Georgian PM says EU official made ‘horrific threat’

Georgian PM says EU official made ‘horrific threat’
Georgia's Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze. (AFP/File photo)
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Updated 24 May 2024
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Georgian PM says EU official made ‘horrific threat’

Georgian PM says EU official made ‘horrific threat’
  • Oliver Varhelyi, EU commissioner for neighborhood policy and enlargement, says he regrets making the warning
  • The EU official says his remarks on the Slovak assassination attempt was 'taken out of context

TBILISI/BRUSSELS: Georgia’s prime minister on Thursday said an EU commissioner had hinted he could face an assassination bid over a controversial law but the official said the conversation had been distorted.
Georgian premier Irakli Kobakhidze said the unnamed commissioner told him to be “very careful,” citing this month’s assassination attempt on Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico, while discussing the legislation likened by critics to Russian-style laws.
The bill requires NGOs and media outlets that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad to register as bodies “pursuing the interests of a foreign power.”

President Salome Zourabichvili has vetoed the bill, but the ruling Georgian Dream party has the numbers in parliament to override her veto in a vote next week, despite mass protests and sweeping global condemnation.
Critics say the measure mirrors Russian legislation used to stifle dissent, while Brussels warns it is “incompatible” with Tbilisi’s longstanding bid for European Union membership.
Kobakhidze said that “amid open blackmail” by high-ranking foreign politicians, an EU commissioner had called him to outline “measures, which Western politicians could take if the presidential veto is overridden.”
In what Kobakhidze called a “horrific threat,” he quoted the commissioner as saying: “You’ve seen what happened to (Robert) Fico and you must be very careful.”

Fico, a Euroskeptic populist, was shot four times at point-blank range on May 15. Slovak police arrested a 71-year-old suspect who said he had wanted to hurt Fico because he disagreed with government policies.

“As a precautionary measure, I decided to inform Georgian society of that threat,” Kobakhidze added in a statement.
EU Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said later: “I would like to express my very sincere regret that a certain part of my phone conversation was taken out of context.”
Georgia’s ruling party has faced widespread accusations of derailing the country from its EU membership path and leading the ex-Soviet republic back toward the Russian orbit.
But the party insists it is committed to EU and NATO membership — which are enshrined in the country’s constitution and supported by more than 80 percent of the population.
It has repeatedly accused Western countries of attempts to drag Tbilisi into Russia’s war on Ukraine.


At least eight die in inferno near Moscow, TASS says

Smoke billows from a burning administrative building in Fryazino in the Moscow Region, Russia June 24, 2024. (Reuters)
Smoke billows from a burning administrative building in Fryazino in the Moscow Region, Russia June 24, 2024. (Reuters)
Updated 55 min 14 sec ago
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At least eight die in inferno near Moscow, TASS says

Smoke billows from a burning administrative building in Fryazino in the Moscow Region, Russia June 24, 2024. (Reuters)
  • Black smoke billowed from the building outside Moscow and flames roared up its walls
  • Some people were trapped on the top floors but were unable to escape

MOSCOW: Two people jumped to their death from the top floors of a burning eight-story former Russian electronics research institute on Monday and at least six others died in the fire, state-run TASS news agency reported.
Black smoke billowed from the building outside Moscow and flames roared up its walls. Some people were trapped on the top floors but were unable to escape.
One man was shown jumping from the upper floor of the building by the Baza Telegram channel. Another, with serious burns, fell from the upper floors, footage published by Shot Telegram channel showed.
It was not immediately clear what caused the fire.


Malaysia arrests eight over alleged Daesh links: minister

Malaysia’s home minister on Monday said police detained eight people with suspected links to Daesh. (File/AFP)
Malaysia’s home minister on Monday said police detained eight people with suspected links to Daesh. (File/AFP)
Updated 24 June 2024
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Malaysia arrests eight over alleged Daesh links: minister

Malaysia’s home minister on Monday said police detained eight people with suspected links to Daesh. (File/AFP)
  • The suspects were rounded up over the weekend in various parts of the Muslim-majority country
  • The six men and two women were from diverse backgrounds, including unemployed and educated professionals

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s home minister on Monday said police detained eight people with suspected links to the Daesh group who were purportedly planning attacks against the king and the premier.
The suspects were rounded up over the weekend in various parts of the Muslim-majority country, minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said in a statement.
He said an initial investigation by the police “has also found that there are threats against His Majesty the (king), the prime minister, prominent figures and top leadership of the Malaysian police force.”
The six men and two women were from diverse backgrounds, including unemployed and educated professionals, added the minister.
In March, a machete-wielding attacker suspected of ties to an Al-Qaeda linked group stormed a police station in the state of Johor and killed two officers.
The attacker, who police said had links to Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), had slashed one officer before grabbing a gun and shooting another.
JI has been blamed for a series of deadly bomb attacks in the region including the 2002 bombings in the Indonesian resort island of Bali that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.
Police inspector-general Razarudin Husain in March said that Malaysia would be scaling up security.


Afghan fans aglow after historic Australia T20 World Cup win

Afghan fans aglow after historic Australia T20 World Cup win
Updated 24 June 2024
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Afghan fans aglow after historic Australia T20 World Cup win

Afghan fans aglow after historic Australia T20 World Cup win
  • Afghanistan seized on a poor Australian field performance to post 148-6 in their innings before bowling 2021 champions out for 127 
  • Cricket Australia has withdrawn from bilateral series because of “deterioration in human rights” for women in Afghanistan

KABUL: Beleaguered Afghans were riding high Monday after a historic weekend T20 World Cup victory over Australia spread a rare mood of euphoria across the country.
“With every ball, every run, every boundary, every wicket, I wasn’t able to hold my emotions,” said university student Zamir Afghan in the capital Kabul.
“It was very early morning, but I was jumping, screaming, I was not able to contain myself,” the 20-year-old told AFP. “I couldn’t stop my tears.”
Afghanistan seized on a poor Australian field performance to post 148-6 in their innings before bowling the 2021 champions out for 127 — their first ever win over Australia.
“Afghanistan as a nation has suffered a lot, such moments are rare for us,” said Afghan.
Whilst cricket is hugely popular in Afghanistan, the match over 11,000 kilometers (7,000 miles) away in Arnos Vale on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent, took place around dawn local time.
Though the last ball was bowled around 8:30 am (0400 GMT) on Sunday, many diehard fans had been awake to witness the win.
In eastern Khost city, around 1,000 raucous cricket fans gathered to bask in the glow of fireworks early on Sunday morning in half an hour of revelry swiftly broken up by Taliban security forces.
An uncowed smaller crowd came together again at night, clapping as they lit off more pyrotechnics.
Since the Taliban took over in August 2021 and introduced an austere vision of Islam, scenes of public jubilation have been rare.
“Such moments are special for everyone,” said 18-year-old fruit shop worker Saddam Saleh. “Beating the mighty Australia is not something small.”
The result bolsters Afghanistan’s chances of reaching the semifinals in the competition co-hosted by the USA and West Indies, though they must first face Bangladesh on Tuesday.
“In sports there are always ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’, but there is a very good chance for Afghanistan to qualify,” said 28-year-old Usman Ahmadzai.
“They even have the potential to be in the final and be champions — we couldn’t wish for more.”
Afghanistan has been isolated since the withdrawal of foreign forces and the collapse of the US-backed government, with diplomats wary of engaging with Taliban rulers.
The isolation has spilled into the world of sport. Cricket Australia has withdrawn from bilateral series because of the “deterioration in human rights” for women and girls in Afghanistan.
“The Afghanistan national team responded to their disrespect on the pitch,” said 32-year-old Shahid, who goes by only one name.
“No one should ever underestimate the greatness of Afghanistan.”


Delhi minister stages hunger strike for more water to city amid extreme heat

Delhi minister stages hunger strike for more water to city amid extreme heat
Updated 24 June 2024
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Delhi minister stages hunger strike for more water to city amid extreme heat

Delhi minister stages hunger strike for more water to city amid extreme heat
  • Millions of Indians face water shortages every summer when water demand rises in farms, offices and homes against a limited supply
  • A prolonged heatwave this year has worsened the shortfall, including in Delhi and the southern tech hub of Bengaluru

NEW DELHI: A Delhi city minister has started an indefinite hunger strike to demand more drinking water for India’s capital, where taps in some of its poorest neighborhoods are running nearly dry in the middle of searing heat.
“There are 2.8 million people in the city who are aching for just a drop of water,” Delhi Water Minister Atishi said on Monday, the fourth day of her fast.
Millions of Indians face water shortages every summer when water demand rises in farms, offices and homes against a limited supply, but a prolonged heatwave this year has worsened the shortfall, including in Delhi and the southern tech hub of Bengaluru.
Delhi relies on the Yamuna River that runs through the capital for most of its water needs but the river slows down during dry summer months, causing shortages that lead to protests and calls for better water conservation.
Atishi blamed the neighboring farming state of Haryana for guzzling up a large share of river water.
Haryana’s government responded that it was Delhi’s mismanagement that was causing water shortages. Experts said a federal-level review of decades-old water sharing pacts was needed to accommodate population growth.
Delhi, a city of 20 million people, is one of the world’s most densely populated capitals, where upscale neighborhoods and manicured lawns are just a few miles away from unplanned working-class areas and slums.
But, in contrast to growing unplanned development over the years, the city’s water allocation from rivers has remained unchanged since 1994, said Depinder Kapur, the director of water program at think tank Center for Science and Environment.
“What was true 10-15 years ago is not true anymore. So, there is a situation of crisis and it’s a distribution issue,” he said.
The Delhi government is working on plans to improve the groundwater table by reviving lakes and storing water overflow from the Yamuna during the seasonal monsoon rains, but officials say the summer shortfall is difficult to tackle by these measures alone.
“Water crisis in Delhi is a year-long crisis because extreme temperatures are not going anywhere,” said environmentalist Vimlendu Jha. “Delhi needs a comprehensive water management plan in which Yamuna can’t be the only major source of water.”


UK PM Sunak says he will act on gambling investigation findings

Britain’s Prime Minister and leader of the ruling Conservative Party, Rishi Sunak speaks during general election campaign event.
Britain’s Prime Minister and leader of the ruling Conservative Party, Rishi Sunak speaks during general election campaign event.
Updated 24 June 2024
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UK PM Sunak says he will act on gambling investigation findings

Britain’s Prime Minister and leader of the ruling Conservative Party, Rishi Sunak speaks during general election campaign event.
  • Sunak’s campaign has failed to take off amid a series of mis-steps, including his decision to leave D-Day commemorations early

EDINBURGH: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Monday he would act on any findings of wrongdoing from an internal investigation into a damaging betting scandal that could punish him further at a July 4 election he is expected to lose.
His Conservative Party trails the opposition Labour Party by around 20 points in UK polls and Sunak’s campaign has failed to take off amid a series of mis-steps, including his decision to leave D-Day commemorations early.
The campaign has been further damaged by revelations that several party officials and candidates are being investigated for allegedly betting on the date of the election before it was announced.
Sunak has said he was “incredibly angry” to hear of the allegations, which are being investigated by the Gambling Commission, and told reporters he was not aware of any other candidates being investigated.
“We have been in parallel conducting our own internal inquiries, and will of course act on any relevant findings or information,” Sunak told broadcasters after a campaign event in Edinburgh.
Labour leader Keir Starmer criticized Sunak’s handling of events, saying it showed weakness.
“Rishi Sunak needs to show some leadership,” he told reporters. “If these were my candidates... they’d be gone.”
Independence on the backburner
In Scotland, Labour hope to capitalize on the struggles of both the Conservatives and the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), who are on their third leader in little over a year.
The SNP have dominated the Westminster parliament’s Scottish seats since 2015, garnering support of pro-independence voters in the wake of a 2014 referendum where Scots voted to remain part of the United Kingdom by 55 percent to 45 percent.
But a police probe into the SNP’s finances, Nicola Sturgeon’s sudden resignation as leader last year and the implosion of her successor Humza Yousaf’s administration in the devolved Scottish government this year have put that dominance in question.
Labour has also regained momentum in its former Scottish heartlands and polls show it level with or even ahead of the SNP for the first time in a decade.
The SNP manifesto says that if it wins a majority of Scottish seats, it will begin negotiations on independence, though both Sunak and Starmer have ruled out such talks.
At the launch of the Scottish Conservative manifesto, Sunak aimed his speech almost entirely at the SNP and their attempts to pursue a second independence vote.
The Conservatives are trying to hang on to their six Scottish seats, where the SNP are their main rivals.
“The fourth of July is Scotland’s chance... to put independence on the backburner for a generation,” Sunak said.
“But that can only happen if the SNP are routed. If they do not just lose some seats, but the SNP lose big.”
He also criticized the SNP and Labour’s approach to the energy sector, saying the Conservatives were the only way to protect North Sea oil.
The Conservatives lag behind in third place in Scotland, and could be on course for a historic defeat across the UK as a whole. Research by Ipsos Scotland found Sunak has a net negative approval rating of -64 points.
“We see Westminster politicians take campaign trips north of the border to dismiss the very idea that Scotland can have real, genuine influence at Westminster,” SNP leader John Swinney said in extracts of a speech he is due to give on Monday.
“Scotland’s voice is still ignored and our democratic choices are still disrespected.”