Lula retains lead over Bolsonaro in Brazil opinion poll ahead of election

Lula retains lead over Bolsonaro in Brazil opinion poll ahead of election
Brazil’s former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is running for reelection, and his wife Rosangela Silva. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 24 June 2022

Lula retains lead over Bolsonaro in Brazil opinion poll ahead of election

Lula retains lead over Bolsonaro in Brazil opinion poll ahead of election

SAO PAULO: Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is retaining his lead over incumbent Jair Bolsonaro ahead of Brazil’s October presidential election, according to a Datafolha opinion poll released on Thursday.
Lula drew 47 percent support in the opinion poll against Bolsonaro’s 28 percent. In May, Lula’s lead was 48 percent to 27 percent.
The polling results suggest time is running out for other candidates hoping to make it a three-way race. While leftist former state governor Ciro Gomes gained 1 percentage point from the last poll, he had the support of just 8 percent of voters polled.
In a potential second-round runoff between the rivals, leftist leader Lula now has a 23 percentage-point lead over right wing Bolsonaro, down from 25 points in May, the survey showed.
This week, Lula presented an official government plan outlining priorities if elected, including a new fuel pricing policy, removing a cap on government spending, and dramatically reining in deforestation.
Lula welcomed Thursday’s poll results on Twitter, saying that despite a month of “TV advertising and a flood of fake news on the Internet,” Brazilian people showed they want to “get rid” of the current government.
Bolsonaro’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Datafolha interviewed 2,556 Brazilians of voting age (16 years) on Wednesday and Thursday. The poll has a margin of error of 2 percentage points up or down.


NATO summit host Spain seeks focus on southern security

NATO summit host Spain seeks focus on southern security
Updated 22 sec ago

NATO summit host Spain seeks focus on southern security

NATO summit host Spain seeks focus on southern security
  • When NATO leaders convene in Madrid on June 28-30 they are due to revamp the alliance’s strategic concept
MADRID: Spain is lobbying for NATO to pay more attention to security threats on its southern flank when the military alliance gathers for a summit in Madrid later this week.
But with the war in Ukraine entering its fifth month, the priority for Spain’s NATO partners remains firmly on deterring Russian in the east.
When NATO leaders convene in Madrid on June 28-30 they are due to revamp the alliance’s strategic concept, which outlines its main security tasks and challenges but has not been revised since 2010.
Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares has been pushing for NATO to broaden its scope to help deal with non-military threats such as “the political use of energy resources and illegal immigration” in Africa.
“The threats are as much from the southern flank as from the eastern flank,” he told a Madrid news conference on Wednesday.
Madrid is also concerned about lawlessness and violent Islamist movements in the Sahel region, a vast territory stretching across the south of the Sahara Desert.
“We have this war in Europe, but the situation in Africa is really worrying,” said Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles.
The issue is particularly acute for Spain, a main gateway into Europe for irregular migration from Africa and a country which relies on Algeria for gas supplies.
Last year Morocco allowed thousands of migrants to enter Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta during a diplomatic crisis over the disputed Western Sahara, prompting Madrid to accuse Rabat of “blackmail.”
Although the two countries recently normalized their relations after Spain ended its decades-long position of neutrality over Western Sahara to publicly support Morocco’s stance, the migration crisis hasn’t come to an end.
On Friday at dawn, around 2,000 African migrants tried to storm the border with Melilla, the other Spanish enclave on Morocco’s northern coast. At least 23 died in the incursion, making it the deadliest incident to occur at the borders of the two Spanish enclaves — the only borders between the EU and Africa.
And earlier this month Morocco’s arch-rival Algeria suspended a co-operation treaty with Spain in response to Madrid’s U-turn over Western Sahara.
But with an active conflict on NATO’s eastern flank, it is going to be “an uphill struggle” to convince member states to make a commitment to the southern flank, said Sinan Ulgen, a NATO expert at the Carnegie Europe think-tank in Brussels.
“The war in Ukraine has changed the equation. The threat from Russia has become the main preoccupation for almost all the countries,” the former Turkish diplomat said.
In Washington, US national security spokesman John Kirby said “the focus right now is on the eastern flank.”
“But there remains a continued effort to make sure we are also paying attention to the southern flank,” he added.
In an interview published Saturday by Spanish daily El Pais, NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said the Alliance would “strengthen (its) cooperation with southern countries,” mentioning Mauritania in particular.
Aside from Russia, Washington’s other major concern is China, which is expected to be mentioned in NATO’s strategic concept for the first time.
To try to convince its NATO allies, Spain has sounded the alarm over the growing presence of Russian mercenaries in African nations like Mali and the Central African Republic, arguing instability could increase African migration to Europe.
Madrid has also suggested that Russia was behind Spain’s recent diplomatic spat with Algeria.
“Unfortunately the threats from the south are increasingly Russian threats from the south,” Albares said.
Ulgen said that another difficulty is that while other southern European nations want a greater NATO engagement in Africa, they have different priorities, making it hard to set a common alliance-led strategy.
“Rome, Paris, Madrid, Ankara still assess the political and security challenges differently. That is the fundamental reason why there is not a stronger push for NATO to have a bigger role” in the southern flank, said Ulgen.
In addition, many top US policymakers believe NATO should focus on territorial defense, not non-conventional threats, said Angel Saz, the director of the Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics at Spain’s Esade business school.
“And the only threat to territorial defense is Russia. The Sahel can destabilize Europe, but it will not conquer Spain or Italy,” he said.
Spain has “perhaps put too much emphasis” on the call for a greater NATO role in the southern flank and “it runs the risk of under accomplishing,” he added.

Four explosions heard in Ukraine capital Kyiv

Four explosions heard in Ukraine capital Kyiv
Updated 19 min 20 sec ago

Four explosions heard in Ukraine capital Kyiv

Four explosions heard in Ukraine capital Kyiv
  • Blasts occurred half an hour after air raid sirens sounded in the capital
  • Thick smoke was seen in the affected residential area, which was cordoned off by police

KYIV: Four explosions were heard in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv early Sunday, with AFP journalists reporting a residential complex near the center of the city had been hit, causing a fire and cloud of grey smoke.
The blasts occurred around 6:30 a.m. (0330 GMT), half an hour after air raid sirens sounded in the capital, which has not not come under Russian bombardment for nearly three weeks.
There was no immediate information on casualties.
An AFP colleague living in the same residential complex heard a loud buzz preceding the explosions.
“Several explosions in the Shevchenkivsky district,” Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Telegram.
“Ambulances and rescuers are on site. In two buildings, the rescue and evacuation of residents is underway,” he added.
Thick smoke was seen in the affected residential area, which was cordoned off by police.
At the end of April, a Ukrainian journalist from Radio Liberty was killed in her apartment by a Russian strike on Kyiv during a visit by UN chief Antonio Guterres.


To charge or not to charge: the Trump dilemma roiling America

Former US President Donald Trump. (AFP)
Former US President Donald Trump. (AFP)
Updated 26 June 2022

To charge or not to charge: the Trump dilemma roiling America

Former US President Donald Trump. (AFP)
  • The committee has presented a trove of text messages suggesting Trump did nothing to stop the violence for hours as increasingly frantic allies tried to get him to call off the mob

WASHINGTON: A chilling portrait of a US president who knew he’d lost an election but tried to steal it anyway has emerged in testimony on the Capitol assault, posing a perilous question: should prosecutors indict Donald Trump?
In their comments to the congressional committee investigating the deadly violence, White House and Trump campaign staff, lawyers and even family members have drawn the contours of a possible prosecution, outlining potential presidential misconduct culminating in the riot at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
The picture they have painted is that it was part of a broader “coup” attempt led by the defeated president and his lawyer John Eastman.
“The odds are in favor of the Justice Department indicting Mr. Trump,” Kevin O’Brien, a former assistant US attorney in New York who now specializes in white-collar criminal defense, told AFP.

This exhibit from video released by the House Select Committee, shows where people sat at an Oval Office meeting with former President Donald Trump, displayed at a hearing by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Thursday, June 23, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP)

“The legal case is sound and would be compelling to a jury, assuming prosecutors can establish a link between the plans of Trump and John Eastman to thwart the counting of electoral votes on the one hand, and the insurrection at the Capitol building on the other.”
The committee’s official line has always been that it will leave charging decisions to the proper authorities.
But it has heavily hinted it will accuse Trump of at least two felonies — obstructing Congress’s counting of electoral votes, and joining a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States.
And the established facts don’t look good for the 76-year-old former reality TV star.

Trump spent weeks ahead of the violence in Washington duping his followers into thinking the election had been stolen.
He encouraged his supporters to descend on the city on January 6, riled up the huge crowd at his “Stop the Steal” rally and instructed them to march on the Capitol as lawmakers were ratifying the election.
The committee has presented a trove of text messages suggesting Trump did nothing to stop the violence for hours as increasingly frantic allies tried to get him to call off the mob.
And the House committee’s hearings have positioned the violence within a larger conspiracy to cling to power by intimidating and harassing poll workers, election officials and the federal justice department.
Trump’s defenders argue that he genuinely believed the election was stolen and was engaged in a good faith attempt to protect voters.
But the live testimony and videotaped depositions at the hearings suggest he knew he’d been fairly defeated, given the sheer number of times he was told so by his closest aides.
One of the most credible and impactful witnesses was retired judge J. Michael Luttig, a star in conservative judicial and political circles who testified that Trump presented a “clear and present danger” to US democracy.
While there is a degree of consensus outside of Trump’s support base that he could reasonably be charged, a more fraught question for Attorney General Merrick Garland is whether he should be.

For a start, the burden of proof for conviction in a criminal prosecution is considerably higher than the bar for condemning someone in a congressional hearing. “A botched prosecution would make Trump stronger and even help re-elect him,” Washington-based Financial Times columnist Edward Luce wrote this week.
Garland could expect strong public support if he decided to go after Trump, with a new ABC News and Ipsos poll finding almost 60 percent of Americans think the ex-president should face charges.
But Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor in San Diego, said he didn’t think the attorney general had “the stomach” for the fight.
“Indicting a former president would be unprecedented, and it takes an aggressive prosecutor that is willing to take on a difficult and politically charged prosecution,” Rahmani told AFP.
“I don’t think Merrick Garland is that prosecutor.”
Many Americans fear a prosecution would spark widespread civil unrest as Trump’s supporters, feeling under attack, took to the streets. Violence, after all, has already been wielded in Trump’s defense.
Nicholas Creel, a law professor at Georgia College and State University, argues however that letting Trump walk would make a mockery of the central tenet of American justice that “no man is above the law.”
“While an indictment would violate the norms of not prosecuting former presidents and would almost certainly unleash massive civil upheaval from his supporters... the alternative is to allow him to have attempted a coup unpunished, wounding the nation far more than his prosecution would,” he told AFP.


Russians ‘fully occupy’ Severodonetsk, focus shifts to Lysychansk

Smoke billows over the oil refinery outside the town of Lysychansk, amid Russia's military invasion launched on Ukraine. (AFP)
Smoke billows over the oil refinery outside the town of Lysychansk, amid Russia's military invasion launched on Ukraine. (AFP)
Updated 26 June 2022

Russians ‘fully occupy’ Severodonetsk, focus shifts to Lysychansk

Smoke billows over the oil refinery outside the town of Lysychansk, amid Russia's military invasion launched on Ukraine. (AFP)
  • Millions of Ukrainians have fled their homes and their country since the invasion, most to neighboring Poland
  • Russia has intensified its offensive in the northern city of Kharkiv in recent days

KYIV/POKROVSK, Ukraine: Russian forces fully occupied the eastern Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk on Saturday, both sides said, confirming Kyiv’s biggest battlefield setback for more than a month following weeks of some of the war’s bloodiest fighting.
Ukraine called its retreat from the city a “tactical withdrawal” to fight from higher ground in Lysychansk on the opposite bank of the Siverskyi Donets river. Pro-Russian separatists said Moscow’s forces were now attacking Lysychansk.
The fall of Sievierodonetsk — once home to more than 100,000 people but now a wasteland — was Russia’s biggest victory since capturing the port of Mariupol last month. It transforms the battlefield in the east after weeks in which Moscow’s huge advantage in firepower had yielded only slow gains.

Ukrainian police officers help Elena from Lysychansk to board a train to Dnipro and Lviv during an evacuation of civilians from war-affected areas of eastern Ukraine, amid Russia's invasion of the country, in Pokrovsk, Donetsk region, Ukraine, June 25, 2022. (REUTERS)

Russia will now seek to press on and seize more ground on the opposite bank, while Ukraine will hope that the price Moscow paid to capture the ruins of the small city will leave Russia’s forces vulnerable to counterattack.
President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed in a video address that Ukraine would win back the cities it lost, including Sievierodonetsk. But acknowledging the war’s emotional toll, he said: “We don’t have a sense of how long it will last, how many more blows, losses and efforts will be needed before we see victory is on the horizon.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• Capture of Sievierodonetsk big gain for Russia

• Ukraine says it carries out 'tactical withdrawal'

• Dozens of missiles hit Ukrainian military bases

“The city is now under the full occupation of Russia,” Sievierodonetsk Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk said on national television. “They are trying to establish their own order, as far as I know they have appointed some kind of commandant.”
Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, told Reuters that Ukraine was carrying out “a tactical regrouping” by pulling its forces out of Sievierodonetsk.

A Ukrainian serviceman walks through the rubbles of a building of the Polytechnic Sports Complex of the Kharkiv National Technical University after it was hit by Russian missile in Kharkiv on June 24, 2022, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine. (AFP)

“Russia is using the tactic ... it used in Mariupol: wiping the city from the face of the earth,” he said. “Given the conditions, holding the defense in the ruins and open fields is no longer possible. So the Ukrainian forces are leaving for higher ground to continue the defense operations.”
Russia’s defense ministry said “as a result of successful offensive operations” Russian forces had established full control over Sievierodonetsk and the nearby town of Borivske.
Not long after that, however, Ukrainian shelling from outside Sievierodonetsk forced Russian troops to suspend evacuation of people from a chemical plant there, Russia’s Tass news agency quoted local police working with Russian separatist authorities as saying.
Oleksiy Arestovych, senior adviser to Zelensky, said some Ukrainian special forces were still in Sievierodonetsk directing artillery fire against the Russians. But he made no mention of those forces putting up any direct resistance.

Ukrainian service members fire a BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launch system, near the town of Lysychansk, Luhansk region, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine June 12, 2022. (REUTERS)

Russia’s Interfax news agency cited a representative of pro-Russian separatist fighters saying Russian and pro-Russian forces had entered Lysychansk across the river and were fighting in urban areas there.
Russia also launched missile strikes across Ukraine on Saturday. At least three people were killed and others may have been buried in rubble in the town of Sarny, some 185 miles (300 km) west of Kyiv, after rockets hit a carwash and a car repair facility, said the head of the local regional military administration.
Russia denies targeting civilians. Kyiv and the West say Russian forces have committed war crimes against civilians.
Seeking to further tighten the screws on Russia, US President Joe Biden and other Group of Seven leaders attending a summit in Germany starting on Sunday will agree on an import ban on new gold from Russia, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.
’IT WAS HORROR’
In the Ukrainian-held Donbas town of Pokrovsk, Elena, an elderly woman in a wheelchair from Lysychansk, was among dozens of evacuees who arrived by bus from frontline areas.
“Lysychansk, it was a horror, the last week. Yesterday we could not take it any more,” she said. “I already told my husband if I die, please bury me behind the house.”

This picture shows destroyed shopping pavilions at a bus station in the town of Chuhuiv, Kharkiv region, on June 24, 2022, as Russia has intensified its offensive in the area in the past few days. (AFP)

As Europe’s biggest land conflict since World War Two entered its fifth month, Russian missiles also rained down on western, northern and southern parts of the country.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent tens of thousands of troops over the border on Feb. 24, unleashing a conflict that has killed thousands and uprooted millions. It has also stoked an energy and food crisis which is shaking the global economy.
Since Russia’s forces were defeated in an assault on the capital Kyiv in March, it has shifted focus to the Donbas, an eastern territory made up of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces. Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk were the last major Ukrainian bastions in Luhansk.
The Russians crossed the river in force in recent days and have been advancing toward Lysychansk, threatening to encircle Ukrainians in the area.
The capture of Sievierodonetsk is likely to seen by Russia as vindication for its switch from its early, failed attempt at “lightning warfare” to a relentless, grinding offensive using massive artillery in the east.
Moscow says Luhansk and Donetsk, where it has backed uprisings since 2014, are independent countries. It demands Ukraine cede the entire territory of the two provinces to separatist administrations.
Ukrainian officials had never held out much hope of holding Sievierodonetsk but have sought to exact a high enough price to exhaust the Russian army.
Ukraine’s top general Valeriy Zaluzhnyi wrote on the Telegram app that newly arrived, US-supplied advanced HIMARS rocket systems were now deployed and hitting targets in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine.
Asked about a potential counterattack in the south, Budanov, the Ukrainian military intelligence chief, told Reuters that Ukraine should begin to see results “from August.”
Russian missiles also struck elsewhere overnight. “48 cruise missiles. At night. Throughout whole Ukraine,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter. “Russia is still trying to intimidate Ukraine, cause panic.”
The governor of Lviv region in western Ukraine said six missiles were fired from the Black Sea at a base near the border with Poland. Four hit the target but two were destroyed.
The war has had a huge impact on the global economy and European security, driving up gas, oil and food prices, pushing the European Union to reduce reliance on Russian energy and prompting Finland and Sweden to seek NATO membership.


G7 summit kicks off under shadow of Ukraine war, stagflation risk

 US President Joe Biden, center right, after his arrival at Franz-Josef-Strauss Airport near Munich, Germany, on Saturday.
US President Joe Biden, center right, after his arrival at Franz-Josef-Strauss Airport near Munich, Germany, on Saturday.
Updated 26 June 2022

G7 summit kicks off under shadow of Ukraine war, stagflation risk

 US President Joe Biden, center right, after his arrival at Franz-Josef-Strauss Airport near Munich, Germany, on Saturday.
  • The G7 partners are set to agree to ban imports of gold from Russia, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters
  • The G7 leaders are also expected to discuss options for tackling rising energy prices and replacing Russian oil and gas imports

SCHLOSS ELMAU, Germany: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz welcomes leaders of the Group of Seven rich democracies on Sunday to a three-day summit in the Bavarian Alps overshadowed by the war in Ukraine and its far-reaching consequences, from energy shortages to a food crisis.
The summit takes place against a darker backdrop than last year when the British, Canadian, French, German, Italian, Japanese and US leaders met for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic and vowed to build back better.
Soaring global energy and food prices are hitting economic growth in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The United Nations warned on Friday of an “unprecedented global hunger crisis.”
Climate change, an increasingly assertive China and the rise of authoritarianism are also set to be on the agenda.
The G7 leaders are expected to seek to show a united front on supporting Ukraine for as long as necessary and cranking up pressure on the Kremlin — although they will want to avoid sanctions that could stoke inflation and exacerbate the cost-of-living crisis affecting their own people.
“The main message from the G7 will be unity and coordination of action... That’s the main message, that even through difficult times... we stick to our alliance,” an EU official said.
The G7 partners are set to agree to ban imports of gold from Russia, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters. A German government source later said that leaders were having “really constructive” conversations on a possible price cap on Russian oil imports.
The G7 leaders are also expected to discuss options for tackling rising energy prices and replacing Russian oil and gas imports.
The summit takes place at the castle resort of Schloss Elmau at the foot of Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze — the same venue as when the country last hosted the G7 annual meet-up in 2015. Then too, Russian aggression against Ukraine dominated the agenda a year after Moscow’s invasion of Crimea.
The summit is also a chance for Scholz to capitalize on being the host by displaying more assertive leadership on the Ukraine crisis.
The chancellor vowed a revolution in German foreign and defense policy after Russia’s invasion in February, promising to bolster the military with a 100 billion euro fund and send weapons to Ukraine.
But critics have since charged him with foot-dragging and sending mixed messages by warning that Russia might perceive NATO as a war party and highlighting the risk of nuclear war.
The G7 was founded in 1975 as a forum for the richest nations to discuss crises such as the OPEC oil embargo.
It became the G8 after Russia was admitted six years after the fall of the Soviet Union. But Moscow was suspended in 2014 after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine.

GLOBAL PARTNERS
This year, Scholz has invited as partner countries Senegal, currently chairing the African Union, Argentina, currently heading the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, as well as Indonesia and India, the current and next hosts of the G20 group of large industrial nations, as well as South Africa.
“The summit must send not only the message that NATO and the G7 are more united than ever, but also that the democracies of the world stand together against Putin’s imperialism just as they do in the fight against hunger and poverty,” Scholz told the German parliament this week.
Many countries of the global south are concerned about the collateral damage from western sanctions.
An EU official said G7 countries would impress upon the partner countries that food price spikes hitting them were the result of Russia’s actions and that there were no sanctions targeting food. It was also a mistake to think of the Ukraine war as a local matter.
“It’s more than this. It’s questioning the order, the post Second World War order,” the official said.