EU, US seek coordinated response over Ukraine
The United States has ordered the families of its diplomats to leave Ukraine, as rising fears of a Russian invasion pushed Western officials to meet Monday in a bid to coordinate their response and compile a battery of sanctions against Moscow. It comes as EU foreign ministers will today seek to align their response with the US when Washington’s top diplomat Antony Blinken joins a meeting of his EU counterparts by videolink. He will brief them on his talks on Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva, where the two sides agreed to keep working to ease tensions but failed to secure a major breakthrough to calm the escalating crisis. The West accuses Moscow of threatening a further incursion into its pro-Western neighbour by massing over 100,000 troops on its border. The Kremlin insists its forces are not there to invade. As tensions ramped up Washington authorised on Sunday the “voluntary” departure of non-essential embassy staff and urged its citizens in the Eastern European country to “consider departing now” ahead of any possible Russian military action.
Pope calls for prayer over Ukraine crisis
Pope Francis on Sunday called for an international day of “prayer for peace” on Wednesday to stop the Ukraine crisis from worsening, saying tensions were threatening the security of Europe and risking vast repercussions. During his weekly address and blessing to pilgrims and tourists in St Peter’s Square, he also appealed for dialogue to defuse the crisis.
COVID-19 pandemic ‘endgame’ in sight – WHO
The Omicron variant has moved the COVID-19 pandemic into a new phase and could bring it to an end in Europe, WHO Europe director Hans Kluge told AFP Sunday. “It’s plausible that the region is moving towards a kind of pandemic endgame,” he said, adding that Omicron could infect 60% of Europeans by March. Once the current surge of Omicron sweeping across Europe subsides, “there will be for quite some weeks and months a global immunity”. Top US scientist Anthony Fauci expressed similar optimism. He told ABC News that with COVID-19 cases coming down “rather sharply” in parts of the United States, “things are looking good”.
No-vaxers continue protests
Protests against anti-COVID restrictions continue. Thousands took to the streets to protest the green pass on Saturday evening in France, while in Brussels it began with a series of clashes between demonstrators and the police. The demonstrators threw objects at the police, who reacted using tear gas and fire hydrants in the neighborhood of the European institutions. Protesters managed to inflict considerable damage to the secure building of the European External Action Service. Thousands also paraded in Washington, where President Joe Biden and virologist Anthony Fauci ended up targeted by 20,000 No-vaxes.
Man pleads guilty to kidnapping Australian girl
An Australian has pleaded guilty to abducting four-year-old Cleo Smith and holding her at his home for 18 days. Terence Darrell Kelly, 36, pleaded guilty to a charge of child stealing in a court hearing on Monday. His plea caught many by surprise ahead of what had been expected to be a lengthy legal process. Cleo vanished from her family’s tent while on a camping trip in Western Australia last October. Her disappearance gripped the country and sparked a massive search that ended in police finding the girl in a locked house in her hometown of Carnarvon.
Italians fail to agree on name for new president
This afternoon’s first ballot for the election of the new Italian head of state will not result in a new president to replace incumbent Sergio Mattarella after political parties Sunday failed to reach an agreement on a common name. The only certainty is that many blank ballots will end up in the pot. Sunday evening saw the country’s main politicians in tactical moves, meetings, phone calls and crossed vetoes. Democratic Party secretary Enrico Letta will meet Lega leader Matteo Salvini today and will ask for a clear stance on Mario Draghi, even if he is also ready to open the Mattarella chapter. However, Salvini appears adamant on two points: “Removing Draghi from Palazzo Chigi is dangerous” and “former House Speaker Pier Ferdinando Casini is not a candidate of the centre-right”. Thursday seems to be the first opportunity to elect the new head of state by an absolute majority.
Shots heard near Burkina Faso president’s house
Heavy gunfire was heard late Sunday in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, near the residence of President Roch Marc Christian Kabore. Reports of gunfire came hours after mutinous soldiers fired weapons at several barracks in the capital. The gunfire sparked fears that a fresh coup attempt was underway after weeks of growing frustration with the government’s handling of the Islamic insurgency wracking the country. The government confirmed the gunfire from early Sunday but denied social media reports of an army coup.
Football: Juve’s Chiesa out for 7 months
Juventus striker Federico Chiesa underwent surgery on his left knee on Sunday, a few hours before the Milan-Juve match and has been ruled out of the game for seven months. The operation, performed at the Hochrum clinic in Innsbruck, has been deemed to be successful. Chiesa was injured in the match against Roma last January 9 at the Olimpico. The former Marseille winger, 21-year-old Marley Aké,will be Chiesa’s replacement for the rest of the season. The young Franco-Ivorian Under 23 talentmade his first appearance in Juventus’ Coppa Italia tie against Sampdoria.