TRINCOMALEE: The appointment of a new prime minister has failed to appease Sri Lankan protesters, who vowed on Friday to continue their campaign to oust President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, whom they blame for the country’s worst economic crisis in decades.
Rajapaksa appointed politician Ranil Wickremesinghe as the island nation’s premier on Thursday after days of violent clashes left at least nine people dead and hundreds injured.
The president’s elder brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, quit as prime minister on Monday as the violence broke out and has been hiding in a naval base in Trincomalee, a port city on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka.
“Sri Lankans from different political backgrounds, opinions, races and religions go together with one aim: ‘Go Home Gota,’” Methsara Benaragama, a long-time protester at the main demonstration site in front of the presidential office in the capital, Colombo, told Arab News.
“Gota” is a popular reference to President Rajapaksa. For over a month, protesters across the country have been demanding that he leave office.
They see the appointment of Wickremesinghe as part of attempts by the president and his allies to “change heads in order to protect themselves,” Benaragama said.
Wickremesinghe, a lawyer, comes from a family of politicians and businessmen. Although currently sitting in the opposition ranks of the Sri Lankan Parliament, he is seen as being close to the Rajapaksa family.
It is the sixth time Wickremesinghe has held the prime minister’s post. He has never completed a full term.
“The appointment of Wickremesinghe raises questions as to whether there will be any changes at all, because he is perceived as being close to the Rajapaksa family,” Bhavani Fonseka, a constitutional lawyer and human rights activist attached to the Center for Policy Alternatives in Colombo, told Arab News.
“It also remains to be seen if he can bring in the reforms and stability Sri Lanka needs,” she said. “And there is also the question of whether he enjoys the confidence of the parliament.”
An alliance led by the Rajapaksas holds about 100 out of 225 parliamentary seats. The opposition has 58, while the rest are independent.
A day before Wickremesinghe’s appointment, the main opposition alliance, Samagi Jana Balawegaya, nominated opposition leader Sajith Premadasa to form a new government.
Premadasa is the son of Ranasinghe Premadasa, who served as the country’s president from 1989 to 1993. He contested the 2019 presidential election, in which he lost to Rajapaksa.
The Rajapaksas are Sri Lanka’s most influential political dynasty and are credited with ending the country’s 30-year civil war in 2009.
But their support has plummeted in recent months amid accusations of mismanagement of the economy and corruption as the country of 22 million people has been facing skyrocketing inflation, stalled imports of fuel, shortages of medicines, food and hours of power cuts a day, and is about to default on its foreign debts.
Bus crash kills at least 20 in southwest Pakistan — official
Poor road infrastructure and rash driving often cause deadly road crashes in Pakistan
Updated 41 min 20 sec ago
QUETTA: A passenger bus plunged into a ravine in southwestern Pakistan on Sunday killing 20 people, a government official said.
The road crash also injured another 13 people aboard the bus that was traveling from garrison city of Rawalpindi to Quetta, the capital of southwestern Balochistan province, said Ijaz Jaffar, deputy commissioner of Sherani district.
The ravine is some 350 kilometers north of Quetta.
Poor road infrastructure and rash driving often cause deadly road crashes in Pakistan.
The province is home to several Chinese projects under an investment plan in which Beijing is seeking road and sea trade linkages with the world.
Blasts kill 3 in Russian border city, lawmaker blames Ukraine
At least four people were injured and two hospitalized, including a 10-year-old boy
Since Russia launched it invasion on Feb. 24, there have been numerous reports of attacks on Belgorod and other regions bordering Ukraine
Updated 03 July 2022
At least three people were killed and dozens of residential buildings damaged in the Russian city of Belgorod near the Ukraine border, the regional governor said, after reports of several blasts in the city.
At least 11 apartment buildings and 39 private houses were damaged, including five that were destroyed, Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov posted on the Telegram messaging app.
Gladkov said earlier the “incident” was being investigated, adding, “Presumably, the air defense system worked.”
At least four people were injured and two hospitalized, including a 10-year-old boy, Gladkov said.
Reuters could not independently verify the reports. There was no immediate reaction from Ukraine to the reports.
Belgorod, a city of nearly 400,000 some 40 km (25 miles) north of the border with Ukraine, is the administrative center of the Belgorod region.
Since Russia launched it invasion on Feb. 24, there have been numerous reports of attacks on Belgorod and other regions bordering Ukraine, with Moscow accusing Kyiv of carrying out the strikes.
Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for previous attacks but has described the incidents as payback and “karma” for Russia’s invasion.
Moscow calls its actions a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and its allies in the West say the fascist allegation is baseless and the war is an unprovoked act of aggression.
Fighting intensifies for Ukraine’s last bastion in eastern Luhansk province
Kyiv says Moscow has intensified missile attacks on cities far from the main eastern battlefields and that it deliberately hit civilian sites
Updated 03 July 2022
KYIV/KONSTYANTYNIVKA, Ukraine: Fighting intensified on Saturday for Lysychansk, Ukraine’s last bastion in the strategic eastern province of Luhansk, while blasts shook a southern city after the civilian toll from Russian strikes climbed in towns well behind the front lines.
Rodion Miroshnik, ambassador to Russia of the pro-Moscow self-styled Luhansk People’s Republic, told Russian television that “Lysychansk has been brought under control,” but added: “Unfortunately, it is not yet liberated.”
Russian media showed videos of Luhansk militia parading in Lysychansk streets waving flags and cheering, but Ukraine National Guard spokesman Ruslan Muzychuk told Ukrainian national television the city remained in Ukrainian hands.
“Now there are fierce battles near Lysychansk, however, fortunately, the city is not surrounded and is under the control of the Ukrainian army,” Muzychuk said.
He said the situations in the Lysychansk and Bakhmut areas, as well as in Kharkiv region, were the most difficult on the entire front line.
“The goal of the enemy here remains access to the administrative border of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Also, in the Sloviansk direction, the enemy is attempting assault actions,” he said.
Oleksandr Senkevych, mayor of the southern region of Mykolaiv, which borders the vital Black Sea port of Odesa, reported powerful explosions in the city.
“Stay in shelters!” he wrote on the Telegram messaging app as air raid sirens sounded.
The cause of the blasts was not immediately clear, although Russia later said it had hit army command posts in the area.
Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports.
Authorities said a missile slammed into an apartment block near Odesa on Friday, killing at least 21 people. A shopping mall was hit on Monday in the central city of Kremenchuk, leaving at least 19 dead.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denounced the strikes on Friday as “conscious, deliberately targeted Russian terror and not some sort of error or a coincidental missile strike.”
In his nightly television address on Saturday, he said it would be a “very difficult path” to victory but it was necessary for Ukrainians to maintain their resolve and inflict losses on the “aggressor ... so that every Russian remembers that Ukraine cannot be broken.”
“In many areas from the front, there is a sense of easing up, but the war is not over,” he said. “Unfortunately, it is intensifying in different places and we musn’t forget that. We must help the army, the volunteers, help those who are left on their own at this time.”
Kyiv says Moscow has intensified missile attacks on cities far from the main eastern battlefields and that it deliberately hit civilian sites. Ukrainian troops on the eastern front lines meanwhile describe intense artillery barrages that have pummelled residential areas.
Thousands of civilians have been killed and cities levelled since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov repeated Russian denials that its forces targeted civilians.
The Chief of General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Valery Gerasimov, inspected Russian troops involved in what Moscow calls its “special military operation,” Russia’s defense ministry said, although it was not clear if he was in Ukraine.
The inspection followed slow but steady gains by Russian forces with the help of relentless artillery in east Ukraine, a focus for Moscow after it narrowed its broader war goals of toppling the government following fierce Ukrainian resistance.
Russia is seeking to drive Ukrainian forces out of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces in the industrialized eastern Donbas region where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Kyiv since Russia’s first military intervention in Ukraine in 2014.
“Definitely they are trying to demoralize us. Maybe some people are affected by that, but for us it only brings more hatred and determination,” said a Ukrainian soldier returning from Lysychansk.
HOUSES ‘BURNING DOWN’
Russian forces seized Lysychansk’s sister city Sievierodonetsk last month, after some of the heaviest fighting of the war that pounded whole districts into rubble. Other settlements now face similar bombardment.
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said on Telegram shelling had stopped Lysychansk residents dousing fires and added: “Private houses in attacked villages are burning down one by one.”
Ukraine has appealed for more weapons from the West, saying its forces are heavily outgunned by the Russian military.
Troops on a break from the fighting and speaking in Konstyantynivka, a market town about 115 km (72 miles) west of Lysychansk, said they had managed to keep the supply road to the embattled city open, for now, despite Russian bombardment.
“We still use the road because we have to, but it’s within artillery range of the Russians,” said one soldier, who usually lives in Kyiv and asked not to be named, as comrades relaxed nearby, munching on sandwiches or eating ice cream.
“The Russian tactic right now is to just shell any building we could locate ourselves at. When they’ve destroyed it, they move on to the next one,” the soldier said.
Reuters reporters saw an unexploded missile lodged into the ground in a residential neighborhood on the outskirts of the Donbas city of Kramatorsk on Saturday evening.
The missile fell in a wooded area between residential tower blocks. Police and military cordoned off an area a few meters around the missile and told onlookers to stand back. Outgoing artillery fire and several large explosions were heard in central Kramatorsk earlier in the evening.
Despite being battered in the east, Ukrainian forces have made some advances elsewhere, including forcing Russia to withdraw from Snake Island, a Black Sea outcrop southeast of Odesa that Moscow captured at the start of the war.
Russia had used Snake Island to impose a blockade on Ukraine, one of the world’s biggest grain exporters and a major producer of seed for vegetable oils. The disruptions have helped fuel a surge in global grain and food prices.
Russia, also a big grain producer, denies it has caused the food crisis, blaming Western sanctions for hurting its exports.
Uzbekistan scraps plans to curb Karakalpak autonomy after protest
If the reform is endorsed in the planned referendum, it would reset Mirziyoyev’s term count and allow him to run for two more terms
Updated 03 July 2022
ALMATY: Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev on Saturday dropped plans to curtail the autonomy of the country’s Karakalpakstan province following a rare public protest in the northwestern region, his office said.
Friday’s rally was called to protest constitutional reform plans that would have changed the status of Karakalpakstan, an autonomous republic home to the Karakalpak people — an ethnic minority group with its own language, Uzbek authorities said.
Police dispersed the protesters after some of them tried to storm local government buildings in the region’s capital, Nukus, following a march and a rally at the city’s central market, local and government officials said.
Mirziyoyev later issued a decree proclaiming a state of emergency in Karakalpakstan for a month “in order to ensure the security of citizens, defend their rights and freedoms and restore the rule of law and order” in the region.
Under the current Uzbek constitution, Karakalpakstan is described as a sovereign republic within Uzbekistan that has the right to secede by holding a referendum.
The new version of the constitution — on which Uzbekistan plans to hold a referendum in the coming months — would no longer mention Karakalpakstan’s sovereignty or right for secession.
But in a swift reaction to the protest, Mirziyoyev said on Saturday during a visit to Karakalpakstan that the changes regarding its status must be dropped from the proposed reform, his office said in a statement.
Karakalpakstan’s government said in a statement earlier on Saturday that police had detained the leaders of Friday’s protest, and several other protesters who had put up resistance.
The changes concerning Karakalpakstan were part of a broader constitutional reform proposed by Mirziyoyev, which also includes strengthening civil rights and extending the presidential term to seven years from five.
If the reform is endorsed in the planned referendum, it would reset Mirziyoyev’s term count and allow him to run for two more terms.
Waterways in Brazil’s Manaus choked by tons of trash
From January to May, city workers have removed 4,500 tons of trash, most of which could have been recycled instead of being thrown in the river
Updated 02 July 2022
MANAUS: In Manaus, the largest city in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, tons of stinking trash fill the canals and streams, giving one the feeling that they’re visiting a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
On the west side of the city, in a poor neighborhood where homes have been erected on stilts, a worker uses an excavator to scoop up a bucket-load of bottles, pieces of plastic and even home appliances that have been tossed in the water.
Not far from the city’s main port, municipal workers wearing orange uniforms gather garbage from a boat and pile it onto a big barge floating on the Rio Negro, one of the Amazon River’s main tributaries.
With the rising water levels signaling an end to the rainy season, the mounds of trash are often intermingled with leaves and tree branches.
Each day, nearly 30 tons of debris is plucked from the water. In some areas, the water is almost completely covered.
The massive influx of trash to Manaus’s waterways occurs around this time every year, but city authorities believe the situation has gotten worse in recent weeks.
From January to May, city workers have removed 4,500 tons of trash, most of which could have been recycled instead of being thrown in the river.
“The people who live on the water’s edge throw garbage straight into the streams... few people put it in the trash,” says Antonino Pereira, a 54-year-old Manaus resident who complains that the stench is unbearable.
According to the city’s undersecretary of sanitation, Jose Reboucas, if the population was more aware of the costs associated with littering, the city could save $190,000 per month.
“The awareness of the population will be very beneficial for our city and especially for our environment,” he said.
The Amazonian region is also facing a major threat from deforestation, with more than 3,750 square kilometers of jungle chopped down since the beginning of the year.