Russia: Wagner Group’s leader will move to Belarus, rebellion raps to be dropped

Russia: Wagner Group’s leader will move to Belarus, rebellion raps to be dropped
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Fighters of Wagner private mercenary group pull out of military headquarters to return to base in the city of Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on June 24, 2023. (REUTERS)
Russia: Wagner Group’s leader will move to Belarus, rebellion raps to be dropped
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Russia: Wagner Group’s leader will move to Belarus, rebellion raps to be dropped
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Russia: Wagner Group’s leader will move to Belarus, rebellion raps to be dropped
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Updated 25 June 2023
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Russia: Wagner Group’s leader will move to Belarus, rebellion raps to be dropped

Russia: Wagner Group’s leader will move to Belarus, rebellion raps to be dropped
  • Belarus leader brokered deal to end rebellious march that challenged Putin
  • Prigozhin says he decided to retreat to avoid “shedding Russian blood” 
  • Wagner fighters who did not take part in the uprising will be offered contracts by the Defense Ministry

The rebellious Russian mercenary commander who ordered his troops to march on Moscow before abruptly reversing course will move to neighboring Belarus and not face prosecution, the Kremlin said Saturday, as part of a deal to defuse a crisis that represented the most significant challenge to President Vladimir Putin in his more than two decades in power.

The charges against Yevgeny Prigozhin for mounting an armed rebellion will be dropped and the troops who joined him also will not be prosecuted, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced, and fighters from his Wagner Group who did not take part in the uprising will be offered contracts by the Defense Ministry.
Putin had vowed to punish those behind the armed uprising led by his onetime protege, whose forces seized a key military facility in southern Russia before advancing on the capital. In a televised speech to the nation, Putin called the rebellion a “betrayal” and “treason.”

 

In allowing Prigozhin and his forces to go free, Peskov said Putin’s “highest goal” was “to avoid bloodshed and internal confrontation with unpredictable results.”
Moscow had braced for the arrival of the Wagner forces by erecting checkpoints with armored vehicles and troops on the city’s southern edge. Red Square was shut down, and the mayor urged motorists to stay off some roads.

But after the deal was struck, Prigozhin announced that while his men were just 200 kilometers (120 miles) from Moscow, he had decided to retreat to avoid “shedding Russian blood.” His troops were ordered back to their field camps in Ukraine, where they have been fighting alongside Russian regular soldiers.
Prigozhin has demanded the ouster of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, long the target of his withering criticism for his conduct of the war in Ukraine. On Friday, he accused forces under Shoigu’s command of attacking Wagner camps and killing “a huge number of our comrades.”
 

Prigozhin did not say whether the Kremlin had responded to his demand. Peskov said the issue could not have been discussed during the negotiations, which were conducted by the president of Belarus, and is the “exclusive prerogative of the commander in chief.”
If Putin were to agree to Shoigu’s ouster, it could be politically damaging for the president after he branded Prigozhin a backstabbing traitor.
Early Saturday, Prigozhin’s private army appeared to control the military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don, a city 660 miles (over 1,000 kilometers) south of Moscow, which runs Russian operations in Ukraine, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said.
A nighttime video from the city posted on Russian messaging app channels showed people cheering Wagner troops as they left Rostov-on-Don. Prigozhin was seen riding in one of the vehicles, and people greeted him and some ran to shake his hand as he lowered the window.




Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin leaves the headquarters of the Southern Military District amid the group's pullout from the city of Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on June 24, 2023. (REUTERS)

Wagner troops and equipment also were in Lipetsk province, about 360 kilometers (225 miles) south of Moscow.
Authorities declared a “counterterrorist regime” in Moscow and its surrounding region, enhancing security and restricting some movement. On the southern outskirts, troops erected checkpoints, arranged sandbags and set up machine guns. Crews dug up sections of highways to slow the march.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin declared Monday a non-working day for most residents as part of the heightened security, a measure that remained in effect even after the retreat.
The dramatic developments came exactly 16 months after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Europe’s largest conflict since World War II, which has killed tens of thousands, displaced millions and reduced cities to rubble.
Ukrainians hoped the Russian infighting would create opportunities for their army to take back territory seized by Russian forces.
Ben Barry, senior fellow for land warfare at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said that even with a deal, Putin’s position has probably been weakened and “these events will have been of great comfort to the Ukrainian government and the military.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said late Saturday, shortly before Prigozhin announced his retreat, that the march exposed weakness in the Kremlin and “showed all Russian bandits, mercenaries, oligarchs” that it is easy to capture Russian cities “and, probably, arsenals.”
Switching into Russian in his daily video address, Zelensky said “the man from the Kremlin” was “very afraid.” He repeated his calls for the West to supply Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets and ATACMS tactical ballistic missiles.




Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, speaks with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (right) and Chief of the General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov (left), after a meeting with senior military officers in Moscow on Dec. 21, 2022. Shoigu's has been the target of Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin's ire. (Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

Prigozhin had vowed earlier that his fighters, whom he said number some 25,000, would not surrender because “we do not want the country to live on in corruption, deceit and bureaucracy.”
“Regarding the betrayal of the motherland, the president was deeply mistaken. We are patriots of our homeland,” he said in an audio message on his Telegram channel.
He posted video of himself at the military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don and claimed his forces had taken control of the airfield and other military facilities in the city without any deaths or even “a single gunshot.”

Russian media, however, reported that several helicopters and a military communications plane were downed by Wagner troops. The Kremlin referred a question about the losses to the Defense Ministry, which has not commented.

The short-lived rebellion came as Russia is “fighting the toughest battle for its future,” Putin said, with the West piling sanctions on Moscow and arming Ukraine.
“The entire military, economic and information machine of the West is waged against us,” Putin said.

State-controlled TV networks led their newscasts with Putin’s statement and reported the tense situation in Rostov-on-Don. Broadcasters also carried statements from top Russian officials and lawmakers voicing support for Putin, condemning Prigozhin and urging him to back down.
Chechnyan strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, who in the past has sided with Prigozhin in his criticisms of Russia’s military, also expressed support for Putin’s “every word.”
“The mutiny needs to be suppressed,” Kadyrov said.
Wagner troops have played a crucial role in the Ukraine war, capturing the eastern city of Bakhmut, an area where the bloodiest and longest battles have taken place. But Prigozhin has increasingly criticized the military brass, accusing it of incompetence and of starving his troops of munitions.
In announcing the rebellion, Prigozhin accused Russian forces of attacking the Wagner camps in Ukraine with rockets, helicopter gunships and artillery. He alleged that Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the General Staff, ordered the attacks following a meeting with Shoigu in which they decided to destroy the military contractor.
The Defense Ministry denied attacking the camps.
The 62-year-old Prigozhin, a former convict, has longstanding ties to Putin and won lucrative Kremlin catering contracts that earned him the nickname “Putin’s chef.”


ALSO READ:  The mercenary chief who urged an uprising against Russia’s generals has long ties to Putin



He gained attention in the US when he and a dozen other Russian nationals were charged with operating a covert social media campaign aimed at fomenting discord ahead of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election victory. Wagner has sent military contractors to Libya, Syria, several African countries and eventually Ukraine.
The rebellion appeared likely to further hinder Moscow’s war effort in Ukraine, as Kyiv’s forces probed Russian defenses in the initial stages of a counteroffensive.
Orysia Lutsevych, the head of the Ukraine Forum at the Chatham House think tank in London, said the infighting could create confusion and potential division among Russian military forces.
“Russian troops in Ukraine may well now be operating in a vacuum, without clear military instructions, and doubts about whom to obey and follow,″ Lutsevych said. “This creates a unique and unprecedented military opportunity for the Ukrainian army.”
Western countries monitored developments closely. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with his counterparts in the other G7 countries and the European Union’s foreign affairs representative, his spokesman said, adding that Blinken “reiterated that support by the United States for Ukraine will not change.”
Latvia and Estonia, two NATO countries that border Russia, said they were increasing security at their borders.
 


RFK Jr. says he loves his family ‘either way’ after relatives endorse Biden’s campaign over hi

RFK Jr. says he loves his family ‘either way’ after relatives endorse Biden’s campaign over hi
Updated 7 sec ago
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RFK Jr. says he loves his family ‘either way’ after relatives endorse Biden’s campaign over hi

RFK Jr. says he loves his family ‘either way’ after relatives endorse Biden’s campaign over hi
  • The son of assassinated former US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy has not been taken seriously for his vaccine-skeptic campaign
  • His relatives have openly opposed his decision to run for the presidency, saying he could take away some votes for Biden

ROYAL OAK, Michigan: Independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Sunday acknowledged endorsements from more than a dozen of his relatives who are backing Democratic President Joe Biden, noting that he feels no ill will over the family political divide.

“Some of them don’t like the fact that I’m running,” Kennedy said of his relatives, after a comedy showcase in suburban Detroit to benefit his campaign.
Kennedy — who last year launched an independent presidential bid after first challenging Biden for the Democratic nomination — was reacting to the endorsements from his sister and other relatives last week, a move by the Biden campaign that signals how seriously the president’s team is taking a long-shot candidate using his last name’s lingering Democratic magic to siphon support from the incumbent.
In Philadelphia, Kerry Kennedy, a daughter of former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, niece of former President John F. Kennedy and sister of the current presidential candidate, called Biden “my hero,” saying — without mention of her brother — that the family wanted to “make crystal clear” their support for reelecting Biden.
Biden, who keeps a bust of Robert F. Kennedy in the Oval Office, said the endorsements were “an incredible honor.”
Going on to describe family debates he said his father orchestrated among his children, Kennedy said Sunday night that the exercise showed him a respectful way to take opposing positions with people he cares about without taking it personally.
“I debated them with information and passion and not to hate each other because we disagreed with each other,” he said. “I love my family, either way.”
Kennedy — who mentioned Biden’s Oval Office RFK bust, as well as his relatives currently working both in the Biden’s administration and on his own presidential campaign — made his remarks in Michigan, where last week, the campaign secured access to the general election ballot. In front of the suburban Detroit theater ahead of the performances, several dozen protesters opposed Kennedy’s appearance, with signs aiming to align Kennedy with former President Donald Trump.
Kennedy has spoken publicly in the past about disagreeing with his family on many issues, but maintains it can be done in “friendly” ways. After a super political action committee supporting his campaign produced a TV ad during the Super Bowl that relied heavily on imagery from John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential run, Kennedy Jr. apologized to his relatives on the X social media platform, saying he was sorry if the spot “caused anyone in my family pain.”
“I love my family. I feel that they love me,” he said Sunday. “And I wish the same thing would happen for all of our country, where we disagree with each other without hating on each other.”
 


Health-harming heat stress rising in Europe, scientists say

Health-harming heat stress rising in Europe, scientists say
Updated 23 min 18 sec ago
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Health-harming heat stress rising in Europe, scientists say

Health-harming heat stress rising in Europe, scientists say
  • Temperatures in Europe are rising at roughly twice the global average, Copernicus and WMO reported
  • Deaths related to heat have increased by around 30 percent in Europe in the last 20 years, the report said

BRUSSELS: Europe is increasingly facing bouts of heat so intense that the human body cannot cope, as climate change continues to raise temperatures, the EU’s Copernicus climate monitoring service and the World Meteorological Organization said on Monday.
In a report on Europe’s climate, Copernicus and the WMO noted last year’s extreme conditions, including a July heatwave which pushed 41 percent of southern Europe into strong, very strong or extreme heat stress — the biggest area of Europe under such conditions in any day on record.
Extreme heat poses particular health risks to outdoor workers, the elderly, and people with existing conditions like cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
Parts of Italy recorded 7 percent more deaths than normal last July, with victims including a 44-year-old man painting road markings in the northern town of Lodi who collapsed and died.
Heat stress measures the impact that the environment has on the human body, combining factors like temperature, humidity and the body’s response, to establish a “feels like” temperature.

Parts of Spain, France, Italy and Greece experienced up to ten days of extreme heat stress in 2023, defined as a “feels like” temperature of more than 46 degrees Celsius, at which point immediate action must be taken to avoid heat stroke and other health issues.
Deaths related to heat have increased by around 30 percent in Europe in the last 20 years, the report said.
The EU’s environment agency urged governments last month to prepare health care systems for climate change and called for EU rules to protect outdoor workers from extreme heat.
Last year was the world’s hottest since records began. Europe is the world’s fastest-warming continent.
Greenhouse gas emissions were the biggest cause of last year’s exceptional heat, the report said. Factors including the El Nino weather pattern also played a role.
The heat fueled extreme weather including flooding, since the warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, causing heavier downpours when it is released.
Floods in Slovenia last year affected 1.5 million people. Greece suffered the EU’s biggest wildfire on record which, at 960 square km, was twice the size of Athens. Alpine glaciers lost 10 percent of their remaining volume during 2022 and 2023.
“Some of the events of 2023 took the scientific community by surprise because of their intensity, their speed of onset, extent and duration,” said Carlo Buontempo, director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service.

 


World’s largest private firms fail to set climate targets: report

World’s largest private firms fail to set climate targets: report
Updated 22 April 2024
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World’s largest private firms fail to set climate targets: report

World’s largest private firms fail to set climate targets: report
  • Several jurisdictions including the United Kingdom have adopted climate disclosure regulations

PARIS: Only 40 of the world’s 100 largest private firms have set net-zero carbon emissions targets to fight climate change, according to a report released Monday, lagging far behind public companies.
But for the world to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming 1.5 degree Celsius, all companies need to reduce their planet-heating emissions, the report by the group Net Zero Tracker noted.
The lack of market and reputational pressures on private firms compared to those publicly-listed, along with an absence of regulation are to blame for their slow uptake of climate commitments, John Lange of Net Zero Tracker told AFP.
“I think things are changing on all three of those fronts,” he added.
The report compared 200 of the world’s largest public and private companies based on their reported emissions reductions strategies and net-zero targets.
It found that only 40 of the 100 private firms assessed had net zero targets, compared to 70 of 100 publicly-listed companies.
Of the private companies that have set targets, just eight have published plans on how they will meet them.
“A pledge without a plan is not a pledge, it is a naked PR stunt,” the report said.
Only two firms — furnishing giant Ikea and US engineering giant Bechtel — ruled out using controversial carbon credits to achieve their net-zero goals, the report said.
Carbon credits allow businesses to offset their emissions by directing money toward a project that reduces or avoids emissions, such as protecting forests, but critics say they allow companies to keep polluting.
Meanwhile, none of the eight fossil fuel companies included in the report was found to have a net-zero target, compared with 76 percent of the sector’s largest public firms.
There was also little improvement in the figures compared with a previous analysis done in 2022, “despite a massive uptick in regulation around the world,” Lang said.
Several jurisdictions including the United Kingdom have adopted climate disclosure regulations.
Others have regulations on the horizon, with business hubs of California and Singapore requiring greenhouse gas emissions reporting from 2027.
The European Union also introduced two climate regulations — the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD) — which will soon require thousands of large companies to report their climate impacts and emissions, and to take action to curtail them.
“We’re trying to get private firms to understand what’s coming for them,” Lang said.
The EU policies will have far-reaching effects in particular, targeting firms not only based in the bloc but those that may be headquartered elsewhere with branches or subsidiaries within the member states.
Yet two European private firms, including French hypermarket chain E. Leclerc, were singled out in the report for having set any emissions reduction targets.
E.Leclerc told AFP that the company has made efforts toward more sustainable practices like eliminating the use of single-use plastic bags, and is “committed to setting near-term company-wide emissions reduction targets.”
But with the enforcement of EU regulations looming, firms will not be able to “dodge” climate targets much longer, Sybrig Smit of the NewClimate Institute told AFP.
“It’s actually quite watertight. If companies want to do business in Europe, they are going to have to face the consequences,” she said.
The firms analyzed account for roughly 23 percent of the global economy, with the majority based in either China, the United States or EU states — the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, Lang said.
Any changes the firms make to meet new regulations will have substantial benefits for the environment.
“They have such a trickledown effect. Whenever such a big company is implementing something real, it will have a huge effect on the rest of the sector that they operate in,” Smit said.


EU ministers to discuss air defense for Ukraine, Iran sanctions

EU ministers to discuss air defense for Ukraine, Iran sanctions
Updated 22 April 2024
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EU ministers to discuss air defense for Ukraine, Iran sanctions

EU ministers to discuss air defense for Ukraine, Iran sanctions
  • The EU already has multiple sanctions programs against Iran – for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, human rights abuses and supplying drones to Russia

LUXEMBOURG: European Union foreign ministers meet in Luxembourg on Monday to discuss bolstering Ukraine’s air defenses and expanding sanctions on Iran.
While the ministers will also discuss the war in Sudan, most of their focus will be on the conflicts raging on the 27-member bloc’s eastern and southern doorsteps – in Ukraine and the Middle East.
With Russia having stepped up air attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and other targets, EU governments are under pressure to supply more air defense systems such as Patriots to Kyiv.
Kyiv and its European allies got a big boost at the weekend when the US House of Representatives approved a package worth more than $60 billion to address the war in Ukraine.
But EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and NATO boss Jens Stoltenberg have been urging European countries to step up their own efforts to give arms to Ukraine, particularly air defense.
After a video conference of NATO defense ministers with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday, Stoltenberg said he expected announcements soon.
“NATO has mapped out existing capabilities across the alliance and there are systems that can be made available to Ukraine,” he said.
“In addition to Patriots, there are other weapons that allies can provide, including (the French system) SAMP/T,” he added.
So far, Germany is the only EU member to declare it will send an additional Patriot system in response to Ukraine’s latest pleas.
The ministers will be joined by their defense counterparts for Monday’s Ukraine talks, as well as Ukraine’s foreign and defense ministers, before turning to the Middle East crisis sparked by the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7 last year.

IRAN SANCTIONS
The ministers will seek agreement on how much further to go in sanctioning Iran, following Tehran’s missile and drone attack on Israel the weekend before last.
The EU already has multiple sanctions programs against Iran – for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, human rights abuses and supplying drones to Russia.
EU leaders agreed last week they would impose further sanctions against Iran. Many EU countries have called for widening the drone-related sanctions regime to cover missiles and transfers to Iranian proxy forces in the Middle East.
EU countries are also debating whether to impose fresh sanctions related to missile production, according to diplomats.
Some countries are also pushing for the EU to find a way to designate Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards force as a terrorist organization.
But officials say they have not yet found a legal basis for such a step are not sure all EU members would favor it.

 


India to rerun election at 11 places in Manipur after violence

India to rerun election at 11 places in Manipur after violence
Updated 21 April 2024
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India to rerun election at 11 places in Manipur after violence

India to rerun election at 11 places in Manipur after violence
  • Friday marked start of voting by nearly 1 billion people in world’s most-populous country
  • The main opposition Congress party had demanded a rerun at 47 Manipur polling stations

NEW DELHI: India, staging the world’s biggest election, will rerun voting at 11 polling stations in the northeastern state of Manipur on Monday after reports of violence and damage to voting machines in the state torn by months of ethnic clashes.
The election authorities declared the voting void at the 11 locations and ordered the fresh poll, the chief electoral officer of Manipur said in a statement late on Saturday.
Friday marked the start of voting by nearly one billion people in the world’s most-populous country, in an election running through June 1. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is forecast to win a rare third term on the back of issues such as growth, welfare and Hindu nationalism.
The main opposition Congress party had demanded a rerun at 47 Manipur polling stations, alleging that booths were captured and elections were rigged.
There were scattered incidents of violence on Friday in the state, including clashes among armed groups and attempts to take over polling stations under heavy security. Voters turned out in large numbers, despite the threat of clashes that have killed at least 220 people in the past year.
Manipur has been roiled by fighting between the majority Meitei and tribal Kuki-Zo people since May. It remains divided between a valley controlled by Meiteis and Kuki-dominated hills, separated by a stretch of no-man’s land monitored by federal paramilitary forces.