UN mission in Mali officially ends after 10 years

UN mission in Mali officially ends after 10 years
MINUSMA had for the past decade maintained around 15,000 soldiers and police in Mali. About 180 members have been killed in hostile acts. (AFP)
Updated 11 December 2023
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UN mission in Mali officially ends after 10 years

UN mission in Mali officially ends after 10 years
  • The mission, known as MINUSMA, lowers United Nations flag on its headquarters in the capital Bamako

BAMAKO: The UN mission in Mali officially ended a 10-year deployment in the country on Monday, its spokesperson said, in a pull-out ordered by Mali’s military leaders.
The mission, known as MINUSMA, lowered the United Nations flag on its headquarters in the capital Bamako, its spokesperson Fatoumata Kaba said.
The symbolic ceremony marks the official end of the mission, she said.
A “liquidation phase” will take place after January 1, involving activities such as handing over remaining equipment to the authorities.
The withdrawal of the UN stabilization mission, known as MINUSMA, has ignited fears that fighting will intensify between troops and armed factions for territorial control.
MINUSMA had for the past decade maintained around 15,000 soldiers and police in Mali. About 180 members have been killed in hostile acts.
As of Friday, more than 10,500 uniformed and civilian MINUSMA personnel had left Mali, out of a total of around 13,800 staff at the start of the withdrawal, the UN mission said on X, formerly Twitter.


Fire in island camp injures eight Rohingya refugees

A view of the tin shed concrete houses at the Bhasan Char island in Noakhali district, Bangladesh, December 29, 2020. (REUTERS)
A view of the tin shed concrete houses at the Bhasan Char island in Noakhali district, Bangladesh, December 29, 2020. (REUTERS)
Updated 59 min 44 sec ago
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Fire in island camp injures eight Rohingya refugees

A view of the tin shed concrete houses at the Bhasan Char island in Noakhali district, Bangladesh, December 29, 2020. (REUTERS)
  • The government has dismissed safety concerns over the island, citing the building of flood defenses as well as housing for 100,000 people, hospitals and cyclone centers

DHAKA: Eight Rohingya refugees were injured on Saturday in a fire that broke out due to a gas leak at a camp on the remote Bhasan Char island on Saturday, police said.
Eight refugees with partial burns due to the blaze, which erupted in a house within a cluster, were sent to a government hospital in Noakhali district, Bhasan Char police chief Kawsar Alam Bhuiyan said.
He said five children were among the injured.

FASTFACT

Eight refugees with partial burns due to the blaze, which erupted in a house within a cluster, were sent to a government hospital in Noakhali district.

Bangladesh has relocated around 32,000 people from border camps in the southeastern district of Cox’s Bazar to Bhasan Char Island since late 2020.
The move has faced opposition, especially from aid groups worried about a disaster in a country that regularly faces severe weather, especially along its coast.
The government has dismissed safety concerns over the island, citing the building of flood defenses as well as housing for 100,000 people, hospitals and cyclone centers.
Nearly a million members of the Muslim minority from Myanmar live in crammed, bamboo-and-plastic camps in Cox’s Bazar, most of them having fled a military crackdown in 2017.
Fires often break out in the crowded camps with their makeshift structures. A massive blaze in March 2021 killed at least 15 refugees and destroyed more than 10,000 homes.
Last year about 12,000 were left homeless after nearly 2,800 shelters and more than 90 facilities including hospitals and learning centers were destroyed in a fire. A panel that investigated the blaze called it a “planned act of sabotage.”

 


Canada says to provide $2.2bn in Ukraine aid in 2024, Italy pens security deal with Kyiv

Canada says to provide $2.2bn in Ukraine aid in 2024, Italy pens security deal with Kyiv
Updated 24 February 2024
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Canada says to provide $2.2bn in Ukraine aid in 2024, Italy pens security deal with Kyiv

Canada says to provide $2.2bn in Ukraine aid in 2024, Italy pens security deal with Kyiv
  • Kyiv has cast the deals as an important show of the West’s long-term commitment as its resources are stretched

KYIV: Canada said on Saturday it would provide 3.02 billion Canadian dollars ($2.2 billion) in financial and military support for Ukraine this year as the two countries signed a security agreement.

“We will stand with Ukraine with whatever it takes, for as long as it takes,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was visiting Kyiv on the second anniversary of the war, said in a statement announcing the funding.

Kyiv also signed a bilateral security deal with Italy on Saturday, President Volodomyr Zelensky said, following similar deals struck with Britain, France, Germany and Denmark in recent weeks.

In a post on social media, Zelensky said the document, signed with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, “lays a strong foundation for a long-term security partnership between Ukraine and Italy.”

The 10-year agreement between Ottawa and Kyiv “outlines key, long-term security commitments for Canada to continue supporting Ukraine as it defends its sovereignty and territorial integrity, protects its people, and rebuilds its economy for the future,” Trudeau’s office said.

The document includes funding pledges and enhanced cooperation across political, military, security, economic and humanitarian areas, but is not a defense pact or guarantee of military protection.

Kyiv has cast the deals as an important show of the West’s long-term commitment as its resources are stretched and Russia is making its first gains on the battlefield in almost a year.

Ukraine relies on tens of billions of dollars in military support to provide its army with ammunition, artillery, tanks, rockets and other equipment.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, also in Kyiv, also said Saturday the first payment under a new 50-billion-euro ($54.2 billion) EU aid program for Ukraine, worth some 4.5 billion euros ($4.9 billion), would be disbursed in March.

But as the war enters its third year, there is still no sign of progress on Ukraine’s most important funding stream — a $60-billion package of support from the United States.


Protests across Germany on Ukraine war anniversary

Protests across Germany on Ukraine war anniversary
Updated 24 February 2024
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Protests across Germany on Ukraine war anniversary

Protests across Germany on Ukraine war anniversary
  • Rallies took place in Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt and other cities
  • In the capital, thousands gathered in front of the Brandenburg Gate waving banners that read “stand up for Ukraine” and “arm Ukraine now”

BERLIN: Thousands of protesters rallied across Germany Saturday in support of Ukraine on the second anniversary of Moscow’s full-scale invasion, even as doubts grow about Kyiv’s chances of victory.
Rallies took place in Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt and other cities.
In the capital, thousands gathered in front of the Brandenburg Gate waving banners that read “stand up for Ukraine” and “arm Ukraine now.”
Addressing the crowd, Berlin mayor Kai Wegner decried Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “brutal war of aggression.”
“He wants to wipe out Ukraine, he wants to wipe out the identities of Ukrainians,” he said.
“But we won’t let happen. We will stand by Ukraine’s side.”
He called on Berlin to deliver long-range Taurus missiles long sought by Kyiv, a demand that the German government has so far refused for fears they could also strike inside Russia.
Organizers said about 10,000 people took part in the rally. Police put the figure at around 5,000.
In a square in the historic heart of Frankfurt, about 1,000 people took part in a rally, according to police, where they heard calls from speakers to accelerate the delivery of weapons to Kyiv.
Ukraine’s armed forces have in recent times acknowledged facing frontline problems, pointing to a lack of Western aid, while Russian forces have been making gains.
“The West must do more to support Ukraine,” Achem Lobreuer, a 58-year-old engineer, told AFP at the rally.
This included delivering more armaments, but also “supporting negotiations,” he said.
“My message to Putin is that he must end this war.”
Maksym Godovnikov, a 38-year-old Ukrainian at the Frankfurt rally, also urged Ukraine’s allies to step up military support.
“If we have more weapons, we can protect ourselves and also win back land that was previously conquered,” he said.
Rallies were also taking place in other European capitals to mark the day Russia sent its troops into Ukraine, bringing war back to Europe for the first time in decades.
The anniversary comes as concerns grow in Europe about Ukraine’s faltering efforts to fend off Moscow.
According to a survey released last week, only 10 percent of Europeans believe Ukraine can defeat Russia on the battlefield.
The survey conducted last month across 12 EU countries showed that on average 20 percent of those asked believed Russia could win, and 37 percent thought the conflict would end in a compromise settlement.


Eiffel Tower to reopen Sunday as strike ends

Eiffel Tower to reopen Sunday as strike ends
Updated 24 February 2024
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Eiffel Tower to reopen Sunday as strike ends

Eiffel Tower to reopen Sunday as strike ends
  • The stoppage since Monday at one of the world’s best-known tourist sites was the second within two months
  • The tower’s operator SETE said it had reached agreement with the unions on Saturday

PARIS: France’s Eiffel Tower that had been closed for five days by a strike will reopen Sunday after the monument’s management announced a deal had been struck with unions.
The stoppage since Monday at one of the world’s best-known tourist sites was the second within two months in protest at what unions say was insufficient investment.
The tower’s operator SETE said it had reached agreement with the unions on Saturday “under which the parties will regularly monitor the company’s business model, investment in works and revenue through a body that will meet every six months.”
With an aim to balance its books by 2025, both sides also agreed to see an investment of some 380 million euros up to 2031 toward works and maintenance of the tower, the statement said.
SETE extended apologies to visitors caught in the strike action, which resulted in the loss of some 100,000 admissions.
The Eiffel Tower booked a shortfall of around 120 million euros ($130 million) during the Covid pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
SETE has since received a recapitalization of 60 million euros, which unions say is insufficient given that major maintenance work is needed, including a fresh paint job.
Visitor numbers dropped sharply during Covid due to closures and travel restrictions, but recovered to 5.9 million in 2022 and 6.3 million last year.
The masterpiece by architect Gustave Eiffel has been repainted 19 times since it was built for the 1889 World Fair.


Navalny’s ‘tortured’ body handed over to his mother

Navalny’s ‘tortured’ body handed over to his mother
Updated 9 min 35 sec ago
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Navalny’s ‘tortured’ body handed over to his mother

Navalny’s ‘tortured’ body handed over to his mother
  • Navalny’s family and supporters have accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of having him killed, an accusation that the Kremlin has rejected
  • Navalny’s team said on X on Thursday that his death certificate says he died of natural causes

WARSAW: The body of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died unexpectedly in prison nine days ago, was handed to his mother on Saturday in the Arctic city of Salekhard, his spokeswoman said, though it was unclear what will happen next to the body.
Navalny’s family and supporters have accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of having him killed, an accusation that the Kremlin has rejected. He survived a poisoning attempt in 2020 and years of harsh treatment in prison, including long spells in solitary confinement.
Navalny’s team said on X on Thursday that his death certificate says he died of natural causes.
In a video recorded before the release of the body, Navalny’s widow Yulia Navalnaya accused “demonic” Putin of “torturing” the corpse of a political opponent.
Navalny’s allies urged supporters “not to relax” and his spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, wrote on X there was no certainty that Russian authorities would let relatives hold a funeral “the way the family wants and the way Alexei deserves.”
Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) major democracies, in a statement pledging support for Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky on the second anniversary of the war in Ukraine, urged Russia to fully clarify the circumstances around Navalny’s death and to free “all unjustly detained prisoners.”
“We will hold those culpable for Navalny’s death accountable, including by continuing to impose restrictive measures in response to human rights violations and abuses in Russia and taking other actions,” the G7 added.
In her six-minute video published on YouTube, Navalnaya said she would continue the fight against Putin’s regime, questioned the president’s faith, and accused him of holding her husband’s body “hostage.”
On Friday Navalny’s mother Lyudmila said Russian investigators were refusing to release his body from a morgue in Salekhard until she agreed to lay him to rest without a public funeral.
She said an official had told her that she should agree to their demands, as Navalny’s body was already decomposing.
On Saturday, Navalny aides said the authorities had threatened to bury him in the remote prison colony where he died unless his family agreed to their conditions.
Since returning to the Russian presidency in 2012, Putin has positioned himself as a defender of traditional, conservative values against what he portrays as corrosive Western liberalism.
He has also trumpeted his closeness to Russia’s Orthodox Church, regularly appearing at services around religious festivals, and speaking of his personal faith.
Navalnaya said her husband had been a devout Christian who attended church and fasted for Lent even while in prison. She said his political activism had been inspired by Christian values.