Yellow vest protests hit with police water cannon, tear gas in Paris

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The movement, which began as protests over high fuel taxes, has snowballed into a wholesale rejection of French President Emmanuel Macron and his policies. (AFP)
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French riot police clears the streets of yellow vest protestors in Bourges, central France, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019. (AP)
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Protesters face gendarmes and BAC police officers during an anti-government demonstration called by the Yellow Vests "Gilets Jaunes" movement, in Nantes, western France, on January 12, 2019. (AFP)
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BAC police officers stand in a group during an anti-government demonstration called by the Yellow Vests "Gilets Jaunes" movement, in Nantes, western France, on January 12, 2019. (AFP)
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Protesters wearing Yellow Vests (Gilets Jaunes) and waving Brittany flags march during an anti-government demonstration called by the Yellow Vest movement in Saint-Brieuc, western France, on January 12, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 12 January 2019
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Yellow vest protests hit with police water cannon, tear gas in Paris

  • Officials have vowed zero tolerance for the violence that has marred the weekly protests since they began two months ago
  • The movement, which began as protests over high fuel taxes, has snowballed into a wholesale rejection of Emmanuel Macron and his policies

PARIS: Paris police fired water cannon and tear gas to push back "yellow vest" demonstrators from around the Arc de Triomphe monument on Saturday, in the ninth straight weekend of protests against French President Emmanuel Macron's economic reforms.
Thousands of protesters in Paris marched noisily but mostly peacefully through the Grands Boulevards shopping area in northern Paris, close to where a massive gas explosion in a bakery killed two firefighters and a Spanish tourist and injured nearly 50 people early on Saturday.
But small groups of demonstrators broke away from the designated route and threw bottles and other projectiles at the police.
Around the 19th-century Arc de Triomphe at the top of the Champs Elysees boulevard, riot police fired water cannon and tear gas at militant yellow-vest protesters after being pelted with stones and paint, witnesses said.
Groups of protesters also gathered on and around the Champs Elysees, the scene of disturbances in recent weeks, many of them calling loudly for Macron to resign.
"Macron, we are going to tear down your place!" one banner read.
The Interior Ministry said it estimated that there were 32,000 demonstrators nationwide on Saturday, including 8,000 in Paris, below the 50,000 counted last week and well below the record 282,000 nationwide on Nov. 17, the first day of yellow vest protests.
But the number of demonstrators in Paris was well above the past two weekends, when authorities counted just 3,500 people on Jan. 5 and only 800 on Dec. 29.
Much of central Paris was in lockdown on the first week of post-Christmas sales with bridges across the Seine river closed and official buildings such as parliament and the Elysee presidential palace protected by police barriers.
In Paris, 121 "gilets jaunes" (yellow vest) were arrested, some for carrying objects that could be used as weapons, police said. By nightfall, there had been no looting or burning of cars as seen in previous weeks.
There were also thousands of marchers in the cities of Bordeaux and Toulon in southern France as well as Strasbourg in the east and the central city of Bourges.
Bourges authorities said nearly 5,000 yellow vests stuck to the designated demonstration area. The historical city centre was off-limits for demonstrators, but some 500 protesters made their way to the centre where they scuffled with police and set garbage bins on fire.
Many businesses in Bourges had boarded themselves up to avoid damage and authorities had removed street furniture and building site materials that could be used for barricades.
In Strasbourg, up to 2,000 demonstrators gathered in front of the European Parliament building and later marched to the centre of the city on the Rhine river border with Germany. No serious violence or looting was reported there.
More than 80,000 police were on duty for the protests nationwide, including 5,000 in Paris.
The "yellow vests" take their name from the high-visibility jackets they wear. Their rage stems from a squeeze on household incomes and a belief that Macron, a former investment banker seen as close to big business, is indifferent to their hardships.
Macron, often criticised for a monarchical manner, is to launch a national debate on Jan. 15 to try to mollify the yellow vest protest, which has shaken his administration.
The debate, to be held on the internet and in town halls, will focus on four themes - taxes, green energy, institutional reform and citizenship. But aides to Macron have said changing the course of Macron's reforms aimed at liberalising the economy will be off limits.


Four charged over MH17, Russia slams ‘unfounded allegations’

Updated 19 June 2019
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Four charged over MH17, Russia slams ‘unfounded allegations’

  • Investigation team said in May 2018 that BUK anti-aircraft missile which hit Boeing 777 had originated from 53rd Russian military brigade
  • One of the accused Girkin, who is thought to be living in Moscow, denied the separatists were involved

NIEUWGEIN: International investigators on Wednesday charged three Russians and a Ukrainian with murder over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, the first people to face justice over the tragedy five years ago in which 298 people were killed.
The trial of the four men with military and intelligence links will start in the Netherlands in March next year, although they are likely to be tried in absentia as neither Russia nor Ukraine extradites their nationals.
Moscow slammed the “absolutely unfounded accusations” over the downing of the plane, which was traveling between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur when it was hit by a missile over part of eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russian rebels.
The Dutch-led inquiry team said international arrest warrants had been issued for Russian nationals Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, all of whom are suspected of roles in the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic.
Dutch prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said the four were to be held responsible for bringing the BUK missile system from Russia into eastern Ukraine “even though they have not pushed the button themselves.”
“We won’t demand their extradition because Russian and Ukrainian law forbids the extradition of their nationals. But we ask Russia once more to cooperate — many of our questions remain unanswered,” he told a press conference.
The same investigation team said in May 2018 that the BUK anti-aircraft missile which hit the Boeing 777 had originated from the 53rd Russian military brigade based in the southwestern city of Kursk.
Relatives of those killed aboard MH17 welcomed the news.
“It’s a start. I’m satisfied,” Silene Fredriksz, whose son and daughter-in-law were killed in the disaster, told reporters. “I am happy that the trial is finally going to start and that the names have been announced.”
Asked if she personally blamed anyone for the crash, Fredriksz said: “Mr (Russian President Vladimir) Putin. Because he made this possible. He created this situation. He is the main responsible person.”
Piet Ploeg, president of a Dutch victims’ association who lost three family members on MH17, told AFP that it was “very important news.”
“The relatives of the victims have been waiting for this for nearly five years,” he said.
Girkin, 48, is the most high-profile suspect, having previously been the self-proclaimed defense minister in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine before apparently falling out with the Kremlin.
Girkin, who is thought to be living in Moscow, denied the separatists were involved. “I can only say that rebels did not shoot down the Boeing,” he told Russia’s Interfax news agency.
Dubinskiy, 56, who was formerly in the Russian military intelligence agency GRU, was head of the intelligence service of the Donetsk People’s Republic, while Pulatov, 52, an ex-soldier in the GRU’s Spetznaz special forces unit, was one of his deputies.
Kharchenko was a military commander in Donetsk at the time, the Dutch prosecutors said.
During the press conference by the investigators, number of telephone intercepts were played that they said showed the four were involved.
Russia vehemently denied all involvement, and complained that it had been excluded from the probe.
“Once again, absolutely unfounded accusations are being made against the Russian side, aimed at discrediting Russia in the eyes of the international community,” the foreign ministry said in a statement on its website.
Russia insisted last year that the missile was fired by Kiev’s forces, adding that it was sent to Ukraine in the Soviet era.
Despite claims by Ukraine’s government and Dutch media that senior Russian officers would also face charges, none were named by the prosecutors on Wednesday.
The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the attack includes Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine, representing the countries hardest hit by the disaster.
The Netherlands and Australia said in May last year that they formally “hold Russia responsible” for the disaster. Of the passengers who died, 196 were Dutch and 38 Australian.
Australia said Wednesday’s announcement was a “significant step” toward achieving justice, while NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said it was “an important milestone in the efforts to uncover the full truth.”
Ukraine’s foreign ministry urged Russia to “acknowledge its responsibility,” while the office of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s said he hoped to see “everyone who is to blame for the murder of innocent children, women and men” go on trial.
The war in eastern Ukraine and the MH17 disaster continue to plague relations between Russia and the West.
Since 2014, some 13,000 people have been killed. Kiev and its Western backers accuse Russia of funnelling troops and arms to back the separatists. Moscow has denied the claims despite evidence to the contrary.