INTL Europe: Politics, Economics, and Military- September 2020

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB
Sorry this is late!

August 's thread:

Regional Conflict In Mediterranean from page 54:

Birmingham police arrest one man over stabbings
Police in the UK have arrested a man on suspicion of one murder and seven counts of attempted murder after a stabbing attack rocked the city of Birmingham. Two of those injured remain in a critical condition.

Police collect evidence near Birmingham's Gay Village (AFP/O. Scarff)

British police said Monday they had arrested one man on suspicion of murder after a stabbing rampage that took place in the city of Birmingham on the early hours of Sunday morning.
One person was left dead and seven injured in the stabbing spree that took place in four locations in the English city.

Police wrote on Twitter that the 27-year-old man had been arrested at around 4 a.m. Monday local time, suspected of being responsible for the murder and all seven counts of attempted murder.

"Clearly this is a crucial development but our investigation continues," said Birmingham Police Commander Chief Superintendent Steve Graham.
He added that there was no suggestion of the attack being terror-related.
"Victims appear to have been chosen at random," he added.

90-minute stabbing rampage
Police answered a distress call at approximately 12:30 a.m. on Sunday morning after a stabbing was reported in Birmingham city center.
The British Press Association said the stabbing rampage lasted 90 minutes.
Two of the victims remain in critical condition, while a further five have less serious injuries.
Police previously released footage of a man they said they were looking for in relation to the stabbings.

See this thread also:

Watch video00:25
1 dead, 2 critical after Birmingham stabbing attack
ed/rc (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

northern watch

Has No Life - Lives on TB
Johnson says UK will quit Brexit talks if no deal by Oct 15
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is talking tough ahead of a crucial round of post-Brexit trade talks with the European Union

By JILL LAWLESS Associated Press
6 September 2020

LONDON -- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson talked tough on Sunday ahead of a crucial round of post-Brexit trade talks with the European Union, saying Britain could walk away from the talks within weeks and insisting that a no-deal exit would be a “good outcome for the U.K.”

With talks deadlocked, Johnson said an agreement would only be possible if EU negotiators are prepared to “rethink their current positions.”

The EU, in turn, accuses Britain of failing to negotiate seriously.

Britain left the now 27-nation EU on January 31, three-and-a-half years after the country narrowly voted to end more than four decades of membership. That political departure will be followed by an economic break when an 11-month transition period ends on December 31 and the U.K. leaves the EU’s single market and customs union.

Without a deal, the New Year will bring tariffs and other economic barriers between the U.K. and the bloc, its biggest trading partner. Johnson said the country would “prosper mightily” even if Britain had “a trading arrangement with the EU like Australia’s” — the U.K. government's preferred description of a no-deal Brexit.

British chief negotiator David Frost and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier are due to meet in London starting Tuesday for their eighth round of negotiations.

Barnier said last week he was “worried and disappointed” by the lack of progress and said the U.K. had not “engaged constructively.”

The key sticking points are European boats’ access to U.K. fishing waters and state aid to industries. The EU is determined to ensure a “level playing field” for competition so British firms can’t undercut the bloc’s environmental or workplace standards or pump public money into U.K. industries.

Britain accuses the bloc of making demands that it has not imposed on other countries it has free trade deals with, such as Canada.

Frost told the Mail on Sunday newspaper that Britain was “not going to compromise on the fundamentals of having control over our own laws.”

“We are not going to accept level playing field provisions that lock us in to the way the EU do things,” he said.

In another sign of potential trouble ahead, the Financial Times reported that Johnson’s government was planning domestic legislation that would water down commitments to maintaining an open border between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland that it has already signed up to. The border guarantee was a key part of the legally binding divorce agreement made between Britain and the bloc last year.

British Brexit supporters hate the agreement because it means keeping Northern Ireland aligned to some EU rules and regulations. But any move to undermine it would infuriate the EU and threaten the trade talks.

“This would be a very unwise way to proceed,” tweeted Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney.

The British government said it was working “in good faith” to implement the agreed border provisions but was “considering fallback options in the event this is not achieved."

The EU says a deal has to be struck before November to allow time for parliamentary approval and legal vetting before the transition period expires.

Johnson gave an even shorter deadline in remarks he's due to deliver on Monday, saying an agreement needed to be sealed by an EU summit scheduled for October 15.

“If we can’t agree by then, then I do not see that there will be a free trade agreement between us, and we should both accept that and move on,” he said in the comments, which were released in advance by his office.

Without a deal, British freight firms have warned there could be logjams at ports and supplies of key goods in Britain could be “severely disrupted" starting January 1.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Sunday that talks were “not going well” and dismissed British attempts to drive a wedge between EU nations on issues such as fishing. Le Drian said the 27 nations remained united.

“We would prefer a deal, but a deal on the basis of our mandate,” he told France Inter radio. “There is room for action, but the whole package, including the fishing package, needs to be taken up in order to avoid a ‘no deal.’”


Associated Press writer John Leicester in Paris contributed.
Follow all AP stories about Brexit and British politics at Brexit.


northern watch

Has No Life - Lives on TB

If this be true, it is a big change, Turkey is moving away from the EU (which never wanted it as a member) to the SCO which is a Eurasian political, economic, and security alliance.

northern watch

Has No Life - Lives on TB
Greek coast guard stops migrant sailboat south of Crete
Greece’s coast guard says one of its patrol boats stopped a sailboat off the coast of the southern island of Crete after it was found to have been carrying dozens of migrants

By The Associated Press
7 September 2020

ATHENS, Greece -- Greece’s coast guard says one of its patrol boats stopped a sailboat off the coast of the southern island of Crete after it was found to have been carrying dozens of migrants.

The Italian-flagged Marly had been sailing off the southwestern coast of Crete when it raised suspicion and was put under surveillance, the coast guard said.

It later stopped on the western coast of Crete, where 11 people disembarked before the vessel headed off away from the island and would not respond to calls from the coast guard, authorities said.

The sailboat was stopped and led to a harbor in southern Crete, where 59 migrants were found on board. Of the total 70 people who had been on the Marly, 13 were children and seven were women, the coast guard said.

The migrants were all transferred to the town of Chania in the north of the island.

Greece is one of the main entry points into the European Union for thousands of people fleeing poverty and conflict in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Most head to Aegean islands from the nearby Turkish coast, but Greek authorities have said a more recent trend is for larger boats to attempt to sail south of Crete and head toward Italy.


Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Confiscating Books In Sweden
Profile picture for user Tyler Durden
by Tyler Durden
Tue, 09/08/2020 - 03:30

Authored by Judith Bergman via The Gatestone Institute,
In June, four armed Swedish police officers seized and confiscated the entire stock of the book Det här är en svensk tiger ("This is a Swedish Tiger"), written by Swedish author and standup comedian, Aron Flam. The book tells the story of how Sweden's claim of neutrality during World War II covered up a reality of Swedish collaboration with the Nazi war effort and the profits that the Social Democratic government made from the war.

The title of the book is a play on the words of a 1941 wartime poster of a tiger drawn in the blue and yellow colors of the Swedish flag with the title "En svensk tiger" ("A Swedish Tiger") and made by Swedish illustrator Bertil Almqvist. The word "tiger" in Swedish means tiger, but it also means to keep silent. The original poster was part of a Swedish government campaign to warn Swedes to keep silent, presumably not to rattle Sweden's wartime relationship with Nazi Germany.

Flam satirized Almqvist's illustration on the cover of his own book by drawing an armband with a swastika on the tiger, and having one of its front legs lifted in the Nazi salute, while winking at the reader. The owner of the copyright of Almqvist's tiger, however, Sweden's Military Readiness Museum, alleged that Flam had violated its copyright and reported him to the police -- who confiscated the books. According to Flam, now the prosecutor even wants to seize books from readers who already bought them, to make sure the books are destroyed.

The confiscation of books and the upcoming case against Flam has ignited a debate in Sweden about the value of freedom of speech. As Flam has pointed out, a Swedish writer who happens to be Jewish having his books, critical of Swedish-Nazi collaboration during the war, seized by the Swedish state is a bit ironic.
"Just the idea that there is a prosecutor who is seriously pushing to track down and destroy books is Kafkaesque. If they had contented themselves with tearing off the front-page, but no", Flam said.
As always, how the police and prosecution choose to operate is a matter of priorities; those (curious) priorities were on display in another recent court case about free speech, as well. In it, an elderly Swedish woman was sentenced to a fine for "incitement", after she expressed her anger on Facebook over the violent assault by a 27-year old man on an 86-year old pensioner.
"Yes, he [the perpetrator] will probably be out [of prison...] right away. It would be better to send him out of the country, what kind of monkey people come into the country, deportation is all that applies now, there are no mitigating circumstances... The monkeys should not come here and commit such crimes..."
The woman did not mention any specific group of people in her Facebook post, yet the court found that she had incited hate against immigrants:
"The district court...finds that the communication cannot be understood in any other way than that it is aimed at such a group of people who are protected by the provision -- immigrants – i.e. the ethnic groups in Sweden who have in common that they have a different national origin than the majority population. By calling this group 'monkeys' and 'monkey people', NN [the woman] has expressed herself in a way that must be considered derogatory."
The case was not unusual for Sweden. The prosecution of pensioners, and others, for speech crimes is commonplace.
The problem is that Sweden is a country deeply mired in a growing violent crime wave that its authorities have not been able to defeat. While Swedish police and prosecutors give a high priority to the confiscation of books with covers of satirized Swedish tigers and pensioners guilty of "Wrongthink", they evidently do not have the resources to confront violent crimes.

In Uppsala, for instance, a report from 2019 showed that 80% of girls in high school do not feel safe. In 2013, that number was 45%.
Recently, SVT Nyheter ran a story about a 13-year-old girl who had been raped in a public toilet in a mall in Uppsala in November last year. Even though the police knew who the suspect was, it took them seven months to arrest him. "Since the police did not have the resources, he was not detained until now", Moa Blomqvist, the prosecutor in the case, told Swedish Television. "I am very upset that such serious crimes are piled up waiting with the police..." The police deny Blomqvist's claim.
In July, a mother of three and her sister, who were walking home with their husbands, suffered head injuries when a man, who identified himself to the women as coming from Gottsunda, a "no-go zone" in Uppsala, decided to start kicking them in the head, apparently for no reason. The man was soon joined by a gang, who proceeded to whip the husbands with belts. The police so far have no suspects in the case. Two weeks later, in the center of Uppsala, a man was stabbed multiple times.

Uppsala, once a picturesque and peaceful university town, is now the town in Sweden with the most shootings per capita. "The gangs have been allowed to grow" Manne Gerell, a criminologist at Malmö University told SVT Nyheter in December 2019, adding that the police had "woken up" a little too late.

Uppsala has also been hit by several bombings -- attacks, typically gang-related, using explosive devices. In 2019, Sweden had 257 cases. The latest Uppsala bombing took place in June: a "minor explosive device" detonated in an apartment building.
Yet, in Sweden, in 2019, not even one in ten bombings led to criminal charges, according to SVT Nyheter.
Perhaps it is time for Sweden's government to spend fewer resources on prosecuting the speech crimes of pensioners and comedians, and more on fighting violent crime.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Click to copy
Police probe 153 cases of horse mutilations around France

1 of 4
Horses stand in an enclosure at the location of a meeting between local authorities, elected officials and horse breeders whose animals have been victims of mutilation attacks in Plailly, northern France, Monday, Sept. 7, 2020. Police are stymied by the macabre attacks that include slashings and worse. Most often, an ear — usually the right one — has been cut off, recalling the matador's trophy in a bullring. Up to 30 attacks have been reported in France, from the mountainous Jura region in the east to the Atlantic coast, many this summer. (Photo by Thomas Samson, Pool via AP)

PARIS (AP) — French investigators have made numerous arrests since a macabre series of attacks left scores of horses mutilated or killed this year and have opened more than 150 investigations into such cases, the interior minister said Monday.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin announced the start of night patrols by gendarmes to reassure horse owners and to try to nab attackers. He said police have opened 153 investigations on the horse attacks, about 30 of them concerning deaths or “extremely violent injuries.” There are no known breakthroughs.

He warned owners against taking justice into their own hands.

“The drama within the drama would be an owner ... wanting to take vengeance, do justice, take out his rifle, fight with someone who goes after his horses,” he said.

The minister spoke after visiting the owner of a horse who was a victim of the mysterious attacks in the Oise region, north of Paris. He refused to comment on the only arrest reported in the French media hours earlier in eastern France.

Knives have been used to slash the horses and, in some cases, mutilate them, with organs sometimes removed. A horse’s face was disfigured in one case and blood was drained in another. Often a right ear is cut off like a trophy.

A man was being questioned in the Haut-Rhin region of eastern France regarding a late August attack in Burgundy, after the head of an animal refuge went after two men slashing two of his ponies. Nicolas Demajean’s arm was slashed as he wrangled with one of the attackers and police produced a composite drawing based on his description.

The man held for questioning is reportedly 50 and has no connection to horses, according to the Le Parisien newspaper.

For authorities, it’s clear there are numerous attackers going after horses around the country but investigators don’t know if the attackers are carrying out cult-like rituals, acting in copycat style or answering a morbid “challenge” on social media.
“No one line is being favored,” Darmanin said of the investigations.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

EU hobbled over sanctions against Russia in response to Navalny poisoning
Issued on: 08/09/2020 - 09:48Modified: 08/09/2020 - 09:51
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. © AFP/File
5 min

European countries have threatened sanctions on Russia over the alleged nerve agent attack on opposition leader Alexei Navalny, but a concerted decision will be tough to reach given the interests at stake.

Western governments are united -- at least in outrage -- over the latest in a long line of assassination attempts against critics of President Vladimir Putin.

And the Navalny case also raises particular concerns as German doctors say it involved the use of the Novichok nerve agent.

The EU last week condemned the use of a chemical weapon as "a serious breach of international law" and warned Moscow it may respond with "appropriate actions, including through restrictive measures".

A diplomat explained that "restrictive measures" is code for sanctions against individuals who would then be banned from travelling to the EU and would have any assets they hold in the bloc frozen.

There is already a precedent for such measures: In 2019, the EU added four members of Russia's GRU military intelligence service to its sanctions list.

This followed the attack on Russian ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, who were poisoned in March 2018 in the English town of Salisbury with Novichok -- like Navalny now.

But the Skripal case was different in one crucial respect: The attack took place on the soil of an EU and NATO member, whereas Navalny was poisoned in Russia.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said an "international response" is needed but has refused to speculate on what form it might take.

No 'smoking gun'
Steven Blockmans, an expert on EU external relations law at the Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies, said another key difference was that after Salisbury, British authorities soon found GRU agents had been in the UK.

"In the Navalny case the forensic evidence of an involvement of Russian intelligence services is not there. The smoking gun is still missing," he told AFP.

If Russian intelligence was involved in the poisoning, that could lead to individual sanctions, Blockmans said -- but given it happened in Russia, this will be difficult to prove.

Sanctions against individuals have to be legally watertight, since they can be challenged in court, and "conjecture" is not enough to justify them, Blockmans said.

The mere fact that Novichok was used is not enough, even though the poison was developed by the Soviet military and is not freely available.
The EU and NATO have both called for an independent international investigation into the Navalny case.

"The ball has been hit back to Moscow, saying 'show us an independent investigation, otherwise we'll take your inaction as an admission of guilt'," said Olivier Dorgans, a sanctions expert with the Hughes Hubbard & Reed law firm.

Broader sanctions
Another possibility could be broader economic sanctions, which can be more political and require less legal justification.
After the shooting down of flight MH17 in the Ukrainian conflict in 2014, the EU imposed a whole series of such measures against Russia, directed against state banks, the import and export of armaments, and the oil and gas industry.

An EU diplomat noted that the bloc's statement last week "did not explicitly mention economic sanctions but nor did it explicitly rule them out."

But Blockmans said this was unlikely, since they would need unanimous approval by all 27 member states, and some are already chafing at the impact existing measures are having on their own companies who want to do business with Moscow.

"In this case, I would assume there would not be any political support from countries like Italy or Hungary because of closer economic and political relations with Russia. Cyprus might be an outlier as well," he said.

Take international news everywhere with you! Download the France 24 app
The Navalny case has also brought calls for an end to the Nord Stream 2 project, a 10 billion-euro ($11.7 billion) pipeline which is set to double Russian natural gas shipments to Germany.

The project has been delayed for months after Washington moved to impose sanctions on companies involved, over fears of growing Russian influence.
Germany is now facing calls to abandon it altogether.

northern watch

Has No Life - Lives on TB
EU warns Serbia, Kosovo over Israel embassy move
The European Union is warning Serbia and Kosovo that they could damage their hopes of joining the bloc if they move their Israeli embassies to Jerusalem

By LORNE COOK Associated Press
7 September 2020

FILE - In this Friday, June 26, 2020 file photo, European Council President Charles Michel, right, greets Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic prior to a meeting at the European Council building in Brussels. The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo committed M

Image Icon
The Associated Press
FILE - In this Friday, June 26, 2020 file photo, European Council President Charles Michel, right, greets Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic prior to a meeting at the European Council building in Brussels. The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo committed Monday, Sept. 7, 2020 to European Union-brokered talks on normalizing their strained ties and appeared to play down the importance of a surprise announcement last week by U.S. President Donald Trump that they are beefing up economic cooperation. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys, Pool, File)

BRUSSELS -- The European Union warned Serbia and Kosovo on Monday that they could undermine their EU membership hopes by moving their Israeli embassies to Jerusalem, as U.S. President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement about the change left officials in Belgrade and Pristina scrambling to limit the political fallout.

In an unexpected move last week, Trump said that Serbia and Kosovo had agreed to normalize economic ties as part of U.S.-brokered talks that include Belgrade moving its embassy to Jerusalem, and mutual recognition between Israel and Kosovo.

It surprised the Europeans, who are leading complex talks between Serbia and its former territory of Kosovo on improving their long-strained relations, while Serbian officials appeared to be watering down their commitment to Trump, and Kosovo sought to allay concerns among Muslim countries.

The 27-nation EU’s long-held policy is that Jerusalem’s status should be worked out between Israel and the Palestinians as part of broader peace negotiations, and that Serbia — as a candidate to join the bloc — should respect that.

“There is no EU member state with an embassy in Jerusalem,” European Commission spokesman Peter Stano said. “Any diplomatic steps that could call into question the EU’s common position on Jerusalem are a matter of serious concern and regret.”

Praising what he said was “a major breakthrough” and “a truly historic commitment,” Trump — deep into campaigning ahead of November’s presidential election — announced Friday that “Serbia and Kosovo have each committed to economic normalization.”

Trump also said that Serbia has committed to open a commercial office in Jerusalem this month and move its embassy there in July. The Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in late 2017 and moved the U.S. embassy there in May 2018.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Serbia’s president and confirmed that Israel and Kosovo, a predominantly Muslim country, will establish diplomatic relations. He said Pristina also will open its embassy in Jerusalem.
Stano, speaking as Serbian President Aleksander Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minster Avdullah Hoti held a new round of talks in Brussels on normalizing their relations, said the EU was told in advance only about the economic aspects of the White House event, not about movements in Jerusalem.

In Belgrade, Serbian officials appeared to be stepping back from the embassy pledge, with Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic saying the final decision will still have to be discussed by the government and will depend on “a number of factors” including future development of ties with Israel.

Asked about the move following the meeting in Brussels, Vucic said that “Serbia has not opened that chapter yet, but we are doing our best to align with EU declarations, EU resolutions as much as it is possible. But he underlined that Serbia ”will take care of our own interests for the benefit and for the sake of our people."

Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci, meanwhile, was on the phone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, trying to assuage fears about the decision to recognize Israel expressed by Turkey and the Arab League group of countries.

“Such a recognition will not violate under any circumstances the strategic, friendly and fraternal partnership with Turkey,” Thaci said after the conversation.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the deal that establishes diplomatic relations with Kosovo, and would have both Kosovo and Serbia open embassies in Jerusalem. They would join the U.S. and Guatemala as the only countries with embassies in the contested city, whose eastern sector is claimed by the Palestinians as the capital of a future state.

“We will continue efforts so that additional European countries will transfer their embassies to Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said Friday. He noted that Kosovo becomes the first Muslim-majority country to open an embassy in Jerusalem.

On Monday, Sharren Haskel, a lawmaker in Netanyahu’s Likud party and chairwoman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs subcommittee, said that the “EU efforts to educate Serbia and Kosovo are shocking.” She called on “other countries to strengthen Kosovo and Serbia, to join and move their missions to Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people.”

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, around a decade after Belgrade sent troops into its former territory to crush an uprising by ethnic Albanian separatists. Serbia refuses to recognize Kosovo’s statehood, and tensions have simmered ever since.

The EU-facilitated negotiations, which the Europeans say is the only way to address their membership hopes, started in March 2011 and have produced more than a dozen agreements, but most of them have not been observed.

The talks stalled in November 2018 and only resumed in July after a parallel U.S. negotiating effort began.

But as they met again on Monday, Vucic and Hoti recommitted to the European track, saying “that they attach the highest priority to EU integration and to continuing the work on the EU-facilitated Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue.”

In what was described as a “joint statement” issued by the office of EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, Vucic and Hoti also said they "committed to redoubling their efforts to ensure further EU alignment in accordance with their respective obligations.”

They appeared to play down Friday's announcement, by saying that “the recently agreed documents in Washington, D.C., building on previous Dialogue-related commitments undertaken by the two parties, could provide a useful contribution to reaching a comprehensive, legally binding agreement on normalization of relations.”


Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Llazar Semini in Tirana, Albania, and Josef Federman in Jerusalem contributed to this report


Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB
Things are getting bad in Sweden.

Sweden: The Violence Is "Extremely Serious"
Profile picture for user Tyler Durden
by Tyler Durden
Wed, 09/09/2020 - 02:00

Authored by Judith Bergman via The Gatestone Institute,
Things in Sweden have now deteriorated to such a degree that on August 29, the Swedish police published a statement titled "The trends in violence are extremely serious." It said:
"Recently, there have been serious incidents and serious acts of violence linked to criminal networks, in which several people have been murdered and others seriously injured...
"In Stockholm, two people were murdered in the past week, and in Gothenburg, criminal groups have tried to demonstrate power by controlling vehicles entering certain districts. Earlier in August, an innocent 12-year-old girl was murdered... [during a gang incident], and in other parts of the country there are conflicts between various criminal networks and other ruthless crime, as well. On Friday night, a violent riot also occurred in Malmö where several police officers were injured..."
Sweden's National Police Chief, Anders Thornberg, made what sounded like a plea for help from the rest of society: "Swedish police are in a tough operational situation. It is now a matter of society joining forces behind the police," he said.

"We will continue to fight organized crime with all the tools we have available. Other good forces in society, everything from municipal officials and civil society to law enforcement agencies and not least the general public, also need to focus on facing the current situation. The police must ensure that the criminals are arrested and can be prosecuted. The criminals need to disappear from our streets and squares so that no more ruthless crimes are committed...
"The everyday life many police officers face when they go to work right now is worrying and very tiring. We work intensively, around the clock, despite this, the severe violence continues. The police are there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We do not give up and we do not back down, but the situation is currently very stressful."
The police statement did not mention that two boys were raped, tortured and nearly buried alive in a cemetery close to Stockholm. The atrocity added to the growing number of so-called "humiliation crimes". These are crimes where the victim is not only robbed, but also violently humiliated to demonstrate the power of the perpetrator. Another such humiliation crime, for instance, took place in Gothenburg in October 2019, when a criminal gang forced their victim to kiss the gang leader's feet, while they filmed him. After that, they stomped on his face until he lost consciousness.

"Sweden is losing control of its own territory," Ivar Arpi, a Swedish columnist, recently told the Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende.
"These heinous crimes and humiliations are connected to a ghetto culture... Journalists do not like to write about it, politicians do not want to talk about it and researchers do not want to touch it. There is a systematic ignorance."
In the riot that took place in Malmö on August 28, an estimated 300 people burned car tires, shot fireworks and threw stones at the police. The riot occurred close to Rosengård, a so-called "vulnerable area", populated mainly by immigrants. Video footage posted to social media showed the rioters shouting "Allahu Akbar" and "Jews, remember Khaybar, the army of Mohammed is returning" -- a reference to the massacre of the Jews of Khaybar by the Islamic prophet Mohammed and his followers in the year 628, in what is today Saudi Arabia. The Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities released a statement in reaction to the riot, saying:

"Unfortunately, this is not the first time a crowd has chanted similar threats against Jews in Malmö. The Council of Swedish Jewish Communities takes this incident extremely seriously and calls on the police and other responsible authorities to prosecute those individuals who have thereby committed incitement against an ethnic group."
According to Swedish media, the riot was a reaction to the burning of a Koran earlier in the day in one part of Malmö and the kicking of a Koran in a central square in the city by followers of the small Danish anti-Islam party, Stram Kurs. The leader of the party, Rasmus Paludan, has previously toured Denmark with his anti-Islam protests.

Paludan's demonstrations frequently feature a "Koran stunt." In it, he either throws a Koran around, burns it or puts bacon on it. Dan Park, a Swedish street artist, who has been convicted of inciting hatred against an ethnic group, had invited Paludan to Malmö to participate in a demonstration. Paludan was stopped at the Swedish border and denied entry by Swedish police, who told him that he was banned from entering the country for two years.
"We believe that his actions and freedom of entry would be a threat to fundamental societal interests," said Mattias Sigfridsson, Malmö's Acting Police Chief. Asked whether the decision did not go against the freedom of expression, Sigfridsson said:
We see it as the opposite. We do our utmost to protect the democratic values that exist. The public gathering for which we have denied permission today would have been a danger to safety and order at the event".
"I think it is those who react to what I do, who constitute a threat," Paludan told Swedish media. The decision to ban Paludan's demonstration was upheld by the Swedish Administrative Court. It held that while the freedom of assembly and demonstration are constitutionally protected rights and that there is therefore a very limited scope to refuse permission to demonstrate, the threat from the demonstration was so serious that it justified banning him. The Koran burning that ensued despite the police decision happened in contravention of the ban. Three people were arrested and charged with incitement, reportedly for kicking around a Koran in central Malmö.

In the Gothenburg suburb of Angered, a criminal gang set up roadblocks and manned them with masked armed men who checked the identities of people driving in and out of the area. According to Berlingske Tidende, the roadblocks were set up by a gang centered around the Ali Khan family, who deal in financial fraud and other crimes. The clan has been reported to the police more than 200 times but the police have had to close almost all cases because the gang threatens the victims and witnesses to stay silent.

Also recently in Gothenburg, a teacher at the Lövgärdes School reported two armed men moving around outside the school and notified the police, but by the time they arrived the men had disappeared. When the teacher drove home from school later that day, he was kidnapped and beaten.

The leader of the main Swedish opposition party, Moderaterna (The Moderate Party), Ulf Kristersson, now says that he wants to make it a crime to be member of a gang.
"Several children have died only this year in stabbings and shootings," Kristersson wrote in a Facebook post.
"This weekend, two boys were subjected to terrible atrocities in a cemetery in Solna for an entire night. On Tuesday, a teacher in Gothenburg was kidnapped and beaten after contacting the police.
"What we now experience almost daily is not normal -- not for Sweden or for Europe. Almost all of us who live here know that. The development is destroying Swedish trust and cohesion, the violence is threatening the system. The criminal gangs terrorize entire residential areas and kill children and adults who happen to be in the way. They set up their own roadblocks and control people's everyday lives. They are like Sweden's domestic terrorists -- and must therefore be met with the full force of our democracy. Pattern-breaking measures that really lead to change, not just adjustments in the margin.
"Sweden should start by making it a crime to be part of a criminal gang, in the same way that it should be a crime to be part of a terrorist organization. It would thus give the police new opportunities to act against the activities we have seen in Gothenburg in recent days, such as establishing roadblocks or arranging meetings in which various criminal gangs participate."
In other news, the Västra Skrävlinge church in Malmö was recently vandalized seven nights in a row. Windows were smashed and statues broken, including a statue of Jesus that was smashed to pieces. The perpetrators are unknown, but the Sweden Democrats Party in Malmö has asked the Church of Swedish to look deeper into the matter, adding in a statement:
"Considering the vandalism of Västra Skrävlinge Church that we have seen and the systematic vandalism we see in our cemeteries, this is an area that the Church of Sweden must work with. Unfortunately, there is a grudge against Christian culture among certain groups and the Church of Sweden in Malmö cannot be passive while the Christian cultural heritage is vandalized."

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Georgia Hosts Major NATO Troop Drills While Touting Bid To Join The Alliance
Profile picture for user Tyler Durden
by Tyler Durden
Wed, 09/09/2020 - 04:15

Yet another provocation sure to increase tensions between Russian and NATO has begun this week in the form of war games hosted by the Republic of Georgia.
On Monday the Noble Partner 2020 military exercises kicked off, which involves close to 3,000 NATO troops from the US, Britain, France and Poland. Centered on the capital of Tibilisi, the games will simulate an external invasion of the caucuses country.
The US Army began training exercises last week ahead of the main part of the games, which will go through September 18.

The small country of Georgia is of course not a NATO member, though has since the 2008 Russo-Georgian War been increasingly cooperative and favored by the Atlantic military alliance.
Georgia has bid for membership in the alliance, though the long running South Ossetia and Abkhazia disputes are seen as preventing that, given NATO membership would most certainly trigger broader war with Russia. NATO leaders in 2008 pledged that Georgia “will become a NATO member” but the Russian issue looms too large to actually pull the trigger.
Anytime Georgia hosts war games, it stands accused by the Kremlin of modeling exercises on the prior Russo-Georgian War. Russia also sees such games as a threat given the immediate vicinity to its border.
Via The Washington Times
Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia sought to sidestep any accusations, describing the drills as “a guarantee of peace in our country” and “are not directed against anyone,” in an opening address to troops.

PM Gakharia further called the games “the most important component of efforts to make Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration achievable.”

No doubt such overt pro-NATO talk, again part its longstanding bid to join the military alliance, is also sure to rattle and anger Russia.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

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Assange told to stop interrupting witnesses at UK hearing

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A billboard truck depicting Julian Assange drives past the Central Criminal Court Old Bailey in London, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. Lawyers for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the U.S. government were squaring off in a London court on Monday at a high-stakes extradition case delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. American prosecutors have indicted the 49-year-old Australian on 18 espionage and computer misuse charges over Wikileaks' publication of secret U.S. military documents a decade ago. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

LONDON (AP) — A British judge told WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Tuesday that his extradition hearing will proceed without him if he continues to speak from the dock and interrupt witnesses.

Vanessa Baraitser briefly adjourned the hearing at London’s Central Criminal Court after Assange interrupted defense witness Clive Stafford Smith, who was giving evidence. Assange’s outburst couldn’t be heard by journalists following proceedings by video link.

Assange is fighting an attempt by American prosecutors to extradite him to the U.S. to stand trial on spying charges. U.S. prosecutors have indicted the 49-year-old Australian on 18 espionage and computer misuse charges over WikiLeaks’ publication of secret U.S. military documents a decade ago. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.

Assange’s lawyers say the prosecution is a politically motivated abuse of power that will stifle media freedom and put journalists at risk around the world.

Addressing Assange, the judge said: “You will hear things, no doubt many things, you disagree with during these proceedings.”

“If you interrupt proceedings it is open to me to proceed in your absence,” she added.
On Monday, when the hearing opened, Baraitser rejected requests by Assange’s lawyers to delay his extradition hearing until next year so they can have more time to respond to U.S. allegations that he conspired with hackers to obtain classified information.

The case has already been delayed for months because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Stafford Smith, who founded the nonprofit rights organization Reprieve, told the court Tuesday that WikiLeaks helped expose alleged U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

American authorities allege that Assange conspired with U.S. army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to hack into a Pentagon computer and release hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic cables and military files on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a new indictment announced in June, the U.S. Justice Department expanded its case, accusing Assange of recruiting hackers at conferences in Europe and Asia, recruiting a teenager to hack into the computer of a former WikiLeaks associate and conspiring with members of hacking groups known as LulzSec and Anonymous. U.S. prosecutors say the evidence underscores Assange’s efforts to procure and release classified information.

Assange’s lawyers argue that he is a journalist entitled to First Amendment protection and say the leaked documents exposed U.S. military wrongdoing.

The case is due to run until early October. The judge is expected to take weeks or even months to consider her verdict, with the losing side likely to appeal.


Disaster Cat
The really big news this side of the water is that BoJo is threatening to pass a law that would overturn the very BREXIT trade/withdrawal agreement that he signed on for, one of his cabinet ministers even admitted this is "breaking international law" but "only in one specific area."

Stayed tuned boys and girls because this could result in a no-confidence vote if enough Tory MPs refuse to vote to break international law without a better explanation as to why they should do this.

Meanwhile, the Irish Republic and folks in Northern Ireland (even the Unionists) are starting to panic because what is being "torn up" is the agreement on Northern Ireland.

Boris may claim to have a "classical education" but he may need to review the history of Nothern Ireland (and the costs to be British Crown of a renewed civil war) before he continues in this direction.

The news is moving so fast, and a "sudden increase" in COVID (how convenient) is now screaming in the headline so getting further articles to post on this at the moment is difficult - but Boris is supposed to give a press conference "this afternoon" which may at least "clarify" his position.

He had better do that soon, or he may not have a position very long - this time it isn't just the Labour Party that is upset!
Taoiseach to speak to Boris Johnson today about 'extraordinary change in approach from British government'
The Taoiseach says the UK government’s actions ‘does not build trust’.
18 minutes ago 1,290 Views 1 Comment
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Taoiseach says he will be making it clear to the UK PM the importance of adhering to international agreements.

Taoiseach says he will be making it clear to the UK PM the importance of adhering to international agreements.
TAOISEACH MICHEÁL Martin will speak to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson today after the Irish government got no “heads up” on the controversial new British legislation that will override elements of the Brexit deal and breach international law.
Downing Street had insisted changes in the Internal Market Bill were simply “limited clarifications” to protect the Northern Ireland peace process if they failed to secure a free trade deal with the EU.
But yesterday, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis provoked a furious reaction when he confirmed to MPs yesterday that the legislation would breach international law in a “very specific and limited way”.
Speaking to reporters in Government Buildings today, the Taoiseach said “meaningful negotiations can only proceed on the basis on mutual trust”.
“Unilateral actions which seek to change the operation of measures already agreed included in an International treaty and incorporated in domestic law do not build trust,” said Martin.

“Trust is fundamental in the conduct of any negotiations,” said the Taoiseach, conveying that he is “extremely concerned about the unilateral nature of the UK government’s actions”.
He said the actions by the UK government “undermines” progress in the negotiations, stating:
“It does not build trust.”
Martin said he would “register our very strong concerns” to the UK prime minister, and the move to ”deviate what is an agreed international treaty”. He said people in Europe and the UK were taken aback by yesterday’s comments.
“It is not an acceptable way to conduct negotiations,” said Martin, who added that he is particularly concerned the latest developments “drags Northern Ireland back into the central stage” and could “potentially be divisive”.


Disaster Cat
Note: most of these headlines have already been replaced by COVID COVID COVID "We're ALL GONNA DIE" type headlines...
My favorite headline so far:

another one



Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB
Angela Merkel is caught in a mess of her own making.

Moria refugee camp tragedy rekindles political controversy in Germany
With thousands now displaced from Greece's largest migrant camp, several German states are again offering to take in many of the refugees. They face one big problem: getting permission from Merkel's government.

Woman and children in burned-out Moria camp (Reuters/A. Konstantinidis)

The devastating fires at Greece's Moria refugee camp have quickly reignited a debate over refugee policy in Germany — with German state leaders doubling down on efforts to strike out on their own to offer aid.

Armin Laschet, who heads Germany's most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia, offered to take in some 1,000 people from the camp on Wednesday.
Read more: Armin Laschet had to cut short a visit to Moria in August

Similar pledges came from state leaders and officials in Berlin, Thuringia and Brandenburg — all offering to resettle some of the thousands of people at the Moria camp who were displaced by the blaze.

Watch video01:42
Fire destroys Greece's Moria migrant camp
"The news out of the refugee camp in Moria, Greece deeply shocks me. This is a humanitarian catastrophe that no one can turn a blind eye to any longer," Berlin Mayor Michael Müller said in a statement.

Their calls for urgent action, however, have put them on a collision course with Chancellor Angela Merkel's government — which has shot down previous efforts by states to rescue refugees.

Blocking state programs
For months, German states have been trying to set up their own flights to rescue asylum-seekers from Greece's overcrowded Moria camp — with Berlin and Thuringia particularly leading the charge.

State and some city leaders argue that they have enough space and capacity to accept a portion of the refugees and have voiced anger over inaction from the federal government, stressing the urgency to act in coronavirus times.

In the end, they were stopped by Interior Minister Horst Seehofer who vetoed the state's humanitarian plans.
Horst Seehofer and Angela Merkel (picture-alliance/dpa/B. von Jutrczenka)
Chancellor Merkel and Interior Minister Horst Seehofer see eye-to-eye on refugee policy
Seehofer argued that the federal government has the final say in matters of refugee policy, saying that the solution to the refugee crisis needs to be agreed by the European Union.
Read more: "We can do this!" — five years after Merkel's famous pledge to take in refugees

In the aftermath of the fire at the Moria camp, Seehofer issued a statement on Wednesday pledging to help Greece by offering to send tents and medicine — but made no mention about whether Germany would take in some of the camp's refugees.
German states have challenged Seehofer's decision in court, but a decision could take time.
Griechenland Athen | Armin Laschet | Treffen mit Kyriakos Mitsotakis (picture-alliance/AP Photo/P. Giannakouris)
Armin Laschet, who visited Moria in August, is one of the candidates for the chairmanship of Germany's ruling party CDU.
Where does Merkel stand?

At the end of August, Chancellor Angela Merkel came out in support of her interior minister's decision to block the state's plans to rescue refugees, saying that he'd acted correctly.
While the chancellor welcomed the readiness of states and local communities to take in asylum-seekers from the packed camps, she said it could potentially hamper efforts to work out a refugee distribution system within the EU.

If all refugees are taken in by Germany, "then we will never see a European solution," she said at the time.

Watch video03:03
Welcome volunteers remember helping refugees in Germany
Government inaction 'incomprehensible'

Humanitarian aid groups as well as German politicians took aim Seehofer's efforts to halt states from taking in migrants, with some arguing that the dire situation in the camps could have been avoided.

Joachim Stamp, the state minister for families, refugees, and integration in NRW, said it was "pathetic" that the EU allowed the situation in Moria to escalate to the point that it had.
"NRW and other states offered their help. The federal government only has to coordinate.

Seehofer and [German Foreign Minister Heiko] Maas have remained inactive. This must change immediately," Stamp wrote on Twitter. "If the EU isn't in a position to humanely accommodate a few thousand migrants, then it is a declaration of bankruptcy."

Berlin Mayor Michael Müller voiced his frustrations with the federal government's actions and inaction — urging Merkel's administration to allow

"It is incomprehensible to me why the federal government is not making it possible for the cities that have declared their willingness to provide quick and solidary aid to do so," Müller said.

"We have the capacities and it is in our duty to help people in need," he added.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Turkey-Cyprus dispute holding up EU's Belarus sanctions, diplomats say

Robin Emmott, Gabriela Baczynska, John Chalmers

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union sanctions on Belarus are being delayed by a separate dispute between Cyprus and Turkey over energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean, four EU diplomats said, in the latest sign of paralysis in the bloc’s foreign policy.

EU foreign ministers gave their political approval for sanctions on senior Belarus officials at a meeting in Berlin late last month over the Aug. 9 elections that the West say was rigged, in a bid to show support for pro-democracy protesters.

A Cypriot diplomatic source told Reuters that Nicosia has requested time to study the planned EU travel bans and asset freezes because, as one of the EU’s smallest states, the island does not have the organisational capacity to review them quickly.

“We support the sanctions, but we need to know what we have before us,” the diplomatic source said.

EU foreign policy requires consensus among its 27 members.

However, many EU states feel Cyprus’ request, called a “study reserve” in diplomatic parlance, is a bid to coerce the other 26 states to agree similar punitive measures on Turkey,
Turkey began drilling for oil and gas near Cyprus last year despite warnings from Brussels, amid broader fears of a military escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean as NATO allies Greece and Turkey hold naval drills in the area.

Cyprus’ proposal in June to impose sanctions on more Turkish companies and individuals has not been approved as many EU states, including Germany, want to defuse the Turkey stand-off through dialogue.

With as many as 40 Belarus senior officials identified for possible sanctions and the country a month into mass demonstrations against the outcome of the election, some diplomats are furious the EU has been unable to respond.
“There’s a great deal of frustration,” said a senior EU diplomat involved in decision-making, although another diplomat described Cyprus as “desperate” and not ill-intentioned.

French President Emmanuel Macron will host the Cypriot and Greek leaders in Corsica on Thursday and a breakthrough could still come at an EU foreign ministers meeting on Sept. 21 or at a leaders summit in Brussels on Sept. 24-25.

But the dispute with Cyprus adds to questions about the EU’s foreign policy credibility, the diplomats said.

The EU, which was once able to boast of a soft power that helped transform communist neighbours into market economies, is struggling to assert influence, at odds with U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” policies.

Writing by Robin Emmott; Editing by Toby Chopra
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Spain warns of damage of no-deal Brexit, including for Gibraltar

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said on Thursday that a no-deal Brexit would be much more damaging for Spain and Britain, including the situation for the British territory of Gibraltar, than reaching a deal on future UK-EU relations.

In an interview with Catalan public radio, she called the possibility of a no-deal Brexit “an irresponsibility”, but added that Spain had been preparing for that potential scenario.

Reporting by Joan Faus; Editing by Gareth Jones
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

northern watch

Has No Life - Lives on TB
China, others to join military exercises in Russia
Chinese and Russian forces will take part in joint military exercises in southern Russia later this month along with troops from Armenia, Belarus, Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan and others

By The Associated Press
10 September 2020,

FILE - In this June 24, 2020 file photo, soldiers from China's People's Liberation Army march toward Red Square during the Victory Day military parade marking the 75th anniversary of the Nazi defeat in Red Square in Moscow, Russia. Chinese and Russia

Image Icon
The Associated Press
FILE - In this June 24, 2020 file photo, soldiers from China's People's Liberation Army march toward Red Square during the Victory Day military parade marking the 75th anniversary of the Nazi defeat in Red Square in Moscow, Russia. Chinese and Russian forces will take part in joint military exercises in southern Russia later in September along with troops from Armenia, Belarus, Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan and others, China's defense ministry announced Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

BEIJING -- Chinese and Russian forces will take part in joint military exercises in southern Russia later this month along with troops from Armenia, Belarus, Iran, Myanmar, Pakistan and others, China’s defense ministry announced Thursday.

The “Caucuses 2020” drills will deploy wheeled vehicles and light weaponry to be flown to the drill location by China’s latest transport aircraft, the ministry said in a statement.

The exercises running September 21-26 will focus on defensive tactics, encirclement and battlefield control and command, the ministry said.

The exercises have special meaning for China-Russia ties “at this important moment when the whole world is fighting the pandemic,” it said.

China has reported no new domestic coronavirus cases in weeks, while Russia is continuing to see new cases and has reported more than 1 million people infected.

Since establishing a “comprehensive strategic partnership" two decades ago, China and Russia have cooperated increasingly closely on military matters and diplomacy, largely to counter U.S. influence. Their militaries regularly hold joint exercises and they back each other in the United Nations over issues including Syria and North Korea.



Disaster Cat
And just as I predicted (with no psychic ability) BoJo is facing a revolt from his own party over the "only breaking international law in a very specific way" bill. BoJo either manages to twist a lot of arms, he backs down, or he may no longer be Prime Minister by the end of the month. - Melodi
NewsUKUK Politics
Brexit news - live: Tory MPs set to rebel against Boris Johnson's bill, as Gordon Brown attacks 'act of self-harm'
Follow all the latest developments

Adam Forrest@adamtomforrest
34 minutes ago

Boris Johnson is facing revolt from dozens of Conservative MPs over his plan to tear up key parts of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, after Tory rebels tabled an amendment that would give parliament a veto on his Internal Market Bill.
Up to 30 backbench Tories are said to be ready to vote against the government, with justice committee chair Sir Bob Neill urging the prime minister to think again: “For heaven’s sake, try and find some other way.”

Former PM Gordon Brown described the government’s move as “an act of self-harm”. The growing row comes as international trade secretary Liz Truss announced Britain has signed its first post-Brexit trade deal with Japan worth an estimated £15bn.

  • Dozens of Conservatives set to rebel against new Brexit bill
  • Brexiteer MPs want to scrap whole withdrawal agreement
  • UK signs trade deal with Japan
  • Johnson’s plan ‘act of self-arm’, says Gordon Brown
  • PM’s move ‘unprecedented in history’ says Irish government


Disaster Cat
Ireland accuses Boris Johnson of trying to sabotage peace process
Dublin minister says UK plan to undo Brexit deal would have ‘unthinkable’ consequences
Boris Johnson

Ireland’s European affairs minister branded Boris Johnson’s threat to renege on parts of the withdrawal act as a ‘universal provocative act’. Photograph: PRU/AFP/Getty Images

Lisa O'Carroll and Daniel Boffey
Fri 11 Sep 2020 10.06 BST

The Irish government has accused Boris Johnson of trying to sabotage the Northern Ireland peace process with a “unilateral provocative act” based on spurious claims about the Good Friday agreement.
As Brexit talks hang by a thread following the UK’s threat to renege on parts of the withdrawal agreement, Thomas Byrne, Ireland’s European affairs minister, branded the UK government’s claims that its move was to protect the peace process as “completely false”.
He said what would happen as a result of this bill becoming law was “completely unthinkable”.
Relations with the EU have plunged to a new low in the last 24 hours after the UK rejected Brussels demands to withdraw the parts of the internal markets bill that would give the government power to override the Northern Ireland protocol.
Q&AWhat is the UK internal market bill?

The move has also soured Anglo-Irish relations, with no warning of the plan to undo the Brexit arrangements on Northern Ireland by one of the co-guarantors of the Good Friday agreement.
Byrne told BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme: “It’s a totally unacceptable way to do business, and we would value very close relations with Britain. In fact, good relations with Britain are absolutely essential for the peace process to work, as well as at the lack of a hard border, and good relations within the north and north/south.
“This was a unilateral, provocative act, that is … uniquely unprecedented. The statement that this is to help the Good Friday agreement is completely false and is completely wrong.
“The constitutional status of Northern Ireland is, first of all, protected in the Good Friday agreement, is protected and mentioned again in the protocol which Boris Johnson agreed less than a year ago.
“The entire premise of the Good Friday agreement is, in fact, agreement between the peoples of the north, the north and south and between Britain and Ireland. So you cannot then allow one side, in any aspect of the complicated relationships on the two islands, decided to change things unilaterally, and that’s not unique to our situation.
“What is not expected is one side of that [peace agreement] simply pulls the plug and says no, we’re going to change something without even consulting.”
Byrne called on Johnson to think again and allow “common sense to prevail” and realise he is threatening a peace process that took decades of hard work to achieve.
He said: “Boris Johnson agreed this agreement. He ran the general election on the basis of support this agreement, and this is absolutely unprecedented. To then turn around months later and say, well actually we didn’t realise that this was like this?
“Everybody knew the complexities of the island of Ireland, and everybody knew this agreement would be to everybody’s benefit both in the island of Ireland and in Great Britain.”
Trade talks between the EU and the UK will continue next week but the outlook remains bleak, with relations soured with the EU and key allies.
The German ambassador to the UK tweeted on Thursday night that he had not in his 30 years as a diplomat “experienced such a fast, intentional and profound deterioration of a negotiation”.

Johnson is also facing a backbench rebellion led by Sir Bob Neill, with up to 30 MPs reportedly willing to vote for an amendment on the offending parts of the bill and some including Sir Roger Gale saying if the bill is tabled unamended they will vote against it entirely.


Disaster Cat
Oh and wait, there's more, now that pesky House of Lords is now involved - your welcome Jane, I figured I would see the UK headlines an hour or two ahead of you (probably)..Melodi (if this gets really big it may want its own thread but let's see if it blows over first or turns into a full-scale
Brexit: Lords could block PM's plan to override withdrawal deal

As well as fury from European capitals, the PM has also angered those within his own party ahead of parliamentary votes.
Greg Heffer, political reporter
Greg Heffer
Political reporter @GregHeffer
Friday 11 September 2020 11:24, UK
Lord Michael Howard

'Very surprised' if Brexit bill goes through
Why you can trust Sky News
Boris Johnson has been warned he will struggle to get controversial legislation - which seeks to override the Brexit withdrawal deal - through the House of Lords.
Lord Howard of Lympne, the former Conservative Party leader, told Sky News he would be "very surprised" if the proposed UK Internal Market Bill was passed by peers.
Sponsored link

Recommended by

The Brexit-backing peer is the third ex-Tory leader - after Sir John Major and Theresa May - to condemn the prime minister's plan to use the legislation to alter key elements of the UK's Withdrawal Agreement.
[IMG alt="Michael Howard and Boris Johnson in 2004. Pic: Alan Davidson/Shutterstock
Image:Michael Howard and Boris Johnson in 2004. Pic: Alan Davidson/Shutterstock
Mr Johnson himself struck the Withdrawal Agreement last year before formally signing the deal in January.
But he is now seeking, through the bill, to empower ministers to set it aside.

Lord Howard described the government's admission that the proposed legislation would break international law as a "very, very sad day".

"We have a reputation for probity, for upholding the rule of law," he told Kay Burley.

EU/UK crises).

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB
Melodi, I have wondered why BoJo was so quiet lately on this issue. It seems that while the rest of Europe was focused on Turkey and COVID, he was waiting out the clock.

Plain Jane

Has No Life - Lives on TB

Southern EU leaders urge Turkey to end “unilateral” actions

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From left to right, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Cyprus President Nikos Anastasiadis, France's President Emmanuel Macron, Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa, Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Malta's Prime Minister Robert Abela , attend a media conference after an emergency summit in Porticcio, Corsica island, Thursday Sept.10, 2020. Leaders of EU countries on the Mediterranean Sea are holding an emergency summit in Corsica on Thursday amid fears of open conflict with Turkey stemming from mounting tensions over oil and gas drilling. (Ludovic Marin/Pool Photo via AP)

PARIS (AP) — Leaders of seven southern European countries on Thursday urged Turkey to end “unilateral and illegal activities” in the eastern Mediterranean and resume dialogue to ease tensions in the region.

Heads of states and government of France, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Italy, Spain and Portugal gathered in Corsica amid fears of open conflict as Turkey seeks to expand its energy resources and influence in the region.

In their final statement, leaders reaffirmed their “full support and solidarity with Cyprus and Greece” who they say are facing Turkey’s “confrontational actions.”

“We regret that Turkey has not responded to the repeated calls by the European Union to end its unilateral and illegal activities,” they said.

Leaders warned that “in absence of progress in engaging Turkey into a dialogue and unless it ends its unilateral activities, the EU is ready to develop a list of further restrictive measures” at a summit later this month.

They also called on resuming German mediation in the dispute. Russia also offered this week to mediate.

Greece and Turkey have deployed naval and air force units to assert competing claims over energy exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkish survey vessels and drill ships continue to prospect for gas in waters where Greece and Cyprus claim exclusive economic rights.

France is carrying out military patrols in the region in a show of support for Greece and Cyprus, and the EU is mulling new sanctions against Turkey.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said “if Turkey really wants a frank dialogue with Greece and Cyprus with the European Union, it must demonstrate this in practice: to immediately stop unilateral actions, to make convincing indications that it respect international law.”

Turkey needs to “restrain its aggressive rhetoric” and “return to the table for exploratory talks with Greece,” he added.

Turkish leaders have lashed out at France and the EU for siding with Greece and Cyprus in the dispute.

Earlier Thursday, Macron denounced what he called “unacceptable” provocations from Turkey.

“Turkey is no longer a partner in this region,” Macron told reporters ahead of the summit. “We Europeans need to be clear and firm” with the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about its “inadmissible behavior,” he said.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry characterized Macron’s statement as “arrogant” and in line with “old colonial reflexes.” It accused the French president of stoking tensions and putting the “greater interests” of Europe at risk.

“It is not for Macron to determine the maritime jurisdiction of any country in the Mediterranean” or anywhere else, the Turkish ministry said in a statement.

Speaking Thursday to EU lawmakers, Greek European Affairs Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis appealed for support from European partners, saying the tensions over energy rights “constitute by themselves a grave threat to our common security architecture.”

He said that Turkey is looking beyond Greece and is “a major destabilizing factor in the wider area,” citing Turkish government actions in Libya, Syria and beyond.

He said that Greece would not provoke conflict but wouldn’t just sit back waiting for European help to arrive: “At the end of the day, we will defend ourselves, even alone.”

Separately from the diplomatic discussions, Turkish and Greek military officials met Thursday at NATO headquarters, as part of ongoing meetings aimed at reducing the risk of armed conflict. Greece and Turkey both are NATO members.

The leaders also planned to discuss EU and NATO operations in the Mediterranean and their relation to Turkey during a dinner on Thursday evening.

The seven countries are aiming at coming up with a united southern European front before a full EU summit later this month focused on the bloc’s strategy toward Turkey.

In a testy exchange with EU lawmakers, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu urged the Europeans to play the role of an “honest broker” in the maritime border and energy dispute rather than take sides with member countries Greece and Cyprus.

“By acting as an international court, defending one side’s claims over the issue, the EU has become a part of the problem unfortunately,” Cavusoglu said by video link.

“We are ready for dialogue without any preconditions. If Greece insists on preconditions, we will also insist on our preconditions,” Cavusoglu said, but added that “we are not for tension. We are not for escalation.”

European Council President Charles Michel will travel to Greece, Cyprus and Malta next week for talks with leaders.
Angela Charlton in Paris, Lorne Cook and Raf Casert in Brussels, Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, and Elena Becatoros and Derek Gatopoulos in Athens contributed to this story.

northern watch

Has No Life - Lives on TB
Turkey tells EU to stop 'blindly' backing Greece in standoff
Turkey has called on European Union countries to abandon a policy of “blindly” taking the side of EU members Greece and Cyprus in a standoff over energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean
By The Associated Press
11 September 2020

From left to right, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Cyprus President Nikos Anastasiadis, France's President Emmanuel Macron and Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa attend a media conference after a

Image Icon
The Associated Press

From left to right, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Cyprus President Nikos Anastasiadis, France's President Emmanuel Macron and Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa attend a media conference after an emergency summit in Porticcio, Corsica island, Thursday Sept.10, 2020. Leaders of EU countries on the Mediterranean Sea are holding an emergency summit in Corsica on Thursday amid fears of open conflict with Turkey stemming from mounting tensions over oil and gas drilling. (Ludovic Marin/Pool Photo via AP)

ANKARA, Turkey -- Turkey called on European Union countries Friday to abandon a policy of “blindly” taking the side of EU members Greece and Cyprus in a tense standoff over energy exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy also urged Greece to reduce the ongoing tensions by backing a NATO initiative that aims to reduce the risk of an armed conflict at sea and withdrawing Greek warships that are monitoring a Turkish research ship — which itself is accompanied by Turkish warships

NATO allies Greece and Turkey have deployed naval and air force units to assert competing claims over energy rights in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkish survey vessels and drill ships continue to prospect for gas in waters where Greece and Cyprus claim exclusive economic rights.

Turkey accuses Greece of trying to grab an unfair share of maritime resources and Cyprus of disregarding the rights of Turkish Cypriots on the ethnically-divided island.

Greece and Turkey have carried rival naval exercises amid their standoff. On Friday, Turkey issued a new Navtex, or international maritime safety message, for Sept. 12-Sept. 14 live-fire exercises between its southern coast

Aksoy’s statements were directed at the leaders of seven southern European countries, who at a meeting Thursday urged Turkey to end its “unilateral and illegal activities” in the eastern Mediterranean and to resume dialogue to ease tensions.

In their final statement, the leaders of France, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Italy, Spain and Portugal reaffirmed their “full support and solidarity with Cyprus and Greece” as they face Turkey’s “confrontational actions.”

Meeting in Corsica, France, the leaders also warned that the EU was ready to develop a list of further sanctions unless Turkey ends its unilateral activities and engages in dialogue.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman called their declaration “biased, detached from reality and lacking a legal basis.”

“The EU and the other countries that signed the declaration should abandon their one-sided and biased attitudes that they blindly pursue under the guise of solidarity,” Aksoy said. “Solidarity can occur with the side which is right. There can be no solidarity with the wrongful side.”

Last edited:

northern watch

Has No Life - Lives on TB
UK inks trade deal with Japan just as EU talks sour
The U.K. has secured its first major post-Brexit trade deal after signing an agreement with Japan just as discussions with the European Union appeared to be on the verge of collapse
By PAN PYLAS Associated Press
11 September 2020

FILE - In this Monday, Aug. 3, 2020 file photo, a sign outside a pub reads: Wanted Customers in central London. The British economy recouped some further lost ground during July after a swath of coronavirus restrictions were lifted, official figure

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FILE - In this Monday, Aug. 3, 2020 file photo, a sign outside a pub reads: "Wanted Customers" in central London. The British economy recouped some further lost ground during July after a swath of coronavirus restrictions were lifted, official figures showed Friday Sept. 11, 2020. However, it still has to make up around half the output lost at the peak of the lockdown and now faces renewed risks related to Brexit. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, file)

LONDON -- The U.K. secured its first major post-Brexit trade deal on Friday after signing an agreement with Japan just as discussions with the European Union appeared to be teetering on the brink of collapse.

The deal, which is largely a rollover of one the U.K. enjoyed as a member of the EU, has only been agreed upon in principle. Other rollover deals are in the works, too, including with Canada and South Korea.

“The agreement we have negotiated — in record time and in challenging circumstances — goes far beyond the existing EU deal, as it secures new wins for British businesses in our great manufacturing, food and drink, and tech industries," said Britain's international trade secretary, Liz Truss, who pointed to concessions on English sparkling wine and Wensleydale cheese.

The government said U.K. businesses will benefit from tariff-free trade on 99% of exports to Japan and that it will give British businesses a gateway to the Asia-Pacific region. Overall, it said the deal with Japan, the world's third-largest economy, will increase commerce with Japan by around 15 billion pounds ($19 billion) and deliver a 1.5 billion-pound boost to the U.K.

Britain's Conservative government has said that one of the benefits of Brexit is that it allows the country to negotiate trade deals with whoever it wishes — the EU negotiates trade deals on behalf of its members.

Skeptics say the deal with Japan is little different to the one already in place via the U.K.'s former membership of the EU. They also say that nothing can mitigate for the losses Britain would suffer in the event of a ‘no-deal’ outcome with the EU. Such a scenario would see tariffs and other impediments imposed on trade between the U.K. and the EU. Though both sides would suffer from the new barriers to trade, most economists think Britain would be hit disproportionately.

In 2019, the U.K. exported some 36.7 billion pounds of goods to Germany, Europe's largest-economy, or 10% of its total. Exports to Japan were just 7.2 billion pounds, or 1.9% of the total.

The talks with the EU have not collapsed yet and discussions are set to resume on Monday in Brussels. Though the U.K. left the bloc on Jan. 31, it is in a transition period that effectively sees it benefit from tariff-free trade until the end of this year. The discussions are about agreeing on the broad outlines of the trading relationship from the start of 2021.

Concerns over a post-Brexit deal have heightened in the past few days since the British government said that new legislation breaches parts of the withdrawal agreement, which allowed for the country’s smooth departure from the bloc.

The diplomatic shockwaves from the British announcement could derail any hopes Prime Minister Boris Johnson may have of negotiating a U.S. trade deal. The House of Representatives speaker, Nancy Pelosi, warned the British government that there will be “absolutely no chance” of a trade deal if the U.K. violates its international obligations as they apply to the peace process in Northern Ireland. Congress has to ratify all U.S. trade deals.

Even before the current standoff, the trade discussions with the EU had made little progress, with the two sides wide apart on business regulations, the extent to which the U.K. can support certain industries and over the EU fishing fleet’s access to British waters.

The renewed Brexit uncertainties come as the British economy gradually recovers from a deep recession caused by the shutdown of businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. The Office for National Statistics said the economy grew by a month-on-month rate of 6.6% in July as many sectors, including pubs and restaurants, started reopening. Despite the increase, the economy remains 11.7% smaller than it was in February.

The looming end of a salary-support scheme that will likely see unemployment rise and the heightened Brexit uncertainties are expected to weigh on growth in the months ahead.

Former Labour prime minister, Gordon Brown, urged the government to provide more support for those likely to be unemployed after the end of the Job Retention Scheme in October and to avoid a “huge act of self-harm” in its discussions with the EU.

“We've got a cliff-edge on the furlough scheme on Oct. 31 and we've now got a cliff-edge on Brexit,” he told BBC radio.


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Germany approves Russian request to assist in Navalny probe
By DAVID RISINGyesterday

1 of 3
FILE - In this July 20, 2019, file photo, Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny gestures while speaking to a crowd during a political protest in Moscow, Russia. Berlin’s Justice Ministry has approved a request from Moscow for legal assistance in the investigation of the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and has tasked state prosecutors with working with Russian authorities. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File)

BERLIN (AP) — Berlin’s Justice Ministry has approved a request from Moscow for legal assistance in the investigation of the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and has tasked state prosecutors with working with Russian authorities, officials said Friday.

Berlin state prosecutors said in a tweet that their office had been commissioned to provide legal assistance to Russia and information on Navalny’s state of health, “subject to his consent.”

The office said it would provide no further information on the request at this time.

Navalny, the most visible opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was flown to Germany two days after falling ill on Aug. 20 on a domestic flight in Russia. German chemical weapons experts have determined that the 44-year-old was poisoned with a Soviet-era nerve agent, prompting Berlin to demand that Russia investigate the case.

He was kept in an induced coma for more than a week as he was treated with an antidote, before hospital officials said Monday his condition had improved enough for him to be brought out of it.

The hospital had no comment Friday on his condition, but doctors have not ruled out long-term effects of the poisoning.

The Kremlin has bristled at calls from Chancellor Angela Merkel and other world leaders for Russia has to answer questions in the case, denying any official involvement and accusing the West of trying to smear Moscow.

Russian authorities have prodded Germany to share the evidence that led them to conclude “without doubt” that Navalny was poisoned with a military nerve agent from the Novichok group, the same class of Soviet-era agent that British authorities said was used on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England, in 2018.

“It’s in the best interests of our German colleagues to protect their reputations after all and to provide all necessary information that could shed at least some light on their accusations, which have been absolutely unsubstantiated so far,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday.

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russian investigators have launched a preliminary inquest into the Navalny case, but insisted that it’s essential for Russia to see the proof of Navalny’s poisoning to launch a full-fledged criminal inquiry.

“From the viewpoint of law, we can’t describe those checks as a criminal case on the basis of analyses of a German laboratory, particularly a military one,” Peskov said in a conference call with reporters. “Just as it’s impossible for Germany to open a criminal case on the basis of analyses taken in our military hospital. It’s legal nonsense.”

Germany’s Defense Ministry has said the data about Navalny has already been provided to the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, of which Russia is a member.

Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said Friday the agency was best equipped to handle an issue that was “not a bilateral German-Russian problem.”

“This is about a crime that took place in Russia with a chemical nerve agent that is internationally prohibited — the OPCW is the logical point of contact,” he told reporters.

On Wednesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry invited German Ambassador Geza Andreas von Geyr to reaffirm Moscow’s demand for Germany to provide Russian authorities with the medical data, including biological materials, the results of samples and tests to allow Russian experts to study and check them. Russian doctors previously said they had found no sign of Navalny’s poisoning.

The move to task Berlin prosecutors to work with Russian investigators came a week after Russia’s request for assistance was received by the Berlin state Justice Ministry.
Separately, Seibert denied reports that Germany had received a Russian request for permission to send investigators to interview Navalny.

German weekly Der Spiegel reported Friday that the poison used on Navalny appeared to be a previously unknown compound from the Novichok group. It reported that Bruno Kahl, the head of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, told a confidential meeting of officials that the substance was “stronger” than previously known forms of Novichok.

Lawmakers from all parties except the far-right Alternative for Germany, which has close ties to Moscow, on Friday condemned the attack on Navalny during an urgent parliamentary debate on the case.

Juergen Hardt, a senior lawmaker and foreign policy spokesman for Merkel’s party, called it the “regrettable pinnacle of a series of about 20 important opposition politicians or journalists who were slain, shot or poisoned in Putin’s Russia.”

“There’s been no sufficient investigation in any of the cases,” he said. “On the contrary, in the great majority of cases we have clear evidence that the murders took place at least in connection with state authorities. And we are sure about this in the Navalny case when it comes to the use of Novichok.”
_____ Frank Jordans in Berlin, and Vladimir Isachenkov, in Moscow contributed to this story.

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Greece announces 'robust' arms purchase amid tension with Turkey
Turkey has been engaged in a row with Greece over natural gas exploration in the Mediterranean Sea's disputed waters. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called for a diplomatic solution to the confrontation.

Greek Hydra-class frigate Psara (F-454) of the Hellenic Navy and a military helicopter taking part in a military exercise in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, on August 25, 2020

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Saturday announced a major overhaul of the country's military and a "robust" arms purchase amid growing tensions with Turkey over hydrocarbon resources and naval influence in the Mediterranean Sea.

"The time has come to reinforce the armed forces ... these initiatives constitute a robust program that will become a national shield," Mitsotakis said in a keynote address in the northern city of Thessaloniki.

Mitsotakis said Greece would acquire 18 French-made Rafale jets, four multi-purpose frigates and four navy helicopters, while also recruiting 15,000 new troops and pouring resources into the national arms industry and cyber-attack defense.

New anti-tank weapons, navy torpedoes and air force missiles will be secured, the PM said.
Read more: Turkey threatens Greece over disputed Mediterranean territorial claims
The standoff between two NATO members has sparked fears of military conflict.

Tensions escalated last month when Turkey sent an exploration vessel and a small navy flotilla to conduct seismic research in waters that are claimed by Greece. Athens responded by sending its own warships and by staging naval exercises with several EU allies and the United Arab Emirates.

Watch video02:25
Growing conflict between Greece and Turkey
Rising tension

France has strongly backed Greece in the conflict, with Defense Minister Florence Parly welcoming the arms deal.

Dassault Aviation, which makes Rafale planes, said it was "delighted" with the Greek order.
French President Emmanuel Macron warned his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to not cross "red lines" in the eastern Mediterranean. On Saturday, Erdogan told Macron "not to mess" with Turkey.

On Saturday, Mitsotakis said that Turkey "threatens" Europe's eastern border and "undermines" regional security.

Read more: EU to consider sanctions on Turkey over Mediterranean gas drilling
In an article published in The Times, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Le Monde this week, Mitsotakis said he was ready to start a dialogue with Turkey, provided Ankara stops acting "like a provocateur."

"We do need dialogue, but not when held at gunpoint," Mitsotakis wrote.

"If we cannot agree then we must seek resolution at the (International Court of Justice at the) Hague," he said.
Read more: Opinion: Greece and Turkey have to sacrifice to find real compromise

Watch video26:06
Turkey vs Greece: Is Erdogan willing to risk war?
US urges restraint

On Saturday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Greece and Turkey to avoid confrontation, saying the ongoing military tensions between two NATO allies only serve the alliance's enemies.

"Increased military tensions help no one but adversaries who would like to see division in trans-Atlantic unity," Pompeo said after talks with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.
Read more: Germany urges end to military exercises in the Mediterranean as Turkey announces drills

Pompeo said US President Donald Trump has already spoken with Erdogan and Mitsotakis, urging them to end the standoff.

"We remain deeply concerned by Turkey's ongoing operations, surveying for natural resources in areas where Greece and Cyprus assert jurisdiction in the eastern Mediterranean," said Pompeo, repeating Washington's support for Cyprus' right to exploit hydrocarbon deposits in its territorial sea and exclusive economic zone.

Pompeo said that any potential hydrocarbon wealth should be shared between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.

Cyprus has been divided into a Greek-Cypriot south and a Turkish-occupied north since a 1974 invasion by Turkey in response to a coup seeking to unite the island with Greece. A breakaway state in the north is recognized only by Turkey.

Read more: Turkey slams US over lifting Cyprus arms embargo, Nicosia welcomes decision
shs/sri (AFP, AP)

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Violence breaks out at Germany's far-right AfD party conference
Anti-racist protesters clashed with police outside the AfD state party conference, as Germany's biggest far-right party elected a new hardcore leader in Lower Saxony.

AfD's state party conference in Lower Saxony

German police in the city of Braunschweig used to horses, dogs, pepper spray and batons to quell hundreds of protesters who had gathered outside a state party conference of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) on Saturday.

According to a police statement, an organization entitled "Alliance against the Right" formed blockades to prevent delegates from attending the conference. This led to "verbal and physical abuse" of some of the estimated 500 attendees.

Some individuals also attempted to break police lines to approach the conference venue, the police claimed. Some 3,500 protesters took part in demonstrations against the AfD throughout the city.
Jens Kestner is AfD's new leader in Lower Saxony state
Jens Kestner is considered a member of the hardcore "Wing" of the AfD

Local Green party politician Felix Bach posted a video of part of the confrontation on Twitter and accused the police of using "completely disproportionate" tactics against peaceful protests.

The blockades delayed the start of the state party conference, at which the Lower Saxony division of the party elected a new leader, Jens Kestner, who narrowly beat incumbent Dana Guth.

Kestner is considered a member of the hardcore "Wing" of the AfD, which was officially dissolved by the party after Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, said it considered the movement a threat to democratic freedoms and would keep its members under surveillance.

Kestner's elevation to state party leader suggests that at least at the local level, the Wing remains a powerful movement in the party.

National party leaders Jörg Meuthen and Tino Chrupalla gave speeches opening Saturday's conference.

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Russians vote in local elections targeted by Kremlin critic Navalny
By Tom Balmforth

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russians vote on Sunday in dozens of local elections that will be scrutinised for signs of discontent with the ruling United Russia party following the suspected poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

United Russia, which backs President Vladimir Putin, dominates regional politics, but the elections come at a time of public frustration over years of falling wages and the government’s handling of the pandemic.

Seen as a dry run for next September’s parliament elections, the regional polls will elect 18 governors and an array of local parliaments and city councils.

Early voting began on Friday after authorities stretched out the elections over three days, a move criticised by independent election watchdog Golos which warned the longer period would make it harder for monitors to catch fraud at polling stations.

Navalny’s allies have pressed ahead with the Kremlin critic’s “smart voting” strategy, naming more than a thousand politicians on the ballots they think can beat ruling party candidates and telling their supporters to vote for them.

The strategy aims to disrupt a political system that often bars the Kremlin’s staunchest foes from running, while allowing softer candidates from the parliamentary parties to compete. Navalny has been unable to set up his own party.

The anti-corruption campaigner also has dozens of allies running in elections for seats in the city councils of Novosibirsk and Tomsk in Siberia.

There have been some signs of anti-Kremlin discontent in the regions.

Mass rallies in the far eastern city of Khabarovsk show no sign of abating two months after they flared over the arrest of a popular local governor who defeated United Russia’s candidate in an election upset in 2018.
Editing by Christina Fincher
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