Putin accuses West of wanting Russians ‘to kill each other’ in aborted revolt

Putin accuses West of wanting Russians ‘to kill each other’ in aborted revolt
In this photo taken from video, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his address to the nation in Moscow on June 26, 2023. (Russian Presidential Press Service via AP)
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Updated 27 June 2023

Putin accuses West of wanting Russians ‘to kill each other’ in aborted revolt

Putin accuses West of wanting Russians ‘to kill each other’ in aborted revolt
  • Thanks Russians for avoiding bloodshed, pays tribute to pilots killed fighting mutineers
  • Wagner fighters given options to join Russian army, leave for Belarus, or go home
  • Wagner boss Prigozhin says he did not intend coup; Biden: West had nothing to do with short-lived mutiny

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday accused Ukraine and its Western allies of wanting Russians to “kill each other” during a revolt by mercenaries of the Wagner group, which stunned the country with an aborted march on Moscow over the weekend.

In his first address to the nation since the rebels pulled back, Putin paid tribute to pilots killed fighting the aborted mutiny, confirming for the first time that Russian aviators had been lost in battle as the Wagner mercenary group marched on Moscow.
He said he had issued orders to avoid bloodshed and granted amnesty to the Wagner fighters whose mutiny served up the greatest challenge yet to his two-decade rule.
“From the start of the events, on my orders steps were taken to avoid large-scale bloodshed,” Putin said in a televised address, thanking Russians for their “patriotism.”
“It was precisely this fratricide that Russia’s enemies wanted: both the neo-Nazis in Kyiv and their Western patrons, and all sorts of national traitors. They wanted Russian soldiers to kill each other,” Putin said.
Putin also thanked his security officials for their work during the armed rebellion in a meeting that included Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, a main target of the mutiny.
“Civilian solidarity showed that any blackmail, any attempts to organize internal turmoil, is doomed to fail,” Putin said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a meeting with heads of Russian security services in Moscow on June 26, 2023. (Sputnik/Valery Sharifulin/Pool via REUTERS)

Tribute to downed pilots
Putin’s remarks confirmed reports on social media that Wagner forces had downed Russian aircraft in the fighting.
“The courage and self-sacrifice of the fallen heroes-pilots saved Russia from tragic devastating consequences,” he said, adding that the rebellion threatened Russia’s very existence and those behind it would be punished.
There has been no official information about how many pilots died or how many aircraft were shot down.
Some Russian Telegram channels monitoring Russia’s military activity, including the blog Rybar with more than a million subscribers, reported on Saturday that 13 Russian pilots were killed during the day-long mutiny.
Among the aircraft downed were three Mi-8 MTPR electronic warfare helicopters, and an Il-18 aircraft with its crew, Rybar reported.
It was also not clear in what circumstances the aircraft were shot down and pilots killed.
Putin said “steps were taken on my direct instruction to avoid serious bloodshed” during the insurrection, which ended abruptly with Wagner forces standing down and Prigozhin agreeing to go into exile in neighboring Belarus.
“Time was needed, among other things, to give those who had made a mistake a chance to come to their senses, to realize that their actions were firmly rejected by society, and that the adventure in which they had been involved had tragic and destructive consequences for Russia and for our state,” Putin said.
Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin also spoke in an 11-minute audio message posted on his press service’s Telegram channel, and gave few clues to his whereabouts or the deal under which he halted the move toward Moscow.
He said his men had been forced to shoot down helicopters that attacked them as they drove nearly 800km (500 miles) from the south toward the capital, before abruptly calling off the uprising.
Numerous Western leaders saw the unrest as exposing Putin’s vulnerability following his decision to invade Ukraine 16 months ago.

Options for Wagner fighters
The Russian president said he would honor his weekend promise to allow Wagner forces to relocate to Belarus, sign a contract with Russia’s Defense Ministry, or return to their families.
“Today you have the possibility to continue serving Russia by entering into a contract with the Ministry of Defense or other law enforcement agencies, or to return to your family and close ones... Whoever wants to can go to Belarus,” Putin said in his address.
Putin thanked Wagner fighters and commanders who stood down to avoid what he called “fratricidal bloodshed,” and said the vast majority of Wagner’s members were patriots.
He made no mention of Prigozhin. Putin met on Monday night with the heads of Russian security services, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, IFX reported, citing a Kremlin spokesperson.
One of Prigozhin’s principal demands had been that Shoigu be sacked, along with Russia’s top general, who by Monday evening had not appeared in public since the mutiny.
Prigozhin, 62, a former Putin ally and ex-convict whose forces have fought the bloodiest battles of the Ukraine war, defied orders this month to place his troops under Defense Ministry command.
Prigozhin had earlier defended his aborted mutiny as a bid to save his mercenary outfit and expose the failures of Russia’s military leadership — but not to challenge the Kremlin.

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin looks out from a military vehicle on a street in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on June 24, 2023, after calling off his mercenary group's revolt. (AP)

Prigozhin, who did not reveal from where he was speaking, said in an online audio message that his revolt was intended to prevent his Wagner force from being dismantled, and bragged that the ease with which it had advanced on Moscow exposes “serious security problems.”
“We went to demonstrate our protest and not to overthrow power in the country,” Prigozhin said, boasting that his men had “blocked all military infrastructure” including air bases along their route toward a point less than 200 kilometers (125 miles) from Moscow.
Prighozin called off the advance and pulled out of a military base his men had seized in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, a nerve center of the war in Ukraine, late on Saturday after mediation efforts from Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko.
Last seen on Saturday night smiling and high-fiving bystanders from the back of an SUV as he withdrew from a Russian city occupied by his men, Prigozhin said his fighters had halted their campaign to avert bloodshed.
On Saturday Prigozhin had said he was leaving for Belarus under a deal brokered by its president, Alexander Lukashenko. In Monday’s remarks he said Lukashenko had offered to let Wagner operate under a legal framework, but did not elaborate.
The White House said it could not confirm whether the Wagner chief was in Belarus.
Russia’s three main news agencies reported on Monday that a criminal case against Prigozhin had not been closed, an apparent reversal of an offer of immunity publicized as part of the deal that persuaded him to stand down.
The Wagner headquarters in Saint Petersburg said it remained open for business, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the firm would continue to operate in Mali and the Central African Republic.
Officials in Moscow and the Voronezh region south of the capital lifted “anti-terrorist” emergency security measures imposed to protect the capital from rebel assault.

’Nothing to do with it’
In comments before a speech in Washington, US President Joe Biden called the mutiny “part of a struggle within the Russian system.” He discussed it in a conference call with key allies who agreed it was vital not to let Putin blame it on the West or NATO, he said.
“We made it clear that we were not involved. We had nothing to do with it,” Biden said.
White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said US policy did not seek to change the government in Russia.
The State Department said Ambassador Lynne Tracy in Moscow had contacted Russian officials “to reiterate what we said publicly — that this is an internal Russian affair in which the United States is not involved and will not be involved.”
Foreign governments, both friendly and hostile to Russia, were left groping for answers to what had happened behind the scenes and what could come next.
“The political system is showing fragilities, and the military power is cracking,” European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters in Luxembourg.
In Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky said the military had made advances on Monday in all sectors of the front line, calling it a “happy day” in his nightly video address delivered from a train after visiting frontline positions.
Fighting continued in Ukraine, where Kyiv’s forces claimed new victories in their battle to evict Russian troops from the east and south of the country, but in the Russian capital, authorities stood down their enhanced security regime.
Zelensky made a morale-boosting trip to troops fighting Russian forces near the city of Bakhmut, the site of some of the most intense battles in the conflict, and touted his force’s military progress.
“Today, our soldiers made progress in all areas, and this is a happy day,” Zelensky said Monday in his regular evening address.
Military leaders said their forces were making progress in the south and east of the country.
“We are knocking the enemy out of its positions on the flanks of the city of Bakhmut,” eastern ground force commander Oleksandr Syrskyi said. “Ukraine is regaining its territory. We are moving forward.”
Near Bakhmut, residents in the frontline town of Druzhkivka, which is also in Donetsk, told AFP that four explosions had rocked a residential district overnight.
The blasts severed water and sewage pipes, shattered windows and threw up stones that hit yards and roofs, but municipal authorities said no one was hurt.
“It was a ‘fun’ night, we haven’t had this for a long time, it’s been quiet for a month or so,” said 66-year-old Lyubov, showing off the new hole in her cement-shingled roof.










Four go on trial in France over 2018 Christmas market attack

Four go on trial in France over 2018 Christmas market attack
Updated 5 sec ago

Four go on trial in France over 2018 Christmas market attack

Four go on trial in France over 2018 Christmas market attack
PARIS: Four men went on trial on Thursday over a 2018 Christmas market attack in France’s eastern city of Strasbourg, with a key suspect insisting he did not know the plans of the radical Islamist who killed five people before being shot dead by police after a 48-hour manhunt.
The traditional Christmas market was in full swing on December 11 when Cherif Chekatt — a convicted criminal featured on a list of possible extremist security risks — opened fire on revellers, shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“God is Greatest” in Arabic).
The four men on trial in Paris are accused of crimes ranging from “terrorism” to helping supply weapons, including the 19th-century revolver Chekatt used in the attack.
The trial opened at the Paris court with the suspects confirming their names.
One of them, Audrey Mondjehi, faces the maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted of “terrorism.” The others risk 10 years imprisonment.
The trial, due to last until early April, is the latest legal process over the militant attacks that have hit France since 2015, with most of those in the dock accused of complicity since the actual perpetrators were generally killed while carrying out their attacks.
In December 2022, a Paris court convicted all eight suspects in the trial over a 2016 truck attack in the Mediterranean city of Nice, which left 86 dead, including the driver.
In the highest-profile case, 20 defendants were convicted in June 2022 over their roles in the November 2015 attack in the French capital, when 130 people were killed.
The Daesh group claimed the Strasbourg attack, but the then-French interior minister Christophe Castaner said it was taking credit for an attack it hadn’t planned.
A video pledging allegiance to the group was however found at the assailant’s home.
Of the accused only Mondjehi, 42, was charged with “terrorism,” while the three others — all in their 30s — face criminal conspiracy charges for their role in supplying weapons.
A fifth defendant, in his mid-80s, may be tried at a later date after a medical examination found his health was not compatible with taking part in the current long trial.
Mondjehi, a former cellmate of the assailant, played “a key role in supplying a weapon” by putting him in touch with sellers, and “could not have been unaware of, or may have even shared, all or part of Cherif Chekatt’s radical convictions,” according to the indictment.
Mondjehi told the court this was not true.
“Never could I have known that this weapon could have been for an attack,” he said.
His lawyer Michael Wacquez said he was concerned Mondjehi could be used as a scapegoat.
“Mondjehi should not be an outlet for the grief of the victims and should not be condemned because Cherif Chekatt is not there,” he said.
According to the investigation, there was no evidence of the other suspects having been aware of Chekatt’s plans.
Although Chekatt cannot now be brought to justice, survivors and relatives of victims said the trial was still crucial.
The attack “turned my whole life upside down,” said Mostafa Salhane, a 53-year-old former taxi driver who spent 15 terrifying minutes with Chekatt who climbed into his cab with a gun in his hand as he fled the scene.
A lawyer representing some of the families, Arnaud Friederich, said the trial was a “key moment” for his clients.
“There will be a before and an after,” he said.
Claude Lienhard, a lawyer for several dozen people, said there was a perception the investigation has been dragging on.
“There’s a fear that this will be a low-cost trial compared with other terror trials, as many feel they have been forgotten,” he said.
Audrey Wagner, who saw Chekatt wound one of her friends, said she expected proceedings to be “distressing” but important to “turn the page.”
Jean-Yves Bruckman, a now-retired firefighter who aided one of the victims said he needed answers “to heal.”
“One question keeps coming back to me: How can you kill someone like that?“

Italy foreign minister urges ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Gaza

Italy foreign minister urges ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Gaza
Updated 14 min 41 sec ago

Italy foreign minister urges ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Gaza

Italy foreign minister urges ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Gaza
  • “We strongly urge Israel to protect the people in Gaza and to rigorously ascertain facts and responsibilities,” Tajani said
  • The Israeli military said a “stampede” occurred when thousands of Gazans surrounded a convoy of 30 aid trucks, leading to dozens of deaths and injuries

ROME: Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani called Thursday for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza and called on Israel to protect the Palestinian population after troops opened fire at an aid convoy.
“The tragic deaths in Gaza demand an immediate ceasefire to facilitate more humanitarian aid, the release of hostages and the protection of civilians,” he said on X, hours after the incident which the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory said killed 104 people.
“We strongly urge Israel to protect the people in Gaza and to rigorously ascertain facts and responsibilities,” he said.
The Israeli military said a “stampede” occurred when thousands of Gazans surrounded a convoy of 30 aid trucks, leading to dozens of deaths and injuries, including some who were run over by the lorries.
An Israeli source acknowledged troops had opened fire on the crowd, believing it “posed a threat.”
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed her “deep dismay and concern” over the violence, calling on Israel to “urgently ascertain the dynamics of the incident and relative responsibilities.”
She also called for negotiation efforts to be “immediately intensified to create the conditions for a ceasefire” and the freeing of the hostages.

India’s economy grows at its fastest pace in six quarters in election boost for Modi

India’s economy grows at its fastest pace in six quarters in election boost for Modi
Updated 29 February 2024

India’s economy grows at its fastest pace in six quarters in election boost for Modi

India’s economy grows at its fastest pace in six quarters in election boost for Modi
  • India’s economy grew 8.4% in the October-December quarter, much faster than 6.6% estimate
  • India has beaten market expectations, is ranked as one of fastest-growing economies in the world

NEW DELHI: India’s economy grew at its fastest pace in one-and-half years in the final three months of 2023, led by strong manufacturing and construction activity and bolstering Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s economic record just months before a national election.
Asia’s third largest economy grew 8.4 percent in the October-December quarter, much faster than the 6.6 percent estimated by economists polled by Reuters and higher than the 7.6 percent recorded in the previous three months.
“The ongoing growth momentum is indicative of the Indian economy’s resilience, notwithstanding global headwinds,” said Sunil Kumar Sinha, economist at India Ratings, noting that industrial growth continued its good run in the quarter.
India has consistently beat market expectations and is ranked as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, with China struggling to recover after the pandemic and the euro zone narrowly escaping a recession.
India revised its growth estimate for the current fiscal year to March 31 to 7.6 percent from 7.3 percent.
Such a strong showing in the last major economic data release before elections due by May could bolster Modi’s chances after he made high economic growth one of his main platforms at rallies across the country.
The December growth “shows the strength of Indian economy and its potential,” Modi said in a social media post.
Modi has sharply raised government spending on infrastructure and offered incentives to boost manufacturing of phones, electronics, drones and semiconductors to help India compete with likes of Vietnam and Thailand.
The manufacturing sector, which for the past decade has accounted for 17 percent of Asia’s third-largest economy, expanded 11.6 percent year-on-year in the December quarter, while investment growth was above 10 percent for the second consecutive quarter, and the construction sector grew by more than 9 percent.
“Manufacturing sector growth was supported by lower input costs,” said Rajani Sinha, Economist at CareEdge
Private consumption, accounting for 60 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), recovered slightly in the quarter, with a 3.5 percent year-on-year rise, compared with 2.4 percent in the previous three months.
Government spending contracted 3.2 percent year-on-year, compared with 1.4 percent growth in the previous quarter.
The farm sector, which accounts for about 15 percent of the $3.7 trillion economy, continued to struggle due to unfavorable monsoon rains. It contracted 0.8 percent in the December quarter, compared with 1.6 percent growth in the September quarter.
Slowing rural growth dragged down farm incomes and some farmers have hit the streets
demanding higher procurement prices.
Rural weakness has led to slower growth for major retail companies like Hindustan Unilever and Britannia Industries.
The pace of growth in real rural wages was around 1 percent in 2023 after contracting nearly 3 percent in the previous two years, according to ICRA, while average salaries in urban areas have been going up by nearly 10 percent a year.
However, policymakers remain optimistic about rural recovery.
“With the anticipated better value addition in the farm sector next financial year, rural demand growth and rural income growth will be even better and more evident in FY25,” country’s Chief Economic Adviser V Anantha Nageswaran said.

Indonesian artists seek to amplify Southeast Asian aesthetics at Art Dubai

Indonesian artists seek to amplify Southeast Asian aesthetics at Art Dubai
Updated 29 February 2024

Indonesian artists seek to amplify Southeast Asian aesthetics at Art Dubai

Indonesian artists seek to amplify Southeast Asian aesthetics at Art Dubai
  • 17th edition of Art Dubai runs from March 1-3 in Madinat Jumeirah
  • Over 65% of the fair’s presentations are from the Global South

Jakarta: Indonesian artists are hoping to amplify Southeast Asian aesthetics in the Middle East with their showcase at Art Dubai this week, where they will join a diverse group of Global South artists from 40 countries.

The 17th edition of Art Dubai, which runs from March 1 to 3 in Madinat Jumeirah, will showcase leading artists and galleries from developing countries, as it seeks to provide a platform for art from typically underrepresented regions and communities. This year, over 65 percent of its presentations are drawn from the Global South.

Indonesia’s artists, represented by various galleries such as Gajah Gallery and Yeo Workshop, are among a group of Southeast Asian creatives presenting works focused on the region’s heritage.

Erizal As, a painter from Indonesia’s West Sumatra province, is hoping that Dubai will help boost the global visibility of his, and other Southeast Asian artists’ work.

“I am indeed hopeful to garner greater recognition in the Middle East, a region experiencing rapid growth and burgeoning appreciation for the arts. I am confident that the universal themes and expressive depth of my work will resonate with the discerning Gulf audience, fostering a meaningful dialogue transcending cultural boundaries,” Erizal told Arab News on Thursday.

“I also think that the inclusion of more Indonesian and Southeast Asian artists may bring a fresh perspective to the local art scene … Maybe the different visual language that we bring actually has the same soul or essence as what Dubai has been feeling and communicating through their arts. The two visual languages can communicate with each other.”

After spending the COVID-19 years painting outdoors in the West Sumatra mountains, Erizal returned to his studio to transform his experiences into a series of abstract paintings, presenting various forms through texture and strokes, to capture the essence of nature. Some of those works are being showcased in Dubai this week.

“With my recent creations, my foremost aspiration is to evoke contemplation on the intrinsic essence of nature, spirituality, and the profound energy that permeates our existence,” Erizal said.

Yunizar, who is also from West Sumatra and is known for his childlike creations seeking to capture the psyche of ordinary individuals, will present his paintings and bronze sculptures at Art Dubai.

“My work depicts my observations of life around me. I mix visualizations of objects with things that are fantastical in nature,” Yunizar told Arab News.

Indonesian artist Yunizar working on his “Detail of Bonsai,” 2021. (Gajah Gallery)

He believes in the “common relatability towards art between humankind everywhere” and hopes to amplify the reach of his work at the international art fair.

“Dubai, in my opinion, has a burgeoning art scene with a rich cultural background that can support the development of new visual trajectories. Showcasing my work on such a global scale, I can only strive and attempt to deliver my best work,” he said.

“I believe that my work transcends cultural boundaries and reverberate with viewers from diverse backgrounds. In terms of quality, my work is not less than that of artists from other regions, such as those from Europe. And with its rich visual language and unmistakable Southeast Asian essence, in my opinion, my art will find resonance among the Gulf audience, fostering meaningful dialogue and appreciation for art across borders.”

Amnesty welcomes news NGO ship crew charges could be dropped

Amnesty welcomes news NGO ship crew charges could be dropped
Updated 29 February 2024

Amnesty welcomes news NGO ship crew charges could be dropped

Amnesty welcomes news NGO ship crew charges could be dropped
  • Crew of Iuventa charged with ‘facilitating irregular immigration to Italy from Libya’
  • Prosecution said this week a lack of evidence means case should be dismissed

London: Amnesty International has welcomed news that charges against the crew of NGO ship the Iuventa, which worked to rescue thousands of people from the Mediterranean, could be dropped.

An investigation was opened by Italian authorities in 2017 into the activities of the Iuventa. Four crew members were eventually charged with “facilitating irregular immigration to Italy from Libya,” amid suggestions that they had collaborated with people traffickers, with possible sentences of up to 20 years in jail.

A court in the Italian city of Trapani is set to rule on whether the crew, alongside members of Medecins Sans Frontieres and Save the Children, will be indicted on Saturday, but on Wednesday prosecutors said a lack of evidence meant the charges should be dropped.

“The Iuventa crew has endured six and a half years of court proceedings with unfaltering grace and resilience, and we are glad that there is new hope that the court case will finally be thrown out,” said Elisa De Pieri, regional researcher at Amnesty International.

“The Iuventa ship has saved more than 14,000 lives, including children, and its crew has done so upholding the law of the sea.

“We urge the authorities to stop misusing criminal proceedings and charges of facilitation of irregular migration to obstruct life-saving activities.

“Humanity must come first as we recognize the fearlessness of the Iuventa crew and others who work to battle the horrors that take place in the treacherous waters across the Mediterranean.

“Their acts of solidarity with refugees and migrants should be championed and never be punished. Without them, the already horrific death toll in the central Mediterranean would only get worse.”