новини, досягнення, звершення



Russia Accuses US, Britain of Helping Ukraine in Crimea Missile Attack

Russia Wednesday accused the United States and Britain of helping Ukraine carry out an attack last week against the headquarters Russian Black Sea fleet in Russia-occupied Crimea.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a briefing that the attack was “planned in advance using Western intelligence means, NATO satellite assets, and reconnaissance planes.”

Zakharova also said U.S. and British intelligence helped coordinate the missile strike.

While the U.S. and other Western partners have provided military equipment and training to Ukraine, U.S. officials have previously denied playing a direct role in Ukraine’s defense against the Russian invasion.

When Russia accused the United States of being involved in a May drone attack on the Kremlin, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby called the claim “ludicrous.”

A television channel run by Russia’s Defense Ministry broadcast undated video Wednesday showing Adm. Viktor Sokolov, the leader of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, saying the fleet was performing successfully.

It was the second consecutive day in which video of Sokolov appeared on Russian television, following a Ukrainian claim that he was killed in the Crimea missile strike.

Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

читати повністю »

French Ambassador to Niger Leaves as Relations Nosedive After Coup

France’s ambassador to Niger left the country early on Wednesday morning, around one month after the military government ordered his expulsion and days after President Emmanuel Macron said the diplomat would be pulled out and French troops withdrawn.

Relations between Niger and France, its former colonial ruler which maintained a military presence in the country to help fight Islamist insurgents, have broken down since army officers seized power in Niamey in July.

The junta had ordered French ambassador Sylvain Itte to leave the country within 48 hours at the end of August in response to what they described as actions by France that were “contrary to the interests of Niger.”

France at first ignored the order, sticking to its stance that the military government was illegitimate and calling for the reinstatement of elected President Mohamed Bazoum, who was toppled in the July coup.

But Macron announced on Sunday that the ambassador would return to Paris and French troops would leave.

Two security sources in Niger said Itte had flown out of the country. The news was later confirmed by the president’s office in Paris.

There have been almost daily protests against France in Niamey since the military took power. Crowds of junta supporters have spent days camping outside a French military base to demand the troops’ departure.

Macron had said Itte and his staff were effectively being held hostage at the embassy.

Anti-French sentiment spreads

Niger is just one of France’s former colonies in West Africa where there has been growing anti-French sentiment both among the population and the authorities, especially in countries where military rulers have seized power.

Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger are now all run by army officers following a spate of coups over the past three years, and anti-French rhetoric has been a recurring feature of their public pronouncements.

Critics of France say that for decades after its former colonies gained independence, it sought to maintain strong economic and political influence through a system of overt and covert diplomacy known as ‘Francafrique.’

The French government says the days of Francafrique are over and operations like the one in Niger were being conducted with the full consent, knowledge and cooperation of local governments, such as Bazoum’s now defunct administration.

While France’s critics accuse Paris of continuing to exert excessive and disruptive influence in the region, some analysts say military juntas are using France as a scapegoat for hard-to-solve problems.

The juntas in Mali and Burkina Faso have already kicked out French forces deployed to help fight a decade-long Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands and displaced millions across the Sahel region.

Some analysts have expressed concern that the withdrawal of French troops from Niger could further hamper Western efforts to stem the violence, which has risen since the coups, and bolster Russian influence in the region.

читати повністю »

US Ramps Up Diplomacy, Humanitarian Aid for Nagorno-Karabakh’s Displaced

The United States government ramped up its diplomatic efforts and humanitarian assistance for thousands of ethnic Armenians fleeing the Nagorno-Karabakh region. VOA’s Veronica Balderas Iglesias reports on how the crisis is evolving, after Azerbaijan regained control last week of the breakaway territory.

читати повністю »

Ukrainian Female Soldiers Get First Official Women’s Uniforms

Forty-two thousand women serve in the Ukrainian military, and the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense recently officially approved a female uniform. Lesia Bakalets has the story from Kyiv. VOA footage by Yevhenii Shynkar.

читати повністю »

Russian Court Rejects Navalny’s Appeal Against 19-Year Prison Term

A Russian court on Tuesday rejected Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny’s appeal against a decision to imprison him on extremism charges for almost two decades.

On August 4, judges of the Moscow City Court convicted Navalny on extremism charges and sentenced him to 19 years in prison, ruling that his previously handed prison sentences will be served concurrently in Russia’s harshest prison regime. Navalny, his allies, rights groups and Western governments say all charges are politically motivated.

The first appeals court in Moscow upheld the sentence on Tuesday at a hearing held behind closed doors. Only the reading of the verdict was public. Navalny, who has accused the Kremlin of seeking to keep him behind bars for life and to keep Russians from voicing dissent, participated in the proceedings via video link.

The charges against Navalny are widely seen as retribution for his efforts to expose what he describes as the pervasive lawlessness, corruption and repression by President Vladimir Putin and his political system.

Navalny was Russia’s loudest opposition voice over the last decade and galvanized huge anti-government rallies before he was jailed.

The 47-year-old threatened the Kremlin by establishing a network of political offices across the country and a corruption watchdog that brought credible graft allegations against political elites.

He was jailed in 2021 after arriving in Moscow from Germany, where he had been recovering from a poisoning attack he blamed on the Kremlin.

The ruling last month came a year and a half into Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, which brought with it an unprecedented crackdown on dissenting voices. Navalny has repeatedly spoken out against the military campaign.

Navalny, who has complained of a series of health complications — and undertook a weekslong hunger strike — is being held in the IK-6 penal colony, 250 kilometers (155 miles) east of Moscow.

Allies say his health has taken a further hit in recent months, during which he has been in and out of solitary confinement. Ahead of the appeal, prison authorities placed Navalny in a detention cell for the 20th time, his team said.

In August the court also ruled to send Navalny to a “special regime” colony, a maximum-security facility reserved for dangerous criminals that will cut him off from the outside world.

The “special regime” prison is a system in which inmates stay in cells either alone, in pairs or in fours. The cells have additional metal bars on windows and doors, nonstop lighting, and video surveillance. Inmates can request one or two hours of walking outside in specially fenced cubes where there is no direct sunlight.

Special regime inmates are not allowed to communicate with friends or relatives and can have no visits in the first 10 years of their sentences.

Some information came from Agence France-Presse.

читати повністю »

At Least 20 Dead in Gas Station Explosion in Nagorno-Karabakh

At least 20 people were killed and nearly 300 others injured by an explosion at a crowded gas station in Nagorno-Karabakh as thousands of people rushed to flee into Armenia, separatist authorities in the region said Tuesday.

More than 13,500 people — about 12% of the region’s population — have fled across the border since Azerbaijan defeated separatists who have governed the breakaway region for about 30 years in a swift military operation, Armenia’s government said Tuesday morning.

Residents of Nagorno-Karabakh scrambled to flee as soon as Azerbaijan lifted a 10-month blockade on the region’s only road to Armenia, causing severe shortages of food, medicine and fuel. While Azerbaijan has pledged to respect the rights of Armenians, many residents feared reprisals.

The explosion took place as people lined up to fill their cars at a gas station outside Stepanakert, the region’s capital, late Monday. The separatist government’s health department said that 13 bodies have been found and seven people have died of injuries from the blast, the cause of which remains unclear.

It added that 290 people have been hospitalized and scores of them remain in grave condition.

Armenia’s health ministry said a helicopter brought some blast victims to Armenia on Tuesday morning, and more flights were expected.

Azerbaijani presidential aide Hikmet Hajiyev said on X, formerly Twitter, that hospitals in Azerbaijan were ready to treat victims, but not if any had been taken to them. Azerbaijan has sent in burn-treatment medicine and other humanitarian aid, he said.

The Azerbaijani military routed Armenian forces in a 24-hour blitz last week, forcing the separatist authorities to agree to lay down weapons and start talks on Nagorno-Karabakh’s “reintegration” into Azerbaijan.

Gasoline has been in short supply in Stepanakert for months, and the explosion further adds to anxiety about whether residents they will be able drive the 35 kilometers (22 miles) to the border.

Cars bearing large loads on their roofs crowded the streets of Stepanakert, and residents stood or lay along sidewalks next to heaps of luggage.

Moscow said that Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh were assisting the evacuation. Some 700 people remained in the peacekeepers’ camp there by Monday night.

Nagorno-Karabakh was an autonomous region within Azerbaijan under the Soviet Union, but separatist sentiment grew in the USSR’s dying years and then flared into war.

Nagorno-Karabakh came under the control of ethnic Armenian forces, backed by the Armenian military, in separatist fighting that ended in 1994. During a war in 2020, Azerbaijan took parts of Nagorno-Karabakh along with surrounding territory that it lost of control of during the earlier conflict.

Under the armistice that ended the 2020 fighting, Russia deployed a peacekeeping force of about 2,000 to the region.

читати повністю »

Ukrainian Captain Found Guilty in Hungary for 2019 Boat Collision That Killed at Least 27

The captain of a river cruise boat that collided with another vessel in Hungary’s capital in 2019, killing at least 27 people who were mostly tourists from South Korea, was found guilty on Tuesday of negligence leading to a fatal mass catastrophe and sentenced to five years and six months in prison. 

Judge Leona Nemeth with the Pest Central District Court found that the negligence of the Ukrainian captain, 68-year-old Yuriy Chaplinsky, had led to his boat, the Viking Sigyn, colliding with the tourist boat Hableany (Mermaid) from behind on the Danube river, causing that boat to sink within seconds.

In its ruling, the court acquitted Chaplinsky of 35 counts of failure to render aid. Both Chaplinsky and the prosecution have appealed the court’s decision, and the judge remanded the defendant to house arrest pending a new trial. 

The collision occurred May 29, 2019, when the Hableany, carrying 35 people, sank after being struck beneath Budapest’s Margit Bridge by the much larger Viking Sigyn. 

Seven South Koreans were rescued from the water in the heavy rain following the collision, and 27 people were recovered dead including the two-member Hungarian crew. One South Korean woman is still unaccounted-for. 

Some of the victims’ bodies were found weeks after the crash more than 100 kilometers  downstream.

The Hableany spent more than 12 days underwater at the collision site near the neo-Gothic Hungarian Parliament building, before being lifted from the river bed by a floating crane. 

Chaplinsky, the captain of the Viking Sigyn, has been in police custody since the collision, including being remanded to house arrest in Hungary since 2020. The judge ordered the time Chaplinsky has already served to count toward his five-and-a-half-year sentence. 

In a final statement before the verdict Tuesday, Chaplinsky called the collision a “horrible tragedy,” and said that the deaths of “so many innocent victims” kept him awake at night. 

“This will stay with me for the rest of my life,” he said.  

Three staffers from the South Korean Embassy in Budapest were present for the reading of the verdict, but no South Korean family members of the victims attended the hearing. 

After the proceedings, Zsolt Sogor, a lawyer with the prosecution, said the verdict was in line with legal requirements, but that prosecutors believed Chaplinsky was liable for failing to render aid to the Hableany after the collision. 

“I feel sorry for this person. He really did commit (this act) negligently,” Sogor said. “But our opinion differs from that of the court in that according to our perspective, the captain of a ship must act. It’s not enough that his sailors go and perform a rescue. He should have coordinated the entire rescue to save human lives.”

“We will see what happens during the appeal. It’s possible (the sentence) will be harsher, but one thing is for sure: It won’t be reduced,” he said. 

читати повністю »

What is Behind Renewed Tensions Between Serbia and Kosovo?

Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo flared anew over the weekend when some 30 heavily armed Serbs barricaded themselves in an Orthodox monastery in northern Kosovo, setting off a daylong gunbattle with police that left one officer and three attackers dead.

Sunday’s clash was one of the worst since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. It came as the European Union and the United States are trying to mediate and finalize yearslong talks on normalizing ties between the two Balkan states.

There are fears in the West of a revival of the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo that claimed more than 10,000 lives and left over 1 million homeless.

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti accused Serbia of sending the attackers into Kosovo. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic denied that, saying the men were Kosovo Serbs who have had enough of “Kurti’s terror.”

A look at the history between Serbia and Kosovo, and why the latest tensions are a concern for Europe.

Why are Serbia and Kosovo at odds?

Kosovo is a mainly ethnic Albanian territory that was part of Serbia before it declared independence. The Serbian government has refused to recognize Kosovo’s statehood, even though it has no formal control there.

Some 100 countries have recognized Kosovo’s independence, including the United States and most Western countries. Russia, China and five EU nations have sided with Serbia. The deadlock has kept tensions simmering in the Balkan region following the bloody breakup of former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

What are the roots of the conflict?

The dispute over Kosovo is centuries-old. Serbs cherish the area as central both to their religion and statehood. Numerous medieval Serb Orthodox Christian monasteries are in Kosovo, and Serb nationalists view a 1389 battle against Ottoman Turks there as a symbol of their national struggle for independence.

Kosovo’s majority ethnic Albanians, most of whom are Muslim, meanwhile, view Kosovo as their country and accuse Serbia of occupying it and repressing them for decades.

Ethnic Albanian rebels launched an uprising in 1998 to rid the country of Serbian rule. Belgrade’s brutal response prompted a NATO intervention in 1999, forcing Serbia to pull out and cede control to international peacekeepers.

There are still some 4,500 peacekeepers stationed in Kosovo, a poor country of about 1.7 million people with little industry and where crime and corruption are rampant.

Are tensions running particularly high now?

There are constant tensions between Kosovo’s government and ethnic Serb residents who live mostly in the north of Kosovo and who keep close ties to Belgrade. Mitrovica, the main city in the north, is effectively divided into an ethnic Albanian part and a Serb-held part, and the two sides rarely mix. There are also smaller Serb-populated enclaves in southern Kosovo.

Government attempts to impose more control in the north are usually met with resistance, and the situation deteriorated earlier this year, when Serbs boycotted local elections held the north. They then tried to prevent the newly elected ethnic Albanian mayors from entering their offices.

Some 30 NATO peacekeepers and more than 50 Serb protesters were hurt in the ensuing clashes.

Is there a link to Russia and the war in Ukraine?

Well before Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin cited the breakup of Yugoslavia to justify a possible invasion of a sovereign European country.

Putin, whose troops illegally annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, has repeatedly argued that NATO’s bombardment of Serbia in 1999 and the West’s recognition of Kosovo created a precedent. He has claimed that allows Russia to intervene in Ukraine’s strategic Black Sea peninsula and majority Russian areas in the country’s east.

Western officials have vehemently rejected Putin’s reasoning, saying the NATO intervention in Kosovo was triggered by mass killings and other war crimes committed by Serbian troops against ethnic Albanians. That was not the case in Ukraine before Russia’s full-scale invasion.

There are fears in the West that Russia, acting through its ally Serbia, is trying to destabilize the Balkans and thus shift at least some attention from its aggression on Ukraine.

What has been done to resolve the dispute?

There have been constant international efforts to find common ground between the two former war foes, but no comprehensive agreement has emerged so far. European Union and U.S. officials have mediated negotiations designed to normalize relations between Serbia and Kosovo since 2012.

The negotiations have led to results in some areas, such as freedom of movement without checkpoints and establishing multiethnic police forces in Kosovo. However, the latter broke down when Serbs pulled out of the force last year to protest Pristina’s decision to ban Serbian-issued vehicle license plates.

After international pressure, Kurti, Kosovo’s prime minister, suspended the decree but that did not bring Serbs back to the Kosovo institutions.

Adding to the difficulty of finding a solution, Kosovo and Serbia both have nationalist leaders. Kurti is often accused by international mediators of making moves that trigger unnecessary tensions.

Vucic, meanwhile, is a former ultra-nationalist who insists Serbia will never recognize Kosovo and says that an earlier deal to give Kosovo Serbs a level of independence must first be implemented before new agreements are made. Vucic has tacitly acknowledged Serbia’s loss of control over Kosovo, but also says the country won’t settle unless it gains something.

What happens next?

International officials still hope Kosovo and Serbia can reach a deal that would allow Kosovo to get a seat in the United Nations without Serbia having to explicitly recognize its statehood. Both nations must normalize ties if they want to advance toward EU membership.

No breakthrough in the EU-mediated negotiations would mean prolonged instability, economic decline and the constant potential for clashes. Any Serbian military intervention in Kosovo would mean a clash with NATO peacekeepers there, and Serbia is unlikely to move in, unless it gains some sort of Russian backing.

читати повністю »

EU Trade Chief Warns Businesses Questioning Future in China

The EU’s trade chief told Beijing Monday that tough security laws and a more “politicized” business environment have left European companies struggling to understand their obligations and questioning their future in China.

China’s refusal to condemn ally Russia for its war in Ukraine also poses a “reputational risk” for the world’s second-largest economy, Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said in a speech at Beijing’s Tsinghua University.

He said transparency and openness were “a winning strategy in the long run,” at a time when trade tensions between the European bloc and China are mounting.

“China is navigating a challenging transition from an investment-led economy to a broad-based economy,” he said. “For this it needs to remain open.”

Dombrovskis’s four-day trip, which kicked off Saturday, follows a report by the EU Chamber of Commerce that showed business confidence was at one of its lowest levels in years.

It also follows Brussels’ decision to launch a probe into Beijing’s electric car subsidies.

The investigation could see the EU try to protect European carmakers by imposing punitive tariffs on vehicles it believes are unfairly sold at a lower price.

Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng reiterated Beijing’s “strong dissatisfaction” over the probe Monday.

“China once again expresses its high concern and strong dissatisfaction with the EU’s plan to launch an anti-subsidy investigation into Chinese electric vehicles,” He told a joint news conference with Dombrovskis following their talks.

“We hope that the EU side will deal with that issue with caution and continue to maintain a free and open market,” he added.

But Dombrovskis painted a more positive picture of Monday’s conversations, saying the two sides had agreed to “resume regular exchanges” over economic issues.

“China’s economic performance is critical also for a broader global economy,” he said.

“We therefore agreed to resume regular exchanges to discuss macroeconomic issues, reigniting the economic and financial dialogue and macroeconomic dialogue will be important in this regard and we look forward for these dialogues in coming months,” he added.

Vice Premier He also said the two sides had agreed to “strengthen communication and coordination on macroeconomic policies, work together to address global challenges such as the international food and energy crisis, and promote stable growth of the world economy.”

They will also restart an EU-China working group on alcoholic beverages, as well as “conduct dialogue and exchanges on the regulation of cosmetics,” He said. Both are areas of discord between the bloc and Beijing.

From ‘win-win’ to ‘lose-lose’

Earlier in the day, the EU trade commissioner said growing challenges for European business in China meant that “what many saw as a ‘win-win’ relationship in past decades could become a ‘lose-lose’ dynamic in the coming years.”

A new foreign relations law aimed, in part, at combating foreign sanctions and a recent update to China’s tough anti-espionage regulations are of “great concern to our business community,” Dombrovskis said.

“Their ambiguity allows too much room for interpretation,” he warned.

“This means European companies struggle to understand their compliance obligations: a factor that significantly decreases business confidence and deters new investments in China.”

Asked about Dombrovskis’s remarks, China’s foreign ministry insisted the country would “protect the legitimate rights and interests of individuals.”

“We will continue to provide a market-oriented, legal and international business environment for companies from all over the world to legally operate in China,” foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a regular briefing.

“China is not the source of risks, but rather a firm force for preventing and defusing risks,” he added.

The EU commissioner also criticized China’s refusal to condemn Russia’s war in Ukraine, which he said, “is affecting the country’s image, not only with European consumers, but also businesses.”

China has sought to position itself as a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict, while offering Moscow a vital diplomatic and financial lifeline as its international isolation deepens.

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Moscow in March, while Russian leader Vladimir Putin is due to visit China next month.

“Territorial integrity has always been a key principle for China in international diplomacy. Russia’s war is a blatant breach of this principle,” Dombrovskis said.

“So, it’s very difficult for us to understand China’s stance on Russia’s war against Ukraine, as it breaches China’s own fundamental principles.”

читати повністю »

Burkina Faso Junta Suspends French Magazine Over ‘Untruthful’ Articles

Burkina Faso’s military junta on Monday suspended the French news magazine Jeune Afrique for publishing “untruthful” articles that reported tension and discontent within the country’s armed forces, it said in a statement.

Jeune Afrique’s suspension marks the latest escalation in a crackdown on French media since the West African country fell under military rule last year.

The statement accused the publication of seeking to discredit armed forces and of manipulating information to “spread chaos” in the country, following two articles published over the past four days.

Jeune Afrique did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Relations between Burkina Faso and its former colonizer, France, have soured since frustrations over worsening insecurity linked to a jihadist insurgency spurred two military takeovers last year.

These tensions have led to the expulsion of diplomatic officials, including the French ambassador to the country, and fueled a backlash against foreign media.

The junta has already suspended French-funded broadcasters Radio France Internationale and France24 for allegedly giving voice to Islamist militants staging an insurgency across the Sahel region south of the Sahara.

French television channel La Chaine Info, of private broadcaster TF1, was suspended for three months in June for airing a report on the insurgency that “lacked objectivity.”

In April, two French journalists working for newspapers Le Monde and Liberation were expelled from the country.

читати повністю »

French Trial Begins in Police Couple Killings Linked to Extremists

It wasn’t the deadliest attack in Europe linked to the Islamic State group, but it was among the most disturbing: One evening in 2016, an assailant killed two police officers in their family home, in front of their 3-year-old son.

On Monday, a trial opened in a French counterterrorism court over the attack in the Paris suburb of Magnanville.

The attacker, Larossi Abballa, was shot to death by police. According to court documents, he told police negotiators that he was responding to an IS leader’s call to “kill miscreants at home with their families.”

A childhood friend of Abballa’s, Mohamed Aberouz, is on trial for complicity to terrorism-related murder, complicity to kidnapping and terrorist conspiracy. Aberouz, who says he is innocent, faces up to life in prison if convicted.

The killings came amid a wave of attacks in France linked to the Islamic State group and had a lasting effect on police officers around France. Some moved, changed services or resigned to protect their loved ones after the Magnanville killings.

“All of us are watching this trial,” Denis Jacob, general secretary of the police union Alternative Police Nationale, said on BFM television as the trial began.

According to court documents, Abballa broke into the home of police officers Jessica Schneider and Jean-Baptiste Salvaing before they returned from work. When Schneider came home, Abballa slit her throat in the living room, with the child present.

Salvaing texted her from the office to say, “I’m leaving,” documents say.

There was no response. He was stabbed upon arriving home.

Neighbors called police and the attacker said he was holding the couple’s 3-year-old hostage, according to the documents. He told a negotiator from a special police unit that he acted because the French government was preventing the faithful from joining the caliphate and stressed that he had not targeted civilians but representatives of the French state.

Police stormed the home, killed Abballa and rescued the child. The boy, now 10, has been raised by family members since, and is not expected to appear at the trial.

After more than five years of investigation and multiple arrests, only Aberouz is facing trial. Charges were initially brought against two others but later dropped.

Aberouz, now 30, was arrested a year after the events, when his DNA was found on the victims’ computer.

Taking the stand at the start of Monday’s trial, he told the court, “I want to express all my compassion for the families of victims,” according to public broadcaster France-Info. He condemned Abballa’s actions and insisted on his own innocence. “I hope to be listened to” during the trial, he said.

Aberouz initially disputed connections to IS, before acknowledging that the group corresponded to his convictions while denouncing its extremist methods, according to the court documents.

He maintains that he never went to the police couple’s home or helped in preparing the attack. He said the DNA found in the victims’ home could have been the result of his shaking hands with Abballa or riding in his car in the days before the attack.

Aberouz’s lawyer, Vincent Brengarth, said he would plead for acquittal. “There is no message in which he talks about an attack,” he told The Associated Press.

Aberouz was already sentenced to prison in another terrorism case, for his role in a failed gas canister attack near Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

Police hope that the Magnanville attack trial sheds light on the preparations for the attack and the methods used by those who plot to attack police officers.

A verdict is expected Oct. 10.

читати повністю »

Infamous Italian Mafia Boss Matteo Denaro Dies in Prison Hospital

Italian Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro, who was arrested in January after evading arrest for decades, died of colon cancer in a prison hospital, Italian prosecutors said Monday.

Denaro, 61, was captured in Palermo on January 16, following decades on the run as Italy’s most wanted fugitive. His colon cancer diagnosis and need for treatment was what led Italian officials to his location and arrest.

Denaro has been cited as the mastermind behind some of the Italian mafia’s most brutal crimes, including two bombings in 1992 that killed Italy’s top anti-Mafia prosecutors.

Prosecutors in Palermo are requesting an autopsy, despite it being known that Denaro had been dealing with illness at his time of death. According to doctors, Denaro had been in a coma since Friday and died on Monday morning at around 2 a.m. local time.

Denaro was a mafia boss in Cosa Nostra, which primarily operates on the Italian island of Sicily, where he had spent the last 30 years. Italian investigators had hoped that Denaro would comply upon capture and reveal secrets about Cosa Nostra, though the mafia boss made it clear that he had no intention of talking, and took vital mafia information with him to the grave.

Denaro’s arrest came after years of mafia leaders and lower-level members being arrested in a crackdown on the Sicilian based crime group, sparked by the 1992 bombings. His capture led Palermo’s chief prosecutor, Maurizio De Lucia, to say “We have captured the last of the massacre masterminds.”

Denaro’s burial is expected to take place later this week in Sicily, according to Italian media.

читати повністю »

EU Member States Weaken Proposal Setting New Emission Standards for Cars and Vans

European Union member countries have watered down a proposal by the bloc’s executive arm aimed at lowering vehicle emissions.

The European Commission had proposed last year updated pollution standards for new combustion engine vehicles that are expected to remain on European roads well after the 27-nation bloc bans their sale in 2035, with the aim of lowering emissions from tailpipes, brakes and tires.

The Commission hoped that new guidelines would help lower nitrogen oxide emissions from cars and vans by 35% compared to existing exhaust emission regulations for pollutants other than carbon dioxide, and by 56% from buses and trucks.

But several member states and automakers pushed for a weaker legislation and agreed Monday on a diluted compromise put forward by the rotating presidency of the EU currently held by Spain.

Member states instead decided to keep existing emissions limits and test conditions for cars and vans, and to lower them only for buses and heavy commercial vehicles. They also agreed to reduce brake particle emissions limits and tire abrasion rate emissions.

The standards are separate from but intended to complement the EU’s climate change rules for CO2.

“The Spanish presidency has been sensitive to the different demands and requests of the member states and we believe that, with this proposal, we achieved broad support, a balance in the investment costs of the manufacturing brands and we improve the environmental benefits derived from the regulation,” said Héctor Gómez Hernández, the acting Spanish minister for industry, trade and tourism.

The position adopted by member countries will be negotiated with the European Parliament once lawmakers have also defined their stance.

EU lawmakers and member states last year reached a deal to ban the sale of new gasoline and diesel cars and vans by 2035. The deal was part of the bloc’s “Fit for 55” package, which the European Commission set up to achieve the goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 55% over this decade.

Under the deal, carmakers will be required to reduce the emissions of new cars sold by 55% in 2030, compared to 2021, before reaching a 100% cut five years later.

The Commission thought that introducing new pollution norms for the last generation of combustion engines was crucial because vehicles that enter the market before the 2035 deadline will remain in service for years.

According to the EU, emissions from transportation are responsible for some 70,000 premature deaths each year in the bloc.

читати повністю »

Some London Police Put Down Guns After Colleague Charged with Murder

Some members of London’s police force are refusing to carry firearms after a colleague was charged with murder in the fatal shooting of an unarmed Black man.

Such a charge against a police officer is extremely rare in England.

The Telegraph newspaper reports that more than 300 officers, about 10% of the armed police, have refused to carry their weapons following their colleague’s charge.

The officers’ move has prompted Scotland Yard to ask the Ministry of Defense for help with counter-terrorism policing. The MoD would provide London with soldiers who would do specific tasks, but not routine police work.

Only about one in ten police officers in London carries a weapon, after undergoing intensive training.

Chris Kaba, 23, was the unarmed Black man who was killed in an encounter with police last year.  The Associated Press reports Kaba was shot by single bullet as he sat in his car.

The officer accused of killing Kaba has not been publicly named. His trial is expected to begin next year.

читати повністю »

Kosovo Observes Day of Mourning After Monastery Siege

Kosovo was observing a day of mourning Monday, following the death of a Kosovar Albanian police officer killed by Serbian gunmen, who then barricaded themselves at an Orthodox monastery north of the capital, Pristina.  

It was not immediately clear who supports the approximately 30 gunmen who were dressed in combat uniforms when they used an armored vehicle to storm the monastery in Banjska and engage in a standoff Sunday with Kosovo police. 

Most of the gunmen were able to escape the monastery Sunday evening, but at least three of them were killed and two arrested.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti each blamed the other for the clash.  

The U.S. ambassador in Pristina condemned what he called the “orchestrated, violent attacks” on the Kosovo police. In a statement, Jeffrey Hovenier said, “The perpetrators must and will be held accountable and brought to justice.”  

Separately, Caroline Ziadeh, the head of UNMIK, the U.N. Mission in Kosovo, called for the perpetrators “to be held accountable.” Ziadeh made her comments on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. 

Serbia and Kosovo, its former province, have clashed for decades. A 1998–1999 war between them left more than 10,000 people dead, mostly Kosovo Albanians.  

Meanwhile, in Russia, a Kremlin spokesman said it was monitoring what he called the tense and potentially dangerous situation in Kosovo. 

Kosovo declared independence in 2008, but Belgrade has refused to recognize the move. Russia has stood by Serbia’s non-recognition of Kosovo.

читати повністю »

EU Businesses ‘Questioning Their Position’ in China: Trade Commissioner

European businesses in China are increasingly questioning their positions in the face of tough new security laws and a politicization of trade, an EU commissioner warned in Beijing on Monday.

“European companies are concerned with China’s direction of travel,” Valdis Dombrovskis said in a speech at the capital’s Tsinghua University.

“Many are questioning their position in this country.”

He pointed to a new foreign relations law and a recent update to China’s anti-espionage laws as being of “great concern to our business community.”

“Their ambiguity allows too much room for interpretation,” he warned.

“This means European companies struggle to understand their compliance obligations: a factor that significantly decreases business confidence and deters new investments in China,” Dombrovskis said.

The EU trade commissioner is on a multi-day visit to the world’s second-biggest economy, where he is set to meet senior economic officials and press the bloc’s case that it is not seeking an economic decoupling from China.

His trip follows a report by the Chamber of Commerce of the European Union last week that showed business confidence was at one of its lowest levels in decades.

“For decades, European companies thrived in China,” the Chamber’s president Jens Eskelund said.

But, after three “turbulent” years, he said, “many have re-evaluated their basic assumptions about the Chinese market”.

And it comes in the face of mounting trade tensions between the EU and China, following Brussels’ decision to launch a probe into Beijing’s electric car subsidies.

The investigation could see the EU try to protect European carmakers by imposing punitive tariffs on vehicles it believes are unfairly sold at a lower price.

The day after that announcement, the Chinese commerce ministry hit back at the EU’s “naked protectionism” and said the measures “will have a negative impact on China-EU economic and trade relations”.

Speaking in Beijing on Monday, Dombrovskis insisted China remained an attractive investment opportunity for European businesses.

“The EU and China both benefited immensely from being open to the world,” he said. “Trading and cooperating across borders helped to shape our economic and geopolitical strength.”

But, he said, growing challenges for business risked turning “what many saw as a ‘win-win’ relationship in past decades could become a ‘lose-lose’ dynamic in the coming years”.

Ukraine war

China’s refusal to condemn Russia’s war in Ukraine also poses a “reputational risk”, he said.

Beijing’s position “is affecting the country’s image, not only with European consumers, but also businesses”, he said.

China has sought to position itself as a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict, while offering Moscow a vital diplomatic and financial lifeline as its international isolation deepens.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin is due to visit China next month.

“China always advocates for each country being free to choose its own development path,” Dombrovskis said.

“So, it’s very difficult for us to understand China’s stance on Russia’s war against Ukraine, as it breaches China’s own fundamental principles.”

читати повністю »

Turkey’s Erdogan to Meet Azeri’s Aliyev as Thousands Flee Karabakh

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is to meet his ally Azeri President Ilham Aliyev on Monday, as thousands of ethnic Armenians began an exodus from Nagorno-Karabakh after Azerbaijan defeated the breakaway region’s fighters last week.

Erdogan will pay a one-day visit to Azerbaijan’s autonomous Nakhchivan exclave – a strip of Azeri territory nestled between Armenia, Iran and Turkey – to discuss with Aliyev the situation in the Karabakh region, the Turkish president’s office said.

The Armenians of Karabakh, a territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but previously beyond its control, were forced into a ceasefire last week after a 24-hour military operation by the much larger Azerbaijani military.

On Sunday, the Nagorno-Karabakh leadership told Reuters the region’s 120,000 Armenians did not want to live as part of Azerbaijan for fear of persecution and ethnic cleansing and started fleeing the area.

Russia’s RIA news agency cited early on Monday an Armenian government statement saying that more than 1,500 people had crossed into Armenia from Nagorno-Karabkah as of midnight.

Those with fuel had started to drive down the Lachin corridor toward the border with Armenia, according to a Reuters reporter in the Karabakh capital known as Stepanakert by Armenia and Khankendi by Azerbaijan.

Reuters pictures showed dozens of cars driving out of the capital toward the corridor’s mountainous curves.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two wars over the enclave in 30 years — with Azerbaijan gaining back swathes of territory in and around Nagorno-Karabakh in a six-week conflict in 2020.

Erdogan, who backed the Azeris with weaponry in the 2020 conflict, said last week he supported the aims of Azerbaijan’s latest military operation but played no part in it.

Armenia says more than 200 people were killed and 400 wounded in last week’s Azeri operation, a hostility condemned by the United States and other Western allies of Armenia.

On Sunday, Azerbaijan’s defense ministry said it had confiscated more military equipment from Armenian separatists, including rockets, artillery shells, mines and ammunition.

The Karabakh Armenians are not accepting Azerbaijan’s promise to guarantee their rights as the region is integrated.

Armenia called for an immediate deployment of a U.N. mission to monitor human rights and security in the region.

“99.9% prefer to leave our historic lands,” David Babayan, an adviser to Samvel Shahramanyan, president of the self-styled Republic of Artsakh, told Reuters.

читати повністю »

Ukrainian Train Is Lifeline Connecting Kyiv With the Front Line

Among the hundreds of trains crisscrossing Ukraine’s elaborate railway network every day, the Kyiv-Kramatorsk train stands apart, shrouded in solemn silence as passengers anticipate their destination.

Every day, around seven in the morning, passengers of this route leave the relative safety of the capital and head east to front-line areas where battles between Ukrainian forces and Russian troops rage and Russian strikes are frequent with imprecise missiles that slam into residential areas.

The passengers are a mix of men and women that offer up a slice of Ukrainian society these days. They include soldiers returning to the front after a brief leave, women making the trip to reunite for a few days with husbands and boyfriends serving on the battlefields, and residents returning to check on homes in the Donetsk region.

They are all lost in thought and rarely converse with each other.

Nineteen-year-old Marta Banakh anxiously awaits the train’s next brief stop at one of its nine intermediate stations on the way to Kramatorsk. She disembarks at the station for a quick cigarette break, shifting her weight back and forth from one foot to the other. Her family doesn’t know she has made this journey from western Ukraine, crossing the entire country to meet her boyfriend, who has been serving in the infantry since the onset of Russia’s full-fledged invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. He rarely gets a break, and Banakh has decided to surprise him with a visit.

“I worry that every day could be his last, and we may never see each other again,” she said wearing her hair down, crowned with a pearl-studded headband.

It’s the only high-speed daily train that drives to Kramatorsk. The city is about 30 kilometers (less than 20 miles) from the front line, which makes it susceptible to Russian strikes. And just a few kilometers away from the city, battles near the Russian-held city of Bakhmut rage for the second year.

The war has become an integral part of the lives of millions of Ukrainians, and the country’s vast railway system has remained operational despite the war. Night trains that rattle across the country still welcome customers with hot tea and clean sheets in the sleeping compartments. The trains also carry cargo, aid and gear.

The popularity of the Kyiv-Kramatorsk route highlights the reality of war.

Around 126,000 passengers used this route during the summer months this year, according to national railway operator Ukrzaliznytsia. It holds the fourth position for passenger volume among all intercity high-speed trains and maintains one of the highest occupancy rates — 94% — among all Ukrainian trains.

The connection was suspended for six months early in the war. The halt in April last year followed a Russian missile strike on the Kramatorsk railway station while passengers were waiting for evacuation. The strike killed 53 people and wounded 135 others in one of the deadliest Russian attacks.

Alla Makieieva, 49, used to regularly travel on this route even before the war. Returning from a business trip to the capital and back to Dobropillia, a town not far from Kramatorsk, she reflects on the changes between then and now.

“People have changed, now they seem more somber,” she says. “We’ve already learned to live with these missiles. We’ve become friends,” she joked. “In Kyiv, the atmosphere is completely different; people smile more often.”

Kyiv is regularly attacked by Russian missiles and drones. But unlike Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region, the capital has powerful air defense protection, which gives residents an illusion of safety.

As the morning light gradually gives way to the midday sun, it fills the spacious train carriages in warm radiance. The train shelves are mostly filled with military backpacks and small bags. Occasionally, a waiter breaks the silence in the aisle, offering coffee, tea, and snacks. Along the way, one can order dishes like bolognese pasta or a cappuccino.

The high-speed train ride from Kyiv to Kramatorsk costs approximately $14. In nearly seven hours, passengers cover a distance of around 700 kilometers (400 miles).

Twenty-six-year-old Oleksandr Kyrylenko sits in the train’s lobby with a coffee in hand, gazing thoughtfully out of the window as the landscapes change rapidly.

It’s his first time heading to the front line, and he admits he didn’t expect to travel to the epicenter of the grinding war with such comfort.

He had been working as a warehouse manager in Poland when Russia invaded Ukraine. “I helped as much as I could,” he said. “Then I decided I needed to go myself.”

“There is no fear. I simply want it to end sooner,” he says of the war, dressed in military attire.

His parents were not thrilled about this idea, but this summer the young man returned to Ukraine and immediately went to the military enlistment office.

“It even feels lighter on my conscience,” he said, adding that this decision came naturally to him. “Human resources are running out. Something needs to be done about it.”

The train arrives at its destination on time, and the platform quickly fills with people.

Some, wearing military-colored backpacks slung over their shoulders, stride forward swiftly, while others linger on the platform in long-awaited embraces.

Twenty-year-old Sofiia Sidorchuk embraces her boyfriend, who has been serving since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. The 20-year-old soldier refrains from disclosing his name for security reasons.

He holds Sidorchuk tightly, as if trying to make up for all the lost time during their longest separation in seven years of the relationship. “We missed each other,”  

Sidorchuk explains her decision to come from the northwestern Rivne region to Kramatorsk.

“It’s love,” added her partner, wearing military fatigues.

His commander granted him a few days alone with his beloved to recharge. In five days, he will embark on a new assault mission.

читати повністю »

Macron: France Pulling Ambassador, Troops From Niger After Coup

French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday, France is imminently to withdraw its ambassador from Niger, followed by the French military contingent in the next months, in the wake of the coup in the west African country that ousted the pro-Paris president.

Macron’s announcement appeared to end two months of French defiance over the coup, which had seen Paris keep its ambassador in place in Niamey despite him being ordered by the coup leaders to go.

“France has decided to withdraw its ambassador. In the next hours our ambassador and several diplomats will return to France,” Macron told French television in an interview, without giving details over how this would be organized.  

Niger’s military rulers have banned “French aircraft” from flying over the country’s airspace, according to the Agency for the Safety of Air Navigation in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA) website. It was not clear if this would affect the ambassador being flown out.

Macron added that military cooperation was “over,” and French troops would withdraw in “the months and weeks to come” with a full pullout “by the end of the year.”

“In the weeks and months to come, we will consult with the putschists, because we want this to be done peacefully,” he added.

France keeps about 1,500 soldiers in Niger as part of an anti-jihadis deployment in the Sahel region. Macron said the post-coup authorities “no longer wanted to fight against terrorism.”  

Niger’s military leaders told French ambassador Sylvain Itte he had to leave the country after they overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26.  

But a 48-hour ultimatum for him to leave, issued in August, passed with him still in place as the French government refused to comply, or to recognize the military regime as legitimate.

Earlier this month, Macron said the ambassador and his staff were “literally being held hostage” in the mission eating military rations with no food deliveries taking place.  

Macron in the interview reaffirmed France’s position that Bazoum was being held “hostage” and remained the “sole legitimate authority” in the country.

“He was targeted by this coup d’état because he was carrying out courageous reforms and because there was a largely ethnic settling of scores and a lot of political cowardice,” he argued.

The coup against Bazoum was the third such putsch in the region in as many years, following similar actions in Mali and Burkina Faso in 2021 and 2022 that also forced the pullouts of French troops.

But the Niger coup is particularly bruising for Macron after he sought to make a special ally of Niamey, and a hub for France’s presence in the region following the Mali coup. The U.S. also has over 1,000 troops in the country.

Macron regularly speaks by phone to Bazoum who remains under house arrest in the presidential residence.

The French president has repeatedly spoken of making a historic change to France’s post-colonial imprint in Africa, but analysts say Paris is losing influence across the continent especially in the face of a growing Chinese, Turkish and Russian presence.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) threatened military action to restore Bazoum but so far, its threats, which were strongly supported by France, have not transferred into action.

“We are not here to be hostages of the putschists,” said Macron. “The putschists are the allies of disorder,” he added.

Macron said that jihadi attacks were causing “dozens of deaths every day in Mali” after its coup and that now such assaults had resumed in Niger.  

“I am very worried about this region,” he said.

“France, sometimes alone, has taken all its responsibilities and I am proud of our military. But we are not responsible for the political life of these countries, and we draw all the consequences.”

читати повністю »

Deadly Russian Attacks Target Ukraine’s Kherson Region

Two people were killed, and many were wounded from Russian airstrikes Sunday, in southern Ukraine’s Kherson province, the region’s governor, Oleksandr Prokudin, reported.

Russian forces struck residences in the city of Beryslav, killing a woman and wounding three people, including a police officer, he said. 

Another airstrike killed a 67-year-old man in the village of Lvove, Prokudin said. 

Both communities are in the Ukrainian part of the Kherson region on the western bank of the Dnipro River. 

The Russians regularly shell cities and villages, including the city of Kherson, from across the river. 

In Russia, a Ukrainian drone struck an administrative building in the city of Kursk and “insignificantly damaged” the roof, regional Gov. Roman Starovoit reported. 

Unconfirmed media reports both in Russia and Ukraine said the building housed the offices of the Kursk branch of Russia’s main security agency, the Federal Security Service, also known as the FSB.

The drone strike Sunday took place as residents commemorated the anniversary of the regional capital’s founding. No casualties were reported in Russia. 

There was no immediate comment from the Ukrainian authorities, who usually don’t acknowledge responsibility for attacks on Russian territory.

As Ukraine’s defensive war against Russian aggression enters its 20th month, the Ukrainian military released additional footage Sunday from the battle for the village of Andriivka, which Kyiv’s forces say they reclaimed September 15. They consider it an important steppingstone to liberating the ravaged city of Bakhmut.

The new video, released by Maksym Zhorin, deputy commander of Ukraine’s Third Separate Assault Brigade, shows Ukrainian fighters advancing through “a forest belt scorched by the fighting,” CNN reports.

The fighters were engaged “in close combat and clearing out enemy dugouts and holes,” the brigade said. When soldiers entered the streets of Andriivka — they found the village had been “wiped out.”

Ukraine’s abducted children

Out of 19,500 Ukrainian children abducted by the Russians, only approximately 380 children have been returned to Ukraine, said Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska in an interview on the CBS show “Face the Nation.” 

“These are kids. Sometimes they do not fully understand what’s going on. They are easy to manipulate,” said the first lady. “Almost all children we managed to return to Ukraine told us they were told no one cares about them in Ukraine and that no one is looking for them.” 

Zelenska said that Russia is uprooting these children, preparing them for adoption on the territory of the Russian Federation. She said that older children have some understanding of the situation, but small children are “susceptible to Russian disinformation.” 

During Ukraine’s address at the U.N. General Assembly last week, Zelenska said, “We proposed to develop a new system of joint effort that would make Russia return Ukrainian children to their country.” 

Ukraine grain

A second shipment of Ukrainian wheat reached Turkey Sunday, according to Agence France-Presse. Russia had threatened to attack vessels headed to or from Ukraine. Ukraine, however, is now testing shipping waters controlled by NATO members Bulgaria and Romania. The Palau-flagged ship, Aroyat, is headed to Egypt.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov asserted Saturday that the Black Sea Grain Initiative allowing safe passage for Ukrainian exports will not be revived and castigated a 10-point peace plan proposed by Ukraine, saying both were “not realistic.”

Lavrov addressed the U.N. General Assembly at the annual gathering of world leaders at U.N. headquarters in New York last week. With a note of global diplomacy, Ukraine and its Western allies did too, seeking to rally support for Kyiv on its defensive war against Russian aggression.

“It is completely not feasible,” Lavrov said of the peace plan initiated by Kyiv. “It is not possible to implement this. It’s not realistic and everybody understands this, but at the same time, they say this is the only basis for negotiations.”

Lavrov said the conflict would be resolved on the battlefield if Kyiv and the West persisted in that position.

Lavrov also said Moscow left the Black Sea Grain Initiative because promises made to Russia had not been fulfilled.

He also lashed out at “the U.S. and its subordinate Western collective,” for stoking conflicts “which artificially divide humanity into hostile blocks and hamper the achievement of overall aims. They’re doing everything they can to prevent the formation of a genuine multipolar world order,” he said.

During his speech at the U.N General Assembly, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of weaponizing food, energy and even children against Ukraine and “the international rules-based order” at large.

U.S. President Joe Biden struck a similar note, while urging world leaders to keep up support for Ukraine. “If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure?” he said.

Pope Francis suggested Saturday that some countries were “playing games” with Ukraine by first supplying weapons and then mulling on whether they should back out of their promises.

The pope’s comments to a reporter’s question, aboard a plane returning from the French port city of Marseilles, reflected frustration that his efforts to bring about peace in Ukraine had not succeeded.

Francis has condemned the international arms trade in general but said last year that it  

is morally legitimate for nations to supply weapons to Ukraine’s defensive war against  

Russian aggression.

Several countries, including the United States, face domestic political pressure to stop or reduce spending on military aid to Ukraine.

Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

читати повністю »