‘Assange has left British prison, flew out of UK’ – Wikileaks

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Tuesday, 25th June 2024.

Wikileaks has announced that its founder, Julian Assange, had left Britain’s Belmarsh prison, where he had been detained for five years, and has flown out of the United Kingdom. It announced Assange’s whereabouts shortly after court documents showed he was due to plead guilty tomorrow, Wednesday, to violating US espionage law, in a deal that would allow him to return home to Australia.

“This is the result of a global campaign that spanned grass-roots organisers, press freedom campaigners, legislators and leaders from across the political spectrum, all the way to the United Nations,” Wikileaks said on social media. “This created the space for a long period of negotiations with the US Department of Justice, leading to a deal that has not yet been formally finalised.”

In documents filed late on Monday, prosecutors said Assange will plead guilty to a single count of conspiracy to obtain and disseminate national defence information. The Wikileaks founder is due to be sentenced to 62 months of time that he has already served in the United Kingdom

Assange founded Wikileaks in 2006. The website went on to release hundreds of thousands of classified US military documents on Washington’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as a trove of diplomatic cables, provided by Chelsea Manning.

In 2010 Swedish authorities issued an arrest warrant for Assange over rape allegations, which he denied. Assange was arrested in Britain after presenting to police, and granted bail.

In 2012, the Australian whistleblower spent seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in order to avoid arrest over the rape investigation, which he feared could lead to him being extradited to the US on espionage charges. The Swedish investigation was later dropped.

In 2019 Assange was expelled from the Ecuadorian embassy and has remained in the UK’s Belmarsh Prison ever since. Later that year the US Justice Department unsealed indictments against Assange, charging him with violating the Espionage Act.

A spokesperson for the Australian government said today that the Assange case “has dragged on for too long and there is nothing to be gained by his continued incarceration”.

Macron warns of ‘civil war’

French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday warned that the policies of his far-right and hard-left opponents could lead to “civil war”, as France prepared for its most divisive election in decades. French politics were plunged into turmoil by Macron calling snap legislative elections after his centrist party was trounced by the far-right National Rally (RN) in a European vote earlier this month.

Weekend polls suggested the RN would win between 35 and 36 per cent in the first round on Sunday, ahead of a left-wing alliance on 27-29.5 per cent and Macron’s centrists in third on 19.5-22 per cent. A second round of voting will follow on July 7 in constituencies where no candidate takes more than 50 per cent in the first round.

Speaking on the podcast Generation Do It Yourself, Macron, 46, denounced both the RN as well as the hard-left France Unbowed Party. He said the far-right “divides and pushes towards civil war”, while the hard-left France Unbowed party, which is part of the New Popular Front alliance, proposes “a form of communitarianism”, adding that “civil war follows on from that, too”.

Reacting to Macron’s comments, far-right leader Jordan Bardella told French news outlet M6: “A President of the Republic should not say that. I want to re-establish security for all French people.”

Bardella, the RN’s 28-year-old president, earlier yesterday said his party was ready to govern as he pledged to curb immigration and tackle cost-of-living issues. “In three words: we are ready,” Bardella told a news conference as he unveiled the RN’s programme.

Bardella has urged voters to give the eurosceptic party an outright majority to allow it to implement its anti-immigration, law-and-order programme. “Seven long years of Macronism has weakened the country,” he said, vowing to boost purchasing power, “restore order” and change the law to make it easier to deport foreigners convicted of crimes.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal of Macron’s Renaissance party poured scorn on the RN’s economic programme, telling Europe 1 radio the country was “headed straight for disaster” in the event of an RN victory. Today, Attal will go head-to-head with Bardella in a TV debate.

EU bypasses Hungary to send €1.4 billion in aid to Ukraine – Borrell

The European Union will soon send €1.4 billion in weaponry and industrial aid to Ukraine after foreign affairs ministers sealed a deal on Monday that bypasses Hungary, a country that has obstructed military assistance to the war-torn country for more than a year.

Euronews says the money will come from the €210 billion assets of Russia’s Central Bank that the bloc has immobilised as part of its multi-pronged sanctions regime. Despite their condition, these assets continue to generate revenues that Moscow is not receiving.

Member states agreed in March to capture these revenues and channel them directly into Ukraine’s coffers: 90 per cent for military equipment and 10 per cent for reconstruction projects.

The €1.4 billion is the first tranche of the €2.5 billion that Brussels expects to earn this year from the paralysed assets.

Ensuring the aid reaches the government in Kyiv has become a number-one priority as Ukraine tries to contain a renewed push of Russian troops in the East and pleads with Western allies to help replenish its army stocks.

Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, presented on Monday a proposal to release the €1.4 billion and shield it from national vetoes.

“We need to supply Ukraine with more air defences, more ammunition and more support for the development of their own industrial capacities,” Borrell said at the end of the ministerial meeting, stressing the three objectives of the financial envelope.

“Putin continues attacking, targeting mainly the energy infrastructure. It’s clear that Putin wants to prove that Ukraine is vulnerable and we have to prove that we will support Ukraine,” he added.

It was not immediately clear how Monday’s decision, which still needs to be fleshed out, would circumvent Hungary’s veto, as any foreign policy decision in the bloc depends on the principle of unanimity.

“We understand that, legally, since one member state didn’t participate in the decision to use these (immobilised) assets, it has not the right to participate in deciding to which purposes are allocated,” Borrell said, without providing further explanations. “Work will now speed up without having this blockage.”

Earlier in the day, Hungary’s Foreign Affairs Minister Péter Szijjártó said: “New billions for Ukraine. This time by kicking up the European rules and leaving out Hungary.”

Ministers, however, failed to solve the year-long impasse around the European Peace Facility (EPF), the off-budget tool that the EU uses to partially reimburse the provisions of weapons and ammunition that member states send to Kyiv.

Due to Hungary’s persistent veto, the EPF has amassed a €6.6 billion backlog, a number that has become a public embarrassment for Europeans.

Borrell described it as a “structural difficulty.”

The EPF impasse is expected to be discussed by EU leaders when they meet later this week for a high-stakes summit in Brussels.

Death toll in Dagestan attack rises to 20

The death toll in the attacks by gunmen on a synagogue and a churche in Russia’s Dagestan has risen to 20, Al Jazeera reported, citing Russia’s Investigative Committee. Following this, three days of mourning have also been declared in Russia’s North Caucasus region.

At least 15 police officers died alongside several civilians, including an Orthodox priest. Five attackers were also reported to have been “liquidated”. At least 12 people were also injured in the attacks.

The Russian Orthodox Church said its archpriest, Nikolai Kotelnikov, was also “brutally killed” in Derbent.

The gunmen attacked a church, a synagogue, and a police post in the cities of Derbent and Makhachkala on Sunday, the festival of Pentecost for the Russian Orthodox Church. Videos posted on social media and shown on Russian TV showed the skies of Derbent, which is home to an ancient Jewish community in the mainly Muslim region, filled with smoke and flames after the synagogue was set on fire, as reported by Al Jazeera.

The Investigative Committee said it had opened criminal investigations over “acts of terror” in Dagestan, which neighbours Chechnya and is one of the poorest areas of Russia in the country.

Russia summons US envoy over Crimea strike

Russia’s Foreign Ministry summoned US Ambassador Lynne Tracy on Monday after Sunday’s missile strike on Crimea in which four people, including two children, were killed. Tracy was told by the Foreign Ministry that Washington “bears equal responsibility with the Kyiv regime for this atrocity,” and warned there would be consequences.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the strike on Sevastopol “barbaric” and accused Washington of “killing Russian children”.

“The involvement of the United States, the direct involvement, as a result of which Russian civilians are killed, cannot be without consequences,” Peskov told reporters. “Time will tell what these will be.”

Russia said Sunday’s strikes on Sevastopol had been carried out with US-supplied ATACMS missiles, four of which were intercepted. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the explosion of the fragmentation warhead of the fifth missile caused the casualties.

Russia occupied the Ukrainian province of Crimea in 2014 and subsequently annexed it in an illegal move that has not been recognised by the international community. Andriy Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian president’s office, wrote on Telegram on Monday: “Crimea is Ukraine”.

“Russia must leave the peninsula. Their army and military objects there must cease to exist,” he said.

Last-minute stunner sends Italy to Euro 2024 knockouts

Italy substitute Mattia Zaccagni scored in the last minute of stoppage time for Italy to advance to the knockout stage of Euro 2024 after drawing Croatia 1-1 on Monday.

Luka Modric’s second-half strike looked like sending Croatia through as the Group B runner-up, but Zaccagni swept a brilliant shot inside the far post in the eighth minute of added time to cap a furious finale from the defending champions.

Italy needed a point to progress, while Croatia realistically needed a win to stay in the tournament. The Croatians have two points from their three games and must wait on other results to see if it’s enough to scrape through as one of the best third-place finishers.

Spain finish group stage without conceding single goal

Albania’s elimination following their defeat against Spain automatically qualifies England, France and the Netherlands for the knockout stage.

Despite changing almost the entire line-up, Spain continued their Euro 2024 winning streak with a 1-0 win over Albania, which have been eliminated.

With his team sure to finish top of Group B, Spain coach Luis de la Fuente made 10 changes to his starting eleven, and Spain won all three group games at the Euros for the first time since 2008, when they won the tournament.
A 13th-minute goal by Barcelona’s Ferran Torres gave La Roja the three points on Monday and goalkeeper David Raya’s stoppage-time save from Armando Broja ensured Spain completed the group stage without conceding a single goal.

Albania needed at least a draw to keep hoping in a knockout stage place.

England qualify for last 16 at Euro 2024

England have qualified for the last 16 of Euro 2024 with a group game to spare after Spain beat Albania 1-0 on Monday.

Victory for Luis de la Fuente’s side also means the Netherlands and France progress from Group D into the knockout phase.

The Three Lions finish their Group C campaign on Tuesday against Slovenia in Cologne but are already guaranteed to be in the next phase.

Gareth Southgate’s side have four points after a 1-0 win against Serbia and then a 1-1 draw with Denmark, but Albania’s defeat ensured England would, at least, be one of the four best third-placed teams.

England will win Group C if they beat Slovenia, while they could still come top if they draw and Denmark fail to beat Serbia.

If England draw and Denmark win the two nations will be split for first and second place on overall goal difference, then overall goals scored, then disciplinary points. England cannot finish lower than third in Group C.

If Albania had beaten Spain then England would have had to wait until Tuesday to secure their potential qualification, but Spain, European champions in 1964, 2008 and 2012, proved too strong.

Today’s matches: Group D: France v Poland and Netherlands v Austria (6 pm) and Group C: Denmark v Serbia and England v Slovenia (9pm)

Copa America: Group D: Columbia v Paraguay 2-1; Brazil v Costa Rica 0-0.

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