US to ramp up military presence across Europe
The US will increase its military presence across Europe as Nato agreed a “fundamental shift” in its response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A permanent army headquarters will be created in Poland, while new US warships will go to Spain, fighter jets to the UK and ground troops to Romania.President Biden said NATO was “needed now more than it has ever been”. The alliance is having its biggest overhaul since the Cold War, NATO head Jens Stoltenberg said. The new plan, in response to Russia’s invasion, will mean more than 300,000 troops at high readiness next year, up from the current level of 40,000. Biden told a summit in Madrid that NATO would be “strengthened in all directions across every domain – land, air and sea”. The UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has also said it is significantly increasing the availability of forces to NATO’s collective defence, with more warships, fighter jets and land forces on standby, although the MoD said it would not give details on numbers as they are “militarily sensitive”.
‘No problem’ for Russia if Finland, Sweden join NATO – Putin
Russia has “no problem” if Finland and Sweden join NATO, President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday. “We don’t have problems with Sweden and Finland like we do with Ukraine,” Putin told a news conference in the Turkmenistan capital of Ashgabat. Finland and Sweden have been formally invited to join the alliance after Turkey dropped its opposition on Tuesday. However, President Putin said Russia would respond in kind if NATO set up infrastructure in Finland and Sweden after they joined the military alliance. Putin was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying he could not rule out that tensions would emerge in Moscow’s relations with Helsinki and Stockholm over their joining NATO.
EU reassigns €3.5 billion for hosting Ukraine refugees
The European Union’s executive on Wednesday made a fresh €3.5 billion from regional development funds available to host Ukrainian refugees after some 6.2 million fled to the bloc since Russia invaded its neighbour on February 24. Russia intensified its attacks on all fronts on Wednesday, a day after a missile strike on a shopping mall killed at least 18 people in central Ukraine. “EU member states have welcomed millions of Ukrainians fleeing from this war, but they also have to deal with its economic consequences – extra costs and supply chain difficulties,” said Valdis Dombrovskis, a deputy head of the executive European Commission.
‘No guarantee’ Fed can tame inflation, spare jobs – Powell
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said there’s “no guarantee’’ the US central bank can tame runaway inflation without hurting the job market. Speaking at a European Central Bank forum in Sintra, Portugal, Powell repeated his hope that the Fed can achieve a so-called soft landing – raising interest rates just enough to slow the economy and rein in surging consumer prices without causing a recession and sharply raising the unemployment rate. ECB President Christine Lagarde echoed the “major impact” of energy shocks, which are rippling worldwide but felt acutely in Europe because of its reliance on Russian oil and natural gas. She also pointed to Europe’s proximity to the war in Ukraine and said how “energy was vastly underestimated” in the bank’s assessment of inflation.
Salah Abdeslam gets life in prison for 2015 Paris attacks
Judges handed down verdicts on Wednesday to 20 men accused over the November 2015 Paris attacks that left 130 people dead, wrapping up the biggest trial in modern French history. Salah Abdeslam, the lone survivor of a 10-man jihadist unit that brought terror to the French capital, was sentenced to life in prison without parole for his role in the 2015 bombings and shootings across Paris that killed 130 people in the deadliest peacetime attacks in French history. Following a marathon trial that lasted over nine months, the special court also convicted 19 other men involved in the assault claimed by the Islamic State group. Abdeslam was found guilty of murder and attempted murder in relation to a terrorist enterprise. The court found that his explosives vest malfunctioned, dismissing his argument that he ditched the vest because he decided not to follow through with the attack. His sentence, the toughest under French law, has only been pronounced four times in France – for crimes related to rape and murder of minors.
Paris rejects Italy’s extradition request for former terrorists
A Paris court on Wednesday ruled against extraditing to Italy 10 former left-wing militants, including some former Red Brigades members, convicted of domestic terrorist crimes in the 1970s and 1980s.The Italian nationals had been living in freedom in France for decades after fleeing Italy before they could be imprisoned to serve their sentences. The crimes in connection with which they were convicted include the 1980 killing of a Carabinieri paramilitary general and the kidnapping of a judge in the same year. All 10, only some of whom were linked with the deadly Red Brigades group, spent the last 14 months under French judicial supervision as judges deliberated on Italy’s extradition request following the activists’ arrests and police questioning a year ago.
R Kelly given 30 years in jail for sex abuse
US singer R. Kelly has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for using his celebrity status to sexually abuse children and women. The R&B artist, 55, was convicted last September in New York of racketeering and sex trafficking crimes. He had faced years of allegations and the judge on Wednesday said he had an “indifference to human suffering”. Lawyers for the singer say he will appeal.
Investigation into French minister after rape accusations
The Paris prosecution office said on Wednesday it had opened an investigation into France’s minister for the disabled, Damien Abad, on suspicion of attempted rape, an accusation his lawyer said he denied. Prosecutors took the procedural step after a woman filed a criminal complaint against the former conservative lawmaker. “Damien Abad acknowledges this logical consequence (of the complaint) and will soon be able to prove his innocence”, Abad’s lawyer said in a statement. He had previously firmly denied all accusations linked to rape and other sexual misconduct made by several women against him through the press. Opposition politicians have called on Abad in the past few weeks to resign.
Plan to investigate Boris Johnson
Reuters reports a British parliamentary committee has set out the details of how it would investigate whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson misled parliament, including an initial call for evidence. “The Committee is seeking witness information and evidence which would enable it to determine whether or not Johnson misled the House,” a Commons statement said. The committee said those who wish to submit evidence would have until July 29 to do so. Veteran opposition Labour Party lawmaker Harriet Harman would chair the committee during its inquiry, the statement said.