Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians seek guarantees before handing weapons to Azerbaijan

Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians seek guarantees before handing weapons to Azerbaijan
Representatives of the Armenian community of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan's government and a representative of the Russian peacekeeping contingent attend the talks in the Azerbaijani city of Yevlakh, Azerbaijan (AP)
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Updated 21 September 2023
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Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians seek guarantees before handing weapons to Azerbaijan

Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians seek guarantees before handing weapons to Azerbaijan
  • Ethnic Armenian official: weapons surrender yet to be worked out
  • Talks held after Azerbaijan reclaims control of Karabakh

GORIS: Ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh need security guarantees before giving up their weapons, an adviser to their leader said on Thursday, a day after Azerbaijan declared it had brought the breakaway region back under its control.
Karabakh Armenian authorities accused Azerbaijan of violating a cease-fire agreed on Wednesday after a lightning Azerbaijani offensive forced the separatists to agree to disarm.
Baku’s defense ministry said the allegation that its forces had broken the cease-fire was “completely false.” Two sources in Karabakh’s main city told Reuters they had heard heavy gunfire on Thursday morning, but it was not clear who was firing.
The shooting and the conflicting narratives highlighted the potential for further bloodshed despite a deal agreed 24 hours earlier that Azerbaijan said had restored its sovereignty over Karabakh after 35 years of conflict.
“We have an agreement on the cessation of military action but we await a final agreement — talks are going on,” David Babayan, an adviser to Nagorno-Karabakh’s breakaway ethnic Armenian leader Samvel Shahramanyan, told Reuters. “We need to talk through a lot of many questions and issues.”
“There has not been a final agreement yet.”
When asked about giving up weapons, Babayan said his people could not be left to die, so would security guarantees first.
“A whole host of questions still need to be resolved,” he said.
Talks took place on Thursday in the Azerbaijani city of Yevlakh between Azerbaijan and representatives of the Republic of Artsakh, as the Karabakh Armenians call themselves.
The Artsakh authorities said in a post on Telegram that no final agreement had been reached.
“CRIMINAL JUNTA CONSIGNED TO HISTORY“
Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but has enjoyed de facto independence since breaking away in a war in the 1990s as the Soviet Union collapsed.
Restoring control has been a cherished dream for Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, who launched a lightning military operation on Tuesday that quickly broke through Karabakh Armenian lines.
In a speech to the nation on Wednesday night, he said Azerbaijan had triumphed with an “iron fist.”
“After the surrender of the criminal junta, this source of tension, this den of poison, has already been consigned to history,” Aliyev said, focusing his anger on Karabakh’s leadership.
He said the region’s ethnic Armenians would enjoy full educational, cultural and religious rights. All ethnic groups and faiths would be united as “one fist — for Azerbaijan, for dignity, for the Motherland.”
Defeat is a bitter pill for the separatist Karabakh leadership and for Armenia, which helped its kin in the enclave to maintain their autonomy and fought two wars with Azerbaijan in the space of 30 years.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan acknowledged in a speech to mark his country’s independence day that Armenians were going through “untold physical and psychological suffering.”
But he said that, to guarantee its survival, his country badly needed peace: “an environment that is free from conflicts, inter-state, inter-ethnic conflicts.”
AZERBAIJAN OFFERS ARMENIA PEACE DRAFT
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said on Wednesday that Armenia’s restraint in not trying to block Baku’s offensive would
remove an obstacle
to peace between the two Caucasus neighbors. An aide to Aliyev said Baku had given Yerevan a new draft peace agreement, Russia’s RIA news agency reported.
Russia, which has peacekeepers in the region, also did nothing to stand in the way of the Azerbaijani offensive — a source of bitter resentment to many Armenians who looked to Moscow as an ally and protector.
In the Armenian capital Yerevan, thousands gathered on Wednesday to denounce their government’s failure to protect Karabakh.
Many demanded the resignation of Pashinyan, who presided over defeat to Azerbaijan in a six-week war in 2020 that paved the way for this week’s loss of Karabakh but nevertheless won re-election several months later.
In Karabakh, many ethnic Armenians have fled their homes in the past three days, some massing at the airport in the main city and others taking shelter with Russian peacekeepers.
Residents of Stepanakert, which Azerbaijan calls Khankendi, said there was no electricity, shops were bare, and people were lighting fires in courtyards to try to cook whatever food they could find. Authorities said they would hand out free food.
“There are a lot of displaced people from the villages, they were just moved to the city and had nowhere to spend the night,” said Gayane Sargsyan, who runs a wellness business in the city.
In a voice message, she told Reuters that rumors were swirling about what would happen next and people were in “chaos and bewilderment.”


French PM eyes rebuilding political force after party backing

French PM eyes rebuilding political force after party backing
Updated 13 July 2024
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French PM eyes rebuilding political force after party backing

French PM eyes rebuilding political force after party backing
  • Sunday’s election runoff left the National Assembly without any overall majority, but a broad alliance — called New Popular Front of Socialists, Communists, Greens & the hard-left France Unbowed won the most seats, with 193 in the 577-strong lower chamber

PARIS: France’s prime minister on Saturday was elected leader of his party’s National Assembly lawmakers as politicians from all sides jockeyed for position to form the next government.
Gabriel Attal was the only candidate in the vote by the Renaissance party parliamentary group, which he plans to use as the base from which to rebuild the political force that got roundly beaten in a snap election called by President Emmanuel Macron.
Of the 98 Renaissance deputies registered to vote, 84 backed Attal, who will start in his role next week.
As Attal and other ministers eye a future outside government, deep cracks have appeared between the 35-year-old premier and his former mentor Macron.
Macron did not get any mention in Attal’s message to Renaissance deputies outlining his leadership bid, with observers saying that the prime minister blames the president for calling the vote, which he said took the party to the brink of “extinction.”
Sunday’s election runoff left the National Assembly without any overall majority, but a broad alliance — called New Popular Front of Socialists, Communists, Greens and the hard-left France Unbowed won the most seats, with 193 in the 577-strong lower chamber.
Macron’s allies came second with 164 seats and the far-right National Rally third at 143.
According to the constitution, Macron will appoint the next prime minister, who must be able to survive a confidence motion in parliament.
This appointment could come as early as next week when the new National Assembly session opens, but Macron could ask Attal to stay on while Paris hosts the Olympic Games starting July 26.

 

 


Two dead in Russian ‘double tap’ attack on town near Ukraine’s Kharkiv

Two dead in Russian ‘double tap’ attack on town near Ukraine’s Kharkiv
Updated 13 July 2024
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Two dead in Russian ‘double tap’ attack on town near Ukraine’s Kharkiv

Two dead in Russian ‘double tap’ attack on town near Ukraine’s Kharkiv
  • Prosecutors said the mid-afternoon missile attack targeted the railway station in Budy, southwest of Kharkiv
  • After rescue teams arrived, a second missile hit the area, injuring 23 people

KYIV: Russian forces launched a “double tap” missile attack on Saturday on a small town near Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv, killing two people, an emergency services official and a police officer, officials said.
Officials also reported two dead in Russian attacks on the Donetsk region to the southeast.
Prosecutors said the mid-afternoon missile attack targeted the railway station in Budy, southwest of Kharkiv. After rescue teams arrived, a second missile hit the area.
They said 23 people were injured in the incidents.
Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said the head of the Kharkiv district emergency services was killed, along with a police officer from a rapid reaction unit. Among the injured were three emergency workers, a policeman and about 20 civilians.
Reuters could not verify independently the accounts and Russia denies deliberately targeting civilians. But Russian forces have used the “double tap” tactic to devastating effect.
Kharkiv remained out of Russian hands in the initial advance of the Kremlin’s forces after the February 2022 invasion.
The city and surrounding area have since come under constant attack, though Ukrainian officials say the frequency has diminished since US supplies of weaponry to Ukraine resumed after a break of several months.
Donetsk regional governor Vadym Filashkin said an attack by multiple rocket launchers hit a multi-story apartment building in Chasiv Yar — a town targeted by Russian forces as a key staging point in moving forward through Ukraine’s east.
And a guided bomb killed one person near the town of Kurakhove, where some of the heaviest fighting is taking place along the 1,000-km (600-mile) front.


Peaceful pre-Olympic protest in Paris honors fallen Ukrainian athletes

Peaceful pre-Olympic protest in Paris honors fallen Ukrainian athletes
Updated 13 July 2024
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Peaceful pre-Olympic protest in Paris honors fallen Ukrainian athletes

Peaceful pre-Olympic protest in Paris honors fallen Ukrainian athletes
  • Several hundred athletes plus coaches and other people closely involved in professional and amateur sports in Ukraine have been killed
  • Volodymyr Kogutyak, vice president of the French Ukrainian association, said: “Some were killed fighting in the Ukrainian armed forces”

PARIS: In a powerful tribute to the hundreds of Ukrainian athletes who have perished since the Russian invasion of their homeland, the Union of Ukrainians of France led a peaceful march of several hundred people in Paris on Saturday.
The demonstration, held in the run-up to this month’s Olympic Games, aimed to honor these fallen sports heroes and highlight the ongoing impact of the conflict on Ukraine’s athletic community.
Several hundred athletes — including some who competed at elite levels — plus coaches and other people closely involved in professional and amateur sports in Ukraine have been killed in the full-scale invasion since 2022, some while fighting as soldiers on the front lines.
The human losses, the ongoing war, and the widespread destruction of sports facilities threaten to erode Ukraine’s edge, both at the Paris Games that open July 26 and in the future, as a powerhouse of Olympic sport after the breakup of the former Soviet Union.
“What is tragic today is that we have hundreds of Ukrainian athletes who will unfortunately not have the chance to come to the Olympic Games in Paris because the Russian Federation senselessly killed them,” said Volodymyr Kogutyak, vice president of the French Ukrainian association. “Some were killed fighting in the Ukrainian armed forces, but many others were simply killed as civilians.”
Among those being remembered is Maksym Halinichev, a promising boxer who won a silver medal at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires in 2018 and was the junior European champion in 2017. Halinichev joined the Ukrainian army and was killed at the front in March 2023 at the age of 22. Other notable athletes include Ivan Bidnyak and Yehor Kikhitov, both pistol shooters and members of the Ukrainian national team. Bidnyak won a silver medal at the European Championships in Osijek in 2013.
Also commemorated is Stanislav Hulenkov, a 22-year-old judoka, whose body was only identified 10 months after his death, and Oleksandr Peleshenko, a weightlifter who represented Ukraine at the Rio Olympics in 2016. Anastasiia Ihnatenko, an acrobatic gymnastics coach, died in a Russian missile strike along with her husband and their 18-month-old son.
The event drew scores of participants, including Ukrainians, French citizens, and people from various other backgrounds, all united in their grief and determination to honor the athletes’ memories. Participants wore T-shirts displaying the names of the deceased athletes, and a minute of silence was observed, followed by speeches from organizers.
“These athletes were killed at a time when they could have been training to be chosen for the Olympic Games. That is significant. Russia did not give them the choice to train and go to Paris. That is the sad part,” Kogutyak emphasized.
Ukraine’s haul of 11 medals at the 2016 Rio Games was its smallest as an independent nation and it tumbled to a low of 22nd in the country rankings. Ukraine recovered to 16th at the pandemic-delayed Olympics in Tokyo in 2021, but just one of its 19 medals was gold — another new low.
The peaceful protest also served a political purpose, aiming to send a clear message regarding the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the upcoming Paris Games. “The protest is to loudly and clearly state that the Belarusian and Russian athletes, regardless of what flag or colors they come to Paris under, are not welcome,” Kogutyak declared.
He further noted his sadness that some of those Russian athletes had been decorated by various ministries and had met President Vladimir Putin.
The human toll of the ongoing war, coupled with the widespread destruction of sports facilities in Ukraine, poses a severe threat to the country’s future in Olympic sports. The loss of these athletes robs the nation of its current talents and jeopardizes its sporting future.
It is still unclear how many Russian athletes will compete at the Olympics being held from July 26-Aug. 11. The IOC already barred them from taking part in the opening ceremony of boats sailing along the River Seine.


Russia can counter US missile deployments in Europe, Kremlin says

Russia can counter US missile deployments in Europe, Kremlin says
Updated 13 July 2024
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Russia can counter US missile deployments in Europe, Kremlin says

Russia can counter US missile deployments in Europe, Kremlin says
  • Peskov noted that throughout the Cold War, American missiles based in Europe were aimed at Russia

MOSCOW: European countries would be putting themselves at risk if they accept deployments of long-range US missiles, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a video published on Saturday.
Asked by Russian state TV reporter Pavel Zarubin about the possibility of the United States deploying hypersonic missiles to Europe, Peskov said: “We have enough potential to deter these missiles. But the capitals of these (European) states are potential victims.”
Peskov noted that throughout the Cold War, American missiles based in Europe were aimed at Russia, with Russian missiles aimed at Europe in return, making the continent’s countries the chief victim of any potential conflict.
He said: “Europe is now coming apart at the seams. This is not the best time for Europe. Therefore, in one way or another, history will repeat itself.”


Swiss prosecutors say probing suspected Russian agent

Swiss prosecutors say probing suspected Russian agent
Updated 13 July 2024
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Swiss prosecutors say probing suspected Russian agent

Swiss prosecutors say probing suspected Russian agent
  • The man had been accredited as a diplomat in Bern, who had been under surveillance by Swiss intelligence
  • After facing accusations of spying with the aim of procuring dangerous material, he had discretely left Switzerland

GENEVA: Swiss prosecutors said Saturday they were investigating a Russian diplomat and suspected agent alongside two others reported to have tried to procure weapons and other potentially dangerous material.
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) said it had been conducting an investigation into the two accused people without diplomatic immunity, suspected of violating laws including Switzerland’s War Material Act and Embargo Act.
It confirmed to AFP that its request to Switzerland’s Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) for authorization to also look into the third man in the case had been granted.
“A national arrest warrant” had been issued, it said.
The Tages-Anzeiger daily reported that the man had been accredited as a diplomat in Bern, who had been under surveillance by Swiss intelligence.
After facing accusations of spying with the aim of procuring dangerous material, he had discretely left Switzerland, the paper said.
After the Swiss foreign ministry confirmed that the man’s diplomatic immunity was lifted when he left the country, and following searches of “several houses,” “the FDJP has now granted ... authorization to prosecute,” the OAG said.
It added that the accused enjoyed the presumption of innocence.
The case comes amid concern over swelling numbers of Russian spies in Switzerland since Moscow’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
Swiss lawmakers in May demanded that the government take a harsher stance on Russian spies operating in the country — a center of international activity considered a hub for espionage.
That came after Switzerland’s Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) warned last year that the country was among European nations with the highest number of Russian intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover.
FIS chief Christian Dussey suggested then that around a third of the some 220 people accredited as diplomatic or other staff at the Russian mission in Geneva were intelligence service operatives.