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Russian court sentences Gulag historian to 3.5 years in prison

Issued on: 22/07/2020 – 15:17

A Russian court on Wednesday sentenced respected Gulag historian Yur..

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A Russian court on Wednesday sentenced respected Gulag historian Yury Dmitriyev to more than three years in prison in a controversial sexual abuse case, his lawyer said.

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Dmitriyev, head of the prominent rights group Memorial in Karelia in northwestern Russia, spent decades locating and exhuming mass graves of people killed under Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin's rule.

Memorial said the prosecution of the researcher, who was tried behind closed doors, is part of a growing crackdown on dissenters.

Defence lawyer Viktor Anufriyev told reporters outside the courthouse in the northwestern city of Petrozavodsk that the judge found his client guilty of sexual assault against his adopted daughter and sentenced him to "three years and six months in a strict-regime penal colony".

The lawyer said he had not yet received the written verdict and it was possible that with time served in pre-trial detention Dmitriyev, 64, could be free in September.

He had been facing up to 15 years under the charges.

Anufriyev said the historian had been cleared of pornography charges that stem from his first criminal case.

The researcher was first arrested in late 2016 on child pornography charges, then acquitted in 2018, and then arrested again in a new sexual assault case.

The prosecution claimed that the historian sexually abused his adopted daughter, charges he denies.

"There are no doubts that Yury DmitrRead More – Source

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Europe

Tens of thousands protest in Belarus despite police detentions

Issued on: 27/09/2020 – 20:45

About 100,000 demonstrators marched in the Belarusian capital callin..

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About 100,000 demonstrators marched in the Belarusian capital calling for the authoritarian presidents ouster, some wearing cardboard crowns to ridicule him, on Sunday as the protests that have rocked the country marked their 50th consecutive day.

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Protests also took place in nine other cities, underlining the wide extent of dismay and anger with President Alexander Lukashenko, who has stifled opposition and independent news media during 26 years in power.

The protest wave began after the Aug. 9 presidential election that officials said gave Lukashenko a sixth term in office with a crushing 80% of the vote. The opposition and some poll workers say the results were manipulated.

Lukashenko has defied calls for him to step down and many prominent members of a council formed with the aim of arranging a transfer of power have been arrested or have fled the country. The protests have persisted despite the daily detentions of demonstrators.

The Interior Ministry said about 200 demonstrators were arrested throughout the country Sunday. Police and troops blocked off the center of the city with armored vehicles and water cannons.

Luksahenko stepped up his defiance this week by unexpectedly taking the oath of office for a new term in an unannounced ceremony, leading many to mock him as harboring royal-like pretensions.

Some of the estimated 100,000 people who braved rain and strong winds to march in a two-kilometer-long (over a mile-long) column wore crowns made of cardboard and bore placards calling him “the naked king.”

Lukashenko's main election opponent, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, praised protesters' determination and urged them not to let their energies flag.

“Today is the 50th day of our protest and the Belarusian people have again come out on the streets,” she said in a statement from Lithuania, where she went into exile after the election. “We have come to stop this regime and we will do this peacefully.”

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‘Lukashenko has to go,’ says France’s Macron

Issued on: 27/09/2020 – 08:13

French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday that Belarus's lea..

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French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday that Belarus's leader Alexander Lukashenko must step down, after the EU refused to recognise him as the legitimate president of the ex-Soviet country.

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"It's clear he has to go," Macron told French weekly the Journal du Dimanche ahead of a trip to EU states Lithuania and Latvia, which border Belarus.

"It is a crisis of power, an authoritarian power that cannot accept the logic of democracy and which is hanging on by force. It is clear that Lukashenko has to go."

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Belarus since August 9 elections which opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya says she won, despite Lukashenko's insistence he took a landslide victory.

The embattled leader has launched a brutal crackdown against the protesters — drawing condemnation from the West, but support from Moscow.

This week he triggered new demonstrations and fresh Western criticism when he held a secret inauguration for himself.

Macron on Sunday said he had been "impressed by the courage of the protesters".

"They know the risks they are taking by demonstrating every weekend, and yet, they are pushing forward with the movement to make democracy come alive in this country that has been deprived of it for so long," he said.

"Women in particular, who march every Saturday, command our respect," he added.

More than 90 people — most of them women — were arrested on Saturday at opposition rallies, according to one NGO.

Russia's role

Fresh protests were sparked by the surprise announcement on Wednesday that Lukashenko had been sworn in for a sixth term in office.

The European Union said the strongman's inauguration lacked "democratic legitimacy" and refused to recognise him as president.

The bloc has said it is reviewing relations with Belarus, with the issue to be debated at an EU summit on Thursday and Friday in Brussels.

EU ministers decided in principle last month to impose sanctions against the regime — but Cyprus has been blocking approval until the group agrees similar measures against Turkey over gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.

Meanwhile, Baltic EU states Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have expanded their own sanctions against Belarus.

Macron sets off on MRead More – Source

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Coronavirus deaths could reach 2 million, WHO warns

Issued on: 26/09/2020 – 07:46

The global death toll from COVID-19 could double to 2 million before..

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The global death toll from COVID-19 could double to 2 million before a successful vaccine is widely used and could be even higher without concerted action to curb the pandemic, an official at the World Health Organization said on Friday.

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"Unless we do it all, (2 million deaths) … is not only imaginable, but sadly very likely," Mike Ryan, head of the U.N. agency's emergencies programme, told a briefing on Friday.

The number of deaths about nine months since the novel coronavirus was discovered in China is nearing 1 million.

"We are not out of the woods anywhere, we are not out of the woods in Africa," said Ryan.

He said young people should not be blamed for a recent increase in infections despite growing concerns that they are driving its spread after restrictions and lockdowns were eased around the world.

"I really hope we don't get into finger wagging: it's all because of the youth," said Ryan. "The last thing a young person needs is an old person pontificating and wagging the finger."

Rather, indoor gatherings of people of all ages were driving the epidemic, he said.

The WHO is continuing talks with China about its possible involvement in the COVAX financing scheme designed to guarantee fast and equitable access globally to COVID-19 vaccines, a week after the deadline for committing passed.

"We're in discussions with China about the role they may play as we go forward," said Bruce Aylward, WHO senior adviser and head of the ACT-Accelerator programme to back vaccines, treatments and diagnostics against COVID-19.

He confirmed that Taiwan has signed up to the scheme, even though it is not a WHO member, brinRead More – Source

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