OAS condemns Nicaragua’s pursuit of political opponents
The Organization of American States Permanent Council has approved a resolution condemning the arrest in Nicaragua of presidential pre-candidates, restrictions imposed on political parties and calling for the immediate release of political prisoners
By CLAUDIA TORRENS Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 8:34 PM• 1 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleThe Associated PressFILE – In this March 21, 2019 file photo, Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega speaks next to first lady and Vice President Rosario Murillo during the inauguration ceremony of a highway overpass in Managua, Nicaragua. Nicaragua’s National Police have arrested on Tuesday, June 8, 2021, two more potential challengers to President Ortega, the third and fourth opposition pre-candidates for the Nov. 7 elections detained in the past week. (AP Photo/Alfredo Zuniga, File)
NEW YORK — The Organization of American States’ Permanent Council approved a resolution Tuesday condemning the arrest in Nicaragua of presidential pre-candidates, restrictions imposed on political parties and calling for the immediate release of political prisoners.
Last week, the U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on several people close to Ortega, including his daughter.
Ortega has maintained that massive street protests that erupted after reforms to the social security system in 2018 were actually an attempt to remove him from office with foreign backing.
Oldest party wins most seats in voting for ‘new Algeria’
Algeria’s oldest party, the National Liberation Front, or FLN, considered on the wane, was the surprise top scorer in weekend legislative elections, winning 105 of 407 parliamentary seats, the electoral authority announced Tuesday
ByThe Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 8:24 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleThe Associated PressElection officials count ballots after the closing of stations in the country’s first legislative elections since the ouster of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in Algiers, Algeria, Saturday, June 12, 2021. Algerians voted Saturday for a new parliament in an election with a majority of novice independent candidates running under new rules meant to satisfy demands of pro-democracy protesters and open the way to a “new Algeria.” (AP Photo/Anis Belghoul)
The National Liberation Front, or FLN, secured 105 of 407 parliamentary seats, according to the provisional results. Independent candidates, including young people new to politics and many others who broke away from the FLN, placed second, winning a total 78 seats.
The voting Saturday was meant to open the way to a “new Algeria” heralded by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune to end an era of corruption and give the North African nation a new, younger face after a two-decade reign of Abdelaziz Bouteflika as chief of state. Bouteflika was forced to resign in 2019 under pressure from the Hirak pro-democracy protest movement.
However, turnout was dismal with Hirak protesters boycotting the elections, as did traditional opposition parties. The electoral chief, Mohamed Charfi, did not provide a turnout figure in his Tuesday rundown of results, but media outlets calculating the number of voters among the 24 million eligible put the figure at 23% — a historic low.
The moderate Islamist party that has been a mainstay in Algerian politics, the Movement for a Peaceful Society, won 64 seats, double the number it held previously. Another Islamist party will also be increasing its presence in the lower chamber of parliament, going from 12 seats to 40, Mohamed Charfi, head of the electoral authority, told a news conference.
A party which once shared the majority with the FLN, the National Democratic Rally, placed fourth with 55 seats, down from 100 in the outgoing parliament.
The FLN was decried by Hirak protesters seeking to upend a system in place since Algerian independence from France in 1962. The party was born as a fighting force in the independence battle then transformed into the nation’s sole political party for nearly three decades, until multiparty elections were allowed in 1989.
It lost 60 seats in the elections, but even without a majority the FLN saved itself as the premier party of Algeria. The results suggested that nationalists, from the FLN to party dissidents elected as independents and gains by another party regarded as an FLN satellite could dominate in the chamber.
Buoyed by allied summits, Biden ready to take on Putin
Fresh from supportive summits with allies, Joe Biden is declaring himself ready to take on Russia’s Vladimir Putin in far more confrontational talks
By AAMER MADHANI, JONATHAN LEMIRE and ELLEN KNICKMEYER Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 8:19 PM• 6 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleThe Associated PressPresident Joe Biden, center, walks with European Council President Charles Michel, right, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, during the United States-European Union Summit at the European Council in Brussels, Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Biden meets for his first talks as president with the Russian leader on Wednesday, in what’s expected to be roughly a half-day of discussions between the two leaders and aides behind closed doors. That’s after spending much of a weeklong European trip — the foreign policy highlight of his presidency so far — working to strengthen ties with like-minded partner nations in order to better deal with rivals Russia and China.
A reporter soon after Biden’s arrival in Geneva on Tuesday shouted out a question on whether he was ready for Wednesday’s talks. “I am always ready,” Biden answered.
The American leader reached Geneva following rounds of cordial elbow bumping, grinning photo sessions and close consultations with global leaders at the Group of Seven, NATO and U.S.-European Union summits. He secured a series of joint communiques expressing concern over Russia and China, and was at the EU on Tuesday to preside over the announcement of a breakthrough easing a long-running U.S. aircraft trade dispute with that bloc.
As for Russia, the U.S. and the EU declared they “stand united in our principled approach” to the longtime rival, “ready to respond decisively to its repeating pattern of negative behavior and harmful activities.”
Biden’s European tour has aimed to restore U.S. partnerships that were damaged under former President Donald Trump, who openly invited what American intelligence services said was Russian interference in U.S. political campaigns, and who sought out Putin and other autocrats he saw as strong.
In line with the chilly-so-far Biden-Putin relationship — Putin’s government responded with indignation earlier this year after Biden said he considered the Russian a “killer” — the two men plan neither lunch nor dinner together, and no joint press conference after, in what’s expected to be their four to five hours together.
That’s in contrast to this week’s G-7 session hosted by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, where the allies and their spouses held a beach barbecue and round after round of “family photos.”
According to a senior administration official granted anonymity to disclose internal discussions, Biden is hoping to find small areas of agreement with the Russian president, including potentially returning ambassadors to Washington and Moscow.
That and other diplomatic issues, including the tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats and closure of consulates, will be high on the agenda for both sides.
The U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, a rare holdover from the Trump administration, and Anatoly Antonov, the Russian ambassador to Washington, will both be in Geneva for the summit.
The two men departed their posts earlier this year as part of what both Russia and the United States describe as an all-time low in the two countries’ relationship.
In addition, Russia has complained for years about its eviction and loss of consulates in San Francisco and Seattle and other facilities in Maryland and New York. The U.S., meanwhile, has been forced to close its consulate in St. Petersburg and is now facing the loss of Russian citizens employed by its embassy in Moscow, which will significantly reduce the consular services it is able to provide.
Biden also is looking to make progress on a new arms control agreement between the two nations, which agreed to a five-year extension of the remaining current pact in January.
Putin foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov sought to moderate expectations for the summit, but he strongly emphasized its importance given the current tensions.
“It’s the first such meeting that takes place at a time when the bilateral relations are extremely bad,” he said. “Both parties realize it’s time to start dealing with the issues that have piled up.”
Biden plans to raise issues ranging from cyberattacks to Putin’s treatment of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was poisoned and later jailed in what was seen as political retribution for exposing alleged Kremlin corruption and leading an anti-Putin protest movement.
In Geneva, a couple dozen Navalny supporters turned out in a sun-drenched square on Tuesday, and murals of a smiling Navalny holding his fingers in a heart shape, with the words “Hero of our time” in French, have popped up around the Swiss city in recent days. Those reference a similar mural in St. Petersburg, Russia, that authorities quickly covered over.
Syria, where Russia is threatening to close the last humanitarian crossing into that country, also is on the leaders’ agenda.
Biden this week called Putin a “worthy adversary” and has said he is hoping to find areas of cooperation with the Russian president. But he also warned that if Russia continues cyberattacks and other aggressive acts toward the U.S. “we will respond in kind.”
Biden goes into Wednesday’s talks bolstered not only by the supportive words of European allies but by the tangible news of a major breakthrough in a 17-year trade dispute centered on rival subsidies for aircraft manufacturers.
At almost every stop this week, the president repeated his message that “America is back,” in hopes of convincing both allies and rivals that the U.S. is engaged and strong internationally after Trump’s isolationist presidency and the political upheaval that peaked last January in violence at the U.S. Capitol.
Political sniping continued. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy accused the Democratic president of deferring to Putin on his trip abroad and making America weaker.
“I don’t care about charming Europe and thinking you’re one of them,” McCarthy said, a day after Biden referred to Republicans as “fractured.”
The EU and U.S. agreed Tuesday to set up what their statement called a “high-level dialogue” on Russia to counter what they said was Moscow’s drift into deeper authoritarianism and anti-Western sentiment.
At the same time, the 27-nation EU is divided in its approach to Moscow. Russia is the EU’s biggest natural gas supplier, and plays a key role in international conflicts and key issues, including the Iran nuclear deal and conflicts in Syria and Libya.
But the hope is that Biden’s meeting with Putin might pay dividends, and no one in Brussels wanted to undermine the show of international unity that has been on display at the G-7 and NATO summits, according to EU officials.
Ellen Knickmeyer reported from Oklahoma City. Associated Press writers Matthew Lee and Jamie Keaten in Geneva, Lorne Cook in Brussels and Paul Wiseman in Washington contributed .
Arab League backs calls for UN intervention in dam dispute
Arab foreign ministers have backed calls for the United Nations Security Council to intervene in the contentious case of Ethiopia’s massive dam, built on one of the main tributaries of the Nile River
By SAMY MAGDY Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 8:08 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this article
The move, announced at a meeting in Qatar, was the latest push by Cairo and Khartoum to reach an agreement on the filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the Arab countries will press for the Security Council to hold an urgent session on the decade-long dispute.
Aboul Gheit spoke at a joint news conference with Qatar’s Foreign Minister Mohammad bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Doha, following the meeting of Arab ministers.
Cairo and Khartoum have repeatedly called for the U.S., the European Union, and the U.N. to join the talks as mediators, along with the African Union. Addis Ababa has rejected the idea.
The agreement would spell out how the dam is operated and filled, based on international law and norms governing cross-border rivers.
The dam is now 80% complete and is expected to reach full generating capacity in 2023, making it Africa’s largest hydroelectric power plant and the world’s seventh-largest, according to reports in Ethiopia’s state media.
The dispute now centers on how quickly Ethiopia should fill and replenish the reservoir and how much water it releases downstream in case of a multi-year drought. The latest round of African Union-brokered negotiations in April failed to make progress.
Tuesday’s development came amid diplomatic and political pressure by Egypt and Sudan on Ethiopia ahead its planned second phase of filling the dam. They argue that Ethiopia’s plan to add 13.5 billion cubic meters of water in 2021 to the dam’s reservoir is a threat to them.
“There is a united Arab position,” Al Thani, the Qatari foreign minister, said. “Water security is about survival for mankind, and for the peoples of Sudan and Egypt.”
A final communique of the meeting called on the U.N. Security Council to take “necessary measures” to launch an “active negotiating process” aiming at reaching a deal within a specific timeframe.
Egypt and Sudan said they had sent letters to the Security Council this month, explaining their positions on the dam. Both warned about dire repercussions to peace and stability of the Horn of Africa without a deal.
They accused Ethiopia of failing to help reach a “fair, balanced and legally binding” agreement in previous talks overseen by the African Union.
There was no immediate comment from Addis Ababa. Ethiopia has maintained that the dam, which it has fully financed, will help pull millions of its nearly 110 million citizens out of poverty and make the country a major power exporter.
A January declaration put an end to the diplomatic crisis that began in 2017 with a rift between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on one side and Qatar on the other.
The four countries had jointly boycotted Qatar and hoped an embargo and media blitz would pressure it to end its close relations with Turkey and Iran. Egypt and the UAE have viewed the support by Qatar and Turkey of Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood as a security threat. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain were primarily concerned about Qatar’s ties with Iran.
The countries accused Qatar of cozying up to Iran and financing extremist groups in the region, though Doha denied the charges. Qatar-based satellite news network Al Jazeera was at the center of the dispute. The four nations demanded its closure, among other measures, which Qatar rejected.
Al-Thani and Aboul Gheit also said ministers discussed the Israel-Palestinian conflict and discussed steps to stop what Al-Thani described as “Israeli violations” in Jerusalem. Egypt and Qatar have played a significant role in the conflict between Israel and Gaza’s ruler Hamas, because they maintain diplomatic ties with the militant group.
Israelis march in east Jerusalem in test for new government
Hundreds of Israeli ultranationalists, some chanting “Death to Arabs,” paraded in east Jerusalem in a show of force that threatened to spark renewed violence just weeks after a war with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip
By ILAN BEN ZION Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 8:01 PM• 6 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleThe Associated PressProtestors wave Palestinian flags while chanting anti-Israeli slogans during a protest against a march by Jewish ultranationalists through east Jerusalem, along the streets of Gaza City, Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
JERUSALEM — Hundreds of Israeli ultranationalists, some chanting “Death to Arabs,” paraded Tuesday in east Jerusalem in a show of force that threatened to spark renewed violence just weeks after a war with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. Palestinians in Gaza responded by launching incendiary balloons that caused at least 10 fires in southern Israel.
The march posed a test for Israel’s fragile new government as well as the tenuous truce that ended last month’s 11-day war between Israel and Hamas.
Palestinians consider the march, meant to celebrate Israel’s capture of east Jerusalem in 1967, to be a provocation. Hamas called on Palestinians to “resist” the parade, a version of which helped ignite last month’s 11-day Gaza war.
With music blaring, hundreds of Jewish nationalists gathered and moved in front of Damascus Gate. Most appeared to be young men, and many held blue-and-white Israeli flags as they danced and sang religious songs.
At one point, several dozen youths, jumping and waving their hands in their air, chanted: “Death to Arabs!” In another anti-Arab chant, they yelled: “May your village burn.”
In a scathing condemnation on Twitter, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said those shouting racist slogans were “a disgrace to the Israeli people,” adding: “The fact that there are radicals for whom the Israeli flag represents hatred and racism is abominable and unforgivable.”
The crowd, while boisterous, appeared to be much smaller than during last month’s parade. From the Damascus Gate, they proceeded around the Old City to the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray.
Ahead of the march, Israeli police cleared the area in front of Damascus Gate, shut down roads to traffic, ordered shops to close and sent away young Palestinian protesters. Police said that officers arrested 17 people suspected of involvement in violence, some of whom threw rocks and attacked police, and that two police officers needed medical treatment. Palestinians said five people were hurt in clashes with police.
The parade provided an early challenge for Israel’s new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, a hardline Israeli nationalist who has promised a pragmatic approach as he presides over a delicate, diverse coalition government.
Though there were concerns the march would raise tensions, canceling it would have opened Bennett and other right-wing members of the coalition to intense criticism from those who would view it as a capitulation to Hamas. The coalition was sworn in Sunday and includes parties from across the political spectrum, including a small Arab party.
Mansour Abbas, whose Raam party is the first Arab faction to join an Israeli coalition, said the march was “an attempt to set the region on fire for political aims,” with the intention of undermining the new government.
Abbas said the police and public security minister should have canceled the event. “I call on all sides not to be dragged into an escalation and maintain maximum restraint,” he said.
In past years, the march passed through Damascus Gate and into the heart of the Muslim Quarter, a crowded Palestinian neighborhood with narrow streets and alleys. But police changed the route Tuesday to avoid the Muslim Quarter.
Instead, the route went around the ancient walls of the Old City and through Jaffa Gate, a main thoroughfare for tourists, and toward the Jewish Quarter and Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray.
Damascus Gate is a focal point of Palestinian life in east Jerusalem. Palestinian protesters repeatedly clashed with Israeli police over restrictions on public gatherings during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in April and May.
Those clashes spread to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a flashpoint site sacred to Jews and Muslims. Tensions at the time were further fueled by protests over the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers, also in Jerusalem.
At the height of the tensions, on May 10, Israeli ultranationalists held their annual flag parade. While it was diverted from the Damascus Gate at the last minute, it was seen by Palestinians as an unwelcome celebration of Israeli control over what they view as their capital.
In the name of defending the holy city, Hamas fired long-range rockets at Jerusalem, disrupting the march and sparking the Gaza war, which claimed more than 250 Palestinian lives and killed 13 people in Israel.
After capturing east Jerusalem in 1967, Israel annexed the in a move not recognized by most of the international community. It considers the entire city its capital, while the Palestinians want east Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state. The competing claims over east Jerusalem, home to Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy sites, lie at the heart of the conflict and have sparked many rounds of violence.
Hamas had called on Palestinians to show “valiant resistance” to the march. It urged people to gather in the Old City and at the Al-Aqsa Mosque to “rise up in the face of the occupier and resist it by all means to stop its crimes and arrogance.”
In the afternoon, Hamas-linked Palestinians launched some incendiary balloons from Gaza, setting off at least 10 blazes in southern Israel, according to Israel’s national fire department.
Abu Malek, one of the young men launching the balloons, called the move “an initial response” to the march.
Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, of the internationally backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, called the march an “aggression against our people.” In neighboring Jordan, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the march as “unacceptable,” saying it undermined efforts to reduce friction between Israel and the Palestinians.
Israeli media reported the military was on heightened alert in the occupied West Bank and along the Gaza frontier. Batteries of Israel’s Iron Dome rocket-defense system were seen deployed near the southern town of Netivot, near the Gaza border, as a precaution.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with the military chief of staff, the police commissioner and other senior security officials. He “underscored the need to avoid friction and protect the personal safety of … Jews and Arabs alike,” his office said.
U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said U.N. officials have urged all sides to avoid “provocations” in order to solidify the informal cease-fire that halted the Gaza war.
Associated Press writer Joseph Krauss contributed.
Fighting COVID-19 surge, South Africa increases restrictions
Confronted with a rapid surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, South Africa has returned to tighter restrictions on public gatherings and liquor sales
By MOGOMOTSI MAGOME Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 7:55 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleThe Associated PressFILE — In this Monday, March 29, 2021 file photo South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, right, heads a government delegation on a visit to ASPEN Pharmaceuticals in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The country’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been hit by further delays as it will have to discard at least 2 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines produced in the country.. (AP Photo,file)
JOHANNESBURG — Confronted with a rapid surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, South Africa has returned to tighter restrictions on public gatherings and liquor sales, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced Tuesday night.
Hospital admissions due to COVID-19 have increased by 59% over the past two weeks, according to Ramaphosa. South Africa’s 7-day rolling average of daily new cases has nearly doubled over the past two weeks from 6.69 new cases per 100,000 people on May 31 to 12.71 new cases per 100,000 people on June 14, according to Johns Hopkins University.
“Our priority now is to make sure there are enough hospital beds, enough health workers, enough ventilators, and enough oxygen to give the best possible care to every person who needs it,” said Ramaphosa.
“The massive surge in new infections means that we must once again tighten restrictions on the movement of persons and gatherings,” he said.
The nightly curfew has been extended by an hour from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. while religious gatherings indoors are now limited to 50 people. The number of people allowed to gather for social events has been limited to 50 people for indoor events and 100 people for outdoor events.
The retail sale of alcohol will only be permitted between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. from Monday through Thursday.
South Africa has been the country hardest hit by the pandemic in the entire continent, with a cumulative total of more than 1.7 million infections, including 57,000 deaths, accounting for nearly 40% of Africa’s total confirmed cases.
Johnson & Johnson had promised to deliver 2 million of its single-shot doses by the end of June, but that is now viewed as in jeopardy because of the recent ruling by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that a large amount of J&J vaccines were contaminated by a problem at a factory producing a component of the vaccine. About 480,000 of South Africa’s health care workers have been vaccinated with J&J doses.
Doses of the Pfizer vaccine are being used to inoculate people aged 60 and over. About 1.4 million people have received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. According to Ramaphosa, South Africa is expecting to receive 3.1 million Pfizer doses by the end of June.
Navalny fans protest in Geneva ahead of Putin-Biden summit
A few dozen supporters of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny have staged a colorful, cheeky rally in Geneva in the hope of sending a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin ahead of his summit with U.S. President Joe Biden
By JAMEY KEATEN Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 7:51 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleThe Associated PressProtesters hold a sign during a peaceful rally to speak up against political repressions, human rights violations and antidemocratic rule in Russia, during a demonstration in Geneva, Switzerland, Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Geneva is hosting a meeting between U.S. President Biden and Russian President Putin on June 16. A couple dozen supporters of Navalny, the jailed Russian opposition leader, staged a rally Tuesday on a sun-drenched Geneva square.(Magali Girardin/Keystone via AP)
GENEVA — There was a bare-chested man in a Vladimir Putin mask doling out fake bills as mock corruption payments, and a Czech fitness instructor, who endured eight hours of tattooing to put a likeness of Putin critic Alexey Navalny on his chest.
They were among a couple of dozen supporters of Navalny, the jailed Russian opposition leader, who staged a colorful, cheeky rally Tuesday on a sunny Geneva square — a day before Putin arrives in the Swiss city for a high-profile summit with U.S. President Joe Biden.
Despite the tiny turnout — with possibly more journalists there than demonstrators — the protest was well-orchestrated with banners and gimmicks, in a show of dissent that participants said might garner a crackdown by security forces in Putin’s Russia.
U.S. officials have said Biden was expected to discuss the war in Ukraine and human rights in Russia, including Navalny’s case, among an array of topics on the table Wednesday.
Across town in recent days, a mural of a smiling Navalny holding his fingers in a heart shape with the words “Hero of our time” in French mysteriously popped up — in reference to a similar mural in Saint-Petersburg, Russia, that was quickly covered up by authorities.
At the demonstration, banners called for the liberation of political prisoners generally and for Navalny himself. Protesters chanted for a “Free Russia!”
Czech national Petr Pavelec said he had long planned to have his chest tattooed with the likeness of Navalny — and moved it up to last weekend to make the protest.
Pavelec said he deeply admired Navalny’s courage.
“I believe what he’s doing is not just for Russia, but the rest of the world. This incredible guy sacrificed himself by returning to Russia after being poisoned,” he said. That was a reference to Navalny’s poisoning with a nerve agent similar to Soviet-era Novichok, for which he was transported to Germany for medical care before returning home — only to be arrested.
Andrey Zaitsev, a Russian who was one of the protest organizers, said he and colleagues had traveled from Berlin for the rally, and planned to make a film about Putin’s trip to Geneva.
“We are the fruits of the labor of Vladimir Putin. If Russia had a working civil society, we wouldn’t even exist as civil activists. We would have a democracy and we would merely be working for the betterment of our society,” he said.
“All of us are united in one matter or another, chiefly because of Vladimir Putin,” Zaitsev said.
The rally, which took place on a square that the Swiss have authorized for any protests during the summit, marked just one effort to leverage public attention on some of the more hot-button issues that Putin and Biden were likely to address — human rights and arms control among them.
Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, or ICAN, highlighted the Treaty on the Prohibition for Nuclear Weapons which the U.S. and Russia have both shunned. She said they account for nearly 90% of the world’s nuclear arsenals.
“I think we need to have moderate expectations on success of the meeting itself,” said Fihn, whose group won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. “But hopefully this will set up a process where they can hand over to diplomats to actually start negotiating reductions of nuclear weapons.”
Speaking in an interview on a dock across Lake Geneva from the summit site, Fihn insisted that Putin and Biden could “really drive progress” on nuclear weapons reductions.
“There’s a lot of issues on the agenda for the U.S. and Russia to discuss, of course,” she said. “But I do think that when it comes to nuclear weapons, it’s really THE issue — because these two individuals have the power to end the world as we know it.”
Hungary: Lawmakers pass law barring LGBT content for minors
Hungarian lawmakers have approved legislation that prohibits sharing with minors any content that portrays or promotes homosexuality or sex reassignment
By BALAZS PIVARNYIK and BELA SZANDELSZKY Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 7:35 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this article5:11
The journalist LZ Granderson hosts a conversational podcast about the experiences of people in the LGBTQ+ community and the issues that directly impact their lives. The Associated Press
BUDAPEST, Hungary — Lawmakers in Hungary approved legislation Tuesday that prohibits sharing with minors any content portraying homosexuality or sex reassignment, something supporters said would help fight pedophilia but which human rights groups denounced as anti-LGBT discrimination.
Fidesz, the conservative ruling party of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, introduced the legislation, which is the latest effort to curtail the rights of gay men, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people in the European Union nation located in central Europe.
Hungary’s National Assembly approved the bill in a 157-1 vote. Fidesz has a parliamentary majority, and lawmakers from the right-wing Jobbik party also endorsed the measure. One independent lawmaker voted against it.
Csaba Domotor, the Fidesz state secretary, described the goal as “the protection of children,” noting that the changes include the introduction of a searchable registry of convicted pedophiles.
“Pedophiles won’t be able to hide any more – there are similar solutions in other countries, too. The criminal code will be even more strict. Punishments will be more severe. No one can get away with atrocities with light punishments and parole,” he said.
All other opposition parties boycotted the voting session in protest. Human rights groups had denounced the measure strongly, saying it was wrong to conflate LGBT people with pedophilia. They argued that the law could be used to stigmatize and harass residents because of their sexual orientations and gender identities.
“On this shameful day, the opposition’s place is not in the parliament but on the streets,” Budapest Mayor Karacsony wrote on Facebook.
Yet more than a dozen local organizations, including Amnesty International Hungary and LGBT rights organizations, argued in a statement after the vote that the legislation is not in line with Hungarian society, which is largely accepting of LGBT people.
“(It) also clearly infringes the right to freedom of expression, human dignity and equal treatment, the statement said.
Lawmaker Gergely Arato, of the Democratic Coalition parliamentary grouping, said the changes violate the standards of parliamentary democracy, rule of law and human rights.
The legislation, presented last week by Fidesz, was on its face primarily aimed at fighting pedophilia. It included amendments that ban the representation of any sexual orientation besides heterosexual as well as sex reassignment information in school sex education programs, or in films and advertisements aimed at anyone under 18.
Thousands of LGBT activists and others held a protest in Budapest on Monday in an unsuccessful effort to stop the legislation from passing.
Dunja Mijatovic, the commissioner for human rights at the Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights body, also had asked Hungarian lawmakers to reject the legislation, saying it reinforced prejudice against LGBT people.
The Fidesz party also successfully championed a law last year making it impossible for transgender people to legally change the gender markers on their identity documents. Human rights officials say that puts them at risk of humiliation when they need to present identity documents.
“Today’s decision in #Hungary’s parliament represents another severe state discrimination against #LGBTIQ people,” Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Roth of Germany tweeted Tuesday after the new legislation passed. “This law goes against everything we regard as our common European values. Full solidarity and support for LGBTIQ people in Hungary.”
EU sees progress on key obstacles at Iran nuclear talks
A top European diplomat says he believes international negotiations with Iran will ultimately succeed in re-imposing limits on its nuclear program but indicated that more time may be needed
By DEREK GATOPOULOS and PHILIPP JENNE Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 7:20 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleThe Associated PressRussia’s Governor to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mikhail Ulyanov, smokes a cigarette near the ‘Grand Hotel Vienna’ where where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Florian Schroetter)
Enrique Mora, who is coordinating the talks in Vienna, said progress had been made on overcoming key obstacles at the talks.
“This is why we are here: to negotiate these different approaches, and I think we will succeed.”
A landmark agreement in 2015 imposed strict curbs on Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for easing U.S. sanctions but the deal was largely abandoned by the former Trump administration three years later.
A joint statement issued by the United States and European Union after Biden’s meetings this week with leaders in Europe described the Vienna process as “critical to ensuring the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program and upholding the global nuclear nonproliferation architecture.”
The sides, it said, “share serious concerns” about Iran’s advances in the nuclear program while recognizing that “the lifting of sanctions constitutes an essential part” of a potential deal.
The U.S. is not taking part in the Vienna talks but has sent a senior diplomatic delegation to the Austrian capital to discuss the issue with many of the participating envoys, including Russian officials.
The Iran nuclear negotiations have brought about some alignment between Moscow and Washington despite years of recent tension, and is likely to be discussed at Wednesday’s summit meeting in Geneva between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin. ———
Follow latest news on Iran at https://apnews.com/hub/iran
Follow Gatopoulos at https://twitter.com/dgatopoulos and Jenne at https://twitter.com/PhilippJenne
UN envoy regrets failure to mediate a Yemen cease-fire
The outgoing U,N
By EDITH M. LEDERER Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 7:16 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleThe Associated PressFILE – In this July 1, 2019 file photo, United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths speaks during his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, Russia. The outgoing special envoy for Yemen expressed “deep regret” to the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday, June 15, 2021, that he failed to mediate a cease-fire and peace talks between Yemen’s warring parties during the past three years. But Griffiths said he hoped that diplomatic efforts, especially by Oman, “will bear fruit” despite painting a bleak picture of the Arab world’s poorest country in his final briefing to the council. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File)
UNITED NATIONS — The U.N.’s outgoing special envoy for Yemen expressed “deep regret” Tuesday that he failed to mediate a cease-fire and peace talks between Yemen’s warring parties, but said he hoped a recent diplomatic effort by Oman “will bear fruit.”
Martin Griffiths, who painted a bleak picture of the Arab world’s poorest country, said in his final briefing to the U.N. Security Council that Yemen is in the throes of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Griffiths said Yemenis are forced to “live under violence, insecurity and fear, with limits to their freedom of movement, religion and free expression.” He blamed the lack of courage of leaders on both sides — the government and Houthi rebels — for failing to choose a path to peace over continuing conflict.
“Yemen is a tale of missed and then lost opportunities,” he said. “And perhaps most tragically, we have seen the hopes and aspirations of a generation of young Yemenis for a peaceful future dashed.”
But Griffiths said he thinks the recent diplomatic entry of Oman — which on other Mideast issues has played a neutral, bridging and sometimes mediating role — is more hopeful than his efforts.
Oman sent officials to meet with the Houthi leadership to try to advance negotiations and Griffiths said he thinks the Houthi leader “would want to reach his hand out to Oman in a way that’s different from to the U.N.”
Yemen has been embroiled in a civil war since 2014, when the Iranian-backed Houthis swept across much of the north and seized the capital, Sanaa, forcing the internationally recognized government into exile. A Saudi-led coalition entered the conflict the following year on the side of the government to try to restore it to power. But more than six years later, the war has killed over 130,000 people and fighting continues.
Griffiths, who will start his new job as the U.N.‘s humanitarian chief sometime in July, said that in a lifetime of dealing with conflicts and trying to restore peace, “the opportunities are often there but that courage needed to take it is rare” and “Yemen is no different.”
During his recent visit to Sanaa, Griffiths said, the Houthis’ religious and military leader, Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, said there must first be an agreement on reopening Sanaa Airport and key Hodeida ports and only after that is implemented would the Houthis begin negotiations on a cease-fire, a first step toward reviving peace negotiations.
The government, he said, insists that an agreement on the ports and airport and the start of a cease-fire be implemented as a package.
“With the focus on getting that cease-fire started, we have offered different solutions to bridge these positions,” Griffiths said. “Unfortunately, as of now, none of these suggestions have been accepted.”
He told a news conference after briefing the council that the king of Saudi Arabia asked the sultan of Oman to help advance negotiations. The sultan said “yes” and sent a team to meet with Houthi leaders. He said the outcome of that meeting isn’t known, but he expects to hear in the next few days when he visits the Saudi capital of Riyadh on Wednesday and from the Omanis themselves.
Griffiths told the council he hopes efforts by the Sultanate of Oman, following his own visits to Sanaa and Riyadh, “will bear fruit and that we will soon hear a different turn of fate for Yemen.”
He told reporters the “crucial” focus is a cease-fire agreement by the Houthis and the opening of the airport and ports, especially to desperately needed fuel shipments.
Griffiths said “time is not on Yemen’s side,” pointing to the multiplication and fragmentation of “armed and political actors” since the conflict began.
“Foreign interference has grown,” he added. “What was possible in terms of conflict resolution years ago is not possible today. And what is possible today may not be possible in the future.”
Griffiths raised the possibility of holding “an international conversation” to restate realistic goals for peace negotiations. But he said his worry is not so much about a cease-fire as it is the future of Yemen.
“Yemen needs a pluralistic political future, and the U.N.-facilitated political process must pave the way for them to achieve just that,” he said.
Mozambique urged to investigate abduction of Rwandan exile
Human Rights Watch says a Rwandan opposition leader apparently arrested in Mozambique last month should be immediately charged in court or released
By ANDREW MELDRUM and TOM BOWKER Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 7:04 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this article
JOHANNESBURG — A Rwandan opposition leader apparently arrested in Mozambique last month should be immediately charged in court or released, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.
Cassien Ntamuhanga, a radio journalist in Rwanda who was jailed after being convicted of conspiring against the government, escaped from prison in Rwanda in 2018 and sought asylum in Mozambique. His application was still being processed at the time he was taken into custody on May 23, according to the human rights organization.
Ntamuhanga was taken by seven men who showed identification cards for Mozambique’s National Criminal Investigation Service and taken to the local police station, said the rights group, citing four witnesses. Police officers told neighbors who accompanied Ntamuhanga to the station to leave, the group said.
Ntamuhanga was arrested on the island of Inhaca in Maputo bay and was later taken by boat to the mainland, chained and handcuffed, said Human Rights Watch.
Mozambique’s police force has since denied knowledge of Nhamutanga’s arrest and said he is not being held by them.
One of the men who took Ntamuhanga into custody spoke in a Rwandan language, according to a statement issued by the Association of Rwandan Refugees in Mozambique.
A longtime critic of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Ntamuhanga was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2015 for allegedly conspiring against the Rwandan government. Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders said at the time that the “harsh and disproportionate sentence reflects the authoritarian nature of President Kagame’s government and its growing desire to gag all dissent in the run-up to the 2017 presidential elections.”
Ntamahunga was convicted alongside the singer and activist Kizito Mihigo, who was pardoned in 2018 but re-arrested while trying to flee the country in February 2020 and died in police custody four days later.
“Ntamuhanga’s prior conviction, the fate of Mihigo, and Rwanda’s track record of ruthlessly targeting critics and dissidents across the globe are reasons to be gravely concerned for Ntamuhanga’s safety,” Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.
“The Mozambican authorities should publicly disclose his whereabouts, allow him access to a lawyer and visits by relatives, and, if he is to be charged, promptly bring him before a court,” said Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
Ntamuhanga is not the first Rwandan exile to have trouble in Maputo, according to Mozambique’s National Network of Human Rights Defenders. In October 2012, Theogene Turatsinze, former director of the Development Bank of Rwanda, was found dead there, and his death has not yet been solved. His body was found floating in the bay of the capital with his hands tied behind his back after he had been reported missing for two days, according to a report this month by the human rights network.
In a separate incident, Rwanda’s former head of intelligence, Patrick Karegeya, was found dead in a hotel in South Africa in 2014.
Following that death, South Africa expelled two diplomats, including Claude Nikobisanzwe, who is now Rwanda’s High Commissioner in Mozambique, the first person to hold that position since the diplomatic offices were opened in Maputo in 2019.
Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi paid a surprise visit to Kagame in Kigali at the end of April, and the two both attended a summit of African leaders in Paris in May earlier this month. Recently French President Emmanuel Macron visited Kigali.
Rwandan media have suggested that Rwanda could send a military contingent to help protect a massive liquified natural gas project in northern Mozambique by the French oil and gas company Total. All work on the $20 billion gas project has been suspended following attacks by Mozambique’s Islamic extremist rebels on the nearby town of Palma.
Bowker contributed from Belgrade, Serbia
Iran presidential candidate urges better ties with West
A prominent contender in Iran’s presidential election has appealed for better economic and political relations with the West
By AMIR VAHDAT Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 6:14 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleThe Associated PressFormer Iranian Central Bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati, among the seven candidates allowed on the ballot for Friday’s presidential election, gives a press conference, in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Hemmati appealed Tuesday for better economic and political relations with the West, his most extensive attempt yet to attract reformist voters just days ahead of the poll. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
Former Iranian Central Bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati, among the seven candidates allowed on the ballot for Friday’s vote, has no official ties to any political faction but is positioning himself as the likely candidate for moderate and reform-minded voters.
“Why should there be a barrier for peaceful co-existence?” asked Hemmati, while emphasizing that an “improvement in global and regional peace” hinged on American good will and “trust-building” with the Islamic Republic.
He repeated calls for a return to Tehran’s tattered 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, saying that if he were to become president, resurrecting the agreement and securing sanctions relief would “definitely be one of my priorities.”
Polling and analysts indicate that Hemmati lags in the race behind the country’s hard-line judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi, the clear front-runner cultivated by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Nearly 600 challengers hoped to replace relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who is term-limited from running again.
But the Guardian Council, a clerical vetting body, allowed just Raisi, Hemmati and five lower-profile contenders, mostly hard-liners, to run. Hemmati on Tuesday described those challengers as “proxy candidates” that he expected would soon drop out of the race.
Within Iran, candidates exist on a political spectrum that broadly includes hard-liners who want to expand Iran’s nuclear program and confront the world, moderates who hold onto the status quo and reformists who want to change the theocracy from within.
The son of Mehdi Karroubi, once Iran’s most outspoken opposition leader, announced earlier this week that his father would throw his support behind Hemmati, saying he believed the moderate candidate would “defend the republic and the presidential system.”
The Guardian Council’s stunning disqualification of well-known reformist candidates, coupled with the coronavirus pandemic, have subdued the typical pre-election frenzy in Iran and created a mood of voter apathy. Calls for a boycott have increased in recent weeks. The state-linked Iranian Student Polling Agency most recently projected a 42% turnout from the country’s 59 million eligible voters, which would be a historic low.
Trump’s decision to pull out of the deal has, over time, seen Iran abandon almost every limitation of the agreement, enriching more uranium than allowed and to a greater purity than permitted, among other things.
Cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei announced Tuesday that the country’s low-enriched uranium stockpile had climbed to 108 kilograms (238 pounds) of 20% enriched uranium from 90 kilograms (198 pounds) in May. The stockpile of 60% enriched uranium, a short technical step to weapons-grade levels, had reached 6.5 kilograms (14.3 pounds), up from last month’s 2.5 kilograms (5.5 pounds).
Rouhani’s eight years in office brought steep economic decline, particularly after the collapse of the nuclear deal. Hemmati sought Tuesday to promote his successes as a top banker, although his Central Bank tenure was defined by the crash of the Iranian riyal amid America’s economic pressure campaign.
“I believe that an economist should take the executive responsibility of the country,” he said. “I hope that, with the people’s help, a government will come to power to manage the country rationally and prevent politics from running the economy.”
Associated Press writer Isabel DeBre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.
Leaders of Turkey, Azerbaijan hold talks in recaptured city
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is paying a two-day visit to Azerbaijan and, alongside his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev, has traveled to the city of Shusha that Azerbaijan recaptured from Armenian forces in last autumn’s war
ByThe Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 6:06 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleThe Associated PressAzerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, left, and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speak to the media in Fuzuli, in Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan, Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Fuzuli is city that Azerbaijan liberated from Armenian forces in last autumn’s war. Fuzuli came under Armenian control in 1992 in fighting over the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh region.(Turkish Presidency via AP, Pool)
MOSCOW — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Azerbaijan Tuesday for a two-day visit and, with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev, traveled to Shusha, a city that Azerbaijan recaptured from Armenian forces in last autumn’s war.
Shusha, a center of Azeri culture for centuries, came under Armenian control in 1992 in fighting over the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh region. Its retaking by Azerbaijan’s forces in November was important both symbolically and strategically because it sits high above the region’s nearby capital, Stepanakert.
In Shusha, Erdogan and Aliyev held talks and signed a declaration “on allied relations” between the two countries aimed at deepening ties in several areas of cooperation, including security.
“Today is a historic day,” Aliyev said after the signing. “The declaration raises our relations to the highest level.”
Turkey actively supported Azerbaijan in the last war over Nagorno-Karabakh. After six weeks of fighting that killed more than 6,000 people, Azerbaijan regained control of much of the region and Armenian-held surrounding territories.
Erdogan, the first foreign leader to visit Shusha after it was retaken by Azerbaijan, also promised to open a Turkish consulate in the city. “In that way, we will ensure that our activities are carried out faster and more effectively,” he said.
Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan but was under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia after a separatist war there ended in 1994.
A Russia-brokered peace deal that ended the hostilities last November was celebrated as a triumph in Azerbaijan. But it sparked a political crisis in Armenia, with thousands of opposition supporters taking to the streets to protest the terms of the deal and to demand the resignation of Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
Armenia’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday condemned Erdogan’s and Aliyev’s visit to Shusha in a statement, calling it “provocative actions” that “significantly harm international efforts to establish stability in the region and (that) are absolutely unacceptable.”
What They Want: Divergent goals for Biden, Putin at summit
What will happen in Geneva when President Joe Biden meets Russia’s Vladimir Putin for the first time since taking office isn’t yet clear
By JONATHAN LEMIRE and VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 5:41 PM• 7 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleThe Associated PressFILE – In this June 15, 2021, file photo President Joe Biden arrives for the United States-European Union Summit at the European Council in Brussels. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
GENEVA — An American president won’t side with Moscow over his own intelligence agencies. There will be no talk of a “reset” in Russian relations. And it is highly doubtful that anyone will gaze into Vladimir Putin’s eyes and discuss his soul.
But beyond that, it’s not clear what will happen Wednesday in Geneva when President Joe Biden meets Putin for the first time since taking office. Both sides acknowledge that the relationship between the two nations is dismal and neither holds out much hope for meaningful areas of agreement. Still, each man brings his own goals to the summit table.
A look at what each president is hoping to achieve in Switzerland:
WHAT BIDEN WANTS
Biden and his aides have made clear that he will not follow in the footsteps of his recent predecessors by aiming to radically alter the United States’ ties to Russia. Instead, the White House is looking for a more modest though still vitally important goal: to move toward a more predictable relationship and attempt to rein in Russia’s disruptive behavior.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Biden will look for “areas where, in our common interest, we can work together to produce outcomes that are — that work for the United States and for the American people.”
Sullivan, who briefed reporters on Air Force One heading to Brussels for the NATO summit, said that Biden’s other message would be more stick than carrot: “How do we send a clear message about those harmful activities that we will not tolerate and to which we will respond?”
There have been brief moments of common ground. Moscow and Washington have shown a shared interest in restarting talks on strategic stability to work out a follow-up deal to the New START, the last remaining U.S.-Russian arms control pact that was extended for five years in January.
Biden will exhort Putin on human rights, including the poisoning and imprisonment of dissident Alexei Navalny, to not support the regime in Belarus that carried out a recent skyjacking and to stop interfering with other nations’ elections. Cyber will also be a focal point, with the Geneva summit coming just days after NATO expanded its Article 5 mutual defense pact to include cyberattacks.
But the president acknowledged that there may be no way to keep Putin in check.
“There’s no guarantee you can change a person’s behavior or the behavior of his country. Autocrats have enormous power and they don’t have to answer to a public,” said Biden during a news conference Sunday after the Group of Seven summit in England. “And the fact is that it may very well be, if I respond in kind — which I will — that it doesn’t dissuade him and he wants to keep going.”
Biden had not minced words when it comes to assessing Putin. He said in an interview earlier this year that he agreed with an assessment that Putin was a “killer,” and he once declared that Putin didn’t have a soul.
That was far colder rhetoric that his immediate predecessors.
Trump spoke warmly of Putin and was deferential to him during their one summit, held in Helsinki in 2018, in which he turned his back on his own intelligence agencies. President Barack Obama’s administration, though wary of Putin, expressed hope in a “reset” and improvement of relations with Moscow. And George W. Bush said that he “looked the man in the eye” and “found him very straightforward and trustworthy.”
“I was able to get a sense of his soul,” Bush said.
WHAT PUTIN WANTS
Putin also won’t be expecting to warm up ties. His main goal would be to draw his red lines to the new U.S. administration and negotiate a tense status quo that would protect Moscow’s vital interests.
The Russian leader doesn’t hope for a new détente to mend the rift caused by Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. Nor does he count on a rollback of the crippling U.S. and EU sanctions that have restricted Moscow’s access to global financial markets and top Western technologies.
Putin’s task now is more modest — to spell out Russia’s top security concerns and try to restore basic channels of communication that would prevent an even more dangerous destabilization.
The main red line for Moscow is Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO. Fearing its bid for the alliance membership, Putin responded to the 2014 ouster of Ukraine’s Russia-friendly president by annexing Crimea and throwing Moscow’s weight behind a separatist insurgency in the country’s eastern industrial heartland where the seven-year conflict has killed more than 14,000.
When tensions along the line of contact in Ukraine’s east rose earlier this year, Russia quickly beefed up its troops near Ukraine and warned Kiev’s leaders that it would intervene militarily if they try to reclaim the rebel-controlled regions by force.
Moscow has since pulled back some of its forces from the border areas, but the Ukrainian leadership has said the bulk of them have remained close to the border.
In an interview with state TV last week, Putin described Ukraine’s bid to join NATO as an existential challenge to Russia that would allow the alliance’s missiles to hit Moscow and other targets in western Russia in just seven minutes. He compared it to Russia deploying its missiles in Canada or Mexico near the U.S. border. “Isn’t it a red line?” he said.
While taking a tough stance on Ukraine, the Russian leader could show a degree of flexibility on other global hotspots.
Even though Moscow has been critical of the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan, it’s interested in a settlement that would prevent the country from plunging into chaos following the U.S. troops’ withdrawal later this year, fearing that instability could spill into ex-Soviet Central Asia.
Russia also has been involved in painstaking international talks to help repair a nuclear deal with Iran that was spiked by Trump, and it has expressed a willingness to cooperate with the U.S. in efforts to restart the stalled Mideast peace talks.
And the Kremlin would be interested in working out a deal on Syria, where Moscow’s military campaign helped President Bashar Assad’s government reclaim control over most of the country after a devastating civil war and the U.S. has maintained a limited military presence.
Russia has said it’s ready to include its prospective doomsday weapons — such as the Poseidon atomic-powered, nuclear-armed underwater drone and the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile — to the talks’ agenda on condition the U.S. brings its missile defense and possible space-based weapons into the equation.
Putin also has emphasized Russia’s readiness to make joint efforts to address climate change and cope with the coronavirus pandemic.
He called for establishing a dialogue on cybercrime, noting that Moscow could agree to extradite cybercrime suspects to the U.S. if Washington takes the same obligation.
The White House has strongly downplayed the idea of a cybercriminal prisoner exchange.
Isachenkov reported from Moscow.
EU raises €20 billion in 10-year bond to fund virus recovery
The European Commission says it has raised €20 billion ($24.2 billion) through a 10-year bond to finance the 27-nation bloc’s recovery from the coronavirus crisis
ByThe Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 5:19 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this article
EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the inaugural transaction of the NextGeneration EU program is the largest ever institutional bond issuance in Europe. The money will help finance the national recovery plans devised by member states to get their economies back on track.
Von der Leyen said the bond was priced at “very attractive terms” and that the European Union will pay less than 0.1% interest on it.
“Europe is attractive,” she said. “By the end of this year, we expect to have issued around 100 billion in bonds and bills.”
The commissioner in charge of Budget and Administration, Johannes Hahn, said the recovery plan’s first borrowing operation attracted interest from investors across Europe and the rest of the world, including central banks and pension funds.
To finance the stimulus, the EU’s executive arm said it will raise from capital markets up to an estimated €800 billion by the end of 2026. In total, member states have agreed on a €1.8 trillion budget and pandemic recovery package.
“Money can now start flowing to help (reshape) our continent, to build a greener, more digital and more resilient Europe,” said von der Leyen.
She will start visiting five countries this week — Portugal, Spain, Greece, Denmark and Luxembourg — as the EU will start giving its assessment of national recovery plans. Those recommendations will be given to the European Council — the institution representing member states — for approval at a later time.
Slovakia court tosses acquittals in reporter’s slaying
Sloakia’s Supreme Court has dismissed a lower court’s acquittal of a businessman accused of masterminding the 2018 slayings of an investigative journalist and his fiancée
ByThe Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 5:01 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleThe Associated PressDefendant Marian Kocner, center left, and his lawyer Marek Para sit at the Supreme Court in Bratislava, Slovakia, Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Slovakia’s appeals court has dismissed a lower court verdict that acquitted a businessman accused of masterminding the 2018 slayings of an investigative journalist who had written about him and the journalist’s fiancee. The verdict by Slovakia’s Supreme Court means that the case now returns to the Specialized Criminal Court in Pezinok that ruled in September to clear the businessman, Marian Kocner, and one co-defendant of murder in the killings of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee, Martina Kusnirova, both 27. (Jaroslav Novak/TASR via AP)
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia’s Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a lower court’s acquittal of a businessman accused of masterminding the 2018 slayings of an investigative journalist and his fiancée.
A three-judge panel of the Supreme Court said the criminal court did not properly assess available evidence when it cleared businessman Marian Kocner and one co-defendant of murder in the killings of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée, Martina Kusnirova, both 27.
The judges said the Specialized Criminal Court in Pezinok evaluated the evidence without applying “elementary logic” in some instances and failed to consider it at all in others. They sent the case back to the lower court and ordered it to deal with all the objections. A date for the retrial has not been set.
“The suffering of the parents and dear ones of Jan Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova is not over ye,t but they’re a step closer to justice,” Slovakian President Zuzana Caputova said after the panel issued its ruling..
Kusnirova’s mother, Zlatica Kusnirova, said, “I have mixed feelings, but I’m glad that justice won.”
A Specialized Criminal Court judge said when the acquittals were handed down in September that there was not enough evidence for the convictions. A third defendant was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Within hours, prosecutors appealed the verdicts to the country’s Supreme Court.
Kuciak was shot in the chest and Kusnirova was shot in the head at their home in the town of Velka Maca, east of Bratislava, on Feb. 21, 2018. Kocner had allegedly threatened the journalist following publication of a story about his business dealings. In total, Kuciak published nine stories about the businessman.
Kuciak filed a complaint over the alleged threats in 2017 and had claimed that police failed to act on it. He had been investigating possible government corruption when he was killed.
Two other defendants previously were convicted and sentenced. Former soldier Miroslav Marcek pleaded guilty to shooting Kuciak and Kusnirova and was sentenced to 23 years in prison in April 2020. Prosecutors alleged Kocner paid Marcek to carry out the killings.
In the meantime, Kocner was sentenced to 19 years in prison in January in a separate forgery case. The verdict in that case is final.
The couple’s deaths prompted major street protests unseen since the 1989 anti-Communist Velvet Revolution and a political crisis that led to the collapse of Slovakia’s government.
Slovakia’s prosecutor general, Maros Zilinka, described Tuesday’s ruling as “an important moment for justice and the rule of law.“
Judge Peter Paluda said the detailed written decision of the three-judge panel might not be published until the end of July.
Saudi man accused of participating in rebellion executed
Saudi Arabia executed a young man who was convicted on charges stemming from his alleged participation in an anti-government rebellion by minority Shiites
By AYA BATRAWY Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 4:56 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleThe Associated PressFILE – In this March 22, 2018, file photo, an honor guard member is covered by the flag of Saudi Arabia in Washington. Saudi Arabia executed a young man Tuesday, June 15, 2021, who was convicted on charges stemming from his participation in an anti-government rebellion by minority Shiites. It was unclear whether Mustafa bin Hashim bin Isa al-Darwish, 26, was executed for crimes committed as a minor, according to Amnesty International, who said his trial, however, was “deeply flawed.” (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia executed a young man Tuesday who was convicted on charges stemming from his alleged participation in an anti-government rebellion by minority Shiites. A leading rights group said his trial, however, was “deeply flawed.”
It was unclear whether Mustafa bin Hashim bin Isa al-Darwish, 26, was executed for crimes committed as a minor, according to Amnesty International. The rights group said he was detained in 2015 for alleged participation in riots between 2011 and 2012. The official charge sheet does not specify the dates his alleged crimes took place, meaning he could have been 17 at the time, or just turned 18.
The government maintains al-Darwish was convicted and executed for crimes committed above the age of 19, though no specific dates for his alleged crimes have been given.
Last year, the kingdom halted its practice of executing people for crimes committed as a minor.
The Interior Ministry said in a statement he was executed after being found guilty of participating in the formation of an armed terrorist cell to monitor and target to kill police officers, attempting to kill police officers, shooting at police patrols and making Molotov cocktails to target police.
Other charges included allegations al-Darwish participated in armed rebellion against the ruler and provoking chaos and sectarian strife. The crimes allegedly transpired in the Eastern Province, where most Saudi oil is concentrated and home to a significant indigenous Shiite population. The execution was carried out in Dammam, the province’s administrative capital.
At the height of Arab Spring uprisings across the region, the kingdom experienced unrest among Saudi Shiite youth who took to the Eastern Province’s impoverished streets of Qatif. They demanded jobs, better opportunities and an end to discrimination by the kingdom’s ultraconservative state-backed Sunni institutions and clerics.
Saudi security forces backed by armored vehicles set up checkpoints and suppressed the protests, rounding up an unknown number of protesters. The government later razed homes belonging to Shiite residents of the restive city of al-Awamiya in 2017 in an area that was several hundred years old. Officials said the al-Mosawara district had become a hideout for local militants, and promised to develop the area.
Over the years, numerous executions of Shiites involved in violent protests have been carried out.
The kingdom has in the past implicitly accused Iran of being behind armed Shiites in Saudi Arabia, saying they are acting “under instructions from abroad.”
Amnesty International said al-Darwish, who was arrested when he was 20, was placed in solitary confinement, held incommunicado for six months and denied access to a lawyer until the beginning of his trial two years later by the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh, established to try terrorism cases.
The Supreme Court upheld al-Darwish’s death sentence. Amnesty International said his case was then referred to the Presidency of State Security, which is overseen directly by the royal court and over which Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wields immense power. The Saudi monarch, King Salman, ratifies executions, most of which are carried out by beheading.
The kingdom has carried out 26 executions so far this year, according to the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights. That’s compared to 27 throughout all of 2020. The sharp drop in executions last year was largely due to changes that ended executions for non-violent drug-related crimes.
Robotic ship sets off to retrace the Mayflower’s journey
More than four centuries after the Mayflower departed from England on a historic sea journey to America, another trailblazing vessel with the same name has set off to retrace the voyage
By UROOBA JAMAL Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 4:45 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this article3:04
Catch up on the developing stories making headlines.The Associated Press
SWANSEA, Wales — Four centuries and one year after the Mayflower departed from Plymouth, England, on a historic sea journey to America, another trailblazing vessel with the same name has set off to retrace the voyage.
This Mayflower, though, is a sleek, modern robotic ship that is carrying no human crew or passengers. It’s being piloted by sophisticated artificial intelligence technology for a trans-Atlantic crossing that could take up to three weeks, in a project aimed at revolutionizing marine research.
IBM, which built the ship with nonprofit marine research organization ProMare, confirmed the Mayflower Autonomous Ship began its trip early Tuesday.
Charting the path of its 1620 namesake, the Mayflower is set to land at Provincetown on Cape Cod before making its way to Plymouth, Massachusetts. If successful, it would be the largest autonomous vessel to cross the Atlantic.
The new Mayflower’s journey was originally scheduled for last year, part of 400th anniversary commemorations of the original ship’s voyage carrying Pilgrim settlers to New England. Those commemorations were set to involve the British, Americans, Dutch — and the Wampanoag people on whose territory the settlers landed, and who had been marginalized on past anniversaries.
The Mayflower project aims to usher in a new age for automated research ships. Its designers hope it will be the first in a new generation of high-tech vessels that can explore ocean regions that are too difficult or dangerous for people to go to.
The 50-foot (15-meter) trimaran, propelled by a solar-powered hybrid electric motor, bristles with artificial intelligence-powered cameras and dozens of onboard sensors that will collect data on ocean acidification, microplastics and marine mammal conservation.
Its launch has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, and more recently, bad weather throughout May, IBM spokesman Jonathan Batty said.
But Batty said the delay allowed for the fitting of a unique feature on the ship: an electric “tongue” that can provide instant analysis of the ocean’s chemistry, called Hypertaste.
“It’s a brand new piece of equipment that’s never been created before,” Batty said.
The cutting-edge, 1 million pound ($1.3 million) ship could take up to three weeks to voyage across the North Atlantic, if forecasts for good weather hold up.
The ship is also carrying mementos from people at either end of the journey, such as rocks, personal photos, and books. People can follow its journey online.
Ryanair CEO says diverted flight had to land in Belarus
The chief of budget airline Ryanair says the pilot of a flight that was diverted to Belarus last month had no alternative but to land the plane in Minsk
ByThe Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 4:14 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleThe Associated PressFILE – In this May 23, 2021, file photo provided by ONLINER.BY, security use a dog to check the luggage of passengers on the Ryanair jet that carried opposition figure Raman Pratasevich, traveling from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania. Dissident journalist Raman Pratasevich, arrested when Belarus diverted his flight said in a video from prison released Wednesday June 3, 2021, asserted that he has been set up by an unidentified associate. No bomb was found after the landing, but Pratasevich was arrested along with his Russian girlfriend. (ONLINER.BY via AP)
LONDON — The pilot of a Ryanair flight that was diverted to Belarus last month, leading to the arrest of a dissident Belarusian journalist, had no alternative but to land the plane in Minsk, the head of the budget airline said Tuesday.
O’Leary told British lawmakers that Minsk air traffic control warned the flight crew of a “credible threat” that if the plane entered Lithuanian airspace, “a bomb on board would be detonated.”
The captain repeatedly asked to communicate with Ryanair’s operations control center, but Minsk air traffic officials told him — falsely — that “Ryanair weren’t answering the phone,” O’Leary said.
“This was clearly a premeditated breach of all the international aviation rules, regulations, safety,” he said.
O’Leary said the pilot was put under “considerable pressure” to land in Belarus instead of the more standard options of Poland or other Baltic countries.
“He wasn’t instructed to do so, but he wasn’t left with any great alternatives,” he told members of the Parliament committee.
After the plane was on the ground, several “unidentified persons” boarded the aircraft with video cameras, according to O’Leary.
They “repeatedly attempted to get the crew to confirm on video that they had voluntarily diverted to Minsk,” the Ryanair executive said. The crew refused to provide such confirmation, he said.
O’Leary said he did not support continuing such flight bans in the long term.
“We cannot have a situation whereby airlines, air travel, our customers and our citizens run the risk of being hijacked and diverted under false pretenses,” he said. “But equally, far more U.K. citizens will be disrupted as a result of long-haul flights between the U.K. and Asia, for example, now having to fly around Belarus or avoiding Belarusian airspace.”
Poll finds dramatic rise in Palestinian support for Hamas
A new poll finds a dramatic surge in Palestinian support for Hamas following last month’s Gaza war
By JOSEPH KRAUSS Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 4:13 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleThe Associated PressPalestinians gather during a Hamas rally in Gaza City, Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Hamas militants held a rally to commemorate the members of the group who were killed in an 11-day war with Israel in May. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
JERUSALEM — A new poll released Tuesday finds a dramatic surge in Palestinian support for Hamas following last month’s Gaza war, with around three quarters viewing the Islamic militants as victors in a battle against Israel to defend Jerusalem and its holy sites.
The scientific poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research also found plummeting support for President Mahmoud Abbas, who was sidelined by the war but is seen internationally as a partner for reviving the long-defunct peace process.
The poll found that 53% of Palestinians believe Hamas is “most deserving of representing and leading the Palestinian people,” while only 14% prefer Abbas’ secular Fatah party.
Head pollster Khalil Shikaki, who has been surveying Palestinian public opinion for more than two decades, called it a “dramatic” shift, but said it also resembles previous swings toward Hamas during times of confrontation. Those all dissipated within three to six months as Hamas failed to deliver on promises of change.
The march to war began in April, when Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli police on a nightly basis in east Jerusalem over restrictions on public gatherings during the holy month of Ramadan. The clashes eventually spread to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, a flashpoint holy site, and were also fueled by Jewish settlers’ attempts to evict dozens of Palestinian families.
Israel captured east Jerusalem, along with the West Bank and Gaza, in the 1967 war and annexed it in a move not recognized internationally. The Palestinians want a state in all three territories, with east Jerusalem as its capital. Hamas, which is seen as a terrorist organization by Israel and Western countries, does not recognize Israel.
After warning Israel to halt the evictions and withdraw security forces from Al-Aqsa, Hamas launched a barrage of long-range rockets at Jerusalem on May 10, disrupting an annual parade by Jewish ultranationalists celebrating Israel’s conquest of east Jerusalem. That sparked an 11-day war in which more than 250 Palestinians were killed, as well as 13 people in Israel.
The poll found that 77% of Palestinians believe Hamas emerged as a winner, with nearly as many saying that it fought the war to defend Jerusalem and its holy sites, rather than as part of an internal struggle with Abbas’ Fatah party.
The pollsters held face-to-face surveys with 1,200 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza last week, with a 3 percentage point margin of error.
“Clearly, in the eyes of the public, Hamas came out as a winner,” Shikaki said, adding that it may struggle to maintain those gains as it has little control over events in Jerusalem.
An early test loomed Tuesday, when Jewish ultranationalists planned to march through east Jerusalem again. Hamas has called on Palestinians to “resist” but may be reluctant to risk another war just weeks after the last one was halted by an informal cease-fire.
The Biden administration and the international community are meanwhile looking to bolster Abbas. Hamas drove his forces out of Gaza in 2007, confining his Palestinian Authority to parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
At the time, it appeared Fatah would suffer another humiliating defeat to Hamas, which won a landslide victory in 2006 parliamentary elections. But his decision, citing Israel’s refusal to grant permission for voting in east Jerusalem, also helped clear the way for Hamas to draw attention to Abbas’ weakness in the holy city.
Around two-thirds of Palestinians opposed his decision to call off the vote, the poll found. A similar number believe Abbas did so because he was worried about the results and not because Israel refused to explicitly allow voting in east Jerusalem, as he claimed.
Shikaki said Abbas could potentially regain support, but only if he shows initiative, either by reforming the PA, which is seen as increasingly corrupt and authoritarian, or by taking part in some kind of diplomatic push after a 12-year hiatus in the peace process.
“Unfortunately, so far, we are not seeing Abbas take the initiative,” Shikaki said. “We don’t see him talking to the public, he does not have a strategy, he does not have a plan. He is instead waiting… I don’t think that alone is going to work unless Hamas really fails miserably.”
Enrique Bolaños, former Nicaragua president, dies at 93
Former Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolaños Geyer, a businessman who led the country from 2002 to 2007, saw his predecessor and old running mate locked up for corruption and pushed for the country’s economic development, has died
ByThe Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 3:49 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleThe Associated PressFILE – In this Sept. 22, 2004 file photo, Nicaragua’s President Enrique Bolanos Geyer speaks to the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York. Bolaños died on Monday, June 14, 2021, at age 93, according to his family. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)
MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Former Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolaños Geyer, a businessman who led the country from 2002 to 2007, saw his predecessor and old running mate locked up for corruption and pushed for the country’s economic development, has died. He was 93.
His family said in a statement that Bolaños died late Monday. The cause was not disclosed.
Bolaños was born May 13, 1928, in Masaya, was educated in Catholic schools and earned an engineering degree at Saint Louis University in the U.S.
In the 1950s, he led a cotton consortium that became one of Nicaragua’s largest. He headed a number of private companies over the next two decades and then eventually held leadership roles in Nicaragua’s most important business associations during the 1980s.
The victory of the Sandinista rebels and the fall of dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979, led to the new revolutionary government confiscating more than 10 of his businesses. Current President Daniel Ortega led that government from 1985 to 1990.
As president of the Superior Council of Private Business, he battled the Sandinista Front government over human rights and individual freedoms, “for which he was subject of a pair of arrests and confiscation of all of his family’s assets in 1985,” according to a biography published by the Enrique Bolaños library.
In 1995, Bolaños joined Arnoldo Alemán on the winning conservative Liberal Party ticket and served as vice president. In 1998, he denounced a secret agreement between Alemán and Ortega that reformed the electoral law to allow a candidate to win the presidency with a minimum of 35% of the vote, down from 45%. That change would allow Ortega to retake the presidency in 2006 with just 38% of the vote.
As president, Bolaños promoted job creation in free-trade zones, as well as investment in tourism and agriculture. His adversaries accused him of favoring business sectors with government projects and not giving enough attention to Nicaragua’s poor. He pushed for the Central America Free Trade Agreement with the United States, which Nicaragua’s congress ratified in 2005.
His government continued to face opposition from Sandinista Front lawmakers in congress, as well as frequent strikes and highway blockades by students and unions tied to the Sandinistas.
After massive street protests sparked by proposed changes to Nicaragua’s social security system in 2018, Bolaños criticized Ortega’s repression of dissent and called for dialogue.
“To build a dreamed-of Nicaragua, we have to overcome the great vices that have characterized our society: corruption, perversion in the use of power, caudillismo and populism,” Bolaños said in a 2019 interview with a local online publication. If not, he warned, “the future will be more of the same.”
Ortega’s government has arrested 13 potential candidates in the Nov. 7 elections and other political leaders this month. On Tuesday, Berta Valle, the wife of one of the imprisoned candidates, Félix Maradiaga, mourned the death of Bolaños.
“Maybe he wasn’t a perfect president, but he had fought for democracy,” Valle said. “Today for Nicaragua, it’s a big loss.”
Valle called the charges against her husband “absurd” and said “we are very worried about his welfare” because relatives have not been allowed to visit the arrested opposition leaders.
While some are being held at the capital’s infamous El Chipote prison, where there have been reports of mistreatment, lawyer Jared Genser said “it is unclear” where Maradiaga and fellow candidate Juan Sebastián Chamorro are being held.
Genser, who represents the men’s families, said both were subject to secret hearings without their lawyers present.
EU court: Czechs want Poland fined for ignoring mine ban
The European Union’s top court says the Czech Republic is pressing for Poland to be fined 5 million euros ($6 million) for every day it ignores the court’s order last month to immediately shut a lignite mine near the two countries’ border
ByThe Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 3:44 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleThe Associated PressFILE – In this Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019 file photo, smoke rises from chimneys of the Turow power plant located by the Turow lignite coal mine near the town of Bogatynia, Poland. The European Union’s top court says the Czech Republic is pressing for Poland to be fined 5 million euros for every day it ignores the court’s order last month to immediately shut a lignite mine near the two countries’ border. The announcement by the European Court of Justice came Tuesday, June 15, 2021 as Poland approved a strategy for the upcoming talks with the Czechs over the Turow mine. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek, file)
WARSAW, Poland — The European Union’s top court said Tuesday that the Czech Republic is pressing for Poland to be fined 5 million euros ($6 million) for every day it ignores the court’s order last month to immediately shut a lignite mine near the two countries’ border.
The announcement by the European Court of Justice came as Poland is in talks with the Czech government to settle the years-long spat over the Turów mine out of court. A round of talks is expected Thursday in Prague and the request for the stiff fine will complicate the agenda.
Poland’s leaders have been saying that the talks are going in the right direction.
Prague says the operation of the open-cast mine in the south-western tip of Poland, near the Czech and German borders, is draining water from Czech villages in the area and has sued Poland to the EU court.
On May 21, the court issued a temporary injunction telling Poland to close Turów immediately, pending the full verdict which, however, can take many months.
Poland’s authorities did not cease the mine’s operation, arguing it directly feeds the Turów power plant that produces some 7% of the nation’s energy, used by millions of households and many industries, and that Poland cannot do without it.
On Monday, Czech Environment Minister Richard Brabec said a draft of an agreement had been sent to Warsaw that includes conditions for withdrawing the case from the EU court, but he revealed no details.
Some 48% of Poland’s energy comes from hard black coal and 17% from softer and more polluting lignite, or brown coal. Another 25% comes from various renewable sources and biofuels, and 10% comes from gas and other sources.
Slovakia’s Supreme Court overturns acquittal of alleged mastermind in 2018 killings of journalist and fiancée
Slovakia’s Supreme Court overturns acquittal of alleged mastermind in 2018 killings of journalist and fiancée
ByThe Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 3:40 PM• 1 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this article
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia’s Supreme Court overturns acquittal of alleged mastermind in 2018 killings of journalist and fiancée.
SKorea, Spain seek closer economic ties with state visit
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has arrived in Madrid, in the first state visit to Spain by a foreign leader since the pandemic began
ByThe Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 3:35 PM• 1 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this article
Moon and First Lady Kim Jung-Sook were received with military honors at the royal palace in Madrid by Spain’s King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia.
They were to attend a royal banquet at the palace later in the day.
During his two-day stay, Moon was also due to meet with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and other members of the government, as well as attend a business event in Barcelona on Wednesday evening.
Moon’s visit to Spain is the first by a South Korean president in 14 years. The Spanish king and queen visited South Korea in 2019.
Mexico’s Zapatista rebels complain they can’t get passports
Indigenous rebels of Mexico’s Zapatista movement are complaining that the Mexican government has made it hard for them to get passports to attend meetings in Spain set to mark the 500th anniversary of the 1519-1521 conquest of Mexico
ByThe Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 3:33 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleThe Associated PressFILE – In this April 30, 2021 file photo, a delegation of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation wave from the boat that will take them to Europe to mark the 500th anniversary of the 1519-1521 conquest of Mexico, from Isla de Mujeres, Quintana Roo state, Mexico. The delegation complained Tuesday, June 15, 2021, that the Mexican government has made it hard for them to get passports to attend meetings in Spain to mark the 500th anniversary of the 1519-1521 conquest of Mexico. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo, File)
Rebel leader Subcomandante Galeano, who used to be known as Marcos, said officials had told some of the Zapatistas they didn’t have the right documents to obtain passports.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador ordered officials Tuesday to resolve the problem, saying, “Nobody should be limited, much less our Indigenous brothers.” The first part of the delegation set out by boat in May to “invade” Spain.
That delegation has already reached Portugal’s Azores islands and will head to Vigo, Spain. The other part of the delegation was to fly to Europe, but ran into problems getting passports.
The Zapatistas have said they hope to be in Madrid by Aug. 13, the date that marks 500 years since Mexico City was captured from the Aztecs by the Spaniards and their Indigenous allies.
Galeano has said that once in Spain, the group will release the message: “The invasion has started.”
The Zapatistas have made no mention of demanding any apology for the invasion 500 years ago. That is unlike the Mexican government, which has asked Spain to apologize for the brutal conquest that wound up killing millions of Indigenous people.
Far from seeking a hostile encounter, the Zapatistas said, “If we manage to land and embrace with words those who are in the struggle there, who resist and rebel, then there will be a party.”
“We are going to tell the people of Spain two simple things,” the Zapatistas said in a previous statement. “One, they did not conquer us; we are still here resisting, in rebellion. Second, they do not have to ask that we forgive them for anything.”
The Zapatistas led a brief armed uprising to demand greater Indigenous rights in 1994, and since then have remained in their “autonomous” townships in the southern state of Chiapas, refusing government aid programs.
Nicaragua stages unprecedented roundup of opposition leaders
Nicaraguan police have arrested yet another opposition leader, bringing to six the number detained over the weekend
ByThe Associated PressJune 14, 2021, 9:06 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleThe Associated PressCristiana Chamorro, former director of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation for Reconciliation and Democracy, and daughter of a former president, speaks to the press at the public Ministry where she was called for a meeting to explain alleged “inconsistencies” in financial reports filed with the government between 2015 and 2019 in Managua, Nicaragua, Friday, May 21, 2021. After the meeting, she accused President Daniel Ortega of ordering that evidence be fabricated against her. (AP Photo/Diana Ulloa)
MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Nicaraguan police have arrested another opposition politician, bringing to six the number detained over the weekend in an unprecedented roundup of opponents of President Daniel Ortega.
Five were arrested Sunday, the biggest one-day roundup so far in Ortega’s campaign to jail anyone who might challenge his rule. The last arrest, which came late Sunday, was that of Victor Hugo Tinoco, the leader of the political movement Unamos.
Tinoco is a former assistant foreign minister and former ambassador to the United Nations; he was detained by 10 men wearing hoods and plainclothes at a shopping mall.
Relatives complained Monday that authorities were not allowing them to deliver food or personal items to the detainees in the capital’s infamous El Chipote prison.
Another Unamos party leader, Suyen Barahona, was arrested earlier Sunday. Police have also arrested prominent ex-Sandinista dissidents Dora María Téllez and Hugo Torres and, another opposition leader Ana Margarita Vijil. Arrested Saturday was Unamos activist Tamara Dávila.
Unamos was formed by former Sandinistas angered by Ortega’s autocratic ways, nepotism and perpetual re-elections.
“This is not a transition to dictatorship, it is a dictatorship in every way,” said former general and Sandinista dissident Hugo Torres before he himself was arrested Sunday.
Tellez was a leading Sandinista militant who led an assault on the National Palace in 1978, taking hostage the congress of dictator Anastasio Somoza in exchange for the release of Sandinista prisoners.
Following Somoza’s overthrow, Tellez served as health minister in the first Sandinista government which ruled from 1979 to 1990. Like many former guerrillas, she later split with Ortega.
Police said they arrested the opposition leaders on charges related to a recently enacted law that classifies as treason any support for sanctions against officials in the Ortega regime; the U.S. has slapped sanctions on dozens of officials.
Under a law passed in December, Ortega’s government has the power to unilaterally declare citizens “terrorists” or coup-mongers, classify them as “traitors to the homeland” and ban them from running as candidates.
The law punishes those “who lead or finance a coup … encourage foreign interference, ask for military intervention … propose or plan economic blockades, applaud and champion the imposition of sanctions against Nicaragua or its citizens.”
Those accused “will be traitors to the homeland, and for that reason may not run for public office.” Treason is punishable by prison terms of up to 15 years.
In a statement Monday, Nicaragua’s government wrote “the only thing these usurpers have in common is their loyalty to the United States government and the fact that, directly or through their respective NGOs, they have received millions of dollars of money from the American people … with the aim of overthrowing the elected government of President Commander Daniel Ortega Saavedra.”
Ortega has already arrested four potential opposition candidates who might have challenged his bid for a fourth consecutive term.
Nicaragua’s National Police arrested the four opposition pre-candidates earlier this month.
On June 8, they arrested pre-candidate Félix Maradiaga, a pre-candidate for the opposition coalition Blue and White National Unity, and Sebastián Chamorro, a former director of the opposition coalition Civic Alliance.
The previous week authorities detained Cristiana Chamorro, a cousin of Juan Sebastián Chamorro, and Arturo Cruz Sequeira, a former ambassador to the United States.
Ortega initially led Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990 following the Sandinista revolution that ousted Somoza. He returned to the presidency in 2007 after three failed election attempts, and he won reelection in 2011. He then sidestepped term limits to get himself reelected in 2016, and packed courts and government agencies with allies. The Sandinista party controls the courts and the legislature, and has stifled universities and the Roman Catholic church.
Torres said Ortega has now instituted a more suffocating dictatorship than Somoza, who faced opposition from the within the church, intellectual circles and universities.
“I think Ortega has outdone Somoza,” said Torres. “He has subordinated all the power to himself as Somoza never could. He has a bigger repressive apparatus than Somoza ever had.”
Thousands in Hungary protest anti-LGBT bills on eve of vote
Protesters and human rights officials have urged lawmakers in Hungary to reject legislation banning any content portraying or promoting homosexuality or sex reassignment to anyone under 18
By BELA SZANDELSZKY and BALAZS PIVARNYIK Associated PressJune 14, 2021, 8:31 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this article
BUDAPEST, Hungary — Protesters and human rights officials urged lawmakers in Hungary on Monday to reject legislation banning any content portraying or promoting homosexuality or sex reassignment to anyone under 18.
Thousands of LGBT activists and others demonstrated in front of the Parliament in Budapest in the evening, chanting “we are here!” as they urged lawmakers to abandon plans for the bills.
“We have a lot to do before tomorrow’s vote: We have to tell, we have to write to every member of Parliament, why this bill is anti-child, anti-family and anti-human,” David Vig, director of Hungary’s branch of Amnesty International, told those gathered.
Fidesz, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s conservative ruling party, presented the legislation last week and plans to vote on the bills Tuesday. They include a measure aimed at fighting pedophilia along with other amendments prohibiting transmitting information about LGBT people or same-sex relationships to youth.
Fidesz describes the legislation as an effort to protect children from pedophilia.
But Lydia Gall, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said equating sexual and gender diversity with pedophilia hurt the dignity of LGBT people and risked putting them in danger.
Gall called the legislation “a cynical, distasteful and deliberate attempt by the Orban government to trample the rights of LGBT people and essentially make them invisible in Hungarian society.”
Dunja Mijatovic, the commissioner for human rights at the Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights body, asked Hungarian lawmakers to reject the legislation.
“I urge you to remain vigilant against such initiatives to push through measures that limit human rights or stigmatize … some members of society,” Mijatovic said in a statement Monday.
The Hungarian amendments would outlaw any depiction or discussion of different gender identity and sexual orientation in public, including in schools and the media.
Some human rights groups have compared the planned ban to a discriminatory 2013 Russian law banning so-called gay “propaganda,” widely viewed as a tool of discrimination.
Mijatovic said such legislation reinforces prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. She also argued that international human rights groups have established that young people have a right to comprehensive sex education, which is not possible if there is a ban on any discussion of LGBT issues.
“The proposed legislative amendments run counter to international and European human rights standards. It is misleading and false to claim that they are being introduced to protect children,” she said.
The legislation is expected to be approved, given that Fidesz has a majority.
The opposition in Hungary is divided on the matter.
The right-wing Jobbik party said Monday it plans to vote for the anti-pedophilia bill and amendments, despite what it said were some flaws, because it agrees that the “promotion” of gender change and “all kinds of sexual orientations” shouldn’t be allowed in schools.
Other parties plan to boycott the vote. The center-left Democratic Coalition said it would boycott the entire Tuesday session to protest Fidesz’s “hate-mongering” and “discriminatory politics.”
Putin likens Russian crackdown to arresting Capitol rioters
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is to meet President Joe Biden this week, is suggesting that the hundreds of people arrested for rioting at the U_S_ Capitol are being subjected to “persecution for political opinions.”
ByThe Associated PressJune 14, 2021, 8:31 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this article3:15
Catch up on the developing stories making headlines.The Associated Press
Putin is likely to come under strong criticism from Biden at their meeting in Geneva for moves against his political opponents in Russia, particularly the imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the detention of thousands of demonstrators protesting his arrest, and the outlawing of Navalny’s organizations as extremist.
“Do you know that 450 individuals were arrested after entering the Congress? … They came there with political demands,” he said.
Although the protests that erupted across Russia after Navalny’s arrest in January were unsanctioned, demonstrators were largely peaceful and did not enter government buildings or cause significant property damage, unlike the Capitol riot.
Putin also reiterated denials that the Kremlin was behind last year’s poisoning of Navalny with a nerve agent that nearly killed him.
“We don’t have this kind of habit, of assassinating anybody,” Putin said.
“Did you order the assassination of the woman who walked into the Congress and who was shot and killed by a policeman?” Putin said, referring to Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt, who was fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer as she tried to climb through a window that led to the House floor.
At a news conference after a NATO summit Monday in Brussels, Biden declined to assess how he’ll measure the success of his meeting with Putin because “the last thing anyone would do is negotiate in front of the world press.”
Biden described Putin as “bright,” “tough” and a “worthy adversary.” But he indicated he would remain wary of any commitments coming out of their meeting, saying he would “verify first and then trust” the Russian leader.
He also suggested he’d be looking for areas of agreement with the Russian president, while also warning him against continued aggression towards the U.S.
“I’m gonna make clear to President Putin that there are areas where we can cooperate, if he chooses, and if he chooses not to cooperate and acts in a way that he has in the past relative to cybersecurity and other activities, then we will respond, we will respond in kind,” he said.
In his NBC interview, Putin sharply dismissed the cyberattack allegations against the U.S. as baseless.
“Where is the evidence? Where is proof? It’s becoming farcical,” Putin said. “We have been accused of all kinds of things — election interference, cyberattacks and so on and so forth — and not once, not once, not one time, did they bother to produce any kind of evidence or proof, just unfounded accusations.”
In April, the United States announced the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats and new sanctions connected to the so-called SolarWinds cyberattack in which several U.S. government branches experienced data breaches. U.S. officials blamed the Russian foreign intelligence service.
In May, Microsoft officials said the foreign intelligence service appeared to be linked to an attack on a company providing services to the U.S. Agency for International Development.
At the summit, Biden also is expected to raise the case of two Americans imprisoned in Russia: Paul Whelan, who was convicted of espionage, and Trevor Reed, convicted of assaulting police while drunk. U.S. officials say both were convicted in biased trials on flimsy evidence.
Putin said of Reed, a 29-year-old former Marine: “He’s just a drunk and a troublemaker.”
Putin brushed off one possible source of tension in the upcoming summit: Biden’s claim that he once told Putin he considered the Russian leader soulless.
“I do not remember this particular part of our conversations,” Putin said.
Associated Press writer Alexandra Jaffe in Washington contributed.
Turkey seeks US support to maintain troops in Afghanistan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country would need “diplomatic, logistic and financial assistance” from the United States to maintain troops in Afghanistan and guard Kabul’s airport, following the withdrawal of NATO troops
ByThe Associated PressJune 14, 2021, 8:30 PM• 5 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleThe Associated PressU.S. President Joe Biden, right, is greeted by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center, during a plenary session at a NATO summit in Brussels, Monday, June 14, 2021. U.S. President Joe Biden is taking part in his first NATO summit, where the 30-nation alliance hopes to reaffirm its unity and discuss increasingly tense relations with China and Russia, as the organization pulls its troops out after 18 years in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys, Pool)
BRUSSELS — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday his country would need “diplomatic, logistic and financial assistance” from the United States if it were to maintain troops in Afghanistan to protect and run Kabul’s international airport, following the withdrawal of other NATO troops.
Speaking to reporters at the end of a series of meetings with NATO leaders on the sidelines of the alliance summit, Erdogan also said Turkey was seeking Pakistan and Hungary’s involvement in a new mission in Afghanistan following the departure of the U.S.-led NATO force.
Turkey is reported to have offered to guard the airport as questions remain on how security will be assured along major transport routes and at the airport, which is the main gateway to Kabul.
“If they don’t want us to leave Afghanistan, if they want a (Turkish) support there, then the diplomatic, logistic and financial support that the United States will give us will of great importance,” Erdogan said. Turkey, a majority Muslim nation which has close historic ties to Afghanistan, currently has some 500 soldiers in the war-torn country.
“There is a strong will for the start of a new era in all areas, based on mutual respect and interest,” Erdogan said. “There is no problem in Turkey-US relations that cannot be solved.”
Biden told reporters he was “confident we’ll make real progress with Turkey.”
On Afghanistan, Biden said: “There was a strong consensus in the room among the leaders … on Afghanistan. Our troops are coming home, but we agreed that our diplomatic, economic, humanitarian commitment with the Afghan people … will endure”
Turkey has been angered by U.S. support for Kurdish fighters in Syria while the U.S. has sanctioned Turkey over its purchase of a Russian weapons system. In April, Biden infuriated Ankara by declaring that the Ottoman-era mass killing and deportations of Armenians was “genocide.”
Turkey denies the deportations and massacres, which began in 1915 and killed an estimated 1.5 million Armenians, amounted to genocide.
Erdogan said the Armenian issue was not discussed during the meeting. The Turkish leader however, renewed a call for an end to U.S. support for the Syrian Kurdish fighters, who Ankara argues are inextricably linked to a decades-long Kurdish insurgency in Turkey.
“I openly stated that the support given to the (Syrian Kurdish fighters) should be ended,” Erdogan said.
Erdogan signaled that the two leaders failed to find a way to overcome difference over Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 advanced Russian missile defense systems which Washington says is a threat to NATO. It has removed Turkey from its F-35 fighter jet program and imposed sanctions on defense industry officials. It has demanded that Ankara abandons the $2.5 billion system.
“Our thoughts on the S-400 are the same as before, I relayed our same thoughts to Mr. Biden,” Erdogan said.
Last summer, a dispute over boundaries and rights to natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean flared anew after Ankara sent research vessels into waters where Greece asserts jurisdiction.
Diplomats from the two countries have held two rounds of talks in recent months for the first time in five years, while the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey also held reciprocal visits.
Erdogan said on Monday he and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis agreed to call each other over a direct line “without involving others.”
The Turkish strongman has recently toned down his anti-Western rhetoric as he seeks foreign investments for his country, which has been troubled by a currency crisis and an economic downturn made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.
In Brussels, Erdogan also met with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
After his meeting with Erdogan, Macron tweeted that he wants to “move forward” with Turkey.
France and Turkey agreed to work together over the summer on the “departure of foreign fighters and mercenaries,” he said, calling that a “major step.”
Erdogan expressed his will that they leave Libya “as soon as possible,” he added.
It was their first meeting since a dispute between the two countries reached its peak in October, after Erdogan questioned Macron’s mental health.
Terror charges laid against accused in Canada Muslim attack
Prosecutors laid terrorism charges against a man accused of driving down and killing four members of a Muslim family in London, Ontario
ByThe Associated PressJune 14, 2021, 7:14 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this article
LONDON, Ontario — Prosecutors laid terrorism charges Monday against a man accused of driving down and killing four members of a Muslim family in London, Ontario.
The prosecution said Nathaniel Veltman’s four counts of first-degree murder constitute an act of terrorism and prosecutors have upgraded those charges under Canada’s criminal code. Police allege the incident was a planned and premeditated attack targeting Muslims.
Veltman also faces one count of attempted murder due to terrorism activity.
The upgraded charges were laid as Veltman made a brief court appearance via video Monday morning. He has yet to enter a plea.
Salman Afzaal, 46, his 44-year-old wife Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna and her 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal were killed while out for an evening walk on June 6.
The couple’s nine-year-old son, Fayez, was seriously injured but is expected to recover.
Saboor Khan, a friend of the family, said upgrading the charges against Veltman was “the right thing to do.″
“The family and the community has been terrorized and many of us are afraid to leave our homes,″ Khan said.
A funeral for the family drew hundreds of mourners to the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario over the weekend.
Veltman’s next court date is scheduled for June 21.