EU foreign ministers agree to suspend Russian visa accord
EU foreign ministers have agreed to suspend a 2007 visa facilitation agreement with Russia over the country’s war in Ukraine, top EU diplomat Josep Borrell announced on Wednesday at the end of a two-day meeting of foreign ministers in Prague. This will significantly reduce the number of new visas issued by the EU member states. It’s going to be more difficult, it’s going to take longer,” Borell added. He also said there had been a substantial increase in border crossings from Russia into neighbouring states since mid-July. “This has become a security risk for these neighbouring states,” Borrell added. “In addition to that, we have seen many Russians travelling for leisure and shopping as if no war was raging in Ukraine.” According to the EU border control agency Frontex, almost a million travellers with Russian passports have come to the EU since the war in Ukraine started six months ago. The overwhelming majority of these travellers arrived in Finland (333,000), Estonia (234,000), and Lithuania (132,000). The move is designed to prevent “visa shopping” by Russian applicants seeking easier entry to the European Union through member states with laxer rules, the EU foreign policy chief said. Such a move would make the EU visa process more complicated, more expensive and more bureaucratic, as well as increasing waiting times for approval, according to European Commission guidelines. The suspension comes after weeks of pressure from EU countries bordering Russia to crack down on Russian nationals travelling to the bloc on Schengen visas issued by some EU member states. Diplomats said the EU ministers could not agree immediately on a blanket ban of travel visas for Russians as member states were split on the issue.
State funeral for Gorbachev on Saturday
Tass news agency has announced Mikhail Gorbachev will have a state funeral in Moscow on Saturday. The Soviet Union’s last leader died Tuesday in Moscow aged 91. The funeral will take place in the famous Hall of Columns inside Moscow’s House of Unions, also the resting place of Gorbachev’s wife, Raisa, who died in 1999. President Putin on Wednesday sent Gorbachev’s relatives his condolences, while the Kremlin hailed the late politician as an extraordinary global statesman who helped end the Cold War, but had been badly wrong about the prospect of rapprochement with the “bloodthirsty” West.
‘Gorbachev made serious mistakes, naive with the US’
Mikhail Gorbachev is a “tragic figure who has satisfied the needs of the US and the West without morals”, responsible for “serious errors” and “naive” in assessing the international situation, causing “chaos in the ‘internal economic order’. This is the heavy judgment of ‘Global Times’, tabloid of the ‘People’s Daily’, on the last Soviet leader of the USSR .
UN inspectors arrive in Zaporizhzhia
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s mission, on its way to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, has arrived in the city of Zaporizhzhia, AFP reported on Wednesday. On Monday, the IAEA’s mission left Vienna and arrived in Kiev on Tuesday where the delegation met Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky. The mission includes representatives of 10 countries: Albania, China, France, Italy, Jordan, Lithuania, Mexico, Poland, Serbia, and North Macedonia. Representatives of Russia and Ukraine were not included in the mission to ensure its neutrality and impartiality. Although Russian-installed officials suggested the visit might last only one day, the IAEA hopes for longer. Meanwhile, fighting was reported near the power station and further afield on Wednesday, with Kyiv and Moscow both claiming battlefield successes amid a Ukrainian counter-offensive to recapture southern territory.
‘UN report on Xinjiang slanders and defames us’ – China
China “strongly” opposes the so-called “assessment” on Xinjiang released overnight by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, accused of “defaming and slandering China and interfering in China’s internal affairs”. Liu Yuyin, spokesman for the Chinese mission to the United Nations in Geneva, objected to the move by High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet at the conclusion of her mission carried out in recent months in Xinjiang. Liu added that the “evaluation” is based “on the presumption of guilt, misinformation and fabricated lies by anti-Chinese forces as the main sources.” The report had said China’s discriminatory detention of Uighurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups in the western region of Xinjiang may constitute crimes against humanity. The long-awaited report calls for an urgent international response over allegations of torture and other rights violations in Beijing’s campaign to root out terrorism.
Sarah Palin defeated in Alaska elections
Former Republican governor Sarah Palin, and former US vice presidential candidate with John McCain, lost the special elections to Democratic Mary Peltola to occupy the seat in the Alaska Chamber for the rest of 2022. The race for the seat of Republican Congressman Don Young, who died, was considered by all political analysts to be Palin’s attempt, supported by the former Donald Trump, to return to politics. The former ultra-conservative governor of Alaska will still have a second chance in the mid-term election in November, having won the Republican nomination.
Trump ‘likely concealed’ top secret files
Top secret documents found at Donald Trump’s Florida home were “likely concealed” to obstruct an FBI probe into the former president’s potential mishandling of classified materials, the Department of Justice said in an explosive new court filing. It is the most detailed account yet of an 18-month-long effort to recover hundreds of classified documents that were improperly taken to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate when he left office in January 2021. Trump, who denies all wrongdoing, responded Wednesday with a filing that described the government’s pursuit of the documents as “unjustified”.
World monkeypox cases top 50,000
More than 50,000 monkeypox cases have been recorded in the global outbreak, WHO figures showed Wednesday, though transmission is slowing in the virus hotspots of Europe and the United States. The World Health Organization’s dashboard listed 50,496 cases and 16 deaths as reported this year to the UN agency dfrom 101 territories. The countries which have reported more than a thousand cases are the United States (17,994), Spain (6,543), Brazil (4,693), France (3,547), Germany (3,467), Britain (3,413), Peru (1,463), Canada (1,228) and the Netherlands (1,160).
UK Tories vying to replace Johnson hold final hustings
The two Conservatives battling to become Britain’s next leader squared off Wednesday for the final time in front of party members set to decide the contest, just days before the victor takes power. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is heavily tipped to win the summer-long contest to replace outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson, after leading rival Rishi Sunak in polls of the Tory grassroots for much of the race. Postal and online voting by the estimated 200,000 party members, which began earlier this month, closes on Friday before the winner is announced next Monday. Buckingham Palace has confirmed Queen Elizabeth will receive the new British Prime Minister on Tuesday at her Scottish residence in Balmoral, an unprecedented event in her 70 years of reign. The new leader then enters Downing Street the following day.
Oscar Pistorius seeks early prison release
Convicted murderer Oscar Pistorius is going to court to try to force South African authorities to hold a parole hearing for him. The former Paralympic gold medallist is serving a 13-year sentence for killing his girlfriend in 2013. Pistorius shot dead Reeva Steenkamp through a locked toilet door, claiming he mistook her for a burglar. He is seeking an early release over a dispute about when his sentence started. A series of challenges and rulings by the Supreme Court of Appeal has led to confusion about when his sentence became effective. Pistorius argues that he has already served enough time in prison to be eligible for parole, and therefore authorities should look at whether he can be released early.