“Russia trying to influence EU elections” – Poland

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Sunday, 26th May 2024.

Poland’s foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski has accused Russia of plotting to sow instability in Europe before European parliamentary elections in June. Sikorski said in Lodz on Saturday that “Russia wanted to destabilise the situation in Europe ahead of the upcoming elections to the European Parliament. They want to influence the outcome of these elections. And we cannot allow them to do that!” he continued.

Sikorski said that “there were sabotage groups in Europe inspired and paid for by the Russian services”. The news comes days after Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced on Tuesday the re-establishment of a commission to look into undue Russian influence. In the past, Poland has said its position as a key distributor of supplies to Ukraine makes it a target for Moscow spies.

Europe worried by US plan on Russian assets to Ukraine

European countries will only reluctantly agree to a US push to use the profits of frozen Russian assets to secure a loan of up to $50 billion for Ukraine.  With finance ministers of the G7 group of advanced economies meeting in Italy on Saturday, the EU’s most powerful capitals demanded guarantees from the US they wouldn’t end up bearing the costs of what they see as Washington’s pet project. For months, the US has been pushing its European allies to look into alternative ways to raise cash for Kyiv amid fears that existing funds to the war-torn country will run out as early as next year.

Although, in the words of its statement on Saturday, the G7 is “making progress” on the US-led proposal to “bring forward” the future profits of the assets for the loan, countries such as France and Germany fear their taxpayers will be on the hook if Kyiv can’t pay it back once the war is over. “There are significant technical and legal problems,” said Italian Finance Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti, who was chairing the meeting under the country’s G7 presidency.

Russian state assets were frozen in Europe immediately after President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. They have since been invested and are earning interest. After months of disagreement, the US has scaled back its original plan to seize the assets in their entirety and instead use the interest as leverage for a loan.

Stoltenberg advocates more weapons and ammunition to Ukraine

Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on NATO countries to provide greater support to Kyiv. In an interview with the Sunday edition of the German newspaper Welt he said, “It is not too late for Ukraine to win. We must send more weapons and ammunition to Ukraine, including anti-aircraft systems and long-range weapons.” Ahead of the meeting of NATO foreign ministers next Thursday and Friday in Prague, Stoltenberg then said that “there are no plans to extend the NATO air defence umbrella to Ukraine”. In theory, the newspaper comments, it would be possible to shoot down Russian missiles from Poland or Romania using, for example, Patriot batteries. Stoltenberg also reiterated that “there are no plans to send NATO troops to Ukraine”.

Trump, RFK Jr. face hostile reception at Libertarian convention

Former President Donald Trump and independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s attempts to appeal to the Libertarian Party fell on deaf ears this weekend, with the third-party crowd interrupting and mocking both at the party’s convention in Washington, DC. CBS reports a chaotic scene unfolded as Trump took the stage on Saturday, as Libertarians clashed with pro-Trump attendees throughout his speech, resulting in multiple people being removed from the room and the crowd split between jeers, boos and chants directed at Trump, who repeatedly snapped back at the crowd and their hostility.

On Friday, Kennedy tried to win Libertarians over to his camp by promising to pardon government whistleblower Edward Snowden, currently exiled in Russia, and to drop espionage charges against Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder battling US attempts to extradite him from Britain – two figures revered by Libertarians. He also criticised Trump several times for his handling of the pandemic, claiming that Trump violated the Constitution by allowing lockdowns and travel restrictions.

The decision by Libertarian Party leadership to host Trump and Kennedy divided the party and prompted aggressive reactions from some delegates who sought to exclude both candidates from the event. Convention organizers also invited President Biden, but he declined to deliver remarks. During a business session Friday, several delegates were heard yelling profanities at the Libertarian Party chair, Angela McArdle, in objection to Trump and Kennedy taking the stage at the convention.

EU Parliament staff in uproar over breach of ID cards, personal records

Assistants at the European Parliament are in an uproar about a recent data breach of thousands of personal records – and they want answers from the chamber’s top brass, according to Politico. Parliament notified up to 9,000 staffers earlier this month that it had suffered a data breach of its online recruitment application called PEOPLE, which contained ID card details, birth certificates, diplomas, employment history, medical records, rights to entitlements, insurance and proof of work dating back 10 years of part of the Parliament’s staff.

In an email sent by the Accredited Parliamentary Assistants (APA) Committee, the group – which represents around 2,000 assistants inside the institution – wrote it had asked Parliament President Roberta Metsola and top civil servants for more information on what steps management were “actively taking” to mitigate the data protection and cybersecurity risks deriving from the breach.

Politico reports the site spoke to three assistants that fell victim to the breach. Several said that they were dismayed by the lack of communication and subsequent inaction of the institution. “People are extremely upset, while from the other side there are just two emails from a faceless DG. No instructions, apologies, indications of any kind,” said Stefan De Koning, parliamentary assistant to Dutch liberal member Sophie in’t Veld.

On Wednesday, Parliament sent thousands of emails to victims with specific details of what personal data leaked. In four emails seen by Politico, the identity card or passports, criminal records as well as education certificates and civil status of the individuals had all been compromised.

“The Parliament’s cybersecurity experts, as well as the Luxembourg Police, continue to carry out in-depth analyses in order to clarify all the circumstances surrounding the breach,” the parliament’s email read.

Israel pounds Rafah despite World Court ruling

Israeli air strikes and artillery pounded Rafah on Saturday despite the UN’s top court ordering an immediate halt to its military offensive in the southern Gazan city. At the same time, renewed efforts were underway in Paris aimed at securing a ceasefire in the war sparked by Palestinian militant group Hamas’s unprecedented Oct 7 attack on Israel.

In a case brought by South Africa alleging the Israeli military operation amounts to “genocide”, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to halt its Rafah offensive and demanded the immediate release of hostages still held by Palestinian militants. The Hague-based ICJ, whose orders are legally binding but lack direct enforcement mechanisms, also instructed Israel to keep open the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, which Israel closed earlier this month.

Israel gave no indication it was preparing to change course in Rafah, insisting the court had got it wrong. “Israel has not and will not carry out military operations in the Rafah area that create living conditions that could cause the destruction of the Palestinian civilian population, in whole or in part,” National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said in a joint statement with Israel’s foreign ministry spokesman.

Hamas, the Iran-backed Islamist group that has ruled Gaza since 2007, welcomed the ICJ ruling on Rafah but criticised its decision to exclude the rest of the Palestinian territory from the order.

Meanwhile, Reuters quote Palestinian medics saying Israeli forces killed more than 30 people in new attacks in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military said it had carried out “operational activity in specific areas of Rafah” yesterday, including killing militants, dismantling part of Hamas’ tunnel system, and locating stashes of weapons. Further north in the coastal territory, where the Israeli military says it is trying to prevent Hamas from reestablishing its hold, Palestinian medical workers reported Israeli airstrikes that they said killed at least 17 people.

A total of 31 Palestinians were killed in the past day in the Gaza Strip, according to local medical officials. They do not distinguish between civilian and militant casualties. Hamas, which governs Gaza, and the smaller armed group Islamic Jihad said their fighters had fired anti-tank rockets and mortar bombs at Israeli troops in the north. Residents and civil emergency services said Israeli tanks entered deep into the area of Jabalia, destroying dozens of houses, shops, and roads. The Israeli military said its troops in Jabalia “eliminated dozens of terrorists in close-quarters combat and aerial strikes”. Palestinian medical teams were unable to reach the area, where they believed more people were killed.

Fans receive sad update about Princess’ health

Kate Middleton’s close friends have revealed that her fans and admirers will have to wait to see her back in action. The Princess of Wales stepped back from royal duties to focus on her recovery after being diagnosed of an undisclosed form of cancer, earlier this year. Fans of the Princess were expecting her return to public duties in summer; however, her close pals have revealed that she is not likely to return until the autumn.

According to Richard Eden, Kate is seeking medical approval before she would be able to resume her duties and responsibilities. He told Daily Mail, “Friends I spoke to in the past few days suggest we might not see Catherine again until the autumn – and only then if she has recovered fully.”

Meanwhile, a source revealed, “No one wants to put any pressure on Catherine. The only thing that matters at the moment is her getting better. She has been through an ordeal this year. It’s a reflection of Her Royal Highness’s importance to the future of the Monarchy that she has been given as much time as she needs,” they added.

India amusement park fire death toll rises to 27

The death toll from a “huge fire” that broke out at an amusement park in western India has risen to at least 27, local officials told the Times of India, specifying that many victims are children. The same sources fear that other people may have been trapped under the rubble. Flames and a huge cloud of smoke covered a large part of the structure in Rajkot, in the western state of Gujarat. The cause of the fire has yet to be determined, but Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel said a “special investigation team” had been called.

Cuba once again in the dark

Cuba’s state electricity company says 28 per cent of all the provinces of the country will be affected by a blackout today during peak hours in the afternoon and evening. The company said  this is the result of failures of the thermoelectric power plant units and in the shortage of oil. The power cuts,   which have been going on for months, last up to 10 hours a day. Analysts say the island’s electricity system is in a very precarious situation due to the lack of fuel imports and obsolete thermoelectric power plants.

Singapore Airlines could face hefty payouts after turbulence

Passengers with spinal and brain injuries could seek ‘eight-figure’ payouts, a lawyer says, as the extent of the harm following the Singapore Airlines flight that encountered extreme turbulence this week becomes clearer. Prior payouts for similarly severe injuries escalated ‘easily into seven and sometimes eight-figure (US dollar) claims’, said Peter Neenan, a parter specialising in aviation litigation at the London-based law firm Stewarts.

 Several dozen people suffered traumatic, and potentially life-changing, injuries, doctors in Bangkok revealed. Twenty-two patients are being treated for spinal and spinal cord injuries, the head of Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital told a briefing. Some patients, he said, showed signs of paralysis but it was not clear whether it would be permanent. Another six are being treated for skull and brain trauma. A 73-year-old Briton died of a suspected heart attack.

The 229 crew and passengers on board Flight SQ321 were violently shaken by ‘sudden and extreme turbulence’ over Myanmar as the Boeing 777-300ER was en route from London to Singapore, forcing the jet to make an emergency landing at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok on Tuesday afternoon.

Under the Montreal Convention, which governs aviation rights and compensation for international flights from death and injury to passengers after an accident, Singapore Airlines is liable for up to US$170,000 per person. However, there can be scope for larger damages. The level of compensation could only be set based on the outcome of an ongoing investigation into the flight, which could take years, Neenan said.

Demonstrators gather in Mallorca in rally against “excessive tourism”

As Spaniards called for fewer holiday flights, rental cars and cruise ship clampdown, thousands of demonstrators took to the street in Mallorca to protest against ‘excessive tourism’ which they blame for overwhelming the popular holiday island. People from all walks of life gathered in the capital Palma to call for limits on the number of visitors which they accuse of ruining the lives of locals by inflating property prices, causing traffic jams and driving up the cost of living.

Among them were teachers, hotel workers, businessmen and retired people who have told how the huge number of visitors have ruined the once idyllic Spanish sun-spot, with one family forced to leave the island due to the spiralling cost of property. The Spaniards are calling for fewer holiday flights, a clampdown on cruise ships and the slashing in the number of rental cars available under the slogan ‘Mallorca is not for sale!’ It is the latest anti-tourism protest across Spanish territories, following demonstrations in the Canary Islands, Barcelona and neighbouring Ibiza.

Man. Utd stun Man. City to win FA Cup

Manchester United saved their best performance of a mediocre season to the very end as they upset Manchester City 2-1 in the FA Cup final on Saturday to deprive their rivals of the double. With speculation swirling about the future of manager Erik ten Hag, United ripped up the form book as first-half goals from teenagers Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo proved enough for them to lift the trophy for a 13th time.

They had to endure a second-half siege, however, as City swarmed forward and a late goal by Jeremy Doku set up a nerve-shredding finale before United could celebrate their first FA Cup final triumph for eight years.

Speaking after the game, Guardiola told BBC Sport that his team did not play well in the first half against the Red Devils. “Man City did not play to beat United. We played for ourselves,” Guardiola said. “But, in general it was a good performance for a final.”

Photo: Getty

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