US, Britain, Canada accuse Russia of plot to sway Moldova election

US, Britain, Canada accuse Russia of plot to sway Moldova election
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Updated 14 June 2024
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US, Britain, Canada accuse Russia of plot to sway Moldova election

US, Britain, Canada accuse Russia of plot to sway Moldova election

KYIV/WASHINGTON: The United States, Britain and Canada accused Russia on Thursday of carrying out a plot to sway the outcome of the Moldovan presidential election in October and incite protests if a pro-Moscow candidate should lose.
Russia is working to exacerbate societal tensions and foment negative perceptions of the West and the incumbent team of Moldova’s pro-Western President Maia Sandu through disinformation and online propaganda, they said in a statement issued by the State Department in Washington.
“We are taking this step to warn our democratic partners and allies that Russian actors are carrying out a plot to influence the outcomes of Moldova’s fall 2024 presidential election,” they said.
The plot, they said, is part of wider attempts by Moscow to subvert democratic elections to “secure results favorable to the Kremlin.”
The threat is especially relevant this year as hundreds of million of voters in Europe and North America cast ballots in national, regional and local elections, the statement said.
The Russian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Moldovan Prime Minister Dorin Recean said on social media platform X that he was grateful for support from the three allies and vowed that the “Kremlin’s attempts to undermine our sovereignty and incite unrest will not succeed.”

Moldova, a former Soviet republic of 2.5 million people, has fiercely condemned Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, accused Moscow of plotting the Moldovan government’s overthrow and expelled Russian diplomats.
Russia, the allies said, is backing presidential candidates in Moldova and unidentified pro-Russia actors are “actively using disinformation and propaganda online, on the air and on the streets to further their objectives.”
These actors are fanning criticism of Sandu and her Party of Action and Solidarity to incite protests and plan to spread lies about her character and “supposed electoral irregularities.”
The allies issued the statement a day after the United States imposed sanctions on Evgenia Gutul, the pro-Russia governor of Moldova’s Gagauzia region.




Yevgenia Gutsul, leader of Moldovia's Gagauzia region. R)EUTERS/File Photo

Gutul faces criminal allegations of channelling funds from Russia to finance the now-banned Shor Party set up by Ilan Shor, an exiled pro-Russia businessman convicted of fraud in Moldova.
She denies the allegations as fabricated.
During a visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Chisinau last month, Sandu accused the Kremlin of using criminal groups in Gagauzia to bring in Russian money to finance de-stabilizing activities and attempts “to bribe the elections.”
In the joint statement, the allies said they shared Sandu’s concerns that the Kremlin is using criminal groups to finance political activities.
Moscow’s political interference, they said, dates back years, and they cited as an example “direct support” that employees of Russia’s state-funded RT media network have provided to Shor.

 

 


A North Korean diplomat in Cuba defected to South Korea in November, a possible blow to leader Kim

A North Korean diplomat in Cuba defected to South Korea in November, a possible blow to leader Kim
Updated 4 sec ago
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A North Korean diplomat in Cuba defected to South Korea in November, a possible blow to leader Kim

A North Korean diplomat in Cuba defected to South Korea in November, a possible blow to leader Kim
  • National Intelligence Service said media reports on the defection of a North Korean counselor of political affairs in Cuba were true
  • Ri defected before South Korea and Cuba established diplomatic ties in February

SEOUL, South Korea: South Korea’s spy agency said Tuesday that a senior North Korea diplomat based in Cuba has fled to South Korea, the latest defection by members of the North’s ruling elite that likely hurt leader Kim Jong Un’s push to bolster his leadership.
The National Intelligence Service said media reports on the defection of a North Korean counselor of political affairs in Cuba were true. A brief statement by the NIS public affairs office gave no further details.
South Korea’s mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported earlier Tuesday that diplomat Ri Il Kyu fled to South Korea with his wife and children in November.
Chosun Ilbo cited Ri as telling the newspaper in an interview that he had decided to defect because of what he called disillusionment with North Korea’s political system, an unfair job evaluation by Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry, and the ministry’s disapproval of his hopes to visit Mexico to treat his neural damage. He said that hospitals in Cuba didn’t have the necessary medical equipment to treat his health problem due to international sanctions.
Other South Korean media outlets carried similar reports later Tuesday.
North Korea didn’t immediately respond to South Korea’s announcement of Ri’s defection. North Korea has previously expressed fury over some high-profile defections by accusing South Korea of kidnapping or enticing its citizens to defect. It has also described some defectors as traitors or criminals who fled to avoid punishment.
Ri defected before South Korea and Cuba established diplomatic ties in February, an event that experts say likely posed a political blow to North Korea, whose diplomatic footing is largely dependent on a small number of Cold War-era allies like Cuba.
The Chosun report said Ri had been engaged in efforts to block Cuba from opening diplomatic ties with South Korea until his defection. The report said Ri won a commendation from Kim Jong Un for his role in negotiations with Panama that led to the release of a ship detained in 2013 for allegedly carrying banned items like missiles and fighter jet parts. The report said Ri was then a third secretary of the North Korean Embassy in Cuba.
About 34,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea to avoid economic hardship and political suppression, mostly since the late 1990s. A majority of them are women from the North’s poorer northern regions. But the number of highly educated North Koreans with professional jobs escaping to South Korea has steadily increased recently.
In 2023, about 10 North Koreans categorized as members of the country’s elite group resettled in South Korea — more than in recent years, according South Korea’s Unification Ministry. Ministry officials have said that an increase in high-level defections were likely caused by North Korea’s pandemic-related economic difficulties and its pushes to reinforce state control of its people. Those who had to stay abroad longer than initially scheduled due to COVID-19 curbs were exposed to freer foreign cultures for an extended period.
“This high-level defection adds insult to injury for North Korea, as Ri was instrumental in representing Pyongyang’s interests in Havana,” said Leif-Eric Easley, professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.
“The Kim regime is no doubt taking measures to make it more difficult for diplomats overseas to defect, but increased repression is likely to further isolate Pyongyang and may actually encourage more defections,” Easley said.
Moon Seong Mook, an expert with the Seoul-based Korea Research Institute for National Strategy, said news of high-level defections like Ri’s would spread to North Korean diplomats and others, potentially dealing a big blow to Kim — though it won’t likely lead to a regime collapse anytime soon.
Few North Korea monitoring groups question Kim’s grip on power. But observers say Kim is grappling with chronic economic difficulties, the influence of South Korean pop cultures and the expansion of the US-South Korean military cooperation.
The most high-profile defection in recent years happened in 2016, when Tae Yongho, then a minister at the North Korean Embassy in London, arrived in South Korea. He said that he decided to flee because he didn’t want his children to live “miserable” lives in North Korea as he also fell into “despair” over Kim’s execution of officials and his pursuit of nuclear weapons.
North Korea has called him “human scum” and accused him of embezzling government money and committing other crimes. Tae was elected to South Korea’s parliament in 2020.
In 2019, North Korea’s acting ambassador to Italy, Jo Song Gil, arrived in South Korea. Also in 2019, North Korea’s acting ambassador to Kuwait came to South Korea with his family.
In recent months, tensions on the Korean Peninsula have soared over North Korea’s launches of trash-carrying balloons toward South Korea and its continuation of missile tests. North Korea says its balloon campaigns were a tit-for-tat action against South Korean activists floating political leaflets via their own balloons.
On Tuesday, Kim’s sister and senior official, Kim Yo Jong, warned South Korea of unspecified “gruesome” consequences, saying that South Korean-sent leaflets were found again in the North. She issued a similar warning on Sunday. South Korea responded to North Korea’s earlier balloon activities by suspending a 2018 tension-reduction deal with North Korea.


More than 400 injured in Bangladesh job quota rally clashes

More than 400 injured in Bangladesh job quota rally clashes
Updated 14 min 36 sec ago
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More than 400 injured in Bangladesh job quota rally clashes

More than 400 injured in Bangladesh job quota rally clashes
  • Violence was a sudden escalation in efforts to hinder a determined campaign that has ignored calls to return to class
  • Students have for weeks staged near-daily protests demanding the government scrap a quota system for government jobs

DHAKA: More than 400 Bangladeshis were injured in ongoing protests over quotas for coveted government jobs, police and protesters said Tuesday, after clashes between rival student groups the previous day.
Demonstrators said they were holding peaceful marches on Monday at two universities in the capital Dhaka when they were attacked by student activists from the ruling party armed with sticks, rocks, machetes and molotov cocktails.
The violence was a sudden escalation in efforts to hinder a determined campaign that has ignored calls by Bangladesh’s prime minister and top court to return to class.
Police inspector Bacchu Mia said that “297 people were treated at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital” in the aftermath, with 12 of that number admitted.
Another 111 protesters at Jahangirnagar University were treated at a medical clinic on campus and a nearby hospital.
“More than 100 students were treated at our center,” Shamsur Rahman, head of the Jahangirnagar University medical center, said.
Yousuf Ali, a doctor at the Enam Medical College Hospital, said 11 patients had been treated at his facility.
“Four people, including a professor who was hit with rubber bullets, are still admitted,” he added.
Students have for weeks staged near-daily protests demanding the government scrap a quota system for government jobs and introduce a merit-based scheme instead.
The scheme reserves more than half of well-paid civil service posts for specific groups, including children of heroes from the country’s 1971 liberation war from Pakistan.
Critics say the system benefits children of pro-government groups who back Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who won her fourth consecutive election in January after a vote without genuine opposition.
Riot police last week attempted to disperse rallies with tear gas and rubber bullets, injuring at least 11 students in the eastern city of Comilla.
Monday’s clashes were the worst violence since the campaign began, with activists at Jahangirnagar University saying they were mercilessly attacked by members of the ruling Awami League’s student wing.
The violence was condemned by Amnesty International, with the rights watchdog urging Bangladesh to “immediately guarantee the safety of all peaceful protesters.”
US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller also denounced “violence against peaceful protesters.”
Bangladesh’s foreign ministry said Dhaka was disappointed at the State Department statement, adding that US claims of two deaths during the protests were unsubstantiated.
Protests resumed on Tuesday afternoon in several locations around Dhaka, with fresh clashes that saw rival student groups throwing bricks at each other.
“Students were protesting at least a dozen places in the capital,” Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesman Faruk Hossain said.
Elsewhere in the country, rallies joined by hundreds of students blocked rail lines and highways leading to the capital.


Russia gives cautious reaction to Zelensky’s summit offer

Russia gives cautious reaction to Zelensky’s summit offer
Updated 44 min 32 sec ago
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Russia gives cautious reaction to Zelensky’s summit offer

Russia gives cautious reaction to Zelensky’s summit offer
  • Zelensky said on Monday that Russia “should be” represented at a second summit on the Ukraine conflict
  • Zelensky’s apparent welcoming of Russia to talks marks a change of tone from the conference in Switzerland

MOSCOW: The Kremlin on Tuesday gave a cautious reaction to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s apparent invitation to a future peace summit, saying that Russia first needs to understand what Kyiv means before attending talks.
Zelensky said on Monday that Russia “should be” represented at a second summit on the Ukraine conflict, following high-level talks last month in Switzerland that Moscow did not attend and heavily criticized.
“The first peace summit was not a peace summit at all. So perhaps it is necessary to first understand what he means,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Zvezda television channel, responding to Zelensky’s comments.
Zelensky’s apparent welcoming of Russia to talks marks a change of tone from the conference in Switzerland, ahead of which the Ukrainian leader categorically ruled out inviting Moscow.
The surprise comments from Kyiv come as Ukraine’s forces lose ground on the front line and as the United States gears up for presidential elections that could fundamentally change the dynamic of the conflict.
Leaders and top officials from more than 90 states gathered at a Swiss mountainside resort on June 15 for the two-day summit dedicated to resolving the largest European conflict since World War II.
China and Russia were markedly absent.
The Kremlin sharply criticized the gathering, saying that any discussions on ending the conflict that did not include Russia were “absurd.”
Washington said Monday that it backed Ukraine’s decision to invite Russia to a second summit, but expressed doubt about whether Moscow was ready for talks.
“When they want to invite Russia to that summit, of course, that is something we support,” US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told journalists.
“We’ve always supported diplomacy when Ukraine is ready, but it has never been clear that the Kremlin is ready for actual diplomacy,” he said.
Ahead of last month’s summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was open for talks and would announce a ceasefire if Kyiv effectively surrendered territory that Moscow claims as its own.
Zelensky slammed Putin’s demands as a territorial “ultimatum” reminiscent of those issued by Adolf Hitler, and Ukraine’s Western backers including the United States reacted with scorn.
However there is growing apprehension in Kyiv about how a potential Donald Trump victory in November’s US elections might affect continued American aid to Ukraine.
The Republican Party candidate has suggested he would end the conflict very quickly if he won back the presidency, a promise Kyiv fears would mean being forced to negotiate with Moscow from a weakened position.
Zelensky said on Monday he was “not worried” about the prospect of a Trump victory and that he was still counting on support from the United States, Ukraine’s biggest financial and military backer.


Orban to EU leaders: Trump ready to act ‘immediately’ as Russia-Ukraine peace broker

Orban to EU leaders: Trump ready to act ‘immediately’ as Russia-Ukraine peace broker
Updated 16 July 2024
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Orban to EU leaders: Trump ready to act ‘immediately’ as Russia-Ukraine peace broker

Orban to EU leaders: Trump ready to act ‘immediately’ as Russia-Ukraine peace broker

US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is ready to act “immediately” as a peace broker in the Russia-Ukraine war if he is elected in November, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said in a letter to EU leaders.
The letter, addressed to European Council President Charles Michel and shared with all EU leaders, was drafted after Orban held talks with Trump as well as with the leaders of Ukraine, Russia and China.
“I can (...) surely state that shortly after his election victory, he will not wait until his inauguration, (Trump) will be ready to act as a peace broker immediately. He has detailed and well-founded plans for this,” Orban wrote.


Rwanda’s Paul Kagame wins fourth term with 99% of vote

Rwanda’s Paul Kagame wins fourth term with 99% of vote
Updated 16 July 2024
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Rwanda’s Paul Kagame wins fourth term with 99% of vote

Rwanda’s Paul Kagame wins fourth term with 99% of vote
  • Paul Kagame has ruled the small African nation with an iron fist as de facto leader then president for three decades
  • Bespectacled is credited with rebuilding a traumatized nation after the 1994 genocide – but he is also accused of ruling in a climate of fear

KIGALI: Rwandan President Paul Kagame was gearing up Tuesday for a fourth term in office after winning a thundering 99.15 percent of the vote in an election where only two challengers were allowed to run against him.
The outcome of Monday’s poll was never in doubt, with Kagame ruling the small African nation with an iron fist as de facto leader then president for three decades.
Partial results issued by the election commission seven hours after polls closed showed that Kagame had won 99.15 percent of the vote — even more than the 98.79 percent he got in the last poll seven years ago.
Democratic Green Party candidate Frank Habineza could only muster 0.53 percent and independent Philippe Mpayimana 0.32 percent, according to the results issued with 79 percent of ballots counted.
In an address from the headquarters of his ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), the 66-year-old thanked Rwandans for giving him another five years in office.
“The results that have been presented indicate a very high score, these are not just figures, even if it was 100 percent, these are not just numbers,” he said.
“These figures show the trust, and that is what is most important,” he added.
“I am hopeful that together we can solve all problems.”
Full provisional results are due by July 20 and definitive results by July 27.
“In general, the electoral process happened in a safe and transparent atmosphere for Rwandans living abroad and at home,” the National Electoral Commission said in a statement.
With 65 percent of the population aged under 30, Kagame is the only leader most Rwandans have ever known.
The bespectacled 66-year-old leader is credited with rebuilding a traumatized nation after the 1994 genocide — but he is also accused of ruling in a climate of fear at home, and fomenting instability in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
Over nine million Rwandans — about two million first-time voters — were registered to cast their ballot, with the presidential race being held at the same time as legislative elections for the first time.
“(Kagame) gives us everything we ask him, such as health insurance. This is why he wins by a big margin,” said 34-year-old mechanic Francois Rwabakina.
Kagame won with more than 93 percent of the vote in 2003, 2010 and in 2017, when he again easily defeated the same two challengers.
He has overseen controversial constitutional amendments that shortened presidential terms from seven to five years and reset the clock for the Rwandan leader, allowing him to potentially rule until 2034.
Rwandan courts had rejected appeals from prominent opposition figures Bernard Ntaganda and Victoire Ingabire to remove previous convictions that effectively disqualified them from Monday’s vote.
The election commission also barred high-profile Kagame critic Diane Rwigara, citing issues with her paperwork — the second time she was excluded from running.
Ahead of the vote, Amnesty International said Rwanda’s political opposition faced “severe restrictions... as well as threats, arbitrary detention, prosecution, trumped-up charges, killings and enforced disappearances.”
The imbalance between the candidates was evident during the three-week campaign, as the well-oiled PR machine of the ruling RPF swung into high gear.
The party’s red, white and blue colors and its slogans “Tora Kagame Paul” (“Vote Paul Kagame“) and “PK24” (“Paul Kagame 2024“) were everywhere.
His rivals struggled to make their voices heard, with barely 100 people showing up to some events.
Kagame’s RPF militia is lauded for ending the 1994 genocide when it marched on Kigali — ousting the Hutu extremists who had unleashed 100 days of bloodletting targeting the Tutsi minority.
The perpetrators killed around 800,000 people, mainly Tutsis but also Hutu moderates.
Kagame has overseen a remarkable economic recovery, with GDP growing by an average of 7.2 percent per year between 2012 and 2022, although the World Bank says almost half the population lives on less than $2.15 a day.
But abroad, Kigali is accused of meddling in the troubled eastern DRC, where a UN report says its troops are fighting alongside M23 rebels.
In the parliamentary election, 589 candidates were chasing 80 seats, including 53 elected by universal suffrage.
In the outgoing assembly, the RPF held 40 seats and its allies 11, while Habineza’s party had two.
Another 27 spots are reserved for women, the youth and people with disabilities.