US has no expectation of free and fair vote in Iran, State Dept says

US has no expectation of free and fair vote in Iran, State Dept says
Iranian women wave their country’s flags as they hold posters of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini during an election campaign rally ahead of Mar. 1, parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections, in Tehran, on Feb. 27, 2024. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 29 February 2024
Follow

US has no expectation of free and fair vote in Iran, State Dept says

US has no expectation of free and fair vote in Iran, State Dept says
  • “I suspect that a great number of Iranians have no expectation that those elections will be free and fair,” Miller said

WASHINGTON: Washington has “no expectation” that a parliamentary election in Iran on Friday will be free and fair, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters on Thursday.
“I suspect that a great number of Iranians have no expectation that those elections will be free and fair,” Miller said.

“As you probably already know, thousands of candidates were already disqualified in an opaque process and the world has long known that Iran’s political system features undemocratic and non-transparent administrative, judicial and electoral systems.”


Some 45,000 Rohingya have fled fighting in Myanmar: UN

Some 45,000 Rohingya have fled fighting in Myanmar: UN
Updated 8 sec ago
Follow

Some 45,000 Rohingya have fled fighting in Myanmar: UN

Some 45,000 Rohingya have fled fighting in Myanmar: UN

GENEVA: The United Nations warned on Friday that escalating fighting in conflict-torn Myanmar’s Rakhine State had forced around 45,000 minority Rohingya to flee, amid allegations of killings and burnings of property.
“Tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced in recent days by the fighting in Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships,” UN rights office spokeswoman Elizabeth Throssell told reporters in Geneva.
“An estimated 45,000 Rohingya have reportedly fled to an area on the Naf River near the border with Bangladesh, seeking protection,” she said.
Clashes have rocked Rakhine since the Arakan Army (AA) attacked forces of the ruling junta in November, ending a ceasefire that had largely held since a military coup in 2021.
The AA says it is fighting for more autonomy for the ethnic Rakhine population in the state, which is also home to around 600,000 members of the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled Rakhine in 2017 during a crackdown by the military that is now the subject of a United Nations genocide court case.
“Over a million Rohingya are already in Bangladesh, having fled past purges,” Throssell pointed out.
UN rights chief Volker Turk was urging Bangladesh and other countries “to provide effective protection to those seeking it, in line with international law, and to ensure international solidarity with Bangladesh in hosting Rohingya refugees in Myanmar,” she said.
James Rodehaver, head of the rights office’s Myanmar team, described the horrifying situation many were fleeing from.
He said his team had received testimonies and seen satellite images, online videos and pictures indicating that Buthidaung town had been “largely burned.”
“We have received information indicating that the burning did start on May 17... two days after the military had retreated from the town... and the Arakan Army claimed to have taken full control of the village.”
He stressed that the UN rights office was still working to corroborate that information, to clearly establish “who were the perpetrators.”
One survivor had described seeing dozens of dead bodies as he fled Buthidaung, while another had said he was among tens of thousands who fled the town only to find themselves blocked by the AA on the road west toward Maungdaw town.
Other survivors also said AA members had abused them and extorted money from them as they tried to make their way to Rohingya villages south of the town.
In the weeks leading up to the burning of Buthidaung, Rodehaver said the rights office had documented renewed attacks on Rohingya civilians by both AA and the military in northern Rakhine, including through air strikes.
The team had documented “at least four cases of beheadings,” he said, adding that they had determined with a high level of confidence that those were carried out by the AA.
Beyond Buthidaung, Throssell warned of “clear and present risks of a serious expansion of violence.”
She pointed to the beginning of a battle for Maungdaw town, where the military has outposts and where a large Rohingya community lives.
“In this appalling situation, civilians are once more victimized, killed, their properties destroyed and looted, their demands for safety and security ignored,” she said.
“They are again forced to flee their homes in a recurring nightmare of suffering.”


Zelensky says Ukrainian forces now control area where Russia pushed into Kharkiv region

Zelensky says Ukrainian forces now control area where Russia pushed into Kharkiv region
Updated 1 min 18 sec ago
Follow

Zelensky says Ukrainian forces now control area where Russia pushed into Kharkiv region

Zelensky says Ukrainian forces now control area where Russia pushed into Kharkiv region
  • A late-night report by the General Staff said Ukrainian forces had repelled 10 Russian attacks in the area, including around Vovchansk.
  • Russian forces were using less infantry around Vovchansk and instead firing from a distance, with limited accuracy.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday that Ukrainian forces had secured “combat control” of areas where Russian troops staged an incursion this month in northern parts of Kharkiv region.

“Our soldiers have now managed to take combat control of the border area where the Russian occupiers entered,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address.
Zelensky’s comments, after holding a meeting of military and regional officials in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, appeared to be at variance with comments by Russian officials.
Viktor Vodolatskiy, a member of Russia’s State Duma lower house of parliament, was quoted by Tass news agency as saying Russian forces controlled more than half the territory of the town of Vovchansk, 5 km (three miles) inside the border.
Vodolatskiy was quoted as saying that once Vovchansk was secured, Russian forces would target three cities in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region — Sloviansk, Kramatorsk and Pokrovsk.
Reuters was unable to verify independently battlefield accounts from either side.

Russian forces pushed into border regions of Ukraine’s Kharkiv region this month and Russia’s Defense Ministry said they had secured control of about 12 settlements.
Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials had been reporting success in “stabilising” the area.
The Ukrainian military’s General Staff, in its evening report on Friday said the situation in Vovchansk was “tense but controlled by the defense forces.”
“The Russian army today launched air terror against this town — eight guided bombs hit the town,” it said. Attacks were launched on at least two other settlements north of Kharkiv.
A late-night report by the General Staff said Ukrainian forces had repelled 10 Russian attacks in the area, including around Vovchansk.
It also noted Russian forces had achieved “partial success” in areas near Kupiansk, further east in Kharkiv region, and the Pokrovsk sector where heavy fighting has been taking place further south in Donetsk region.
Ukrainian military bloggers said Ukrainian troops had been holding their ground around Vovchansk and Russian forces were using less infantry in the area and instead firing from a distance, with limited accuracy.


Azerbaijan takes control of four villages on border with Armenia as part of deal

Azerbaijan takes control of four villages on border with Armenia as part of deal
Updated 16 min 42 sec ago
Follow

Azerbaijan takes control of four villages on border with Armenia as part of deal

Azerbaijan takes control of four villages on border with Armenia as part of deal
  • Armenia had said in April it would return the uninhabited villages to Azerbaijan, which both sides said was a milestone on the road toward a peace deal
  • Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan's decision to hand over the four villages has triggered protests at home, with demonstrators calling for him to step down

MOSCOW: Azerbaijan’s border service has taken control of four villages in the Gazakh district on the border with Armenia under an agreement struck with Yerevan, Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister Shahin Mustafayev said on Friday.

The size of the territory returned to Azerbaijan under a border delimitation agreement on Friday was 6.5 square kilometers (2.5 square miles), Mustafayev said.
Armenia had said in April it would return the uninhabited villages to Azerbaijan, which both sides said was a milestone on the road toward a peace deal between Yerevan and Baku who have clashed for more than three decades.

The decision by Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to hand over the four villages has triggered protests at home, with demonstrators calling for him to step down over what they cast as a betrayal.
Pashinyan, in an address to the nation late on Friday, described at length how Armenians had long sought a homeland within a specific geographic area and how demarcating national borders was part of that process.
He said the aim of all Armenians was to act “so that a sovereign and democratic Armenia with demarcated borders becomes a national ideology and concept.”
Azerbaijan’s retaking by force of the entirety of its Nagorno-Karabakh region in September last year, a move which sparked an exodus of ethnic Armenians living there, dealt a painful blow to Yerevan.
But it has also paved the way for an elusive deal by removing a long-running source of disagreement from the table.
Azerbaijan and Armenia still have other unresolved territorial disputes though, mostly focused on enclaves which the two sides want the other party to relinquish control of or provide access to.


Chile firefighter arrested, accused of starting February blaze that killed 137

Chile firefighter arrested, accused of starting February blaze that killed 137
Updated 37 min 41 sec ago
Follow

Chile firefighter arrested, accused of starting February blaze that killed 137

Chile firefighter arrested, accused of starting February blaze that killed 137
  • Local media reported the firefighter is a 22-year-old who joined the force a year and a half ago

SANTIAGO: A firefighter was arrested Friday in Chile on suspicion of starting a blaze in February that killed 137 people in the resort city of Vina del Mar, authorities said.
“An arrest warrant was issued today against the person who started the fires in February in the Valparaiso region,” where Vina del Mar is located, police director Eduardo Cerna told a news conference.
Several fires broke out simultaneously on February 2 around the coastal city of Vina del Mar, 70 miles (110 kilometers) northwest of Chile’s capital Santiago.
The inferno was fueled by winds and a heatwave that saw temperatures of around 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).
Local media reported the firefighter is a 22-year-old who joined the force a year and a half ago.
“We are completely devastated by what happened, it is a totally isolated incident... we have served Valparaiso for more than 170 years and cannot allow such things,” Vicente Maggiolo, commander of the 13th Fire Company of the city of Valparaiso, told reporters.
 


Putin says Ukraine’s Zelensky lacks legitimacy after term expired

Putin says Ukraine’s Zelensky lacks legitimacy after term expired
Updated 25 May 2024
Follow

Putin says Ukraine’s Zelensky lacks legitimacy after term expired

Putin says Ukraine’s Zelensky lacks legitimacy after term expired
  • With Ukraine under martial law in the third year of Russia’s full-scale invasion, Zelensky has not faced elections
  • Putin won a new six-year term in March in a closely managed election that Russia’s opposition called a sham

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had no legitimacy following the expiry of his five-year term and this would raise a legal obstacle if Russia and Ukraine were to hold peace talks.

With Ukraine under martial law in the third year of Russia’s full-scale invasion, Zelensky has not faced elections despite the expiry of his five-year term this week — something he and Ukraine’s allies deem the right decision in wartime.
Putin is ready to halt the war in Ukraine with a negotiated ceasefire that recognizes the current battlefield lines, Reuters reported on Friday, citing four Russian sources, but is ready to fight on if Kyiv and the West do not respond.
At a televised press conference during a visit to Belarus, Putin said Zelensky’s status was problematic.
“But who to negotiate with? That’s not an idle question... Of course we realize the legitimacy of the incumbent head of state is over,” he said.
Ukrainian officials dismiss any notion of Zelensky lacking legitimacy in a time of war.
Ruslan Stefanchuk, speaker of Ukraine’s parliament, said this week that anyone questioning the president’s legitimacy was an “enemy of Ukraine” spreading false information.
Putin said the West would use a Swiss-hosted conference on the war, due to take place next month, to endorse Zelensky’s legitimacy but these would be “PR steps” with no legal meaning.
He said peace should be worked out through common sense, not ultimatums. It should be based on draft documents that were worked out between the two sides in the early weeks of the war, and on “today’s realities on the ground” — a reference to the fact that Russia controls nearly 20 percent of Ukraine.
“If it gets to that point, we will need of course to understand who we should and can deal with, to arrive at signing legally binding documents. And then we must be fully sure we are dealing with legitimate (Ukrainian) authorities,” Putin said.
Putin won a new six-year term in March in a closely managed election that Russia’s opposition called a sham.
Two anti-war candidates were barred from running on technical grounds, and all Russia’s leading opposition figures are in jail or abroad. The best known, Alexei Navalny, died in February in an Arctic penal colony.
Putin’s comments are likely to be taken by Ukraine and its Western allies as further evidence that he has no real intention of entering peace talks, despite frequently stating his willingness to negotiate.

Peace summit
Zelensky, in his nightly video address, made no reference to the Russian president’s remarks, but said Putin was determined to scuttle next month’s peace summit.
“He is afraid of what the summit may produce. The world is capable of forcing Russia into peace and compliance with international security norms,” Zelensky said.
“Russia has nothing to counter the world majority. The peace summit is a formula that will allow Putin to lie no longer.”
Russia is not invited to the summit in Switzerland and has dismissed the event as meaningless without its participation.
Zelensky has repeatedly said peace on Putin’s terms is a non-starter. He has vowed to retake lost territory, including Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. He signed a decree in 2022 that formally declared any talks with Putin “impossible.”
The head of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate, Kyrylo Budanov, warned in February that Russia would pursue a campaign aimed at undermining the legitimacy of both Zelensky and Ukraine’s political system.