Belarus inflaming Jewish pilgrim standoff, says Ukraine

Ukraine’s border service head Serhiy Deineko speaks with Jewish pilgrims, who plan to enter Ukraine from Belarus, at Novi Yarylovychi crossing point in Chernihiv Region, Ukraine, Sept. 14, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 16 September 2020

Belarus inflaming Jewish pilgrim standoff, says Ukraine

  • Kiev says 2,000 pilgrims, mostly from Israel, have congregated on the border between Belarus and Ukraine “believing rumors that the Ukrainian border with Belarus was open”
  • Kiev urged Minsk not to spread “false encouraging statements that may give pilgrims the impression that the Ukrainian border may still be open to foreigners”

KIEV: The Ukrainian presidency on Wednesday accused Belarus of aggravating tensions along their shared border after Kiev barred entry to some 2,000 Hasidic Jewish pilgrims over coronavirus travel restrictions.
Kiev stopped the pilgrims, who were trying to reach the central Ukrainian city of Uman, in line with its ban on foreign visitors as it battles a sharp increase in new infections.
“We call on the Belarusian authorities to stop creating additional tension on the border,” the Ukraine statement said, accusing Minsk of giving the pilgrims false hope that they would be allowed to enter.
Tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews travel to Uman every Jewish New Year — which falls on September 18-20 this year — to visit the tomb of Rabbi Nahman, the founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement.
The presidency said roughly 2,000 pilgrims, mostly from Israel, had congregated on the border between Belarus and Ukraine “believing rumors that the Ukrainian border with Belarus was open,” the presidency said.
The statement urged Minsk not to spread “false encouraging statements that may give pilgrims the impression that the Ukrainian border may still be open to foreigners.”
A Ukraine border guard spokesman told AFP the pilgrims were attempting to enter the country from different crossings.
Ukraine has closed its borders to foreigners until September as part of reimposed restrictions to slow the spread of the virus.
Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko on Wednesday told his officials to negotiate a travel corridor with Kiev for the pilgrims to reach holy sites and offered to coordinate transport.


Motorcycle gunmen kill journalist in Honduras

Updated 13 min 1 sec ago

Motorcycle gunmen kill journalist in Honduras

  • The journalist was taken to hospital with multiple gunshot wounds and died early Monday
  • In June, a journalist and his cameraman were shot dead in the Caribbean port of La Ceiba

TEGUCIGALPA: A Honduran journalist who was a sharp government critic has been killed in a drive-by shooting, police said Monday, bringing the number of reporters killed in the country to 85 in two decades.
Luis Almendares, 35, was visiting a store in Comayagua, 60 kilometers (40 miles) north of the capital Tegucigalpa, when he was shot multiple times on Sunday.
“He was intercepted by two individuals on a motorcycle, who shot him repeatedly,” police said in a statement.
The journalist was taken to hospital with multiple gunshot wounds and died early Monday, according to Amada Ponce, director of the Committee for Free Expression.
Almendares, a freelancer who used social media to criticize the government of President Juan Orlando Hernandez, had repeatedly complained to police and the country’s National Protection System over receiving death threats, the rights group said.
The government set up the National Protection System in 2015 in response to concerns expressed by the Organization of American States and the UN over the high number of killings involving rights defenders, lawyers and journalists.
The president of the Honduran association of journalists, Dagoberto Rodriguez, announced his group was withdrawing from the protection system in reaction to Almendares’s death.
“The government has let this system go off course by giving it neither logistical nor financial means,” Rodriguez said.
He slammed the impunity of those responsible for murdering journalists and members of the media, saying “the government shows that it is not interested.”
In June, a journalist and his cameraman were shot dead in the Caribbean port of La Ceiba. Two gang members were arrested as suspects in that killing.
However, Ponce told AFP that more than 90 percent of the 85 murders of journalists carried out in Honduras since 2001 have gone unpunished.
The United Nations human rights commissioner’s Honduras office “urged the Honduran state to conduct an independent, prompt, effective and impartial investigation” into Almendares’s killing.
The presidents of the Inter American Press Association and the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information also expressed their outrage, noting that 15 other journalists have been murdered in the Americas since the start of 2020.