Berlusconi pulls out of Italian presidential race
Three-time prime minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi has renounced his candidacy for the Quirinale, saying he had the numbers but Italy needs unity, also advocating that Prime Minister Mario Draghi remains in office until the end of the legislature. The leader of Forza Italia has said he had decided to give up his bid to avoid “lacerations” in a country that “needs unity”. Lega leader Matteo Salvini, who was in the fore-front to have Berlusconi’s candidature, called his decision “a decisive and fundamental choice”.
UK warns of Moscow’s plan to install a pro-Russian in Kiev
The UK has accused President Putin of plotting to install a pro-Moscow figure to lead Ukraine’s government, naming Yevhen Murayev, a Ukrainian MP, as a potential Kremlin candidate. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the information “shines a light on the extent of Russian activity designed to subvert Ukraine, and is an insight into Kremlin thinking”, adding, “Russia must de-escalate, end its campaigns of aggression and disinformation, and pursue a path of diplomacy.” Moscow has denied the British allegation, calling it “misinformation”.
US shipment of ‘lethal aid’ reaches Ukraine
The first American shipment of “lethal aid” to Ukraine has touched down in Kyiv, the country’s US Embassy said Saturday, less than 24-hours after Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with his Russian counterpart. The shipment “demonstrates US commitment to helping Ukraine bolster its defenses” the embassy said in a tweet. The shipment included “close to 200,000 pounds of lethal aid, including ammunition for the front line defenders of Ukraine”. Washington approved a $200-million package of additional military assistance to Ukraine last December.
German navy chief resigns over comments on Putin, Crimea
Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach, stepped down as the head of the German navy after publicly saying Crimea was lost to Ukraine and that Vladimir Putin “probably” deserved respect. The move was prompted by a talk that Schönbach gave during a visit to India. Speaking at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, the German vice-admiral said Putin “probably” deserved respect. Schönbach said Russia’s actions in Ukraine needed to be addressed, but added that “the Crimea peninsula is gone: It will never come back – this is a fact.”
Jourova: Revision of the EU treaties is not impossible’
EU Commissioner for transparency Vera Jourova has said that if the conclusions of the Conference on the Future of Europe, underway in Strasbourg, called for the revision of the European Treaties, this request would have to be discussed at all levels, including an inter-governmental conference where the leaders will have the last word on the matter. She said, “we have never said this is impossible”, adding that it was clear citizens involved in this process were asking for adequate and clear answers to their proposals. She was commenting on the 90 proposals that emerged from two of the four citizens’ panels, one dedicated to democracy, rule of law, and security and the other focusing on climate change, environment and health.
EU, green deal will protect us from energy supply risks
European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson has said completing the energy transition towards green sources was the only factor to reduce dependence on supply risks. Closing an informal meeting of European energy ministers, she said, “Gas storage levels are much lower this year than usual and flows from Russia have shrunk, but Europe’s gas infrastructure is solid and we have ongoing discussions with partners to increase supplies.”
95% of Spanish workers back at work – Sanchez
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has claimed that in Spain today 95% of workers who ended up in layoffs or who risked being unemployed due to the pandemic have returned to their posts. Speaking at the Fitur tourist fair in Madrid, he said this was thanks to the extraordinary measures by the government which had “saved millions of jobs”, many of them in the tourism sector. Sanchez said the sector was now in a phase of “full recovery”, and promised that, with European funds, “over 200,000 new jobs will be created by 2023”.
Beijing torch relay only in the bubble
The Beijing 2022 Olympic torch relay will remain confined to the bubble model due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19, while all torchbearers will have to be vaccinated, tested for the virus and monitored for 14 days before their ride.
Beijing, the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Games, is on high alert after the local appearance of new cases of COVID and the Omnicron variant. More than 1,200 torchbearers will be involved from February 2 to 4, the day of the official opening of the Games. Only a selected audience will be able to follow the relay in person. Beijing will stage the Games from February 4 to 20 within a “closed circuit” to keep participants separated from the public and without spectators from the general public. Preparations have been partially interrupted by COVID-19, while in recent weeks a diplomatic boycott by countries such as the US, UK, Canada and Australia has emerged for the human rights situation – a stance denied by Beijing and also criticised for violating Olympic principles.