams had been diverted illegally, the Spanish government said in a statement after the arrests.
Josep Lluis Alay, a close collaborator of Puigdemont, was one of those detained. Others included David Madi and Oriol Vendrell, two former politicians for Catalonia’s major separatist parties.A demonstrator is detained by police officers during a protest against police raids and the arrest of Catalan separatists, in Barcelona, Spain, Oct. 28, 2020.In the wake of the early morning raids, Puigdemont tweeted that Alay and the others “must be immediately released. Acting against political dissidents is a huge violation of fundamental rights”.After the breakaway attempt failed, Puigdemont fled Spain hidden in the boot of a car to France then flew to Brussels, where he has campaigned to raise support for his cause internationally. Puigdemont is currently a European Parliament member.Another suspect, Oriol Soler, is a publisher who is considered one of the top strategists of the separatist movement.Assange connectionHe is being investigated for allegedly meeting Russian contacts and the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange when he was seeking refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to promote the separatist cause and discredit Spain internationally.In a court document which was made public, it said the alleged meeting between Soler and Assange in September 2017 “falls within the strategy of misinformation and destabilization in which the Kremlin has also participated as part of its general narrative that the European Union is on the brink of collapse, the principal message of the news outlets controlled by the Kremlin.”Benet Salellas, Soler’s defense attorney, said that his client is innocent and “denounces that the justice system is being utilized to fight against the Catalan independence movement”.The arrests sparked several small protests across Catalonia.The issue of independence has consistently divided the region’s 7.5 million inhabitants.In a recent poll earlier this month for the Catalan regional government, 46.3% of Catalans opposed breaking away from Spain, while 45.5% backed independence. 

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Родина голови внутрішньої безпеки СБУ придбала квартиру в елітному ЖК в 4 рази дешевше від ринкових цін – «Схеми»

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Oct,2020

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Родина начальника Управління внутрішньої безпеки СБУ Андрія Наумова придбала 3-кімнатну квартиру в елітному житловому комплексі у центрі Києва в чотири рази дешевше від ринкових цін. Про це йдеться у розслідуванні програми «Схеми» (проєкт Радіо Свобода і телеканалу «UA:Перший») – «Таємний кадр СБУ: Alter Ego Наумова». Журналісти виявили, що ця квартира, а також маєток під Києвом, оформлені на його матір, але користується ними сам високопосадовець СБУ. При цьому, підкреслюється у розслідуванні, інформація про керівника Управління внутрішньої безпеки та його статки, згідно з офіційною відповіддю спецслужби, належить до категорії «з обмеженим доступом». Водночас юристи підтверджують, що купівлю квартири у кілька разів дешевше від ринкової вартості можна розцінювати як неправомірне отримання подарунку у розумінні закону «Про запобігання корупції».

Від власних джерел у Міністерстві юстиції «Схеми» отримали копію договору про передачу матері Андрія Наумова Ірині влітку 2019 року майнових прав на 3-кімнатну квартиру площею більше ніж 100 квадратних метрів у житловому комплексі Alter Ego у Печерському районі Києва. Вона придбала ці права за 1 мільйон 191 тисячу 300 гривень.

Водночас, підкреслюють журналісти, апартаменти такою площею згідно з цінами від забудовника у 2019–2020 роках у цьому ЖК коштують від майже 4,5 мільйонів гривень до 5,5 мільйонів.

«Тобто Ірині Наумовій житло в Alter Ego обійшлось щонайменше в 4 рази дешевше. Чи могла вона самостійно придбати коштовне майно? Відповідно до реєстру юридичних осіб, свого бізнесу вона вже більше ніж 10 років як не має, з соцмереж видно, що жінка займається майструванням ляльок», – мовиться у розслідуванні.

«Схеми» зафіксували, що Андрій Наумов користується цією квартирою. Знімальна група кілька разів помічала Mercedes із номерами прикриття, який заїжджав і виїжджав з підземного паркінгу ЖК.

В один із днів, 9 жовтня, знімальній групі вдалось зафіксувати його пасажира – ним виявився сам Андрій Наумов.

Майнові права на квартиру мати високопосадовця СБУ купила у бізнесмена Костянтина Ученика, який придбав їх у забудовника на етапі інвестування у 2016 році за суму майже в 1 мільйон 190 тисяч гривень. І теж, схоже, за заниженою вартістю, зазначають журналісти. Цей будинок був зведений на землях, які перебували у власності Генпрокуратури. На момент купівлі Костянтином Учеником квартири в цьому ЖК за заниженою вартістю сам Наумов був одним із керівників управління матеріально-технічного забезпечення ГПУ.

«Якщо орієнтуватись на ціни 2016 року, коли він здійснив купівлю, то апартаменти схожого метражу мали би обійтись йому у суму більше від 3 мільйонів гривень. Тобто, незважаючи на зростання цін на житло і беручи до уваги лише зміну курсу валют, на перепродажу майнових прав за 3 роки він не тільки не заробив, а навіть втратив більше від 3 тисяч доларів», – підрахували журналісти.

Згідно з даними реєстру юросіб, Костянтин Ученик – бізнесмен, раніше очолював із десяток будівельних фірм. Дві з них пов’язані із колишнім очільником СБУ, а нині бізнесменом Валерієм Хорошковським.

Одна з них – ТОВ «Маяк-Вестдом», яку Ученик очолює і досі, – регулярний фігурант розслідувань правоохоронців – зокрема, податківців та поліції.

Юристи підкреслюють: на момент купівлі квартири посада, яку обіймав Наумов, – керівника державного підприємства у Чорнобильській зоні відчуження, – підпадала під дію антикорупційного законодавства і належала до посад з високим корупційним ризиком.

«По суті, різниця між ринковою вартістю і заниженою ціною – це вже є пільга додаткова, тобто держслужбовець не має права таке отримувати. Тому придбання апартаментів, оформлених на близьку особу, зі значною знижкою у розумінні закону «Про запобігання корупції» може бути розцінено як незаконне одержання подарунку через близьку особу. За це чинним законодавством передбачена адміністративна відповідальність», – аналізує заступник голови Громадської ради при НАЗК Сергій Миткалик.

Як виявили журналісти, Наумов користується ще одним родинним майном – будинком у селищі Гребінки Київської області. Біля нього «Схеми» фіксували той самий мерседес, який заїжджав та виїжджав з паркінгу ЖК на Печерську. А біля автомобіля – особу, за статурою схожою на Андрія Наумова.

На його матір у Гребінках оформлені три земельні ділянки на березі річки Протока загальною площею півтора гектара. На них, згідно з даними з реєстру, зведений один будинок, водночас зйомка з повітря виявила, що на території – два будинки.

Тут, у Гребінках, ймовірно, мешкає цивільна дружина високопосадовця СБУ Анна Ревенко, яка публікує звідси пости у соцмережах. Також протягом 2014–2016 років вона працювала у компанії «Маяк-Вестдом» бізнесмена Ученика, який за заниженою вартістю продав квартиру матері Наумова.

У 2019 Анна Ревенко придбала одразу дві машини – вантажний Volkswagen Crafter та позашляховик Toyota Rav4 2018 року випуску. Їхня сумарна вартість, відповідно до цін з оголошень про продаж подібних авто, коливається від майже 1 мільйона 200 тисяч до 1 мільйона 340 тисяч гривень.

Згідно з даними джерел «Схем» у податковій, загалом, починаючи з 2011 року, Анна Ревенко заробила трохи більше ніж 400 тисяч гривень – разом зі стипендіями та соцвиплатами. Тобто, виходить, офіційних доходів Ревенко вистачило би лише на оплату третини від сукупної вартості придбаних автомобілів, мовиться у розслідуванні.

Андрій Наумов особисто відмовився відповідати на запитання «Схем». Не надали відповідей щодо його майнового стану і в пресслужбі СБУ. Бізнесмен Костянтин Ученик також не захотів спілкуватися з журналістами.

Управління внутрішньої безпеки СБУ, яке очолює Наумов, з-поміж інших функцій має виявляти правопорушення самих співробітників спецслужби. Це один із найзакритіших підрозділів. Положення про нього засекречене, а у відповідь на прохання «Схем» ознайомитись із трудовою біографією та відзнаками його керівника в СБУ зазначили, що така інформація належить до категорії «з обмеженим доступом».

Лише нещодавно, 14 жовтня, інформація про те, хто обіймає посаду керівника управління внутрішньої безпеки СБУ, стала публічною : Володимир Зеленський своїм указом присвоїв Андрієві Наумову військове звання бригадного генерала.

Відповідно до останньої декларації за 2019 рік – до початку роботи в СБУ, – Наумов не має власної нерухомості, орендує службове житло і зберігає заощадження готівкою та у банку. Вступ на зазначену посаду посаду в СБУ дозволив Наумову не показувати декларацію.

У середині жовтня безпековий комітет Верховної Ради погодив до першого читання президентський законопроєкт про реформування СБУ, який не тільки залишає шанс на цілковите засекречення декларацій, але й збільшує і без того широкі повноваження СБУ, твердять юристи.

28 жовтня НАЗК закрив доступ до Єдиного державного реєстру декларацій. Це зроблено на виконання рішення Конституційного суду від 27 жовтня, який, зокрема, визнав неконституційним положення щодо відкритого доступу громадян до цього реєстру. Судді КСУ також проголосували за визнання неконституційною статті про кримінальну відповідальність за декларування недостовірної інформації і скасував її.

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Russia’s Putin Says No to Lockdown Despite Spiking COVID Cases

29
Oct,2020

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Russia reported record numbers of infections and deaths from the novel coronavirus on Thursday, the latest sign that the country is again struggling to contain an outbreak that Kremlin officials only recently portrayed as largely under control.The state coronavirus task force recorded 17, 717 new infections and 366 deaths on Thursday alone, raising the national tally to more than 1.5 million cases and 27,301 fatalities from the global contagion.Russia currently is fourth in the People wearing face masks to protect against the coronavirus exit a subway car in Moscow, Russia, Oct. 19, 2020.As of this month, masks and gloves are again mandatory on public transport. The city introduced required distance learning for high school students. Businesses, too, are now required to have one-third of their employees working remotely.   In comments on local television Thursday, Sobyanin argued those measures were beginning to pay off.“This week we’re seeing figures that are lower than those from the week before. That tells us that there’s no more sharp escalation in Moscow.  It’s stabilizing,” said Sobyanin.But while Moscow has vast financial resources, the situation in what Russians call “the regions” — the rest of the country — appears infinitely more dire.   On Wednesday, the Kremlin’s point person on the coronavirus response, Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova, said that hospital bed capacity was at 90% in 16 regions, suggesting already underfunded health care systems were at the breaking point.   The announcement came as Russia’s Ministry of Health issued a directive forbidding medical professionals to speak with the news media about coronavirus-related issues.Ministry officials said the move was intended to “heighten effectiveness” in informing the public on preventing the spread.   Yet the newly introduced rule immediately raised a concern that has dogged the Kremlin response from the very outset of the pandemic: What if the government was simply trying to hide the scale of the problem?Body bagsThe mandate followed a wave of grim coronavirus-related stories to emerge from various swaths of the country in recent days:   In Barnaul, Customers sit outside a restaurant at Patriarshiye Prudy, a hip restaurant and bar district in Moscow, Russia, Oct. 16, 2020.In Omsk, ambulance workers delivered COVID-19 patients directly to the steps  of the local health ministry, explaining that despite 10 hours of searching local hospitals, they had been unable to find a single facility with available space to accept the patients. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.In the Kurgan region in the Ural Mountains, the defense ministry sent a rapid force group of army medics to aid in the virus response, after doctors made a public plea to Putin, citing a shortage of hospital space and staff and overloaded ambulances.Screaming for oxygenIn Rostov-on-Don, in Russia’s south, doctors reported 13 deaths in a local hospital because of a lack of oxygen tanks for ventilators. The patients died screaming for oxygen, according to physicians on the scene.  In Ufa — where health care workers and activists had accused officials of downplaying infections during an outbreak earlier this year — authorities acknowledged the city’s mayor died this week after a monthlong bout with the coronavirus.   Kremlin officials have argued individual horror stories fail to tell the larger success of the government’s coronavirus response.   Putin has also endorsed the rollout of “Sputnik V,” a Russia-produced vaccine against the coronavirus that the Kremlin says will be available beginning in December.Global health experts, however, caution the Kremlin has embraced the vaccine before it passes standard Stage 3 trials for efficacy.   Larger group testing of the drug is under way in Moscow.  Whether the vaccine proves effective, observers warned, many Russians should accept that the coming weeks will be as grim as those before it.  “We’re becoming used to images from hell,” wrote political observer Anton Orekh on the Echo of Moscow website.   “You’re better off staying home and taking garlic,” Orekh said, in a joking reference to an old Russian folk remedy.  “There aren’t any places in the hospital anyway.”  

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