PolEU, Author at POLSKA УКРАЇНА

Hundreds Protest Opposition Candidates’ Lockout in Belarus

Hundreds marched in Minsk Tuesday after Belarus’ election officials refused to register two top opposition candidates for the August 9 presidential election. “We are categorically for honest and fair elections,” said one protester. It is unclear how many people were arrested Tuesday. The election commission allowed five candidates to put their names on the ballot but denied spots to opposition candidates Valery Tsepkalo and Viktor Babariko. Both are seen as the only serious competitors to longtime incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko. Tsepkalo is a former Belarusian ambassador to the United States. Election officials claim most of the names on the petition to place him on the ballot are invalid.Police officers detain protesters during a rally against the removal of opposition candidates from the presidential elections in Minsk, Belarus, Tuesday, July 14, 2020.Babariko, the former head of a Russia-owned bank, was jailed last month for alleged money laundering, a charge he denies.  European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borell says excluding Tsepkalo and Babariko “limits the possibility for the Belarusian people to express their will and already undermines the overall integrity and democratic nature of the elections.” Political observers say leaving the two off the ballot assures Lukashenko of another term. He has ruled Belarus with an iron fist for 26 years, stifling free speech and cracking down on the opposition and independent media. Lukashenko has tried to overcome his image as an authoritarian by drifting away from Russia and seeking better ties with the United States and European leaders.  

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Catalonia’s Government Orders Coronavirus Lockdown, Bypassing Judge’s Ruling

Spain’s Catalonia regional government pushed ahead Tuesday with FILE – Migrants who are seeking seasonal work stand in a square in Lleida, Spain, July 2, 2020.”What is proposed today goes far beyond a simple limitation of movement and seriously affects constitutionally recognized rights,” Judge Elena Garcia-Munoz Alarcos said. Quim Torra, president of Catalonia, stood firm and refused to accept the ruling. “We cannot understand that there are bureaucratic obstacles in decisions that are taken for the health and life of citizens,” Torra told a news conference. “It’s a luxury to lose time with legal resolutions. We cannot allow this.” The regional government approved a decree Monday giving it legal backing to enact coronavirus lockdown measures, resulting in Tuesday’s confinement orders. The mixed messages between the judge and the regional government have caused confusion among Lleida’s 160,000 residents, with the city’s mayor, Miquel Pueyo, being unsure as to whether to tell people to stay at home or uphold the judge’s decision. Regardless of the outcome, Lleida’s residents will still be prohibited from leaving the region, as per a travel ban implemented July 4. Everyone in Catalonia is also held to a compulsory mask-wearing mandate put in place in early July. Violations result in a $114 fine. As of Tuesday, Spain had the highest number of coronavirus cases in the European Union, with 65,086 in Catalonia alone, and nearly 256,000 in Spain overall. 
 

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France to Make Wearing Masks Compulsory in Enclosed Public Spaces, Macron Says

France will soon require people to wear masks in enclosed public places to prevent a rebound in COVID-19 cases, French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday.After a two-month lockdown starting in March, France began easing restrictions in May, and reopened bars and restaurants in early June. But in recent weeks, France’s virus reproduction rate has crept up to a point each person with COVID-19 is infecting at least one other person. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.”We have some signs that it’s coming back a bit,” Macron said in an interview Tuesday with French broadcasters. “Faced with that, we must anticipate and prepare.”While reopening, France recommended people use masks but did not require them, except on public transit and in public spaces where social distancing is not possible — a requirement that did not apply to shopping in stores.”I want us, in the next few weeks, to make masks compulsory in enclosed public places,” Macron said. “I ask fellow citizens to wear masks as much as possible when they are outside, and especially so when they are in an enclosed space.”Around 30,000 people have died of COVID-19 in France, which has recorded close to 200,000 confirmed cases, according to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 dashboard.

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French President Presides Over Scaled Back Bastille Day Celebration

Fighter jets streaked across the skies over Paris Tuesday, creating trails of blue-white-and-red smoke as France celebrated a somewhat subdued Bastille Day.The country’s biggest national holiday was recalibrated this year to celebrate the heroes of the coronavirus pandemic, with ambulance drivers, supermarket cashiers, postal workers and medics among the many honored.This year’s commemorations also paid homage to former President Charles de Gaulle, 80 years after the historic appeal he made to opponents of France’s Nazi occupiers that gave birth to the French Resistance.Additionally, a helicopter flyover featured vehicles which transported COVID-19 patients in distress. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.Soldiers hold a French flag during a rehearsal for the Bastille Day parade on the Concorde square in Paris, July 13, 2020.In a traditional speech to the military Monday ahead of the celebration, French  President Emmanuel Macron said the celebration offers a glimmer of hope, but people should remain vigilant amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.Normally world leaders or other dignitaries attend the celebrations. But guests at this year’s event are nurses, doctors, supermarket and nursing home workers, mask makers, lab technicians and others who kept France going during its strict nationwide lockdown.Families of medical workers who died of the infection also have a place in the stands.Bastille Day marks the anniversary of the 1789 storming of the Bastille, a medieval fortress used at that time as a political prison. The event has come to symbolize the beginning of the French revolution.

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ICRC Voices Concern Over Renewed Fighting in Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is voicing concern about the humanitarian consequences of the Armenia-Azerbaijan clash as the two nations remain mired in conflict after two days of border clashes.   
 
Each side is blaming the other for the clashes. Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev said, “Armenia’s political and military leadership will bear the entire responsibility for the provocation.” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said Azerbaijan is responsible for “provocations” that will “not go unanswered.”
 
The conflict has turned deadly again. Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry reported that 11 members of its armed forces were killed, and many wounded. Armenia’s Defense Ministry reported three soldiers and two police officers wounded in the conflict.
 
The ICRC is worried these clashes put civilians in harm’s way, preventing them from going about their lives safely.  
 
“We call on the sides to respect the basic rules of international humanitarian law and, while conducting military operations, take all precautions necessary to ensure that civilian life and infrastructure, such as homes, schools and medical facilities, are respected and protected”, said Martin Schuepp, ICRC director of the operations for the region. “We are ready to act as a neutral intermediary between the parties and assist those affected by the recent escalation of fighting.”
 
The two countries are fighting over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed territory but internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, although recent skirmishes have been centered on the border of Armenia’s Tavush region.
 
The ICRC began its involvement in the region during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the 1990s, and it works to help people living on the borders between the two countries. 

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Fighting Breaks Out on Azerbaijan-Armenia Border, Several Dead 

Several Azeri soldiers have been killed and Armenian soldiers and police wounded in border clashes, both countries said Monday, each accusing the other of encroaching on its territory. The two former Soviet republics have long been in conflict over Azerbaijan’s breakaway, mainly ethnic Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh, although the latest clashes occurred around the Tavush region in northeast Armenia, some 300km (190 miles) from the mountainous enclave. Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Feb. 13, 2020.The Azeri defense ministry said four of its soldiers had been killed and five wounded while Armenia’s ministry said three of its soldiers and two police officers had been wounded in the clashes. The exchanges of fire began Sunday and continued into Monday. The two sides traded accusations of cease-fire violations and shelling. Azeri President Ilham Aliyev accused the Armenian leadership of a “provocation.” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said the leadership of Azerbaijan would be responsible for “the unpredictable consequences of the regional destabilization.” The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a security watchdog that has tried to help find a solution to the conflict, urged the two countries to speak to each other to prevent any further escalation. The U.S. State Department condemned the violence, urged the two sides to stop using force immediately, and said it would “remain actively engaged in efforts” to achieve a peaceful settlement. Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous part of Azerbaijan, is run by ethnic Armenians, who declared independence during a conflict that broke out as the Soviet Union crumbled in 1991. Though a ceasefire was agreed in 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia continue to accuse each other of shooting attacks around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the separate Azeri-Armenian frontier. The frozen Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has concerned the international community in part because of its threat to stability in a region that serves as a corridor for pipelines taking oil and gas to world markets.  

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Despite Americans’ Second Thoughts, Czechs Admire Woodrow Wilson 

The legacy of former U.S. president Thomas Woodrow Wilson is going through a harsh re-examination by supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, but in at least one country abroad, his place in history is undisputed. Wilson, who occupied the White House from 1913 to 1921, “is being criticized for his allegedly racist views as far as I know,” said Zdenek Beranek, the Czech Republic’s second-ranking diplomat in Washington.  The Czech people do not approve of any form of racism, Beranek said in an interview with VOA, but “we appreciate what he did for our nation. … Wilson invested his political capital to the independence of my country.”   Wilson, known internationally for his role in reshaping world affairs after World War I, has recently come under scrutiny amid a national movement to remove statues of Confederate generals and other historic leaders accused of having owned slaves or supported racial segregation.  A statue of former US President Woodrow Wilson is unveiled in Prague, Czech Republic, Oct. 5, 2011.Princeton University, one of America’s leading educational institutions, recently removed his name from its school of public policy because of his support for segregationist policies. In a sign of how problematic his legacy has become, the governor of New Jersey has decided to not sit behind a desk used by Wilson when he held that office.  Wilson, described by some as the most highly educated of all American presidents, served as a professor for many years before rising to become president of Princeton, then governor of New Jersey and then president of the United States. Until recently, he was best known for his handling of the presidency during the First World War — a period that saw the rise of the United States as a political and military power. In January 1918, as the war was drawing to a close, Wilson announced the Fourteen Points and laid the foundation for the Treaty of Versailles, which ended the war.   During the war years, he was influenced by the entreaties of Czech exile Tomas G. Masaryk, a fellow academician-turned-politician who, with Wilson’s crucial help, would go on to help establish the new country of Czechoslovakia and become its first president.  Wilson is said to have been deeply moved when he learned that a document drafted by Masaryk and other leading figures to proclaim the right of the Czech and Slovak peoples to self-governance was modeled after the American Declaration of Independence.   “You could say our very independence was declared on American soil,” Beranek said. The Czechs honored Wilson with a larger-than-life full-sized statue erected in central Prague; they also named their main railway station after him.   The statue was knocked down and the railway station renamed when the country became a Soviet satellite after World War II. But after Moscow lost its grip on the region in 1989, a new statue was erected in its place. The train station was not renamed, but it stands on Wilsonova, or Wilson Avenue. 

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Merkel: Unclear if EU Will Approve Recovery Fund Plan This Week

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday it is not clear whether EU member states would reach an agreement on a COVID-19 recovery fund and multi-year budget at a summit this week, given that differences remain. The leaders of EU member nations are scheduled to gather in person on Friday and Saturday to work out a compromise on a multibillion-dollar stimulus package proposed by Germany and France. The debate has been linked to a discussion on the 27-country bloc’s long-term budget. Merkel spoke to reporters alongside visiting Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at Meseberg Castle — the German government’s guest house, north of Berlin, where the two held talks. She said positions are still too far apart to make any predictions about how the negotiations will proceed. Merkel said what is important is the scope of the agreement.”What we want now, the recovery fund or the next generation EU program, it has to be staggering, something special. Because the task at hand is huge, and therefore the answer has to be big as well,” she said.Italian news reports quoted Conte as saying the EU should offer “solutions, not illusions and fears.” Much of the stimulus money would go to help countries that were hardest hit by the coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, and its economic impacts, such as Italy and Spain. Some fiscally conservative EU countries oppose the French-German plan because it would entail borrowing by the bloc as a whole for the first time. 
 

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