Monthly Archives : May 2021

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Russia’s Navalny Asks Court to End Prison Security Checks

31
May,2021

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Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny asked a court Monday to halt the hourly nighttime checks he has been subjected to in his penal colony.  Speaking to the court in a video link from prison, Navalny charged that he has done nothing that would warrant the authorities’ decision to designate him as a flight risk, which has resulted in the checks.  “I just want them to stop coming to me and waking me up at nighttime,” he told the judge in remarks that were broadcast by the independent Dozhd TV. “What did I do: Did I climb the fence? Did I dig up an underpass? Or was I wringing a pistol from someone? Just explain why they named me a flight risk!”He argued that the hourly nighttime checks “effectively amount to torture,” telling the judge that “you would go mad in a week” if subjected to such regular wake-ups.The court later adjourned the hearing until Wednesday.Navalny, the most determined political foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was arrested in January upon his return from Germany, where he had spent five months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin — accusations that Russian officials reject.In February, he was handed a 2 1/2-year sentence for violating terms of a suspended sentence stemming from a 2014 embezzlement conviction, which he says was politically motivated.He went on a 24-day hunger strike in prison to protest the lack of medical treatment for severe back pain and numbness in his legs, ending it last month after getting the medical attention he demanded.While he still was on hunger strike, Navalny was moved from a penal colony east of Moscow, where he was serving his sentence, to the hospital ward of another prison in Vladimir, a city 180 kilometers (110 miles) east of the capital. He remains at that prison, where he said the nighttime checks continued, although they were less intrusive.With Navalny in prison, prosecutors have asked a Moscow court to designate his Foundation for Fighting Corruption and his network of regional offices as extremist groups. A bill, which has sailed quickly through the Kremlin-controlled lower house of Russian parliament, bars members, donors and supporters of extremist groups from seeking public office.The parallel moves have been widely seen as an attempt to keep any of Navalny’s associates from running in September’s parliamentary election. 

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Turkey’s Erdogan Under Renewed Pressure Following Mafia Boss Accusations

31
May,2021

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The Turkish government is facing accusations of arming and funding jihadists in Syria. The allegations are just the latest by an exiled mafia boss in a weekly YouTube broadcast that are putting the Turkish president in an increasingly tight spot.  
 
Among the many allegations being spread by Sedat Peker on YouTube is one that allegedly implicates the Turkish government of arming and buying oil from Syrian jihadists. In one of his broadcasts Peker explains in detail how key aides of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ran the scheme.  
 
Peker, who analysts say once enjoyed close ties to Turkey’s rulers, started broadcasting weekly Sunday videos on a YouTube channel, alleging government misdeeds after he was forced to flee the country.  
 
Analyst Atilla Yesilada says the mafia boss has a growing audience.  
 
“It is huge. He is easily attracting audiences in excess of four and five million per video. And everything he says is scrutinized in the opposition channels. So, I would say everyone knows about what he is saying. Obviously, the most damaging is him opening the 1990s file, the extrajudicial killings,” Yesilada said.
Peker alleges former interior minister Mehmet Aga was the head of a shadowy organization known as the “deep state,” which is said to have been responsible for a series of assassinations of prominent journalists dating back to the 1990s. Aga is closely linked to Erdogan, and his son Tolga is a parliamentary deputy for the ruling AKP, Turkey’s ruling party.  FILE – A photo taken May 26, 2021, in Istanbul, Turkey, shows a YouTube broadcast by exiled mob boss Sedat Peker on a mobile phone.Aga has denied the allegations. Erol Onderoglu of Reporters Without Borders says there is a need for government transparency.
 
“This should be part of a parliamentary investigation first, but I think that it will never be possible without the Turkish government naming some state actors in this period. So, transparency today should calm public opinion today and show respect to victims’ families,” Onderoglu said.
 
But Erdogan is dismissing the allegations.
 
Speaking to his party’s deputies, the Turkish president claimed the accusations are part of an international conspiracy to oust him.  
 
But Peker’s allegations continue, accusing the son of Erdogan’s close confidant, former prime minister Binali Yildirim, of cocaine smuggling, and turning Turkey into one of the biggest hubs for importing and distributing drugs into Europe. Yildirim dismissed the allegations.  
 
Analysts point out Erdogan is experienced at weathering political storms. But analyst Yesilada says, unlike in the past, Turkey is in the midst of an economic crisis and record-low opinion poll ratings for Erdogan.
 
“These are all unmistakable signs of Armageddon for Erdogan approaching. It will really take a miracle to repair the reputational damage that is caused by the Peker videos. The picture that emerges is that this is a government set for personal benefit and for the benefit of cronies and [one that] has completely lost interest in the voters,” Yesilada said.
 
Peker is promising more YouTube videos that he says will share more intimate secrets he claims he learned from spending two decades in the inner circles of the ruling party.
 

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Гривня знову наближається до річного максимуму щодо долара США

31
May,2021

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Торги на українському міжбанківському валютному ринку 31 травня відбуваються на користь гривні, яка знову наближається до свого річного максимуму

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Turkish Agents Capture Nephew of US-Based Cleric Overseas

31
May,2021

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Turkish agents have captured a nephew of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen in an overseas operation and have brought him to Turkey where he faces prosecution, Turkey’s state-run news agency said Monday.Selahaddin Gulen, who was wanted in Turkey on charges of membership in a terror organization, was seized in an operation by Turkey’s national spy agency MIT, the Anadolu agency reported.  The report did not say where he was seized or when he was returned to Turkey. Gulen’s nephew, however, was believed to be residing in Kenya.His case is the latest in a series of forced repatriation of people affiliated with Gulen’s movement, which the Turkish government blames for a failed coup attempt in 2016.  Gulen, a former ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who now lives in exile in Pennsylvania, has rejected the accusations of involvement in the coup attempt.Turkey has designated his network a terrorist group, which it has named the Fethullahist Terror Organization, or FETO.Erdogan announced earlier in May that a prominent member of Gulen’s network had been captured but did not provide details.On July 15, 2016, factions within the Turkish military used tanks, warplanes and helicopters in an attempt to overthrow Erdogan. Fighter jets bombed parliament and other spots in Turkey’s capital. Heeding a call by the president, thousands took to the streets to stop the coup.A total of 251 people were killed and around 2,200 others were wounded. Around 35 alleged coup plotters were also killed. 

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Far-Right Party, Centrist Group Gain Big in Cyprus Poll

31
May,2021

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The far-right ELAM party and a centrist splinter group made big gains in Cyprus’ parliamentary election on Sunday as a sizeable chunk of supporters appeared to have turned their back on the top three parties amid voter disenchantment with traditional power centers.With 100% of votes counted, ELAM garnered 6.78% of the vote — a 3% increase from the previous election in 2016 — to edge out the socialist EDEK party by the razor-thin margin of around 200 votes.The centrist DIPA — made up of key figures from the center-right DIKO party which has traditionally been the third biggest party — gained 6.1% of the vote.The center-right DISY emerged in first place with 27.77% of the vote, 5.4% more than second-place, communist-rooted AKEL. But the parties respectively lost 2.9% and 3.3% of their support from the previous election.“The result isn’t what we expected,” AKEL General-Secretary Andros Kyprianou told a party rally. “We respect it and we’ll examine it carefully to draw conclusions, but we can now say that we failed to convince (our supporters).”Analyst Christoforos Christoforou said the results indicate a “very big failure” on the part of both DISY and AKEL to rally more supporters by convincing them of the benefits of their policies. A last-ditch appeal by the DISY leadership limited a projected 5% voter loss to 3%.Christoforou said the real winners were ELAM with its strident anti-migration platform and hardline nationalist policies and DIPA whose top echelons still have connections to the centers of political power as former ministers and lawmakers.He said that the high electoral threshold of 3.6% means that 15,000 voters who cast ballots for smaller parties who didn’t win any seats are left without a voice in parliament.Opinion polls in the weeks preceding the vote indicated that both DISY and AKEL would hemorrhage support as disappointed voters seek out alternatives among smaller parties.The election won’t affect the running of the government on the divided Mediterranean island nation, as executive power rests in the hands of the president, who is elected separately.About 65.73% of nearly 558,000 eligible voters cast ballots for the 56 Greek Cypriot seats in parliament. Voter turnout was 1% less than the previous poll.Among the key campaign issues were the country’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the hoped-for economic reboot as the country ramps up vaccinations. Migration has also been an issue as the Cypriot government insists it has exceeded its limits and can no longer receive more migrants.Smaller parties have appealed to voters to turn their backs on DISY, which they said is burdened by a legacy of corruption.An independent investigation into Cyprus’ now-defunct investment-for-citizenship program found that the government unlawfully granted passports to thousands of relatives of wealthy investors, some with shady pasts. DISY bore the brunt of the criticism because it backs the policies of Anastasiades, the party’s former leader.Christoforou said there are questions as to whether the government has breached rules by using state funds to campaign for DISY.
 

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Belarus News Site Editor Arrested Over Extremism Suspicions 

31
May,2021

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The chief editor of a popular internet news site in one of Belarus’ largest cities was detained Sunday on suspicion of extremism. The arrest Sunday of Hrodna.life editor Aliaksei Shota comes amid a crackdown on independent journalists and opponents of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko. The publication focuses on Belarus’ fifth-largest city, Grodno. City police said the website “posted information products that were duly recognized as extremist,” but didn’t give details. It wasn’t immediately clear if Shota had been formally charged with extremism, which can carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years. Shota had collaborated with the country’s most popular internet portal Tut.by, which authorities closed this month after arresting 15 employees. Belarusian journalist Raman Pratasevich stands in an airport bus in the international airport outside Minsk, Belarus, May 23, 2021, in this photo released by Telegram Chanel t.me/motolkohelp. He was arrested shortly thereafter.Belarus’ crackdown escalated a week ago with the arrest of dissident journalist Raman Pratasevich and his girlfriend who were aboard a commercial flight that was diverted to the Minsk airport because of an alleged bomb threat. The flight was flying over Belarus en route from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania. The move sparked wide denunciation in the West as an act of hijacking and demands for Pratasevich’s release. The European Union banned flights from Belarus. Pratasevich is charged with organizing riots, a charge that carries a potential sentence of 15 years. The day after his arrest, authorities released a brief video in which Pratasevich said he was confessing, but observers said the statement appeared to be forced. The Belarusian human rights group Viasna said Sunday that Pratasevich had received a package from his sister but that an unspecified book had been taken from it. Large protests broke out last August after a presidential election that officials said overwhelmingly gave a sixth term in office to Lukashenko, who has consistently repressed opposition since coming to power in 1994. Police detained more than 30,000 people in the course of the protests, which persisted for months. Although protests died down during the winter, authorities have continued strong actions against opposition supporters and independent journalists.  

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Georgia Opposition Ends Parliamentary Boycott

30
May,2021

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Georgia’s main opposition party on Sunday announced the end of a months-long parliamentary boycott that has plunged the Caucasus nation into a spiraling political crisis, following disputed elections last year.Georgia’s opposition parties have denounced massive fraud in the October 31 parliamentary elections, which were won narrowly by the ruling Georgian Dream party.In the months since, they have staged numerous mass protests, demanding snap polls and refused to assume their seats in the newly elected parliament.The boycott that has left around 40 seats vacant in the 150-seat legislature weighed heavily on Georgian Dream’s political legitimacy.On Sunday, Georgia’s main opposition force — the United National Movement (UNM) founded by exiled ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili — said it had taken the decision to end the boycott.”We will enter parliament to liberate the Georgian state captured by oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili,” UNM chairman Nika Melia told journalists.He was referring to the billionaire founder of the ruling party, who is widely believed to be the man in charge in Georgia, despite having no official political role.The post-electoral stalemate worsened in February after police arrested Melia in a violent raid on his party headquarters, leading to the prime minister’s resignation and prompting swift condemnation from the West.Melia was released from pre-trial detention in May, on bail posted by the European Union.The move was part of an agreement Georgian Dream and the opposition signed in April under the European Council President Charles Michel’s mediation.The deal commits opposition parties to enter parliament, while Georgian Dream has promised sweeping political, electoral and judicial reforms.In power since 2012, Georgian Dream and its founder Ivanishvili — Georgia’s richest man — have faced mounting criticism from the West over the country’s worsening democratic record.Critics accuse Ivanishvili of persecuting political opponents and creating a corrupt system where private interests permeate politics.
 

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Studies Reveal China’s Dominant Position in High-Tech Minerals

30
May,2021

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New clean energy technologies like solar power and electric vehicles are expected to remake the global energy industry. Trillions of dollars used to drill and ship oil and gas will instead be spent finding and processing the specialized minerals used to make high-tech gear including advanced electric generators and powerful, compact batteries.Energy analysts say this will challenge the United States, which will likely need to import vastly more minerals like cobalt, lithium and aluminum, at the same time that China has increased its control over the supply of some key resources.People cool off in the beach near the mining pipeline “Puerto Coloso” of the “Escondida” cooper mine in Antofagasta, Chile, Feb. 16, 2017.A VOA examination of U.S. government data shows how China has become the main supplier for some of the most important raw materials that Western countries import, giving Beijing leverage over the materials that go into everything from advanced fighter jets to solar panels.Not only has Beijing bought up some of the world’s biggest mines for these minerals, the country also has invested heavily in the processing facilities that refine the raw materials into industrially-useful products, strengthening Beijing’s position in global supply chains.Beijing has already given the world reason to worry about its reliability as a global supplier. In 2011, it used its position as the top global supplier of rare earth metals to cut exports, driving up prices. China’s critics say Beijing’s dominant position in so-called “critical minerals” gives them similar leverage.Aerial view of evaporation pools of the new state-owned lithium extraction complex, in the southern zone of the Uyuni Salt Flat, Bolivia, on July 10, 2019.35 critical mineralsThe United States has designated A man watches a conveyor belt loaded with chunks of raw cobalt after a first transformation at a plant in Lubumbashi, Congo, on Feb. 16, 2018, before being exported, mainly to China, to be refined.Chinese dominance in U.S. allies’ supply chainsOther Western countries have different lists of minerals considered critical to their economies. Among the lists of Australia, U.K. and Canada, rare earth minerals account for only one of the 24, 41 and 31 critical minerals, respectively.  The European Union classifies light and heavy rare earths as two separate critical elements on its 30 Critical Raw Materials (CRM) list.A study published last year by the European Commission’s Joint Research Center, a science and technology service agency, found that the production of a Rafale fighter aircraft requires a total of 16 CRMs, of which only three are rare earth elements. Although each country makes up its own list of “critical minerals” based on its strategic needs, China is a dominant supplier in all of the lists.In the EU’s list, China is the largest source of imports for 10 minerals. Among the 24 critical minerals identified by the Australian government in its Critical Minerals Prospectus 2020 report, China is listed as the largest producer of 11 of them.   In the U.K.’s Risk List, China is the leading producer of 23 minerals.Similar findings were reported by Chinese researchers as well.  A study published by China Geological Survey stated that “after combing through the list of Critical Minerals in the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom and other countries, it can be seen that half or more of the country’s main producing countries and main sources of imports are our country.”The 2019 report said that of the 35 key minerals in the U.S., the largest supplier of 13 CMs is China, and China is also the largest producer of 19 CMs.This story originated in VOA’s Mandarin Service. 

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Ukrainian Ambassador in Thailand Dies on Resort Island

30
May,2021

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The Ukrainian ambassador to Thailand collapsed and died on Sunday while on a resort island with his family, authorities said.Andrii Beshta, 44, was declared dead on Lipe Island in southern Satun province, Gov. Ekkarat Leesen told The Associated Press.Police quoted his teenage son, who was staying in the same hotel room, as saying his father vomited and fainted early Sunday. He said he was feeling fine before. Police said they suspect he may have suffered a heart failure.Leesen said the body was sent to the police hospital for an autopsy.Beshta had assumed the post of ambassador in January 2016. He is survived by his wife, daughter and two sons, according to a bio on the embassy’s website.

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British Prime Minister Weds Fiancee in Secret, Reports Say 

30
May,2021

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson married his fiancee, Carrie Symonds, in a secret ceremony at Westminster Cathedral on Saturday, The Sun and Mail on Sunday newspapers reported.A spokeswoman for Johnson’s Downing Street office declined to comment on the reports.Both newspapers said that guests were invited at the last minute to the central London ceremony, and that even senior members of Johnson’s office were unaware of the wedding plans.Weddings in England are currently limited to 30 people because of COVID-19 restrictions.The Catholic cathedral was suddenly locked down at 1:30 p.m. (1230 GMT) and Symonds, 33, arrived 30 minutes later in a limo, in a long white dress with no veil, both reports said.Johnson, 56, and Symonds, 33, have been living together in Downing Street since Johnson became prime minister in 2019.Last year they announced they were engaged and that they were expecting a child, and their son, Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas Johnson, was born in April 2020.Earlier this month the Sun had reported that wedding invitations had been sent to friends and family for July 2022.Johnson has a complicated private life. He was once sacked from the Conservative Party’s policy team while in opposition for lying about an extramarital affair. He has been divorced twice and refuses to say how many children he has fathered.Johnson’s last marriage was to Marina Wheeler, a lawyer. They had four children together but announced in September 2018 that they had separated.

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France Reports Drop in COVID Hospitalizations

29
May,2021

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France reported Saturday that the number of people in intensive care units with COVID-19 had fallen by 76 to 3,028, while the overall number of people in hospital with the disease had fallen by 425 to 16,847.Both numbers have been on a downward trend in recent weeks.While reporting 10,675 new cases, the health ministry also announced 68 new coronavirus deaths in hospitals and said there had been 487,309 COVID-19 vaccine injections over the past 24 hours.

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Medics March to WHO Headquarters in Climate Campaign

29
May,2021

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Medics concerned about the effects on public health of environmental degradation marched Saturday on the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, demanding health authorities make climate change and biodiversity loss their top priorities.White-clad activists from the group Doctors for Extinction Rebellion marched from Geneva’s Place des Nations to WHO headquarters where they were met by Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus, and Maria Neira, director of environment, climate change and health.”The pandemic will end, but there is no vaccine for climate change,” Tedros said as he welcomed the activists outside the building. “We have to act now, in solidarity, to prevent and prepare before it is too late.”
 
Professor Valerie D’Acremont, an infectious disease specialist and co-founder of Doctors For Extinction Rebellion, called on the WHO “to be the driving force and guarantor of public policies that respect the health of all and preserve life.”
 
The activists handed Tedros a letter and a large hourglass, the symbol of Extinction Rebellion which wants to prompt a wider revolt to avert the worst scenarios of devastation outlined by scientists studying climate change.
 
Tedros later retweeted a message from the WHO stating both bodies were “standing in solidarity & urging global action” to end the climate crisis and protect health everywhere. “These are inextricably intertwined.”

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Talks Between Russian, Belarusian Leaders Continue Into Second Day: TASS

29
May,2021

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Talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko in the southern Russian town of Sochi continued into a second day on Saturday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
 
Lukashenko flew into Russia on Friday for talks with Putin amid an uproar in Europe over the grounding of a passenger plane in Minsk and the arrest of a dissident blogger.
 
“Discussion between the two presidents continue today,” Peskov was quoted as saying by TASS news agency. 

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Шмигаль заявляє про економічні успіхи свого уряду

29
May,2021

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US Targets Belarus with Sanctions Amid Western Outcry Over Plane

29
May,2021

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The United States on Friday announced punitive measures against Belarus targeting the regime of strongman President Alexander Lukashenko, who met with Russian leader Vladimir Putin amid a global outcry over the forced diversion of a European plane.White House press secretary Jen Psaki called for “a credible international investigation into the events of May 23,” which she called “a direct affront to international norms.”Belarus scrambled a military jet to divert a Ryanair plane and arrested 26-year-old opposition blogger and activist Roman Protasevich who was onboard, triggering a global outcry.The White House announced it was working with the European Union on a list of targeted sanctions against key members of Lukashenko’s regime.Meanwhile, economic sanctions against nine Belarusian state-owned enterprises, reimposed by Washington in April following a crackdown on pro-democracy protests, will come into effect on June 3.Further U.S. moves on Belarus could target “those that support corruption, the abuse of human rights, and attacks on democracy,” Psaki said.The White House also issued a “Do Not Travel” warning for Belarus to U.S. citizens, and warned American passenger planes to “exercise extreme caution” if considering flying over Belarusian airspace.The European Union has also urged EU-based carriers to avoid Belarusian airspace.However, President Vladimir Putin celebrated Russia’s close ties with Belarus on Friday as he hosted Lukashenko in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.With observers closely watching the talks to see how far the Kremlin would go to support the regime, the Russian leader said he was “very glad” to see Lukashenko and agreed with him the Western reaction was an “outburst of emotion.”‘Rock the boat’Lukashenko complained the West was seeking to stir unrest in Belarus.”An attempt is underway to rock the boat to reach the level of last August,” he said, referring to anti-regime protests following a disputed election.”It’s clear what these Western friends want from us.”The Belarus strongman, who arrived with a briefcase, said he wanted to show Putin “some documents” related to the Ryanair incident and thanked him for his support in the latest standoff with the West.The talks lasted for more than five hours but their results were not announced.Over the past years Lukashenko has had a volatile relationship with Moscow, playing it off against the West and ruling out outright unification with Russia.But after the Ryanair plane incident his options appear to be limited.Putin and the Belarus leader have met regularly since August, when historic protests broke out against Lukashenko’s nearly three-decade rule.The 66-year-old waged a ruthless crackdown on his opponents and has leaned increasingly on the Russian president amid condemnation from the West.Several people died during the unrest in Belarus, thousands were detained, and hundreds reported torture in prison.Sunday’s plane diversion was a dramatic escalation, with EU leaders accusing Minsk of essentially hijacking a European flight to arrest Protasevich.Technical reasonsThe overflight ban has led to several cancellations of air journeys between Russia and Europe, after Russian authorities rejected planes that would have skipped Belarusian airspace.Russia insists the cancellations are purely “technical,” but they have raised concerns that Moscow could be systematically refusing to let European airlines land if they avoid Belarus.The Kremlin criticized the flight ban as politically motivated and dangerous, with foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova calling it “completely irresponsible.”EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc was monitoring whether this was a broader policy from Russia, but Moscow insisted the disruptions were in no way political.Belarus authorities claimed to have received a bomb threat against the Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius carrying the dissident.Minsk said it demanded the flight land in the Belarus capital based on the message it said was sent from a ProtonMail address by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.Protasevich, who helped organize the demonstrations against Lukashenko’s rule last year, was arrested along with Russian girlfriend Sofia Sapega, 23, after the plane landed in the city.’Braver’Borrell has said proposals are “on the table” to target key sectors of the Belarusian economy including its oil products and potash sectors.Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya on Friday urged the EU to be “braver” and impose more sanctions against the Minsk regime.After meeting Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in The Hague, Tikhanovskaya said measures being discussed by EU countries did not go far enough.EU chief Ursula von der Leyen on Friday warned Lukashenko that “it is time to change course.””No amount of repression, brutality or coercion will bring any legitimacy to your authoritarian regime,” she said.The European Commission president also wrote to the opposition offering a 3-billion-euro package to support “a democratic Belarus” if Lukashenko steps down.

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Warsaw University Aims to Shape Future Conservative Lawyers

29
May,2021

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An increasingly influential Polish Catholic legal institute on Friday inaugurated a university in Warsaw that aims to educate a new generation of conservative lawyers in central Europe who it hopes will also shape wider European culture.The institute, Ordo Iuris, works to promote conservative causes, including restrictions on abortion and opposition to same-sex legal unions as it seeks to support traditional family structures. It successfully lobbied for the recent restriction of abortion rights in Poland and is spearheading efforts aimed at persuading countries not to ratify the Istanbul Convention, an international treaty against domestic violence, due to objections over how the treaty depicts gender relations in the family.Jerzy Kwasniewski, a Warsaw lawyer who heads Ordo Iuris, said that the university, Collegium Intermarium, is meant to be a space of free academic inquiry at a time of perceived censorship in traditional academic settings that he argued overwhelmingly targets and silences conservative thinkers.Kwasniewski also described the college as a counterweight to existing institutions, including the Central European University, which was founded by the liberal Hungarian American investor George Soros and which recently relocated from Budapest to Vienna under pressure from Hungary’s nationalist conservative government.”We all hope that Collegium Intermarium will bring change to the academic sphere of central Europe,” he said.A larger ambitionIntermarium (Latin for “between the seas”) is a historical term that refers to a swath of central Europe between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic seas. It’s a region of ex-communist countries that are largely more conservative than those in Western Europe, and it’s where nationalist parties have seen their support grow in recent years.The name points to a larger ambition, with Kwasniewski saying he also hopes the institution will allow conservatives from central Europe to one day shape the more secular culture dominant in the European Union.”We don’t follow the French way of a division between church and state. We rather follow the more American way of an alliance of the spiritual with the republic,” Kwasniewski told The Associated Press on the sidelines of the university’s inauguration conference. “We are not able to follow the motto of the European Union, ‘United in diversity,’ without acknowledging the diversity of different cultural spheres of Europe.”The Polish culture and education ministers praised the university as a place that will nurture Europe’s traditional Christian and classical traditions, while a letter was read out from Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, underscoring the conservative government’s support for the new institution. Representatives of the Hungarian government also voiced their support.The former Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, spoke about his support for strengthening nation states in the face of an EU which he accused of eroding freedoms. He also denounced the cultural changes in the West since the liberal revolution of the 1960s, saying that since then, “generations were born who do not understand the meaning of our civilizational, cultural and ethical heritage and are deprived of a moral compass guiding their behavior.”Viewed with suspicionOrdo Iuris is viewed with suspicion by LGBT and women’s rights groups, which accuse the Catholic group of being part of an international network seeking to erode the rights they have gained in recent decades.Ordo Iuris successfully backed a successful effort to restrict abortion rights in Poland. It provided legal arguments to the constitutional court, which ruled last year that abortions in cases of fetal abnormalities are not constitutional. The result is that Polish women are now required to carry very sick or even unviable fetuses to term — a ruling that in practice drives more women to have abortions abroad. The ruling sparked weeks of mass protests in the country, which already had one of Europe’s most restrictive abortion laws.The institute has worked across the region, for instance assisting a Romanian group that successfully lobbied to block the legalization of same-sex unions.Neil Datta, the head of the Brussels-based European Parliamentary Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Rights who has extensively researched Ordo Iuris, says he believes the university will become a center for training “a new cadre of elites that basically can transform and whitewash far-right thinking so it appears professional and acceptable in a certain political discourse.”He said the plan reminds him of what happened in the United States, where the Christian right years ago began funding universities that over time produced new elites with influence at think tanks and in politics.”This is a first step in the same thing,” Datta said.Ordo Iuris members say the group is unfairly portrayed by activists and the media.Kwasniewski told the AP that the group is not against women, arguing that the institute includes many women and that its anti-abortion position is a human rights position.”Abortion is not about women’s rights. Abortion is also performed on girls in the prenatal stage of development. It’s just about the violation of the right to life,” he said.The university will offer accredited degrees at the master’s level in law, with the curriculum to include related subjects such as philosophy. It plans to offer a doctorate program in four to five years. It will be privately funded at first but plans to seek public funding in the future, Kwasniewski said.

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