Global Review – 31st August

 Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev dead aged 91

Mikhail Gorbachev, who ended the Cold War without bloodshed but failed to prevent the collapse of the Soviet Union, died on Tuesday at the age of 91, Russian news agencies cited hospital officials as saying. The hospital where he passed away said he had been suffering from a long and serious illness.

Gorbachev, who took over in 1985, is best known for opening up the USSR and for his rapprochement with the West. He became general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, and de facto leader of the country, at the age of 54. He forged arms reduction deals with the United States and partnerships with Western powers to remove the Iron Curtain that had divided Europe since World War Two and bring about the reunification of Germany. When pro-democracy protests swept across the Soviet bloc nations of communist Eastern Europe in 1989, he refrained from using force – unlike previous Kremlin leaders who had sent tanks to crush uprisings in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. But the protests fuelled aspirations for autonomy in the 15 republics of the Soviet Union, which disintegrated over the next two years in chaotic fashion. His policy of ‘glasnost’ – free speech – allowed previously unthinkable criticism of the party and the state, but also emboldened nationalists who began to press for independence in the Baltic republics of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and elsewhere. Many Russians never forgave Gorbachev for the turbulence that his reforms unleashed, considering the subsequent plunge in their living standards too high a price to pay for democracy. He will be buried in Moscow’s Novodevichy Cemetery next to his wife Raisa, who died in 1999, says Tass news agency.

UN honours ‘statesman who changed course of history’

UN Secretary General António Guterres has released a statement honouring the “one-of-a kind statesman who changed the course of history”. He said, “He did more than any other individual to bring about the peaceful end of the Cold War. The world has lost a towering global leader, committed multi-lateralist, and tireless advocate for peace.”

Gazprom suspends supplies to the French Engie group

Gazprom will “completely” suspend supplies of natural gas to the French group Engie, starting September 1 until it receives all payments for the gas. This was announced by the Russian giant who also confirmed the interruption of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline from 4 am, Moscow time, today,August 31, until September 3 or 4.

Sanctions prevent gas supply to Europe’ – Moscow

It is only the technical problems caused by Western sanctions that prevent the supply of Russian gas to Europe via the Nord Stream. On the eve of the announced new three-day stop to supplies planned by Gazprom for the technical “maintenance” of the pipeline, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov returns to attack the sanctions against Moscow taken after the invasion of Ukraine. “There is a guarantee that, apart from the technological problems caused by the sanctions, nothing will interfere with the supplies,” said the Kremlin spokesman speaking to the press.

“Russia was and remains ready to fulfill all its obligations,” he said when asked if there are any guarantees that supplies from Nord Stream, which transports Russian gas directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea, will resume once the maintenance work finished. Peskov said that the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States have imposed sanctions against Russia that “do not allow normal maintenance and repair work, nor do they permit the legal registration of the return of components and equipment necessary to their locations. origin”. This, he insisted, “is part of the sphere of those irrational actions of Europeans, very difficult to understand and probably impossible to explain, but for which ordinary citizens have to pay the high price”.

EU split on tourist visas for Russian citizens

On the one hand, the Baltics and Scandinavians insist on the need to ban tourist visas for Russian citizens. For Latvia it is “morally unacceptable to allow them to visit the EU again at a time of suffering in Ukraine”. The same goes for Lithuania, which is asking for a “radical reduction if not total cancellation” of travel tickets, and Finland. Other countries think differently, including the two big names: France and Germany. The EU therefore finds itself divided at the table of the informal Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in Prague. “There are divergent positions: some states want a total ban, others just want to work on the framework of the current visa facilitation ban. I cannot anticipate the final result, but I am sure we will be able to seek a balanced approach to this problem,” EU Foreign Policy Representative Josep Borrell ays, trying to mediate. He himself does not look favorably on a stop on tourist visas.

Ukraine ‘breaches Russia defences’

The Ukrainian military continued to pound targets across southern Ukraine on Tuesday as they sought to disrupt Russian supply lines, degrade Russia’s combat capabilities and isolate Russian forces, part of what analysts said could be the beginnings of a broad and coordinated counteroffensive. The Ukrainian military said that its forces had broken through Russia’s first line of defence in multiple points along the front in the occupied Kherson region, but officials offered little detail and their claims could not be independently verified. The southern front stretches across a vast landscape of farms, fields and grassland, and includes territory that Moscow’s forces seized in the initial phase of their invasion in February.

Amsterdam to house migrants on cruise ship

Amsterdam approved a plan on Tuesday to temporarily accommodate at least 1,000 migrants on a cruise ship moored in the Dutch capital’s port as the Netherlands seeks to end an accommodation crisis that last week saw hundreds of asylum-seekers sleeping outside a reception centre. The ship will remain moored in Amsterdam for at least six months under an agreement between the city and the central government. It is the second Dutch city to approve plans for putting up migrants on a cruise liner. In both cases, the ships will be moored so residents can exit and enter at all times.

Saudi woman gets 45-year prison term for social media posts

A Saudi Arabian court has sentenced a woman to 45 years in prison for social media posts, a rights group said, in the latest example of a crackdown on women activists that followed a visit by US President Joe Biden to the kingdom. Nourah bint Saeed al-Qahtani was convicted “likely within last week” by the Saudi Specialised Criminal Court on charges of “using the internet to tear the (Saudi) social fabric” and “violating public order by using social media”, Washington-based DAWN organisation said in a statement, citing court documents. DAWN said little was known about Qahtani or what her social media posts said.

Russia asks for 24 years in prison for journalist Safronov

The Moscow Prosecutor’s Office has asked for a sentence of 24 years in penal colony for Ivan Safronov, a former journalist from ‘Vedomosti’ and ‘Kommersant’, accused of treason by the state. This was reported by ‘Kommersant’ citing a representative of the prosecution. Safronov has been in jail since July 2020. A journalist specializing in military affairs and former adviser to the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Safronov is accused of collaborating with Czech and German intelligence structures.

Actress and model Charlbi Dean dies at 32

Charlbi Dean, the South African actress and model who had a breakout role in Cannes prize winner ‘Triangle Of Sadness’, has died at the age of 32. She died on Monday at a hospital in New York from a sudden unexpected illness, her representatives said. Dean also had a recurring role as the assassin Syonide in the DC Comics television series ‘Black Lightning’, which aired from 2018 to 2021. She was born Charlbi Dean Kriek in Cape Town, where she was also raised.

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