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Belarus leader Lukashenko holds secret inauguration amid continuing protests

Issued on: 23/09/2020 – 15:30

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko took the oath of office at..

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Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko took the oath of office at a secret ceremony on Wednesday in a move his opponents attributed to his desire to avoid crowds of demonstrators who have held historic protests against his disputed re-election.

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Lukashenko has faced massive demonstrations against his rule since claiming victory with more than 80 percent in a presidential election on August 9, with tens of thousands marching at the latest protest in the capital Minsk on Sunday.

The date of his inauguration for a sixth term had not been announced, but on Wednesday morning, the Belta state news agency broke the news that "Alexander Lukashenko has taken office as President of Belarus."

Belta said the ceremony was taking place "in these minutes" in the Palace of Independence where the president has his offices and which has been a focus of demonstrations.

The announcement came after independent media reported that Lukashenko's motorcade had raced through the capital, prompting speculation that the inauguration was due to take place.

The ceremony was not shown live on state television.

"If the inauguration had been announced in advance, 200,000 demonstrators would have gathered outside his palace," said Ales Belyatsky, head of the Viasna rights group, which monitors political prisoners.

He predicted Lukashenko's assuming office while seen by many as an "illegitimate president" would trigger "even larger mass protests."

The furtive move prompted mockery from Lukashenko's political foes.

"Such a farce. Forged elections. Forged inauguration," tweeted Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius.

"Where are the rejoicing citizens? Where is the diplomatic corps?" questioned opposition activist and former minister Pavel Latushko on social media, likening the ceremony to a gangster convention.

Rights lawyer Garri Pogonyailo said Lukashenko behaved like a "coward" and "like any dark deed, tried to do this in secret."

Despite its secretive nature, the ceremony featured the usual pomp and several hundred guests, according to the presidential website.

'Devilish' tactics

Belta published photographs of the 66-year-old leader, in power since 1994, swearing the oath of allegiance at a podium in a blue suit with his hand on a copy of the Constitution, watched by officials and state media journalists.

In his address, Lukashenko preened himself on overcoming the political crisis, saying he and his allies had "prevented a catastrophe."

Belarus has faced an "unprecedented challenge" from "devilishly sophisticated" tactics directed from abroad, he said.

"But we were one of the very few, maybe even the only one, where the colour revolution didn't work out," he said.

He called this "the choice of the Belarusians who don't want to lose their country."

Riot police have harshly detained thousands of protesters who have reported torture and abuse in custody, prompting international condemnation and proposed EU sanctions.

In a bizarre episode, Lukashenko viewed one protest rally from his helicopter, describing the demonstrators as "rats," and later disembarkRead More – Source

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Covid: Thousands protest in France against proposed new vaccine pass

A new draft law would in effect ban unvaccinated people from public life.

Demonstrators in the capital, Paris, held placards emblazoned with phrases like “no to vaccine passes”.

Interior Ministry officials said 34 people were arrested and some 10 police officers were injured after the protests turned violent in some places.

The bill, which passed its first reading in the lower house of France’s parliament on Thursday, would remove the option of showing a negative Covid-19 test to gain access to a host of public venues.

Instead, people would have to be fully vaccinated to visit a range of spaces, including bars and restaurants.

The government says it expects the new rules to come into force on 15 January, although the opposition-dominated Senate could delay the process.

But demonstrators on Saturday accused the government of trampling on their freedoms and treating citizens unequally.

Others targeted their anger at the president, Emmanuel Macron, over comments he made earlier this week in relation to unvaccinated citizens, telling Le Parisian newspaper that he wanted to “piss them off”.

One protester, hospital administrator Virginie Houget, told the Reuters news agency that Mr Macron’s remarks were “the last straw”.

And in Paris, where some 18,000 people marched against the new law, demonstrators responded to his coarse language by chanting: “We’ll piss you off”.

TV images showed altercations between protesters and police turning violent in some places. In Montpellier officers used teargas during clashes with the demonstrators.

Turnout for the protests was estimated to be about four times higher than the last major demonstrations on 18 December, when some 25,500 people marched across the country.

But despite the vocal protests, opposition to the new measures is not widespread and recent polling suggests the vast majority of people back the vaccine pass.

France is one of the most highly vaccinated countries in Europe, with more than 90% of over-12s eligible for the shot fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, new coronavirus infections are rising rapidly across France as the new Omicron variant takes hold.

The country recorded more than 300,000 new cases for the second time in a week on Friday and admissions to intensive care wards are rising steadily, putting healthcare systems under strain.

Some hospitals have reported that some 85% of ICU patients are not vaccinated against Covid-19.

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Covid-19: ‘There is no choice between lives and livelihoods,’ OECD chief Gurría says

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:26

As European countries move into their second Covid-19 lockdowns of t..

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:26

As European countries move into their second Covid-19 lockdowns of the year, the head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development backs measures seen by many as tough. Ángel Gurría tells FRANCE 24: "If you win the battle against the virus first, you will have less economic consequences." He adds that "there is no choice between lives and livelihoods; it's a false dilemma".

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Mexican economist Ángel Gurría has been Secretary-General of the OECD since 2006 – throughout the global financial crash and subsequent recovery.

With hopes now high for viable vaccines against Covid-19, he's telling world leaders that the solutions to health and economic crises must carry the elements of our solutions to the environmental crisis too: "The single most important inter-generational responsibility is with the planet. That means the recovery, where we are going to make investments that have an impact for the next 30, 40 years, must absolutely have the sustainability of the planet in mind".

On the recently announced Pfizer vaccine, Gurría says: "It is a game changer […] The possibility of a vaccine being close is of enormous consequence. We still have to wait for it to be finalised, approved and distributed in sufficient amounts that it can get everywhere, so we are calculating that we are going to spend most of 2021 still living with the virus. But it changes expectations; the whole mood has improved considerably since the announcement."

On the refusal of Donald Trump, leader of the OECD's biggest single funder, to concede defeat in the US presidential election, Gurría sounds an upbeat note: "I believe that we will have an orderly transition of power in the United States come 20th January 2021. I believe in the institutions in the United States, I believe that the political forces in the United States will eventually align."

Finally, as talks drag on over a new Brexit deal on the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom, Gurría says he still expects a deal to be struck: "I believe that the common interest will lead to a deal […] The impact in Europe is going to be limited to the trade with the UK. The impact in the UK is going to be very serious, not only because of the flows of trade and flows of investment, but also because the overall business mood will be affected. So I am still counting on a deal."

Produced by Mathilde Bénézet

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Attacks in France and Austria: Europe’s response to extremism

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:40Modified: 13/11/2020 – 17:42

TALKING EUROPE © FRANCE 24
This Friday..

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:40Modified: 13/11/2020 – 17:42

TALKING EUROPE
TALKING EUROPE © FRANCE 24

This Friday marks the fifth anniversary of the Paris terror attacks, in which 130 people were killed. The last few weeks have seen more bloodshed, with attacks in the Paris region, in Nice and in the Austrian capital Vienna. European leaders are looking for solutions: ways to stop hate being preached, broadcast and acted upon, while defending individual freedoms of speech and of conscience. In our debate we ask two leading members of the European Parliament, from France and from Austria, what they believe should be done.

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Produced by Yi Song and Perrine Desplats

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Our guests

  • Andreas SCHIEDER, Austrian MEP, Socialists & Democrats
  • Nathalie LOISEAU, French MEP, Renew Europe

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