From The Alpha and the Omega - Chapter Eight
by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved
"KING OF THE NORTH 2021 OCTOBER-DECEMBER"

    This file is attached to http://www.mazzaroth.com/ChapterEight/BeastThatCameOutOfTheSea.htm from “Beast That Came Out Of The Sea” - Chapter Eight by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved.
Or return to the Astronomical Events To Appear Between 2014 Through 2017 A.D. or return to King Of The North in 2021 July-September


WTO REGION 6 IN 1995 CENTRAL ASIA - RUSSIA, ARMENIA, GEORGIA, AZERBIJIAN, CUBA

WTO REGION 5 IN 1995 WESTERN ASIA/EASTERN EUROPE – BALKAN STATES, POLAND, ROMANIA, HUNGARY, BULGARIA, CZECHO-SLOVAKIA, YUGOSLAVIA, ALBANIA, ESTONIA, LATVIA, LITHUANIA.

    So as 2020 has passed do we know who the "King of the North" is?
    "Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.    The king will do as he pleases.    He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods.    He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place." (Daniel 11:35,36).
    The king of the north mentioned in verses Daniel 11:36-45 is the same King from the North (also known as the stern-faced king or the horn power) that was introduced in Daniel 8.    Notice how this point is demonstrated.
    Verse 35 points to the appointed time of the end, and verse 36 describes a king who will be successful until the time of wrath is completed.
Rev. 17:11 The Eighth Head: The Seventh Head (revived Roman Empire) will grow an Eighth Head in verse 11 (Some claim this to be "The scarlet animal that is to be destroyed).
    Rev. 17:11 And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth (‘Ogdoos’ eighth is connected to ‘Okta’ eight; here the vision shows that the seventh head will briefly sprout another as an eighth head or an outgrowth which will be destroyed; “the eighth” king, his “wound being healed,” Rev. 13:3, Antichrist manifested in the fullest and most intense opposition to God.    He is “the little horn” with eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things, before whom three of the ten horns were plucked up by the roots, and to whom the whole ten “give their power and strength,” in Rev. 12:13, 17.), and is of the seven (originally came from the seven heads; The eighth is not one of the seven restored, but a new power or person proceeding out of the seven, and at the same time embodying all the God opposed features of the previous seven.    For this reason there are not eight heads, but only seven, for the eighth is the embodiment of all the seven.),
and goeth into perdition (‘Apoleia’ indicating loss of well-being, not of being, is used of the Beast, the final head of the revived Roman Empire; In the birth-pangs which prepare the “regeneration” there are wars, earthquakes, and disturbances, at which Antichrist takes his rise, from the sea, Rev. 13:1; Mark 13:8; Luke 21:9-11.).
(Paraphrased: “The scarlet animal that died is the eighth king, having reigned before as one of the seven; after his second reign, he too, will go to his doom.”).
    [No one can really narrow down who or what this new entity came from, but the following is food for thought.    I ran across a news article dated 6/9/2018 on my “KingOfTheWest2018.htm" file and I discovered the following statement, was made in it and was titled "Russia joined the G-7 in the late 1990s almost a decade after the fall of the Soviet Union, making the group the G-8."    And as it is seen above in prophecy the seventh head will briefly sprout another as an eighth head, which was Russia, the eighth as one of the seven.    So as it says above "in his second reign," which was in 2018, "he too, will go to his doom.]
    Most likely this king is the Russian president Vladimir Putin because of his continued push to be in the scene and his interfacing into other areas.
    The end of the year was filled with all the connection of Russia with Turkey, China, North Korea, Ukraine and Syria.     When Trump pulled our troops out of Syria and whether the prophecy below represents the beginning of the events happening in late October 2019 is still to be determined if Daniel 11:40-45 claims it represents the Northern King’s Conquests     Ezekiel 38:1 and 18 or Ezekiel 39:1-8 which states about the entwining of Russia the King of the North and the Mideast Nations and the King of the South into the prophecy above in the very near future as the King of the West has pulled out of this mess which I think Trump made the right call probably due to God's influence.
    The following image below is seen at http://www.mazzaroth.com/ChapterSix/Psalm83.htm so you can tell by the verses above who are the countries today.
    Well, lets see what happens in 2021.


2021 OCTOBER-DECEMBER

10/1/2021 Bulgaria Centre-Right Party Endorses University Rector For President
FILE PHOTO: Boyko Borissov, former Bulgarian Prime Minister and leader of centre-right GERB party,
speaks during a news conference in Sofia, Bulgaria, July 12, 2021. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov
    SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s centre-right GERB party on Friday endorsed a university rector to run for president in a contest to be held in tandem with a parliamentary election aimed at building a working government and ending months of political uncertainty.
    GERB said it backed Sofia University Rector Atanas Gerdzhikov, 58, a professor in Ancient and Medieval Literature who has run Bulgaria’s most renowned university since 2015, to challenge incumbent Rumen Radev, 58, for the presidency, a largely ceremonial position.
    “Prof. Gerdzhikov is a man who can unite the nation,” GERB’s leader, former premier Boyko Borissov told reporters.    “We were happy to hear he will be nominated by an independent committee and we decided to support him.”
    The parliamentary election will be the country’s third this year, following inconclusive votes in April and July that failed to produce a government amid wrangling and rivalry among Borissov’s opponents.
    Borissov, a harsh critic of Radev, has accused the former airforce commander of stoking deep divisions in society by openly supporting massive anti-corruption protests against Borissov’s centre-right administration in 2020.
    Popular anger against widespread corruption in the European Union’s poorest member state put an end to almost a decade of political dominance by Borissov, who stood down in April after his party had ruled for most of the past decade.
    Radev, who has maintained high approval ratings since he was elected in 2016, is supported by Borissov’s political opponents – the Socialists, the anti-establishment ITN party and a newly formed centrist party, We Are Continuing the Change.
    Bulgaria holds votes for the presidency every five years.
(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova, Editing by William Maclean)

10/1/2021 Putin Seeks To Rein In ‘Rainy-Day Fund’ Spending As Energy Transition Looms by Darya Korsunskaya
FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen at the Bocharov Ruchei state residence after a meeting with
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, Russia September 29, 2021. Sputnik/Vladimir Smirnov/Pool via REUTERS
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian government to look at curtailing spending from the state rainy-day fund on Friday, after the finance ministry said the global shift away from oil and gas could jeopardise Russian state finances within a decade.
    Russia now has around $190 billion in its National Wealth Fund, around $115 billion of which, or 7.3% of GDP, is liquid assets raised mainly from selling oil and gas.
    The government is now permitted to spend liquid assets that accumulate above 7% of GDP.    But Putin ordered the cabinet to look into raising that threshold to 10%, potentially reducing future spending by tens of billions of dollars.
    The government announced plans last week to invest $34 billion from the fund over the next three years.
    “Without doubt, the NWF needs to be preserved,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday.    “And as the global financial and economic situation surrounding Russia is quite unpredictable and contains crisis risks, the role of the NWF is increasing.”
    The Kremlin’s document was released a day after draft budget amendments from the finance ministry described risks to state finances from the global transition away from fossil fuels, and recommended “an especially cautious approach” to investing surpluses in the wealth fund while energy prices remain high.
    The EU, Russia’s main energy customer, aims to reach “net zero” emissions by 2050.
    The Russian finance ministry sees the average price of Russia’s flagship Urals oil falling to $55.7 per barrel in 2024 from $66 per barrel this year on projected weaker demand from the global push to cut carbon emissions.
    Global oil prices may fall to as low as $35 per barrel in 2030 and further to $25 per barrel by 2050 as “demand for oil would fall drastically should zero-neutrality goals announced by a number of countries become a law,”, it said.
    Emissions cuts could put pressure on Russia’s state budgets as soon as the early 2030s.    In the most severe scenario, the wealth fund could shrink to as little as 3% of GDP in 2030-31, the ministry said.
(Reporting by Darya Korsunskaya and Dmitry Antonov; Writing by Katya Golubkova; Editing by Peter Graff)

10/1/2021 Turkey’s Russian Air Defence Systems And U.S. Response
FILE PHOTO: A view shows a new S-400 "Triumph" surface-to-air missile system after its deployment at a military
base outside the town of Gvardeysk near Kaliningrad, Russia March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Vitaly Nevar//File Photo
    (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan this week flagged potential further cooperation with Russia on defence industry projects including fighter jets and submarines even as the United States warned it could respond with more sanctions.
    Turkey received the first deliveries of the S-400 surface-to-air systems in July 2019, prompting Washington to begin removing the NATO ally from its F-35 stealth fighter programme over security concerns.
    The following timeline presents the main developments in the programme and Ankara’s relations with the United States.
Dec. 29, 2017 – Turkey and Russia sign an accord on deliveries https://reut.rs/3kWmqCW of Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile batteries, reportedly worth around $2.5 billion.
June 19, 2018 – A U.S. Senate committee passes a spending bill https://bit.ly/2Y8fxWN that includes a provision to block Turkey’s purchase of Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets unless it drops the plan to buy the S-400s.
March 28, 2019 – U.S. Senators introduce a bipartisan bill https://reut.rs/39V5MNR to prohibit the transfer of F-35s to Turkey unless the U.S. administration certifies that Ankara will not take delivery of the S-400s.
June 7, 2019 – The United States decides https://bit.ly/3im4WOA to stop accepting any additional Turkish pilots to train on F-35 fighter jets.
July 17, 2019 – The United States says it was removing https://reut.rs/3B29qkL Turkey from the F-35 programme; Ellen Lord, Undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment, says Turkey would no longer receive more than $9 billion in projected work.
July 25, 2019 – Russia completes https://reut.rs/3FiZdTQ the first shipment of its S-400 systems to Turkey, according to Turkish military officials.
Sept. 15, 2019 – Turkey’s defence ministry confirms https://reut.rs/3B1OQkL delivery of a second battery of S-400s.
Nov. 12, 2020 – Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar says Turkey is ready to discuss U.S. concerns about the technical compatibility of Russian S-400 defence systems and U.S.-made F-35 jets, renewing Ankara’s call for a joint working group with Washington on the issue.
March 24, 2021 – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, urges Ankara to drop the S-400 system.    In the same meeting, Cavusoglu told his U.S. counterpart that its purchase was “a done deal.”
July 21, 2021 – U.S. President Joe Biden is committed to maintaining sanctions on Turkey under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for buying Russian missile defences and would impose further sanctions if Ankara bought further major arms systems from Moscow, according to a senior U.S. diplomat.
Aug. 23, 2021 – The Interfax new agency reports the head of Russia’s arms exporter as saying Russia and Turkey were close to signing a new contract to supply Ankara with more S-400s in the near future.
Sept. 26, 2021 – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey still intends to buy a second batch of missile defence systems from Russia.
Sept. 30, 2021 – Turkey is considering more joint defence industry programmes with Russia including fighter jets and submarines, President Erdogan says after talks with President Vladimir Putin.    Erdogan did not mention further S-400 purchases or U.S. sanctions, but said “Turkey would not back down.”
(Compiled by Oben Mumcuoglu and Berna Syuleymanoglu in Gdansk; Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Daren Butler)

10/1/2021 Belarus President Says Hundreds Detained After Minsk Shooting Incident
FILE PHOTO: Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks during a news conference following talks with his Russian
counterpart Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia September 9, 2021. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov/File Photo
    KYIV (Reuters) – Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Friday that hundreds of people had been detained following a shooting incident in which an IT worker and a KGB officer died in Minsk, the state news agency Belta reported.
    Belarusian authorities said KGB officers shot dead a 31-year-old man on Tuesday after he resisted law enforcement officers. Human rights group Viasna-96 said 84 people had been detained after the shooting incident.    Reuters could not independently confirm the number of detainees.
    “We will not forgive them for the death of this guy,” Belta quoted Lukashenko as saying, referring to the death of the KGB officer.
(Reporting by Matthias Williams; Editing by Jon Boyle)

10/2/2021 Georgians Vote In Local Election After Arrest Of Ex-President
FILE PHOTO: Georgia's former President Mikheil Saakashvili, who was detained after returning
to the country, is escorted by police officers as he arrives at a prison in Rustavi, Georgia October 1, 2021,
in this still image taken from video. Georgian Interior Ministry/Handout via REUTERS
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Georgians go to the polls on Saturday to vote in local elections that could escalate a political standoff between the ruling party and the opposition a day after the arrest of ex-president and opposition politician Mikheil Saakashvili.
    Saakashvili, who left Georgia in 2013 and was sentenced to prison in absentia in 2018, was arrested on Friday after he returned to Georgia and called on his supporters to vote for the opposition and stage a post-election street protest.
    Georgia’s authorities had warned he would be arrested if he returned and President Salome Zourabichvili said that she would not pardon the 53-year-old after his arrest and accused him of deliberately trying to destabilise the country.
    The elections, which include a vote for the mayor of capital Tbilisi, have taken on significance amid a months-long political crisis that erupted in the wake of last year’s parliamentary election, which prompted the opposition to boycott the chamber.
    The head of the main opposition party, the United National Movement (UNM) that Saakashvili founded, was arrested in February and released in May amid a push by the European Union to broker a deal to ease the standoff between the government and the party.
    That deal collapsed over the summer when the ruling Georgian Dream party withdrew.
    The deal had said that Georgian Dream would need to call snap parliamentary elections if it failed to garner 43% of the vote at Saturday’s local elections.
    A recent poll showed popular support for Georgian Dream at 36%, below that threshold.
    Though the deal has now unravelled, political analysts said the vote could trigger protests if the ruling party fails to reach the threshold outlined in the deal and declines to call snap parliamentary elections.
    “If Georgian Dream doesn’t get what it got in the previous parliamentary elections, which was 48.22%, we might have some turmoil again, probably another wave of political crisis,” said Soso Dzamukashvili, junior researcher at Emerging Europe.
    The return and arrest of Saakashvili on Friday has thrown in another wild card in the country of less than four million people.br>     Before he was detained and placed in a detention facility, Saakashvili told his supporters to vote for UNM or for any small party that opposes Georgian Dream and to gather in central Tbilisi on Sunday.
    “Everyone must go to the polls and vote, and on Oct. 3 we must fill Freedom Square.    If there are 100,000 people, no one can defeat us,” he said.
(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Tom Balmforth; Editing by Sandra Maler)

10/2/2021 Thousands Rally In Romania Against Coronavirus Restriction
Demonstrators attend a rally against new restrictions imposed by the government after a surge in coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) cases, in Bucharest, Romania October 2, 2021. Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea via REUTERS
    BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Thousands of people demonstrated in the main squares of the Romanian capital on Saturday against new coronavirus restrictions https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/romania-introduces-restrictions-stem-covid-19-case-rise-boost-vaccine-intakes-2021-10-01 announced by the government this week to fight a steep rise in infections.
    Protesters, mostly not wearing face masks, gathered in University and Victory squares outside government offices, holding Romanian flags, blowing vuvuzelas and shouting: “Freedom, freedom without certificates,” and “Down with the government.”
    Local media put the number of demonstrators at 15,000.
    The new measures due to take effect on Sunday include restricting entry to public spaces such as theatres, cinemas, restaurants and gyms to people who can present a digital certificate proving they are fully vaccinated or have had the illness.
    The number of new COVID-19 infections reached a record high of 12,590 on Saturday and authorities said intensive care units were running out of space.    Romania has the second lowest vaccination rate in the European Union, just ahead of Bulgaria.
    Weekend curfews have been introduced for unvaccinated and the government plans to make inoculations mandatory for healthcare sector’s workers, doctors and nurses.
    The government has also made face masks mandatory in all public spaces in places where the case incidence exceeds 6.0 per thousand people.    Bucharest reached a record of 8.28 per thousand new infections over the past two weeks, among the country’s steepest rates.
    Among the protest organisers was an ultranationalist parliamentary grouping that is hoping, together with other opposition parties, to topple the centrist government on Oct. 5, when a parliamentary vote of no-confidence is scheduled.
    The AUR said on its website: “If they don’t see us, they can’t hear us.”
    Just over a third of Romania’s adult population is fully vaccinated so far, amid widespread distrust in state institutions and misinformation campaigns.
(Reporting by Radu Marinas; Editing by Frances Kerry)

10/2/2021 Serbs Lift Roadblocks In Kosovo As NATO Moves To End Car Plate Row by Fatos Bytyci
FILE PHOTO: Kosovo ethnic Serbs pass through barricades near the border crossing
between Kosovo and Serbia in Jarinje, Kosovo, September 28, 2021. REUTERS/Laura Hasani
    JARINJE, Kosovo -Kosovo’s border crossing with Serbia was reopened on Saturday as Serbs removed trucks and cars and NATO troops moved in under a European Union-mediated deal to end a dispute between the neighbouring countries over car licence plates.
    Kosovo special police forces withdrew from the border crossing in the north of the country nearly two weeks after Serbs blocked roads to protest at Kosovo’s decision to introduce temporary licence plates for all cars from Serbia.
    The Kosovo government said the licence plate requirement was imposed in retaliation for Serbian measures taken against drivers from Kosovo since 2008, when Kosovo declared independence from Serbia.
    “From this weekend and for the next two weeks, KFOR will maintain a temporary, robust and agile presence in the area, in accordance with the mentioned arrangement,” said a statement by the NATO-led peacekeeping force, called KFOR.
    Serbia, which lost control over Kosovo after NATO bombing in 1999, does not recognise Kosovo’s independence and therefore its right to take actions such as registering cars.
    This month’s confrontation boiled over into violence, but the two countries – with mediation by EU special envoy Miroslav Lajcak – struck a deal on Thursday.
    Under the deal, stickers will be used on licence plates to cover state symbols, and NATO, which has some 3,000 troops in Kosovo, will be allowed to control the area.
    Local Serbs chatted on Saturday with Slovenian soldiers, who are part of the NATO force, as they removed barricades while Kosovo police vehicles stood at the border crossing.
    The deadline for their withdrawal was 4 p.m. (1400 GMT).
    As Serbia moves towards EU membership it must resolve all outstanding issues with Kosovo.    The two parties agreed to an EU-mediated dialogue in 2013, but little progress has been made.
    Kosovo’s independence was backed by Western countries including the United States and Britain, but it is still not recognised by five EU member states and its membership of the United Nations is blocked by Serbia’s traditional ally Russia.
(Reporting by Fatos BytyciEditing by Ivana Sekularac, Alexander Smith and Helen Popper)

10/3/2021 Czech PM Babis Denies Any Wrongdoing After Report Says He Used Offshore Structures
FILE PHOTO: Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis looks on as he speaks during the
Budapest Demographic Summit in Budapest, Hungary, September 23, 2021. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
    PRAGUE (Reuters) – Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis denied any wrongdoing on Sunday in connection with an international investigative report that listed him among current and former world politicians and businessmen that it says have used offshore financial structures.
    The Pandora Papers report, by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, said Babis moved $22 million through offshore companies to buy an estate on the French Riviera in 2009 while keeping his ownership secret.    The report did not say the transactions broke the law.
    Speaking in a television debate hosted by CNN Prima News, Babis denied any wrongdoing.
    “The money left a Czech bank, was taxed, it was my money, and returned to a Czech bank,” Babis, who is campaigning for an Oct. 8-9 election, said during the debate.
    Asked if he had broken any law in the Czech Republic, France or United States in relation to the 2009 property purchase, he said: “Of course not…It was taxed money.”
    Babis said a previously done audit proved he had sufficient and taxed income for the transaction.
    Babis, founder of the Agrofert farming, food, chemicals and media empire, entered politics in 2011 and formed a new political party, ANO, to campaign against corruption.
    He became finance minister in 2014 and prime minister in 2017, putting his Agrofert assets into trust before he became premier.
    He has faced a criminal investigation over allegations that he hid ownership of a project to build a conference and leisure resort outside Prague so it would qualify for 2 million euros in European Union subsidies meant for small business.    He denied any wrongdoing in that case.    Prosecutors are expected to decide in the coming weeks whether Babis will have to face trial or the case will be dropped.
    A European Commission audit released in April this year found that his continued links to Agrofert, which received European development subsidies while Babis was in office, represented a conflict of interest.
    Babis has repeatedly said he has met legal requirements by putting his assets into trust funds.
(Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Catherine Evans and Frances Kerry)

10/3/2021 Georgia Ruling Party Wins Local Election After Arrest Of Ex-President
FILE PHOTO: Georgia's Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili speaks to the media at a polling station during the municipal
elections in Tbilisi, Georgia October 2, 2021. Press Office of Georgian Government/Handout via REUTERS
    MOSCOW (Reuters) -Georgia’s ruling party won a commanding lead in a municipal election held a day after the arrest of former president Mikheil Saakashvili, who had returned from exile to support the opposition.
    The ruling Georgian Dream party won 46.7% of votes to 30.7% for the United National Movement (UNM), founded by Saakashvili, according to results released on Sunday by the Election Administration of Georgia with of 99.97% of votes counted.
    In the capital Tbilisi, incumbent mayor Kakha Kaladze won 45% of the vote, while the chairman of the opposition UNM, Nika Melia, received 34%. As no candidate won more than 50%, the city will hold a second round on Oct. 30.
    Melia was jailed for three months earlier this year on charges of fomenting violence, which he rejected as politically motivated. His release in May was part of an EU-brokered agreement aimed at resolving Georgia’s political crisis.
    Saturday’s election was overshadowed by the return and arrest of Saakashvili, president from 2004-2007 and 2008-2013, who had been living in exile and was convicted in absentia 2018 of abuse of office.
    Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said on Sunday Saakashvili would serve his full term of six years in prison.
    The country of around 3.9 million has faced a political standoff since a disputed election last year, which prompted the main opposition party to boycott the parliament.
    A mission of observers from the OSCE said in a statement Saturday’s local election had been “marred by wide-spread and consistent allegations of intimidation, vote-buying, pressure on candidates and voters, and an unlevel playing field,” although candidates were able to campaign freely.
    The outcome is likely to buoy the ruling party, which had agreed at one point to hold a new parliamentary election if its vote share in the local poll was below 43%. Political analysts had said a failure to exceed that threshold could have inspired opposition demonstrations.
    “It is very important that today one more step towards democracy and stabilisation was made,” President Salome Zourabichvili was quoted as saying by Russia’s TASS news agency, describing the election as calm, safe and fair.
DRAMA
    Saakashvili’s return created fresh drama. The authorities said they had warned him he would be arrested if he returned.    In a statement released after his arrest, he blamed his detention on court decisions manufactured by his old foe, Russian President Vladimir Putin.
    Georgia’s domestic politics have been dominated for decades by accusations of Russian meddling, and Saakashvili was president in 2008 when Russia launched a military intervention.    The Kremlin said on Friday questions about Saakashvili’s arrest were outside its competence.
    Saakashvili holds a passport issued by Ukraine, where he served as a regional governor from 2015-2016.    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday he would engage personally in trying to return Saakashvili back to Ukraine.
(Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

10/3/2021 Czech Central Bank Chief Defends Rate Hike Criticised By Finance Minister
FILE PHOTO: Czech Finance Minister Alena Schillerova attends an interview with
Reuters in Prague, Czech Republic, October 11, 2019. REUTERS/Robert Muller
    PRAGUE (Reuters) – Czech central bank governor Jiri Rusnok defended on Sunday the bank’s 75 basis point interest rate increase after the surprise move was criticised by Finance Minister Alena Schillerova ahead of a parliamentary election.
    Schillerova said the hike turned economic policy toward one typical for developing countries. [L8N2QW5J1]
    “Those words are absolutely incompetent,” Rusnok said during a television debate.    “Terms are being used that do not fit.”
    He said economic policy encompassed fiscal and structural policies as well as the central bank’s domain of monetary policy, and that he was sure other central banks would follow suit in tightening their monetary policies.
    Ahead of the on Oct. 8-9 election, for which Schillerova leads the ruling ANO party’s candidate list in the south-eastern region, he said the independent Czech central bank did not feel pressured by the government.
    “We do not feel any political pressure, these things happen at more tense phases of developments. In our situation, I do not feel any threat of this kind,” Rusnok said.
    The bank’s move, which exceeds the 50 basis point tightening expected by financial markets, took the main repo rate to 1.5%.
    Rusnok said on Thursday more hikes would follow, and repeated that on Sunday.
(Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Catherine Evans)

10/3/2021 Austria Adopts Carbon Pricing In Tax Overhaul
FILE PHOTO: Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz arrives for a European People's Party (EPP)
meeting in Berlin, Germany, September 9, 2021. REUTERS/Michele Tantussi/File Photo
    VIENNA (Reuters) -Austria will implement a carbon levy of 30 euros per tonne next year as part of an overhaul of the tax system that officials said on Sunday would reward behaviour that helps protect the environment while cutting corporate and income taxes.
    Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, whose conservatives govern in coalition with the Greens, called the package which will provide a cumulative 18 billion euros ($21 billion) of tax cuts through 2025 the biggest tax revamp in modern Austrian history.
    The carbon levy will start in mid-2022 and rise to 55 euros per tonne in 2025.
    The government will cushion the blow of higher travel and heating costs via regional “climate bonuses” of 100 euros per year for urban dwellers and up to 200 euros for people who live in the countryside, where public transport is less available.
    “Less pollution in the air, more money in the wallet,” Greens leader Werner Kogler told a news conference.
    Corporate tax rates will gradually fall to 23% in 2024 from 25% now, while income tax rates for people in two income brackets will also drop.
    Family “bonus” allowances will rise to 2,000 euros per child from mid-2022 from 1,500 euros now, while health insurance contributions for people on lower incomes will decline.
    Finance Minister Gernot Bluemel said economic and jobs growth fostered by the package would help pay for the tax cuts and that Austria’s debt to GDP ratio would fall step by step over the years.
($1 = 0.8625 euros)
(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Catherine Evans)

10/4/2021 OSCE Calls On Bosnia’s Rival Leaders To Reform Election Law
FILE PHOTO: An information board is pictured as people queue to cast their ballots during the local election
at a polling centre in a school in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina December 20, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic
    SARAJEVO (Reuters) – Europe’s main security and rights watchdog urged Bosnia’s rival ethnic leaders on Monday to end political deadlock and carry out electoral reform designed to shore up the shaky post-war democracy.
    Bosnia is scheduled to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in October 2022 but needs to pass amendments to the election law by the end of 2021 since no changes can be made in an election year.
    The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which has supervised voting in Bosnia since its 1992-1995 war, has recommended a number of changes to improve the transparency of the electoral process, but ethnically based authorities have yet to make them.
    “Unfortunately, the political crisis currently seems to have brought this work to a standstill.    I really hope…that this will only be temporary and work will continue to have a real electoral reform in line with (OSCE) recommendations,” Ann Linde, the current OSCE chairwoman, told a news conference.
    Decision-making in Bosnia’s central government has been blocked by Bosnian Serbs objecting to a law that criminalises the denial of genocide and war crimes, which was decreed in July by then-international peace overseer Valentin Inzko.
    Despite the formation of an inter-agency working group to discuss electoral changes, the key talks are being held between Bosniak and Croat political leaders, who cannot agree on the way a Croat presidency member should be chosen.
    Under the 1995 Dayton peace agreement which set out the post-war constitution, only members of so-called constituent nations – Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks – can run for Bosnia’s three-person, inter-ethnic presidency.
    But Croat nationalists who share Bosnia’s autonomous Federation with Bosniaks, who outnumber them, now want to change the rules so that only Croats can vote for the Croat presidency member. But that requires a constitutional amendment.
    Linde, who is Sweden’s foreign minister, urged the leaders to find a way out of the impasse: “This is key to restoring peoples’ confidence in elections and the functionality of this country.”
(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; editing by Mark Heinrich)
[What Is the OSCE an international Organisation? With 57 participating States in North America, Europe and Asia, the OSCE – the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe – is the world's largest regional security organization.The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe is the world's largest security-oriented intergovernmental organization.    Its mandate includes issues such as arms control, promotion of human rights, freedom of the press, and fair elections.
WHAT WE DO - OSCE Areas of Focus - Arms control Border management Combating human trafficking Countering terrorism Conflict prevention and resolution Cyber/ICT Security Democratization Economic activities Education Elections Environmental activities Gender equality Good governance Human rights Media freedom and development Migration Minority rights Policing Reform and co-operation in the security sector Roma and Sinti Rule of law Tolerance and non-discrimination Youth
.].

10/4/2021 Hundreds Rally In Georgia To Call For Release Of Jailed Ex-President
Supporters of Georgian ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili, who called for post-election street protests and was arrested upon his
arrival in Georgia despite facing imprisonment, hold a rally near a jail in Rustavi, Georgia October 4, 2021. REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze
    RUSTAVI, Georgia (Reuters) -Hundreds of Georgians rallied on Monday to demand the release of hunger-striking ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili, who was jailed last week after returning from exile and calling for post-election protests.
    Saakashvili, who was sentenced in absentia in Georgia in 2018 for abuse of power and concealing evidence when he was president – charges he called politically motivated, secretly returned home ahead of last weekend’s municipal elections after years abroad. He was arrested on Friday.
    It is not fully clear how the 53-year-old, pro-Western politician came back but investigating prosecutors have charged two men for driving him from the Georgian port of Poti to a village on Sept. 29, Interfax news agency reported.
    Saakashvili plans to keep up the hunger strike he declared the evening of his arrest until he is freed, TASS news agency cited his lawyer as saying.
    Georgia’s president and government have made clear they have no plan to pardon or release him.
    In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States was following developments in Georgia closely and urged the country to ensure Saakashvili is treated fairly “in accordance with Georgian law, and Georgia’s international human rights commitments and obligations.”
    Some of Saakahsvili’s supporters from the United National Movement party he founded gathered outside the prison holding him in the town of Rustavi, southeast of the capital, on Monday.
    They waved flags and chanted his nickname “Misha, Misha!
    The politician who led the Rose Revolution in 2003 that ended the presidency of Eduard Shevardnadze is a figurehead for some in the opposition, but derided as a clown by detractors in the ruling Georgian Dream party.
    Georgian Dream won 46.7% at the municipal elections over the weekend, compared with 30.7% for the party founded by Saakashvili, according to results released on Sunday with most votes counted.
(Reporting by David Chkhikvishvili and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; additional reporting by David Brunnstrom and Daphne Psaledakis in Washington; writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Andrea Ricci)

10/4/2021 EU Leaders To Restate Membership Guarantee For Balkans At Summit, Officials Say by Robin Emmott
FILE PHOTO: A large European Union flag lies at the centre of Schuman Square outside
European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, May 8, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) -European Union leaders will be able to restate their guarantee of future membership to six Balkan countries on Wednesday at a summit in Slovenia, after EU ambassadors overcame divisions, two EU officials said.
    After weeks of disagreement over the wording of a summit declaration for Wednesday’s gathering of EU and Balkan leaders, envoys from the EU’s 27 states reached a deal to “reconfirm … their unequivocal support for a European perspective,” the official said.
    Reuters reported on Sept. 28 that the impasse over the declaration was seen as a reflection of the lack of enthusiasm in EU capitals for bringing Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania and North Macedonia into the bloc. [nL8N2QU1R3]
    A second EU official said that while there was now agreement on a summit declaration, the EU’s strategy of enlarging its community south-eastward faced obstacles, even if officially the door is open to those who meet the membership criteria.
    “I can’t say everything is fine,” the official said, noting reluctance among some member states to see further enlargement of the bloc.    “There are of course many issues but you also can’t say the door is closed.”
    EU states have declined to disclose their positions on the summit declaration negotiations, although Slovenia, which holds the EU presidency, sought to include a commitment that the bloc take in the six Balkan states by 2030, according to a draft seen by Reuters.
    The second EU official said that had not been successful.
    Wealthy northern countries fear a repeat of the rushed accession of Romania and Bulgaria in 2007 and the poorly managed migration of eastern European workers to Britain that turned many Britons against the EU.
    Bulgaria is against North Macedonia joining because of a language dispute, meaning even with the summit declaration’s approval, diplomats do not expect any progress soon.
(Additional reporting John Chalmers; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

10/5/2021 In Iraq Kurdish Town, Many Undertake Smuggling Route To Europe Via Belarus by Charlotte Brunebau and Kawa Omar
Square decorated with flags of the Kurdistan Democratic Party ahead of election
is seen in the town of Shiladze, Iraq September 21, 2021. REUTERS/Charlotte Bruneau
    SHILADZE, Iraq (Reuters) – Despite the risk of getting stranded in Europe or perishing on the way there, scores of people from a single town in Iraq’s Kurdish region have opted to be smuggled into European Union countries via Belarus, local smugglers and officials say.
    One local Iraqi Kurdish smuggler said he had arranged the trip for about 200 people wishing to leave the town of Shiladze and the surrounding area – first legally by plane to the Belarusian capital Minsk, then illegally overland.
    He said his business took off in the late spring of this year when the number of migrants trying to enter the EU from Belarus surged, though admitted it was upsetting that people had died trying to cross into EU countries.
    “But they want to leave. What else can they do?” he said, asking not to be named.
    An Iraqi migrant died last month after crossing into Poland from Belarus, one of a number of recent deaths in the border area coinciding with a surge in illegal migration across the EU’s eastern frontier.
    Poland, Lithuania and the EU have accused Belarus of encouraging migrants, mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan, to cross their borders as a form of pressure on the bloc over sanctions Brussels has imposed on Minsk over human rights abuses.
    Shiladze, a town of some 40,000 people, is one of the major points of departure, according to local smugglers and residents.
    The town lies in the relatively stable autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.    But problems such as low employment and pay, as well as geopolitical tension over Turkey’s military sorties inside Iraq against Iraq-based Kurdish militants, have long been pushing people to seek refuge – and a better life – in the West.
    But the outflow has spiked since the Belarus route opened up, with migrants believing it offers a safer, faster way out.
    The former Soviet republic is one of the rare destinations for which Iraqis easily get tourist visas.    Once migrants reach Minsk by plane, their ongoing journey is handled usually by smugglers on the ground.
    The Kurdistan regional government based in Erbil did not immediately respond to requests for comment. In Baghdad, Iraq’s interior ministry said human trafficking was a crime and that steps were taken when this occurred, but did not elaborate in a response to a request for comment.
$12,000 TO BE SMUGGLED TO EU
    The Shiladze smuggler said his partner in Europe is a man he met in neighbouring Turkey.
    “I’ve helped about 200 people leave for Europe in the last five months,” he said, though it was not known whether all had made it to EU territory. He said he knew at least three other smugglers working in his area.
    Local officials could not give specific figures on the number of migrants.    A local journalist said it could be up to 400 from Shiladze and other towns in the region since the spring of this year, and numbers were increasing.
    “Many of my relatives and friends have left that way.    Many others want to do the same,” said Abdullah Omar, a 38-year-old barber.    “People have sold their homes or cars to afford it.”
    The trips can cost up to $12,000 including flights and being smuggled overland once in Europe, according to the smuggler and local travel agencies involved in booking the air travel.
    Iraq suspended direct flights from Baghdad to Minsk in August under EU pressure. Migrants are now flying via Dubai or Turkey, according to smugglers, residents, travel agencies and the honorary Belarusian consul in Erbil.
    Iraqi analyst Amin Faraj said that while Kurdistan is more stable and viewed as more prosperous than the rest of Iraq, an ongoing economic crisis which has seen authorities unable to pay public sector wages has put a strain on many ordinary Kurds.
    Moreover, Shiladze residents live in a mountainous region near the Turkish border where security can be fragile.
    Turkey has carried out air strikes in northern Iraq against the Kurdish PKK militant group which uses the north as a base.
    The Kurdish government said this year that the chronic conflict had “resulted in a rise in insecurity and forced thousands of residents from hundreds of villages to flee their homes and lose their livelihoods.”
    “Our area is besieged, it’s in the hands of the PKK and the Turks. Our region is nice, but we are afraid and we don’t trust in staying here,” said Halkaft Mohammed, a Shiladze resident who added that his 19-year-old son reached Germany last month.
    “Our villages are deserted, we can no longer go to the orchards,” said Ibrahim Mahmoud Ibrahim, a 27-year-old local security officer.
    He gets paid $400 per month – a fairly standard Iraqi salary for his grade and said he is also considering migrating. Aziz Abdullah, a shop owner and father of two, said he would migrate even if it meant ending up in a camp in Europe waiting for asylum status.
    Abdullah sells wedding dresses in the town market but said he gets virtually no customers.    “Why spend $10,000 USD on getting married, when you can spend it on getting out?
(Editing by John Davison and Mark Heinrich)

10/5/2021 Ukrainians Unearth Hiding Places Of Jews In City Sewers During Nazi Holocaust by Sergiy Karazy and Lewis Macdonald
Diggers Andriy Ryshtun and Oleksandr Ivanov explore the city sewage system where dozens of Jews were
hiding from the Nazis during World War Two in Lviv, Ukraine September 25, 2021. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
    LVIV, Ukraine (Reuters) – Under cobblestone streets in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, diggers have uncovered new hiding spots in underground sewers where some Jews managed to flee from Nazi occupying forces during World War Two.
    More than 100,000 Jews, or around one third of the city’s population at the time, were killed by the Nazis, according to the local historian Hanna Tychka.
    A few managed to survive, including father and daughter Ignacy and Krystyna Chiger, who escaped from the Jewish ghetto by digging a tunnel to the city’s sewage system, and later wrote books recounting their experiences.
    Tychka and local diggers said they recently uncovered the exact area where Chiger’s family lived in 1943-1944, using the books as a guide.
    Chiger dug a seven-metre-long (7 yard) tunnel to the sewer from his ghetto barrack, breaking the sewer’s concrete wall, which was 90-cm thick, Tychka said.
    “They had to work quietly so that Nazis would not find out that digging activity was happening in the barrack basement.    The Jews used a hammer wrapped in a duster,” Tychka told Reuters near the site of the discovery.
    Ukraine this September and October is marking the 80th anniversary of the mass shooting of nearly 34,000 civilians at the wooded ravine of Babyn Yar in the capital Kyiv, one of the biggest single massacres of Jews during the Holocaust.
    In Lyiv, Tychka and her team in July discovered a tiny cave where they believe Jews fleeing the ghetto would spend their first night before moving on to a larger shelter in the sewage system.
    In the larger shelter, the team found artefacts which they believe were used by the hiding families, including a corroded plate, the figurine of a sheep, and traces of carbide used for lanterns.    They also discovered pieces of glass placed in between bricks in the wall, which were used to prevent rats from stealing food.
    On a visit to the site, Tychka also pointed out a pipe from where she believed the families could take drinking water.
    Chiger’s family was part of a larger group that also included Halina Wind Preston, then in her early twenties.
    Of the original group of 21, only 10 including the Chigers and Halina survived the ordeal, her son David Lee Preston says.
    Several could not stand the conditions in the sewer for long and left, and the group faced the constant danger of being discovered.
    A baby born to one of the women in the group, whose husband had been swept away by water while going out to get drinking water, had to be suffocated for fear that its crying would give away their location, Preston said.
    Preston, who worked as a journalist for many years, wrote several articles for the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper after his mother’s death, recounting her story as well as that of his father, a former prisoner in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald death camps.
    Preston, who maintains a website about his family’s experiences and reporting on the Holocaust, says his mother and her group were helped throughout the time they lived in the sewer by two sewer workers.
    They left their hiding place when Lviv was taken back by Soviet Army in July 1944.
    The film ‘In Darkness’, a dramatised account of the group’s survival by Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Holland, was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2012 Academy Awards.
    Preston paid tribute to Tychka and the team who made the discovery, saying as the numbers of those who survived the Holocaust dwindle, new generations of all backgrounds had to keep telling their stories.
    The work to trace the group’s hiding place indicated “a great desire by many young Ukrainians to set straight the history and prevent it from being corrupted,” Preston said.
(Writing by Margaryta Chornokondratenko; editing by Matthias Williams and Aurora Ellis)

10/5/2021 Communist Leader Asks Putin To Call Off Party Crackdown, Voting Reforms
FILE PHOTO: Leader of the Russian Communist Party Gennady Zyuganov is seen in Red Square
before the Victory Day Parade in Moscow, Russia June 24, 2020. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – The leader of Russia’s Communist Party has accused authorities of persecuting his party’s activists and carrying out reforms to the voting system that imperil political stability, in a rare message of dissent addressed to President Vladimir Putin.
    Authorities cracked down on Gennady Zyuganov’s Communist Party last month after Moscow activists rallied twice in protest against an electronic voting system that they say robbed several of their allies of victory at a parliamentary election.
    Police said the protests were illegal due to COVID-19 safety measures and authorities rejected allegations of foul play by the online voting system.
    The Communist Party is ostensibly the biggest opposition force in parliament, but it often supports Putin on key areas of policy and has long been accused of soft-pedalling its opposition within a tightly-controlled system of “managed democracy.”
    But the party leadership’s relationship with the Kremlin has been tested by anger over what activists cast as a crooked online voting system used at the election and the detention of several activists.
    In an open letter published on the Communist Party’s website, Zyuganov said authorities were targeting his party with pressure and that activists were being harassed by the police.
    He said more than 100 people had been prosecuted over two rallies last month that he said were entirely legal.
    Zyuganov called on Putin to intervene, also denouncing moves by authorities to stretch voting over three days as a COVID-19 safety measure and also to bring in online voting.
    Critics say that three days of voting complicates the already difficult task of election monitoring to stop fraud and that online voting is at best non-transparent.
    “This is a ‘two-phase bomb’ that sooner or later could blow up the stability in society that patriotic forces have created for many years,” the 77-year-old Communist veteran wrote.
    The Communist Party said on Tuesday that Zyuganov was expected to meet Putin on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Tom Balmforth; Editing by William Maclean)

10/5/2021 Romanian Parliament Topples PM Citu’s Minority Government
FILE PHOTO: Romanian Prime Minister-designate Florin Citu attends a news conference
in Bucharest, Romania, February 26, 2020. Inquam Photos/George Calin via REUTERS
    BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Romania’s parliament toppled the nine-month-old minority government of Prime Minister Florin Citu in a vote of no-confidence on Tuesday, but key parties said they would work to return the previous majority coalition to power soon.
    Romania, one of European Union’s poorest member states, has been locked in political stalemate for a month, threatening its economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to reduce large twin deficits.
    “Citu’s government fell by a big margin, way above the minimum required (of 234 votes),” an opposition deputy overseeing the ballot boxes said.
    The final count showed that 281 deputies and senators voted to topple Citu, who will stay on as caretaker premier until a new prime minister wins parliament’s confidence.
    Citu’s coalition unravelled last month after the centrist USR, a relatively new grouping, withdrew its ministers in a row over a regional development fund, stripping him of a parliamentary majority.    USR then filed a no-confidence motion, refusing to return to the government until Citu was ousted.
    President Klaus Iohannis called on political parties to hold consultations next week on forming a new government before he nominates a new premier, most likely from the ranks of his ally, Citu’s centrist Liberal Party.
    “Romania must be governed.    We are in a pandemic, an energy price crisis…and now a political crisis.    We need more than ever a mature (political) stance,” Iohannis told reporters.    “To give parties more time to come up with a solution, I will call for consultations only next week.”
    An early election is unlikely as parliament would need to reject two consecutive proposals for premier by Iohannis within 60 days, and coalition parties say they are bent on rebuilding a government quickly, given the current economic challenges.
    Iohannis and coalition partners including the ethnic Hungarian UDMR and the USR have said the current, three-party reform-minded political set-up is the best recipe for Romania, overseeing a 29.2-billion-euro, EU-backed recovery plan.
    The most likely outcome is a restoration of the previous coalition that had a 57% majority, but with a different prime minister, in keeping with the USR’s sole condition for rejoining government.
    “We’re open to rebuilding our centrist ruling coalition,” said USR senior Dan Barna said.
    The USR joined forces with the opposition ultra-nationalist AUR and Social Democrats to remove Citu on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Radu Marinas; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

10/5/2021 Analysis-In Czech Election, The Prize Is One Of EU’s Fastest-Growing Debt Burdens by Jason Hovet
FILE PHOTO: Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis speaks at a parliamentary session
in Prague, Czech Republic, June 3, 2021. REUTERS/David W Cerny
    PRAGUE (Reuters) – The Czech government has ditched a long tradition of frugality over the last few years by piling tax cuts and wage hikes on top of pandemic spending, putting the country’s debt on course to hit critical levels much faster than anyone expected.
    That leaves an unenviable challenge for whichever party wins this weekend’s national election in the Czech Republic.
    The Czech Finance Ministry forecasts public debt will hit 43.5% of GDP this year, up from 30% in 2019, after two years of record budget deficits, and the International Monetary Fund estimates the country will have the second-fastest rising debt burden in the European Union by 2025.
    Wary of frightening away voters, all political parties have ruled out major tax hikes and shown no plans for other painful measures, but the next government faces a likely rude awakening and tough choices to find new revenue and cut spending.
    “The (next) government will have to come up with immediate savings, and there must be a credible plan to reduce budget imbalances within several years,” Pavel Sobisek, UniCredit’s chief economist in Prague, said.
    “Raising taxes will be needed… That is for sure.”
    The COVID-19 pandemic has hammered public finances around the world, but Czech debt is set to skyrocket because of growing budget commitments that are tough to reverse, critics say, calling it a departure from past fiscal prudence displayed by governments on both the left and right.
    In 2019 the country had the EU’s fourth-lowest debt load, but IMF spring forecasts see debt soaring to 56% of GDP by 2025.
    While debt levels are still modest compared to bigger countries – in the EU, the average state debt was 90.5% of GDP at the end of 2020 – it can be troubling for a smaller economy.
    The country is fast approaching a 55% debt brake that would force automatic budget cuts under Czech law, something no government wants.    The independent state Fiscal Council had previously forecast the risk of breaching debt limits would not come before 2043 but now sees it later this decade.
** For an interactive graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/3FlGXca
CREDIT NEGATIVE
    Who will be in charge after the Oct. 8-9 election to take on the problem is uncertain.    Prime Minister Andrej Babis’s ANO party leads polls with around 26% support but still has no clear partners to secure a majority.
    Under Babis’s centre-left coalition government, in power since 2018, budget expenditures such as state pension increases that are enshrined in law, and cannot be rolled back without major reforms, and others like salaries deemed necessary for state operations have risen 40%.
    At the end of last year, the central state budget deficit hit a record high 367 billion Czech crowns ($16.8 billion), almost twice the previous record.    The overall fiscal deficit, which also includes the state health insurance system and local and regional government budgets, hit 6.1% of GDP, twice the limit advocated by the EU.
    The deficit is set for another record in 2021, even after coronavirus restrictions were largely lifted and the economy is forecast to grow 3.2%, after contracting 5.8% last year.    Finance Minister Alena Schillerova on Sept. 19 estimated a gap of 400 billion crowns.
    The government has approved a deficit next year that will be almost as high, despite economic growth set to accelerate to 4.2%.
    Eva Zamrazilova, a former central banker who heads the Fiscal Council, said fast-rising spending that is enshrined in law was causing imbalances.
    “The COVID crisis has only revealed structural weaknesses,” she said, adding a big concern was the approaching debt brake.
    Much of the blame is on sharp increases to the state pension, which went beyond automatic increases set in law, and hefty public sector wage hikes.    The government also implemented a record income tax cut this year estimated to cost state coffers the equivalent of 2% of GDP.
    Schillerova has said the state has room to raise debt given its low levels before the COVID-19 crisis, and that consolidation would be balanced in order not to strangle the economy.
    “I don’t want to repeat mistakes made after the last crisis,” she said in a Sept. 19 Czech TV debate show, referring to budget cuts after the 2009 global financial crisis that hurt the economy.
    Babis countered attacks about his handling of the budget in a Sunday election debate by saying his government had raised teachers’ salaries by 20,000 crowns while a previous administration involving opposition parties only added hundreds of crowns when it was in power.
    Babis’s main challengers in the election are the liberal Pirate Party, which leads a two-party Pirates-Mayors coalition that is second in the polls, and the centre-right Civic Democrats, leading the three-party Spolu (Together) coalition.
    The former wants to cap state spending and return deficits to the EU-mandated 3% of GDP using growth and some new taxes, such as on mining.    The latter has pledged no tax hikes and a deficit at 1.5% by 2025, arguing it can stimulate economic growth with the help of EU funds and can improve tax collection.    The current government forecasts a deficit above 4% in 2024.
    Budget watchers say more effort is needed to maintain a fiscal cushion as the number of people reaching pension age is set to rise sharply in the decade ahead and to ward off risks to credit ratings and market standing.
    Debt auctions still attract good demand and yields have only gradually risen.    But the benchmark 10-year bond yield – which for years was well below central European peers – is now at 2.12%, nearly par with Poland.
    In May, ratings agency Moody’s, which rates the Czech Republic at Aa3, two notches above regional peers like Poland or Slovakia and ahead of Japan, said the county’s medium-term fiscal plans lacked meaningful consolidation, calling it credit negative.
    Zamrazilova said the rapidly rising debt, if left unchecked, could become a negative signal for markets.
    “The worst scenario is (public finance) consolidation being forced by financial market stress,” she said.    “Consolidation should start as soon as possible.”
($1 = 21.8380 Czech crowns)
(Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Susan Fenton)

10/6/2021 NATO Expels Eight ‘Intelligence Officers’ From Russian Mission To Alliance by Robin Emmott and Andrew Osborn
FILE PHOTO: Banners displaying the NATO logo are placed at the entrance of new NATO headquarters
during the move to the new building, in Brussels, Belgium April 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman
    BRUSSELS/MOSCOW (Reuters) -NATO has expelled eight members of Russia’s mission to the alliance who were “undeclared Russian intelligence officers,” a NATO official said on Wednesday, the latest deterioration in East-West ties that are already at post-Cold War lows.
    The expulsion of the Russians was reported earlier by Sky News, which said Moscow’s mission to the alliance headquarters in Brussels would be halved “in response to suspected malign Russian activities, including killings and espionage.”
    Reuters was not immediately able to confirm the reasons cited by Sky News for the reduction of the Russian delegation.
    There was no immediate comment from the Kremlin.
    Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko accused NATO of duplicity and of using the idea of an alleged threat from Moscow as a bogeyman for its own purposes.
    “The leaders of NATO yesterday spoke of the importance of de-escalating relations with Russia and spoke out in favour of a resumption in dialogue in the framework of the Russia-NATO Council,” Grushko told the Kommersant daily newspaper.
    “If anyone believed in the sincerity of those statements then today they don’t.    Their real worth is clear to all.
    After the dramatic end of the Afghan era how can they can get by without the bogeyman of the ‘Russian threat.’    They can’t
.”
    The West’s ties with Russia remain strained over everything from Ukraine to alleged Russian election meddling to the 2018 poisoning with a nerve agent in England of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
    The Interfax news agency cited Leonid Slutsky, head of the Russian lower house of parliament’s international affairs committee, as saying that Moscow would retaliate, but not necessarily in kind.
    “We can confirm that we have withdrawn the accreditation of eight members of the Russian Mission to NATO, who were undeclared Russian intelligence officers,” the NATO official said, adding that the number of positions Moscow can accredit to NATO had been cut to 10.
    “NATO’s policy towards Russia remains consistent. We have strengthened our deterrence and defence in response to Russia’s aggressive actions, while at the same time we remain open for a meaningful dialogue,” the official added.
    Slutsky was cited as saying that the position of Russia’s envoy to the European Union was currently vacant and that NATO’s move would damage dialogue between Moscow and the West.
    “The collective West is continuing its policy of diplomatic confrontation with Russia,” said Slutsky.
    Russia accuses NATO of provocatively expanding its military infrastructure closer to its borders.    The alliance says it is determined to reinforce the security of member states close to Russia in the wake of Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea and backing for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott and Andrey OstroukhWriting by John Chalmers/Andrew Osborn; editing by John Stonestreet, William Maclean and Grant McCool)

10/6/2021 Sweden, Denmark Pause Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine For Younger Age Groups
FILE PHOTO: A nurse prepares a syringe with a dose of the Moderna coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
vaccine at Enfermera Isabel Zendal hospital in Madrid, Spain, July 23, 2021. REUTERS/Juan Medina
    STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Sweden and Denmark said on Wednesday they are pausing the use of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for younger age groups after reports of possible rare cardiovascular side effects.
    The Swedish health agency said it would pause using the shot for people born in 1991 and later as data pointed to an increase of myocarditis and pericarditis among youths and young adults that had been vaccinated.    Those conditions involve an inflammation of the heart or its lining.
    “The connection is especially clear when it comes to Moderna’s vaccine Spikevax, especially after the second dose,” the health agency said, adding the risk of being affected was very small.
    Shares of Moderna fell 4.9%, or $16.08, to $316.11 in afternoon trading.
    A Moderna spokesperson said in an email the company was aware of the decisions by regulators in Denmark and Sweden to pause the use of its vaccine in younger individuals because of the rare risk of myocarditis and or pericarditis.
    “These are typically mild cases and individuals tend to recover within a short time following standard treatment and rest.    The risk of myocarditis is substantially increased for those who contract COVID-19, and vaccination is the best way to protect against this.”
    According to one U.S. study that has yet to undergo peer review young males under 20 are up to six times more likely to develop myocarditis after contracting COVID-19 than those who have been vaccinated.
    Denmark said that, while it used the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine as its main option for people aged 12-17 years, it had decided to pause giving the Moderna vaccine to people below 18 according to a “precautionary principle.”
    “In the preliminary data … there is a suspicion of an increased risk of heart inflammation, when vaccinated with Moderna,” the Danish Health Authority said in a statement.
    It referred to data from a yet unpublished Nordic study, which would now be sent to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for further assessment. Final data was expected within a month, it added.
    Sweden and Denmark said they now recommended the Comirnaty vaccine, from Pfizer/BioNTech, instead.
    The Danish Health Authority said it had made the decision even as “heart inflammation is an extremely rare side effect that often has a mild course and goes away on its own.”
    The EMA’s safety committee concluded in July that inflammatory heart conditions can occur in very rare cases following vaccination with Comirnaty or Spikevax, more often in younger men after the second dose.
    The benefits of shots based on so-called mRNA technology used by both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech in preventing COVID-19 continue to outweigh the risks, regulators in the United States, EU and the World Health Organization have said.
    Data suggests reported cases of rare heart inflammation are relatively higher after Moderna’s vaccine compared with the Pfizer/BioNTech shots, Canadian health officials said last week.
    Although both vaccines are based on mRNA technology, the Pfizer shot contains 30 micrograms of vaccine per dose compared with 100 micrograms in the Moderna vaccine.
    Data from one of two U.S. vaccine safety monitoring databases has also suggested that Moderna’s vaccine may carry a higher risk of myocarditis among young people.
    The vaccine is not approved for people under age 18 in the United States.
    Norway already recommends the Cominarty vaccine to minors and said on Wednesday that it was reiterating this.
    “Men under the age of 30 should also consider choosing Cominarty when they get vaccinated,” Geir Bukholm, head of infection control at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, said in a statement.
    A Finnish health official said Finland expected to publish a decision on Thursday.
    The EMA approved the use of Comirnaty in May, while Spikevax was given the nod for children over 12 in July.
(Reporting by Johan Ahlander in Stockholm and Stine Jacobsen in Copenhagen; Additional reporting by Gwladys Fouche in Oslo, Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago, Michael Erman in New York; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, Alex Richardson and Alison Williams)

10/6/2021 Russia Says Nord Stream 2 Clearance May Cool Gas Prices In Europe by Vladimir Soldatkin
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with members of the government via a video link at the
Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia October 5, 2021. Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS
    MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said on Wednesday that certification of the Nord Stream 2 undersea gas pipeline, which expects clearance from a Germany’s regulator, could cool soaring European gas prices.
    Prices have spiked in response to a recovery in demand, particularly from Asia, when storage levels are low.
    European benchmark Dutch wholesale gas for November has jumped almost eightfold since the start of the year and reached an all-time high of over 150 euros per megawatt hour (MWh) in the early hours of Wednesday.
    It reversed gains and fell to 114 euros by 1500 GMT.
    “I think there are two factors, which could somewhat cool off the current situation.    First of all, of course, this is, definitely, completion of certification and the fastest clearance for gas supplies via the completed Nord Stream 2,” Novak told a meeting of government officials and heads of energy companies.
    Nord Stream 2, which runs on the bed of the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany, is expecting certification from Germany, which could take a few months.    The pipeline has faced resistance from the United States, which says the project will increase Europe’s reliance on Russian energy.
    Novak said an increase in gas sales on Gazprom’s Electronic Sales Platform could also calm prices.    Gazprom set up the ESP in 2018 for gas sales to Europe to supplement the existing long and mid-term contracts.    It has suspended gas sales for delivery in 2022 since late August.
    President Vladimir Putin, who chaired the meeting, has agreed with the proposed increase, adding that Russia should meet its domestic gas needs first.
    Novak said some speculative trade could also be behind the soaring gas prices, which he said did not reflect the fundamentals of supply and demand.
    Igor Sechin, head of oil giant Rosneft, at the meeting asked Putin for the right to export natural gas from Russia.    State television did not air Putin’s reaction to the request.
LONG-TERM DEALS
    Putin told the meeting that Europe was wrong to reduce the share of long-term deals in natural gas trade in favour of the spot market instead, where prices have surged.
    “We talked to the European Commission’s previous lineup, and all its activity was aimed at phasing out of so-called long-term contracts,” he said.
    “It was aimed at transition to spot gas trade.    And as it turned out, it has become obvious today, that this practice is a mistake.”
    Russian gas group Gazprom has resisted moving to spot trade in Europe, preferring long-term deals, which sometimes last around 25 years.
    Putin also reiterated that Russia has been a reliable energy supplier to Europe, which may see record-high Russian gas exports this year as Moscow is increasing gas supplies, including via Ukraine, in response to the energy crunch and stands ready to stabilise the market.
    He said that Russian gas transit via Ukraine is set to exceed volumes agreed under Gazprom’s contract with Kyiv.
KREMLIN DENIAL
    Earlier on Wednesday, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia had absolutely no role in causing Europe’s surging gas prices, following accusations from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and some in the European Parliament that Russia had not done enough to increase supplies to Europe.
    “There are a couple of reasons (behind the gas crisis) – the way the economy is recovering, how demand for the energy resources is growing, as well gas storages are not filled in,” Peskov told reporters on a daily conference call.
    Putin also cited economic recovery and cold weather in Europe, which led to a reduction in gas storage as another reason behind the gas prices surge.
    Peskov said Moscow was ready to discuss new long-term contracts for gas sales to European consumers and that Gazprom was meeting all its obligations.
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Gleb Stolyarov; editing by Catherine Evans, Jason Neely, Jane Merriman and Barbara Lewis)

10/6/2021 Moldova Replaces Prosecutor General
FILE PHOTO: Moldova's President Maia Sandu addresses the General Debate of the 76th Session of the
United Nations General Assembly in New York City, U.S., September 22, 2021. John Angelillo/Pool via REUTERS
    CHISINAU (Reuters) – Moldova’s pro-western president Maia Sandu appointed an acting prosecutor general on Wednesday a day after the previous holder was suspended and detained.
    Sandu, who came to power last year promising to tackle entrenched corruption, said the removal of Alexandru Stoianoglo was needed to meet Moldovans’ hopes for justice.
    Stoianoglo was detained and charged with helping criminal groups, which he says is an trumped-up accusation to force him out of office.    He was appointed during the presidency of Sandu’s pro-Russian predecessor, Igor Dodon, in 2019.     Sandu on Wednesday supported the nominee offered by the High Council of Prosecutors and signed a decree to appoint an acting prosecutor general Dumitru Robu, who has worked as a deputy head of the Chisinau prosecutors’ office.
    Robu, 41, has almost 15 years of professional experience including working as an anti-corruption prosecutor.
    Speaking at the High Council of Prosecutors, he promised to continue the investigation of high-profile cases and “make efforts” to improve the image of the prosecutor general’s office.
    Moldova, a small country of 3.5 million that borders European Union member Romania, has been dogged by instability and corruption scandals in recent years, including the disappearance of $1 billion from the banking system.
(Reporting by Alexander Tanas; writing by Natalia Zinets; editing by Barbara Lewis)

10/6/2021 Austrian Prosecutors Target Kurz In Bribery Investigation by Francois Murphy
FILE PHOTO: Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz attends a news conference, as the spread of the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Vienna, Austria, September 8, 2021. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
    VIENNA (Reuters) -Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has been placed under investigation on suspicion of bribery and breach of trust, anti-corruption prosecutors said on Wednesday after raids on the offices of Kurz’s conservative party and several top aides.
    The investigation, which prosecutors confirmed hours after raids on the Chancellery, Finance Ministry and the offices of Kurz’s party, is a fresh political threat to Kurz, whom anti-corruption prosecutors placed under investigation separately in May on suspicion of perjury.
    Kurz and his People’s Party (OVP) dismissed the investigation as politically motivated.
    The suspicion in this investigation is that, starting in 2016 when Kurz was foreign minister and seeking to become party leader, and later as he became chancellor, the conservative-led Finance Ministry paid for advertisements in a newspaper in exchange for polling and coverage favourable to him.
    “The Prosecutors’ Office for Economic Affairs and Corruption has placed Sebastian Kurz and nine others as well as three organisations under investigation on suspicion of breach of trust … corruption … and bribery …, partly with different levels of involvement,” the office said in a statement.
    The early morning raids took place at locations including the homes and Chancellery desks of three senior Kurz aides.
    “I am convinced that these accusations, too, will prove to be false,” Kurz said in a brief statement, adding that text-message exchanges had been taken out of context to “construct” a case against him.
    OVP Deputy Chairwoman Gaby Schwarz dismissed the raid on its headquarters as “political staging” aimed at achieving a “show effect” to harm both Kurz and the party.    The OVP has repeatedly accused anti-corruption prosecutors of bias against it and Kurz, which prosecutors’ and judges’ organisations deny.
    That reaction exposed tensions in the ruling coalition between Kurz’s conservatives and the left-wing Greens, who campaigned on “clean politics” and have avoided saying how far they will support Kurz if the cases against him progress.
    “The accusation of show politics is an empty one simply because a judge’s approval is required for this instrument, namely carrying out a raid as part of an investigation,” Greens leader and Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler told a news conference, adding that prosecutors should be able to keep working freely.
MANIPULATED POLLING
    Tabloid daily Oesterreich, which Austrian media identified as the newspaper at the centre of the investigation, issued a statement earlier on Wednesday denying taking state money for advertising in exchange for publishing polling.
    Without naming the newspaper, prosecutors said they suspect that from 2016 until at least 2018 Finance Ministry funds paid for party-politically motivated and sometimes manipulated polling that was published in the newspaper, and that some of those under investigation could influence what was reported.
    Kurz took over as OVP leader in May 2017 and led his party to an election victory later that year.
    Finance Minister Gernot Bluemel told a news conference the investigation related to a time before he took office last year and he was not a target.    Kurz was due to appear on ORF TV’s evening news at 10 p.m. (2000 GMT).
    Austria’s three main opposition parties called for a special session of the lower house of parliament to address the investigation and called on Kurz to resign.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy, Editing by William Maclean and Giles Elgood)

10/6/2021 EU Court Voids Decision By Polish Judge Found To Lack Independence by Gabriela Baczynska and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk
FILE PHOTO: European Union and Polish flags flutter in Mazeikiai,
Lithuania April 5, 2019. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo
    BRUSSELS/WARSAW (Reuters) -A European court found on Wednesday that Poland broke democratic norms by appointing judges who are not sufficiently independent, and declared a decision by one such judge to be void, escalating a conflict between the EU and Poland’s ruling nationalists.
    Warsaw and its critics alike said the ruling, ostensibly in the narrow case of a judge who fought his transfer to another job, could have wide implications for Poland’s legal system.
    The Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the EU (ECJ) found that Poland had denied judge Waldemar Zurek, who served in a civil court in Krakow, his right to a fair appeal of his transfer.
    A Supreme Court judge who reviewed Zurek’s case had himself been appointed in a way that “cast reasonable doubts… as to his neutrality,” which meant Zurek’s dismissal “must be declared null and void,” it ruled.
    Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki described the ruling as “an attempt to hit at the very heart of the social and legal system,” and said it could affect “hundreds of thousands” of Polish legal decisions.
    “Naturally, we cannot allow that,” he told a news conference in Slovenia, without explaining what steps Poland would take.
    Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal is separately hearing a challenge brought by Morawiecki’s government against the principle that EU law supersedes Polish law, a pillar of the European system.
‘GAME OVER’
    Wednesday’s ECJ ruling leaves the next steps in the hands of Polish courts.    But the EU’s executive commission can take legal action to enforce it, if it determines that Poland has ignored it.
    Poland and Hungary have been under investigation by the EU over their record on the rule of law, with Brussels threatening to withhold European funds if the two eastern countries’ nationalist administrations do not comply with EU standards.
    Poland’s governing Law and Justice (PiS) party has introduced sweeping changes giving politicians more power to pick judges, saying the overhaul is needed to drive out holdovers from the communist era that ended three decades ago.
    The opposition and other EU countries denounce the changes as a power grab to silence critics, subject courts to more government control and undermine democratic checks and balances.
    They also accuse Poland of failing to meet European standards with laws restricting the rights of women and gays.
    Warsaw says those laws reflect the predominantly Catholic country’s conservative culture.
    The ECJ ruled last July that a new system for disciplining judges was being used to pressure judges or to exert political control over their decisions and hence undercut EU laws on judicial independence.
    Wednesday’s ruling confirms that new disciplinary bodies for judges “should be considered illegal and their rulings void.    Game over,” said an opposition lawmaker, Kamila Gasiuk-Pihowicz.
    The judges’ association Iustitia, which has accused PiS of degrading the courts, said more than 1,000 judges had been nominated since Warsaw started staffing panels with judges appointed by government officials rather than by other judges.
    Zurek said the PiS government had an authoritarian tilt and that he was very pleased with the ECJ ruling.
(Additional reporting by Pawel Florkiewicz, Writing by Gabriela Baczynska, Editing by Peter Graff and Jon Boyle)

10/6/2021 Scandal-Weary Czechs Decide PM Babis’ Future In Weekend Election by Jan Lopatka
FILE PHOTO: Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis looks on as he speaks during the Budapest
Demographic Summit in Budapest, Hungary, September 23, 2021. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
    PRAGUE (Reuters) – Weary of mounting accusations of financial misconduct against Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Czech voters could oust the billionaire businessman from power in the two-day parliamentary election that starts on Friday.
    Polls show Babis’ centrist populist ANO party could come out narrowly ahead of others but far short of a majority.     That may force ANO to seek a pact with far-right nationalists to retain power, as the two small parties backing his current minority government may not win enough seats to stay in parliament.
    A government made up of the two main opposition centre-right and centre-left blocs, which polls indicate could garner a majority, would likely improve Prague’s relations with European Union institutions and tone down anti-Brussels rhetoric.
    Babis has overseen years of rising prosperity but also been at the centre of conflict-of-interest investigations by the European Commission, a dragging police inquiry over accusations he improperly drew an EU subsidy, and fresh revelations that he used offshore firms to buy real estate in France.
    Pensioner Jana Peskova said she would vote for one of the two mainstream opposition groups with the hope the central European country will shore up its image, which she regarded as tainted by Babis’ scandals.
    “We have wasted…the country’s good name abroad that we had thanks to (first post-Communist leader) Vaclav Havel…, so our partners abroad would surely appreciate if we start again.”
    The largest opposition group, the centre-right Together coalition, put up billboards with a slogan seeking to capitalise on such sentiment: “We have a chance to have a prime minister not to be ashamed of.”
    “Babis is not trustworthy.    Whenever people point out doubts about his governance or those personal issues, he points at others and cannot explain the problem in a transparent way,” said Pavel Ebr, 39, a real estate manager.    “The pandemic could have also been managed better, as studies have shown.”
WAGE, PENSION HIKES
    Babis has nurtured the image of an effective manager and retains a strong voter core following increases in pensions and wages plus tax cuts, although the moves have raised budget deficits.
    He has overcome a dip in popularity after the country suffered one of Europe’s highest per-capita coronavirus death tolls amid government zigzagging on pandemic policies.
    Babis has deployed anti-Brussels, anti-immigration rhetoric and denounced EU carbon-reduction targets.    “We do not want more Brussels,” he said in an appeal to voters on Facebook.    “We will not let in a single illegal migrant.”
    Babis has denied any wrongdoing in connected with the offshore companies revelations, the fraud investigation and the European Commission inquiry, which determined he remains in control of the Agrofert business he had deposited in trust funds in 2017 before becoming prime minister.
    “ANO has ruled for some time and has helped people.    People have more money in their wallets,” said laboratory chemist Zuzana Krahulcova, 56.    “Everyone has some skeleton in the closet.    Babis entered politics a rich man and does not have a reason to enrich himself.”
    In final pre-election polls, ANO was just ahead of main opposition Together, followed by the liberal, centre-left Pirates/Mayors and the far-right Freedom and Direct Democracy party (SPD).
    The broadly pro-EU Together and Pirates/Mayors plan to form a coalition government if they secure enough votes for a majority.    The balance of power may be tipped by small parties on the brink of winning seats.
    President Milos Zeman has said he will give the biggest individual party, almost certainly Babis’ ANO, the first chance to form a cabinet.    Babis has not ruled out turning to the SPD if he must, but has rejected the top item on its agenda – a referendum on leaving the EU. {nL1N2QO1O6]
(Additional reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

10/7/2021 Polish Court Says Some EU Law Unconstitutional, Deepening Dispute by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk
FILE PHOTO: European Union and Polish flags flutter in Mazeikiai, Lithuania April 5, 2019. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins
    WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland’s highest court ruled on Thursday that parts of EU treaties are incompatible with the Polish constitution, challenging a key tenet of European integration in a sharp escalation of a dispute between Brussels and Warsaw.     The European Commission responded by saying the ruling raised serious concerns about the primacy of EU law, setting it on a collision course with Poland’s nationalist rulers after years of legal and political wrangling.
    “The Commission will not hesitate to make use of its powers under the Treaties to safeguard the uniform application and integrity of Union law,” the EU’s executive added in a statement.
    Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS) party government is embroiled in a series of highly charged rows with the EU on issues ranging from the independence of courts and media freedoms to LGBT rights.
    Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal took on the case after Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki asked it whether EU institutions could stop Poland from reorganising its judiciary.
    On Thursday, Judge Bartlomiej Sochanski said: “The EU Treaty is subordinate to the constitution in the Polish legal system … and, like any part of the Polish legal system, it must comply with the constitution.”
    Brussels accuses the PiS government of undermining judicial independence during sweeping reforms the party says aim to make the courts more efficient and rid them of the last vestiges of Communist-era influence.
    “In Poland the highest legal act is the constitution and all European regulations that are in force in Poland … must comply with the constitution,” PiS party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said after the verdict was announced.
    “This also applies to the judiciary and the European Union has nothing to say here,” he told reporters.
POLAND’S PLACE IN EU AT STAKE?
    Critics say that by challenging the supremacy of EU law, the PiS government not only jeopardises Poland’s long-term future in the 27-nation bloc but also the stability of the EU itself.
    PiS denies this and says it has no plans for a “Polexit.”    It also denies having any influence over court decisions.
    In its ruling, the Constitutional Tribunal said it has a right not only to check the constitutionality of EU law but also the rulings of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).
    It said that if the CJEU did not stop questioning the tribunal’s decisions and the status of its judges, it did not “exclude exercising its rights and examining the compliance of CJEU rulings with the constitution, including (the possibility) of removing them from the Polish legal system.”
    The European Commission’s statement said the ruling “raises serious concerns in relation to the primacy of EU law and the authority of the Court of Justice of the European Union.”
    “We will analyse the ruling of Polish Constitutional Tribunal in detail and we will decide on the next steps,” it added.
    The Tribunal started hearing the case in July but had adjourned it four times before Thursday’s sitting.
    Some critics say the delays may have been aimed at putting pressure on Brussels to accept Warsaw’s National Recovery Plan, an aid programme aimed at helping EU economies shake off the impact of the coronavirus pandemic but whose funding is linked to compliance with EU rule of law and democracy standards.
(Reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, Alan Charlish, Pawel Florkiewicz, Justyna Pawlak and Anna Koper in Warsaw; Jan Strupczewski in Brussels; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Andrew Heavens)

10/7/2021 NATO Chief Says Russia Expulsions Not Linked To Specific Event
FILE PHOTO: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg holds an online news conference after a NATO Foreign Ministers video meeting
following developments in Afghanistan, at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium August 20, 2021. Francisco Seco/Pool via REUTERS
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The expulsion of eight members of Russia’s mission to NATO is not linked to a particular event, but the alliance needs to be vigilant in the face of “malign” Russian activity, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday.
    Stoltenberg said the eight, whose expulsion was announced on Wednesday, were “undeclared Russian intelligence officers.”
    “This decision is not linked to any particular event, but we have seen over some time now, an increase in Russian malign activity, and therefore we need to be vigilant,” he told a news conference.
    The activities of the eight were not in line with their accreditations, Stoltenberg said, also describing relations with Russia as at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War.
    “That’s because of the Russian behaviour.    We have seen their aggressive actions,” he said, pointing to Russia’s military build-up along Ukraine’s border and what he said were violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
    Stoltenberg said NATO would continue its “dual-track” approach towards Russia of defence and dialogue.
    “We are ready also to convene a NATO-Russia council meeting.    We have actually invited Russia for now a long time.    So far, Russia has not responded positively,” he said.
    He said he had failed in talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the UN General Assembly last month to agree on a new meeting of the council, which he said was especially important to convene given current high tensions.
    The Kremlin said earlier on Thursday that the expulsions almost completely undermined its hopes that relations could be normalised and dialogue with NATO resumed.
    On Wednesday, a pro-Kremlin lawmaker said Moscow would retaliate, though not necessarily in kind.
(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten and Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Alex Richardson and John Stonestreet)

10/7/2021 Russia Charges Cybersecurity Executive With Treason – Reports
FILE PHOTO: Ilya Sachkov, head of Russia's Group IB cybersecurity company,
is seen in a car in Moscow, Russia November 9, 2018. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia has charged the chief executive of a leading Russian cybersecurity company with treason, local news agencies cited sources as saying on Thursday.
    Ilya Sachkov, founder and CEO of Group-IB, was arrested last week and put in custody for two months.    Law enforcement officers searched his firm’s Moscow offices.
    He has been charged with divulging state secrets, Interfax news agency said.    It did not say which information Sachkov had allegedly shared, nor with whom.
    Group-IB investigates high-tech crimes and online fraud, with international clients that include banks, energy companies, telecoms firms and Interpol.
    At the time of his arrest, which his lawyer said he would appeal, Sachkov denied allegations of working with unspecified foreign intelligence services and hurting Russia’s national interests, TASS reported.
    TASS and RIA, both state news agencies, said on Thursday he had been charged with treason, providing no details.
    Treason is punishable by up to 20 years in jail.    The details of such cases are rarely made public because of their classified nature.
    In a letter to President Vladimir Putin published in the Russian version of Forbes on Wednesday, Sachkov’s mother Lyudmila urged the president to have her son released, calling him “a sincere patriot.”
    Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the letter had not reached the presidential administration.
    “I understand his mother’s emotional state.    There are very serious charges against her son,” Peskov told reporters.     “But only a court can find a person guilty.”
(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Dmitry Antonov; editing by John Stonestreet)

10/7/2021 Kosovo Rebel Veterans’ Leaders Deny Charges Over Leaked Witness Data by Stephanie van den Berg
Leader of Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) veterans' association Hysni Gucati appears in court before the Kosovo Specialist
Chambers on charges of obstruction and intimidation for allegedly revealing names of protected witnesses who testified
before the special war crimes court, in The Hague, Netherlands October 7, 2021. REUTERS/Piroschka van De Wouw/Pool
    THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) veterans’ association pleaded not guilty at a war crimes tribunal on Thursday to charges of obstruction and intimidation for allegedly revealing names of protected witnesses.
    Prosecutors allege Hysni Gucati and Nasim Haradinaj, who run the association, gave Kosovo media and politicians confidential court documents last year that included names and personal data from witnesses involved in war crimes cases.
    According to specialist prosecutor Jack Smith there is a “small but powerful group” in Kosovo that opposes the court and will do anything to push “a false narrative” that there were no KLA crimes during the 1998-99 conflict with Serbia.
    “These accused are a part of this group that wants this court to go away at any cost,” Smith told judges.
    Gucati and Haradinaj risk a fine and a jail sentence of up to 10 years if they are convicted.
    “I am innocent, I have no connection to any of the points in the confirmed indictment,” Gucati said. Haradinaj also pleaded not guilty at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers tribunal.
    The veterans’ association wields considerable influence in Kosovo, where many former KLA fighters are now in political positions and KLA veterans are celebrated as national heroes.
    More than 13,000 people are believed to have died during the war, when Kosovo was still part of Serbia under the rule of late Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.    Fighting ended after NATO air strikes against Milosevic’s forces, and Kosovo is recognised as an independent country by the Unites States and the majority of European countries.
    The Kosovo Specialist Chambers was set up in 2015 under pressure from the European Union and the United States specifically to try crimes committed by ex-rebels, but veterans’ supporters see it as unfair.
    Witness intimidation has been a problem for local prosecutions of alleged KLA crimes in the past.    It is one of the reasons the Kosovo Specialist Chambers is seated in The Hague and has international staff.
    The trial of the KLA veterans’ leaders is the second trial that has opened before the Kosovo war crimes tribunal so far.
(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Alison Williams and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

10/7/2021 Czech Billionaire PM Babis Seeks New Term In Vote Too Close To Call by Jan Lopatka
FILE PHOTO: An election billboard for Czech Prime Minister and leader of ANO party Andrej Babis is seen ahead
of Czech parliamentary election in Prague, Czech Republic, Oct. 7, 2021. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo/File Photo
    PRAGUE (Reuters) – Czechs vote on Friday and Saturday in a tight election between populist leader Andrej Babis and a group of opposition parties who blame him for running up debt, mismanaging the coronavirus pandemic and mixing his business interests with those of the country.
    Babis’s centrist ANO party led in the latest opinion polls but the gap has narrowed in recent weeks to just a couple of percentage points between it and the two opposition groups who have pledged to work together to oust him.
    Babis has vowed to continue raising public sector wages and pensions, policies that have benefited his main support bases.
    His spending policies, which he has stuck with despite a broad recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, mark a diversion from traditional Czech fiscal prudence, and the country’s debt is set to rise at one of the fastest rates in Europe, albeit from a low base.
    The centre-right Together coalition and the progressive Pirates/Mayors refuse to work with Babis due to what they say are unacceptable conflicts of interest he has as the founder of the Agrofert food, farming, chemicals and media empire employing more than 30,000 people across central Europe.
    He says he met all legal obligations by putting the firms in trust funds in 2017 before he became prime minister.    A European Commission audit has determined otherwise, however, and it has stopped paying development grants to the group.
    Babis faced new allegations on Sunday of using opaque offshore structures to buy real estate in France before he entered politics.    He has denied any wrongdoing.
    The opposition also blame Babis for chaotic policy changes amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has cost the country more than 30,000 lives, one of the worst per-capita tolls in Europe.
    Babis has employed anti-migrant and anti-Brussels rhetoric in the campaign, pledging to defend national interests and blaming the Pirate/Mayors coalition in particular for failing the country by supporting more European integration and the eventual adoption of the euro.    The opposition includes a eurosceptic wing, however, and its European policies remain unclear.
    Babis will most likely have the first shot at forming a government, but he may find it difficult to find partners, especially if the two main opposition groups receive strong turnouts in the vote and few other parties win seats.
    He may try to team up with the far-right Freedom and Direct Democracy Party (SPD), despite opposing its demands to approve legislation allowing for a referendum to leave the EU.
    Victory for the opposition would remove a thorn in the side of relations with Brussels by ending Babis’s conflict-of-interest spats.    It would also set the Czechs further apart from regional partners Hungary and Poland, who have been at loggerheads with the EU over upholding democratic standards.
    “Babis is a small fish compared with what is going on in Poland and Hungary, but he has a problem of a similar type and thus the Commission cannot go against Hungary and Poland and ignore what is going on here,” said European studies lecturer Tomas Weiss from the Charles University.
    “The moment he goes, this acute problem disappears.”
(Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

10/8/2021 Poland’s PM Welcomes Polish Court Ruling Challenging Primacy Of EU Law
FILE PHOTO: European Union and Polish flags flutter in Mazeikiai, Lithuania April 5, 2019. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo
    WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki welcomed a Polish court ruling that said some parts of European Union treaties are incompatible with the Polish constitution in a Facebook post on Friday.
    The ruling, announced Thursday, challenges a pillar of European integration and sharply escalates a dispute between Brussels and Warsaw, with the European Commission saying it raised serious concerns.
    Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS) party government is embroiled in a battle of values with Brussels, focused on disputes over the independence of courts, media freedoms, LGBT rights and other issues.
    The prime minister had requested the Constitutional Tribunal to rule on whether EU law has primacy over the Polish constitution.
    “We want a community of respect and not a grouping of those who are equal and more equal. This is our community, our Union,” he said in the Facebook post, referring to the European Union.
    “This is the kind of Union we want and that’s the kind of Union we will create,” Morawiecki said in the post published in the early hours of Friday.
    He also said that Poland wants to stay in the “European family of nations.”
    Critics have said that by going further and challenging the supremacy of EU law, the PiS government not only jeopardises Poland’s long-term future in the 27-nation bloc but also the stability of the EU itself.
(Reporting by Joanna Plucinska. Editing by Jane Merriman)

10/8/2021 ‘You Are Playing With Fire’: EU Faces Crisis Over Polish Court Ruling by Sabine Siebold and Alicja Ptak
FILE PHOTO: The flags of Poland and European Union flutter in front of the
Polish parliament in Warsaw June 29, 2011. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    WARSAW (Reuters) -A Polish court ruling challenging the supremacy of European Union law plunged the EU into an existential crisis on Friday, increasing fears among EU policymakers and many Poles that Poland could eventually leave the bloc.
    Politicians across Europe voiced dismay at the ruling by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/why-polish-court-ruling-is-crisis-eu-what-might-happen-next-2021-10-08 on Thursday that parts of EU law are incompatible with the Polish constitution, undermining the legal pillar on which the 27-nation EU stands.
    Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said she was “deeply concerned” and that the EU executive she leads would do all in its power to ensure the primacy of EU law.
    She said in a statement that the EU’s 450 million citizens and its businesses need legal certainty, and the Commission would carry out a swift analysis to decide its next steps.
    “We have to state clearly that this government in Poland is playing with fire,” Luxembourg’s minister for foreign affairs, Jean Asselborn, said on arrival for a meeting of EU ministers in Luxembourg.
    “The primacy of European law is essential for the integration of Europe and living together in Europe.    If this principle is broken, Europe as we know it, as it has been built with the Rome treaties, will cease to exist.”
    Poland may have to consider the economic risks of its clash with the EU because until the issue is resolved, it is unlikely to see any of the 23 billion euros ($26.61 billion) in EU grants and 34 billion in cheap loans that it could otherwise count on as part of the EU’s recovery fund after the COVID-19 pandemic.
    The EU could even raise doubts about Polish access to EU grants for cohesion and structural projects in the 2021-2027 budget worth several times the recovery package, on the grounds that a country that rejects EU law cannot guarantee that the funds are spent as agreed, free of fraud.
    “If European legal acts are no longer accepted, it is questionable whether Poland can still profit from the enormous amounts of EU funding it currently receives,” said Monika Hohlmeier, a member of the European Parliament from the centre-right group of the European People’s Party.
‘POLEXIT’
    Poland’s ruling nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS) says it has no plans for a “Polexit” and – unlike Britain before its Brexit referendum in 2016 – popular support for membership of the EU remains high in Poland.
    Poland’s membership since 2004 has helped drive some of the fastest economic growth in Europe. With an increasingly assertive Russia unnerving some central and eastern European states that were for decades under Communist rule, many Poles see the EU as an essential part of national security.
    But, welcoming the court ruling, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said each member state must be treated with respect and the EU should not be only “a grouping of those who are equal and more equal.”
    Right-wing populist governments in Poland and Hungary have found themselves increasingly at odds with the European Commission over issues ranging from LGBT rights to judicial independence.
    Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal took on the case after Morawiecki asked it whether EU institutions could stop Poland reorganising its judiciary.
    However, a Eurobarometer survey carried out in June and July 2021 showed that almost twice as many Poles trust the EU as trust their own national government.
    “I think…there is a risk that we could exit the EU, because all of these actions which are happening can lead to that, step by step,” said Warsaw pensioner Grazyna Gulbinowicz.
    “I think it would have a very negative impact on our overall situation, because things are not easy and without EU funds it will be even more difficult, not to mention the fact that we will feel isolated.”
($1 = 3.9872 zlotys)
($1 = 0.8643 euros)
(Additional reporting by Jan Strupczewski and Francesco Guarascio in Brussels, Joanna Plucinska in Warsaw and Dominique Vidalon in Paris, Writing by John Chalmers and Alan Charlish, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

10/8/2021 Hungary PM Orban Flags Further Wage Hikes Ahead Of 2022 Election
FILE PHOTO: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks during a business
conference in Budapest, Hungary, June 9, 2021. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
    BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary will raise nurses’ salaries by 21% from January and plans to lift the monthly minimum wage to 200,000 forints ($644), Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio on Friday.
    Orban, who faces elections next year, said talks on the minimum wage hike were still underway.    The government will cut taxes for businesses if they are ready to raise the minimum wage, he added.
    He also flagged a 10% pay hike for teachers for 2022.
    Orban’s handouts for voters ahead of what is expected to be a tight election include measures such as a $2-billion income-tax rebate for families, a waiver of income tax for young workers, grants for home renovations and extra pension payments.
($1=310.41 forints)
(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

10/8/2021 Journalists Who Took On Putin And Duterte Win 2021 Nobel Peace Prize by Nerijus Adomaitis, Andrew Osborn and Karen Lema
FILE PHOTO: Maria Ressa, journalist and CEO of the Rappler news website, poses before a news conference to
launch a commission to draft an "International Declaration on Information and Democracy" hold by Human rights group
Reporters Without Borders in Paris, France, September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo
    OSLO/MOSCOW/MANILA (Reuters) -Journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov, who braved the wrath of the leaders of the Philippines and Russia to expose corruption and misrule, won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, in an endorsement of free speech under fire worldwide.
    The two were awarded “for their courageous fight for freedom of expression” in their countries, Chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen of the Norwegian Nobel Committee told a news conference.
    “At the same time, they are representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions,” she added.    “Free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda.”
    Muratov dedicated his award to six contributors to his Novaya Gazeta newspaper who had been murdered for their work exposing human rights violations and corruption.
    “Igor Domnikov, Yuri Shchekochikhin, Anna Politkovskaya, Stas Markelov, Anastasia Baburova, Natasha Estemirova – these are the people who have today won the Nobel Prize,” Muratov said, reciting the names of slain reporters and activists whose portraits hang in the newspaper’s Moscow headquarters.
    In an interview with Reuters in Manila, Ressa called the prize “a global recognition of the journalist’s role in repairing, fixing our broken world.”
    “It’s never been as hard to be journalist as it is today,” said Ressa, a 35-year veteran journalist, who said she was tested by years of legal cases in the Philippines brought by the authorities over the work of her Rappler investigative website.
    “You don’t really know who you are until you are forced to fight for it.” [L4N2R42EI]
FIRST FOR JOURNALISTS IN 86 YEARS
    The prize is the first Nobel Peace Prize for journalists since the German Carl von Ossietzky won it in 1935 for revealing his country’s secret post-war rearmament programme.
    Muratov, 59, is the first Russian to win the peace prize since Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990. Gorbachev himself has long been associated with Muratov’s newspaper, having contributed some of his Nobel prize money to help set it up in the early post-Soviet days when Russians expected new freedoms.
    Ressa, 58, is the first winner of a Nobel prize in any field from the Philippines. Rappler, which she co-founded in 2012, has grown prominent through investigative reporting, including into large scale killings during a police campaign against drugs.
    In August, a Philippine court dismissed a libel case against Ressa, one of several lawsuits filed against the journalist who says she has been targeted because of her news site’s critical reports on President Rodrigo Duterte.
    She was one of several journalists named Time Magazine Person of the Year in 2018 for fighting media intimidation, and her legal battles have raised international concern about the harassment of media in the Philippines, a country once seen as a standard bearer for press freedom in Asia.
    In Moscow, Nadezhda Prusenkova, a journalist at Novaya Gazeta, told Reuters staff were surprised and delighted.
    “We’re shocked.    We didn’t know,” said Prusenkova.    “Of course we’re happy and this is really cool.”
    Russian journalists have faced an increasingly difficult environment in recent years, with many being forced to register as agents of foreign states, a designation that invites official paperwork and public contempt.
    “We will leverage this prize in the interests of Russian journalism which (the authorities) are now trying to repress,” Muratov told Podyom, a journalism website.    “We will try to help people who have been recognised as agents, who are now being treated like dirt and being exiled from the country.”
SPOTLIGHT
    Reiss-Andersen said the Nobel committee intended the award to send a message about the importance of rigorous journalism at a time when technology has made it easier than ever to spread falsehoods.
    “We find that people are manipulated by the press, and … fact-based, high-quality journalism is in fact more and more restricted,” she told Reuters.
    It was also was a way to shine a light on the difficult situations for journalists, specifically under the leadership in Russia and the Philippines, she added.
    “I don’t have insight in the minds of neither Duterte, nor Putin.    But what they will discover is that the attention is directed towards their nations, and where they will have to defend the present situation, and I am curious how they will respond,” Reiss-Andersen told Reuters.
    The Kremlin congratulated Muratov.
    “He persistently works in accordance with his own ideals, he is devoted to them, he is talented, he is brave,” said spokesman Dmitry Peskov https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/kremlin-welcomes-fact-that-editor-who-criticises-it-won-nobel-peace-prize-2021-10-08.
    The award will give both journalists greater international visibility and may inspire a new generation of journalists, said Dan Smith, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
    “We normally expect that greater visibility actually means greater protection for the rights and the safety of the individuals concerned,” he told Reuters.
    The Nobel Peace Prize will be presented on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who founded the awards in his 1895 will.
(Additional reporting by Victoria Klesty and Nora Buli in Oslo, Karen Lema in Manila, Andrew Osborn, Tom Balmforth and Gleb Stolyarov in Moscow, Emma Farge in Geneva, Writing by Gwladys Fouche and Terje Solsvik; Editing by Peter Graff)

10/8/2021 Russia Names Bellingcat Investigative Outlet ‘Foreign Agent’
FILE PHOTO: Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins gives a press conference opposite
the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, October 9, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia on Friday designated the Bellingcat investigative news outlet a “foreign agent” along with nine people who work for Russian language news outlets or non-governmental organisations.
    The designations, which targeted one employee of the BBC’s Russian service, are the latest twist in a crackdown on media outlets that the authorities in Moscow see as hostile and foreign-backed.
    The outlets and Western governments say the campaign is designed to hamper their work and muffle dissent, something the Kremlin denies.
    The foreign agent designation has Cold War-era connotations and requires designees to prominently indicate in all their content that they are “foreign agents,” something which hurts advertising revenue.    It also imposes burdensome financial reporting requirements.
    The Ministry of Justice said in a statement it had added three companies to its foreign agent registry, including Dutch-registered entity Stichting Bellingcat.
    Nine individuals were also named, including reporters for U.S. broadcaster RFE/RL and its affiliates as well as a media rights activist.
    The announcement came the same day as the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Russian newspaper editor Dmitry Muratov along with a journalist from the Philippines, in what the committee called an endorsement of free speech rights in jeopardy around the world.
    Bellingcat has angered Moscow for years with investigations into the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and the downing of the MH17 passenger plane over eastern Ukraine.
    “What took you so long?” tweeted Christo Grozev, an investigator for Bellingcat.
    “Bellingcat has been deemed such a threat to Russia that we’ve been declared a foreign agent,” said Eliot Higgins, Bellingcat’s founder.    “I guess this is the Russian Nobel Prize?
(Reporting by Tom Balmforth; editing by Andrew Osborn)

10/8/2021 Austrian Government Teeters As Greens Seek Options To Oust PM Kurz by Francois Murphy
FILE PHOTO: Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz attends a news conference,
in Vienna, Austria, September 8, 2021. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo
    VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria’s governing coalition was on the brink of collapse on Friday as its junior party said it wanted to oust Chancellor Sebastian Kurz now that he has been placed under investigation on suspicion of corruption offences.
    Kurz denies wrongdoing and says he is willing to keep governing with the Greens.    But the left-wing party, which campaigned on a platform of “clean politics,” has said the investigation makes Kurz unfit to serve chancellor.
    The Greens began talks on Friday with Austria’s three opposition parties, which have all demanded that Kurz resign and plan to submit one or more no-confidence motions against him at a special session of parliament on Tuesday.    For a motion to pass, the Greens must support it – which is increasingly likely.
    “We will now sound out what the possibilities are,” Greens leader and vice chancellor Werner Kogler told reporters before meeting the leader of the Social Democrats, Pamela Rendi-Wagner.
    The Greens say they want Kurz’s People’s Party (OVP) to depose Kurz and suggest a successor.    But the OVP has thrown its support behind Kurz and said that if he goes, the OVP’s participation in the government will end. Most opposition parties say they do not want a snap election.
    “Such a person (Kurz) is no longer capable of performing his duties, and of course the OVP has a responsibility here to nominate someone who is beyond reproach to lead this government,” the Greens’ leader in parliament, Sigi Maurer, told reporters as she stood next to Kogler.
    Since the OVP has refused to name a replacement, talks with the opposition are taking place, she added.
    President Alexander Van der Bellen, who has the power to dismiss the chancellor or the entire cabinet and oversees periods of transition, also consulted party leaders.    While he emphasised the importance of the presumption of innocence, he had stern words clearly aimed at Kurz.
    “I have different expectations of the behaviour of those in positions of political responsibility,” Van der Bellen said in an address to the nation, referring to damning text-message exchanges mentioned in prosecutors’ investigation as well as recent public statements, but without mentioning Kurz by name.
    Van der Bellen, a former leader of the Greens, has been particularly critical of repeated accusations by Kurz and the OVP that anti-corruption prosecutors are biased against them.    Prosecutors’ and judges’ groups have denied that, and denounced it as an attempt to intimidate them.
    Prosecutors said on Wednesday they had placed Kurz and nine others under investigation on suspicion of breach of trust, corruption and bribery with various levels of involvement.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy; editing by Kevin Liffey and Mark Heinrich)

10/8/2021 Norway’s Labour, Centre Agree To Form Minority Government
FILE PHOTO: Norwegian Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Stoere answers questions from reporters outside his home,
a day after parliamentary election in Oslo, Norway, September 14, 2021. NTB/Terje Bendiksby via REUTERS
    OSLO (Reuters) -Norway’s leftwing Labour Party and the rural Centre Party said on Friday they have agreed to form a minority government, the culmination of almost four weeks of negotiations following last month’s election win.
    The deal paves the way for Labour leader Jonas Gahr Stoere https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/winner-norways-election-is-wealthy-champion-common-people-2021-09-13 to become prime minister next week, replacing Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg who said after losing the election that she plans to step down.
    The new government will present a detailed policy document on Oct. 13, Stoere and Centre Party leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum told a news conference.
    Left-leaning opposition parties won a large majority https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/norway-opposition-expected-win-election-fought-oil-inequality-2021-09-13 in the Sept. 13 election, but talks to form a majority government collapsed https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/norways-socialists-pull-out-talks-form-majority-government-2021-09-29 amid disagreements over climate change and taxes, leading to the formation of a minority cabinet.
    Labour’s Stoere, who had argued that a majority government would provide the greatest degree of predictability for the country, must now negotiate policy proposals and spending plans on a case-by-case basis in parliament.
    Minority governments are common in Norway, however, and incumbent Prime Minister Erna Solberg of the Conservatives has ruled in a minority for most of her eight years in power.
(Reporting by Gwladys Fouche and Terje Solsvik)

10/8/2021 Poland Says Belarusian Services Fired Towards Its Troops
FILE PHOTO: A view of a vehicle next to a fence built by Polish soldiers on the border between
Poland and Belarus near the village of Nomiki, Poland August 26, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland summoned the Belarusian charge d’affaires on Friday, a foreign ministry spokesman said, after border guards accused the Belarusian side of shooting at Polish soldiers patrolling the frontier.
    Poland has imposed a state of emergency on the Belarusian border amid a surge in migrants from countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq trying to cross, in what Brussels and Warsaw say is a form of hybrid warfare designed to put pressure on the bloc over sanctions it imposed on Minsk.
    “A Belarusian patrol fired shots at Polish Army soldiers who are patrolling the border with us,” the state-run PAP news agency quoted Border Guard spokeswoman Anna Michalska as saying.
    “It was probably using blank ammunition.    Nothing happened to anyone.”
    Foreign ministry spokesman Lukasz Jasina said the charge d’affaires Alaksandr Czasnouski had been summoned to discuss “provocations” from the Belarusian side on the border, including the reported shots.
    As he left the ministry Czasnouski denied there had been any shooting at the border.
    In August, Poland began building a barbed wire fence along its border with Belarus to curb illegal border crossings despite criticism that some migrants were being treated inhumanely.
    Poland plans to strengthen its border with a system of motion sensors and cameras, modelling it on the Greek border with Turkey, its interior minister has said.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish and Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by Gareth Jones)

10/8/2021 Georgia Detains Four At Rally In Support Of Jailed Ex-President – Report
FILE PHOTO: Georgia's former President Mikheil Saakashvili speaks with journalists after his meeting with members of
Ukraine's Servant of the People parliamentary faction in Kiev, Ukraine April 24, 2020. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Police in Georgia detained four protesters on Friday outside a prison holding ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili, local media reported, a week after he was jailed after returning from exile and calling for post-election protests.
    Saakashvili, who was sentenced in absentia in Georgia in 2018 for abuse of power and concealing evidence when he was president, returned to the country ahead of last weekend’s municipal elections after spending years abroad.
    His supporters staged a rally outside the prison near the capital, Tbilisi.    They clashed with police as they tried to paint the words “Freedom for Misha” — his nickname — on a fence surrounding the facility, the Sputnik Georgia news outlet reported.
    The ex-president’s supporters have pledged to continue rallying to call for his release.
    Saakashvili declared a hunger strike after being jailed on Oct. 1.
    His lawyer said he was in good spirits but that his health had begun to deteriorate and that he had lost a lot of weight, RIA news agency reported on Friday.
    Saakashvili, who led the Rose Revolution in 2003 that ended the presidency of Eduard Shevardnadze, is a charismatic figurehead for some in the opposition, but is derided as a clown by detractors in the ruling Georgian Dream party.
    Georgian Dream won 46.7% at the local elections https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/georgia-ruling-party-takes-lead-local-voting-amid-political-crisis-2021-10-03 last weekend, beating the United National Movement opposition party founded by Saakashvili that received 30.7%.
    Nika Melia, chairman of UNM, is set to take part in the second round of Tbilisi’s mayoral election on Oct. 30.
(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Frances Kerry)

10/8/2021 Czechs Vote In Final Day Of Election As PM Babis Seeks To Cling To Power by Jason Hovet
Czech Prime Minister and leader of ANO party, Andrej Babis, looks on ahead of casting his vote in
parliamentary elections in Lovosice, Czech Republic October 8, 2021. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
    PRAGUE (Reuters) – Czechs wrap up voting in a tight election on Saturday in which Prime Minister Andrej Babis battled criticism that he mismanaged the pandemic, stoked fast-rising debt with handouts and tend to his own business interests in office.
    The billionaire Babis, who denies all the accusations, and his populist ANO party took a slight poll lead into the central European country’s election, which started on Friday and closes on Saturday at 2 p.m. CET (1200 GMT).
    Results will begin arriving in the first few hours after voting booths close.
    Babis vowed in his campaign to continue raising public sector wages and pensions, hoping to shore up the basis of his popular support after years of rising prosperity.
    But he faced a strong challenge from the centre-right Together coalition and the progressive Pirates/Mayors bloc that refused to work with the billionaire leader over what they said were his unacceptable conflicts of interest related to the business empire he created before entering politics.
    While pre-election polls indicated the ANO was unlikely to secure a majority, Babis’s party looked certain to emerge as the biggest vote getter, giving the premier the first shot at forming the next government.
    But ANO may struggle to find governing partners, with two parties that backed his outgoing minority government at risk of losing their lower house seats.    That could force ANO to seek an alliance with the far-right Freedom and Direct Democracy Party.
    His big-spending policies, which he has stuck with despite a broad recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, mark a break from traditional Czech fiscal prudence.    The European Union member state’s debt is set to be among the fastest growing in the bloc, albeit from a low base.
    The opposition also blame Babis for chaotic policy changes during the pandemic, which has claimed more than 30,000 Czech lives, one of Europe’s worst per-capita death tolls.
    Conflict of interest allegations, however, have been Babis’ main headache since first entering government as a junior member in 2013 and after winning his first election in 2017.
    The 67-year-old put his Agrofert conglomerate of food, agriculture, chemical and media companies in trust funds that year and has denied wrongdoing, saying the moves met legal obligations.    But a European Commission audit determined otherwise and it has stopped development grants to Agrofert.
    Then last Sunday new allegations surfaced – which he also denied – that he used opaque offshore structures to buy real estate in France before entering politics.
    In campaigning, Babis employed anti-migrant and anti-EU rhetoric and accused the Pirate/Mayors coalition of selling out the country by supporting more European integration and eventual adoption of the euro.
(Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

10/8/2021 France And Germany Say Poland Must Abide By EU Rules
FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: A police officer stands outside Poland's Constitutional Tribunal building, as people
attend a demonstration during a session of the tribunal, ruling on whether several articles of EU Treaties comply
with the Polish Constitution, in Warsaw, Poland September 22, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel//File Photo
    PARIS (Reuters) – Poland has a legal and moral obligation as a member of the European Union to abide by the bloc’s rules completely and unconditionally, the foreign ministers of France and Germany said in a joint statement issued on Friday.
    Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal on Thursday ruled that parts of EU law are incompatible with the Polish constitution, undermining the legal pillar on which the 27-nation EU stands, and prompting expressions of dismay from politicians across Europe.
    The joint statement, issued by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and his German counterpart Heiko Maas, said the ministers had taken note of the Polish tribunal’s decision.
    “We remind you that membership of the European Union goes hand in hand with a complete and unconditional adherence to common values and rules,” the statement said.
    “It is incumbent on each member, and therefore of course on Poland, which occupies a vital place within the European Union, to respect these rules and values.”
    “This is not simply a moral commitment.    It is also a legal commitment,” the statement said.
(Reporting by Tangi Salaun; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Sandra Maler)

10/8/2021 Serbs Say They Will Pull Their Region Out Of Bosnia’s Army, Judiciary, Tax System
FILE PHOTO: Member of Bosnia and Herzegovina's Presidency Milorad Dodik speaks during the Budapest
Demographic Summit in Budapest, Hungary, September 23, 2021. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo/File Photo
    SARAJEVO (Reuters) – Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, who advocates the secession of the Serb-dominated region from Bosnia, said on Friday that the Serb Republic will pull out of the Balkan country’s armed forces, top judiciary body and tax administration.
    The three institutions represent key pillars of joint security, rule of law and the economic system in Bosnia, which was divided into two autonomous regions – the Serb Republic and the Federation dominated by Croats and Bosniaks – after its 1992-1995 war in which 100,000 died and nearly 2 million left their homes.
    Dodik, who currently serves as the Serb member of Bosnia’s tripartite inter-ethnic presidency, has spearheaded measures to obstruct the central government after a former peace envoy imposed a law criminalising the denial of genocide and war crimes in end-July.
    “The agreement we have given for the defence law, the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council and the Indirect Taxation Authority will be withdrawn,” Dodik said after a meeting of his SNSD party in the Bosnian Serb main city of Banja Luka.
    “These decisions will be annulled. The Republika Srpska National Assembly will pass regulations and conclusions on how to regulate that,” Dodik said.    SNSD with its coalition partners holds a majority in the region’s parliament.
    He said several expert groups have been working on drafting the Serb Republic’s new constitution and laws on the region’s defence, judiciary and finances.
    Dodik has been blacklisted by the United States for violating the provisions of the Dayton peace accords that ended Bosnia’s war.    He said the moves announced on Friday will not contravene the constitution, which is part of the Dayton deal, because the three institutions were formed based on decisions by international peace envoys and not enshrined in the constitution.
    He also said that Bosnia’s territorial integrity would be preserved.
    Critics say the regional parliament cannot annul the decisions that were approved in state parliament.
    Measures such as Friday’s announcement are deepening the political crisis in Bosnia, where decision-making has been blocked most of the time in recent years by conflicting interests of its rival ethnic leaders.
(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic in Sarajevo; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

10/8/2021 Ukraine’s Ruling Party Installs New Parliament Speaker After Wrangle Over Reforms by Ilya Zhegulev
Newly appointed Parliament Speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk, a lawmaker from the ruling Servant of the People party,
reacts during a session of parliament in Kyiv, Ukraine October 8, 2021. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
    KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine’s parliament on Friday voted to appoint Ruslan Stefanchuk, a lawmaker from the ruling Servant of the People party, as the new speaker to replace Dmytro Razumkov after a dispute over a law targeting the influence of oligarchs.
    President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s party had this week voted to remove Razumkov, accusing him of putting his own interests above those of the party, in a move opposition lawmakers criticised as trying to silence independent voices.
    In September the parliament, or Rada, passed a law that establishes a legal definition of an oligarch and stipulates that anybody falling under its criteria would be forbidden from financing political parties or taking part in privatisations.
    Razumkov had been a member of Zelenskiy’s core election team when the president swept to a landslide victory in 2019.
    But as speaker, he opposed the quick passage of the oligarch law, saying it should be vetted by the Venice Commission, a panel of constitutional law experts of the human rights body Council of Europe.
    After his dismissal, Razumkov told Reuters in an interview on Friday evening he was not against fighting corruption but against Zelenskiy’s version of the oligarch law, which gave the president and his national security council the legal power to define who met the definition of an oligarch.
    “It’s not normal if the authorities make decisions on who is good and who is bad for them.    This is the direct conflict of interests,” Razumkov said.
    He said the authorities were now trying to diminish parliament’s role as an institution.
    It was important for the head of the Rada not to be just a representative of the president’s office, he said.
    Razumkov had been suspended on Tuesday and his dismissal was confirmed by 284 votes in the 450-seat parliament on Thursday, where Servant of the People commands a majority.
    Razumkov said he will stay in politics but declined to say if he plans to challenge Zelenskiy at the next presidential election, which is due in 2024.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Natalia Zinets and Ilya Zhegulev; Writing by Matthias Williams and Andrey Ostroukh; editing by Mark Heinrich)

10/8/2021 Croatia Confirms Migrant Pushback, Greece Promises Inquiry
FILE PHOTO: Migrants walk towards the Bosnia-Croatia border in attempt to cross it
what they call "the game", near Velika Kladusa, September 29, 2020. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
    ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatia acknowledged on Friday that its police officers had participated in a violent pushback of migrants on the border with Bosnia, and Greece promised to investigate reports of similar action by its officials.
    Several European media outlets reported this week that Greek and Croatian officials were illegally and sometimes violently pushing back migrants.    The European Union’s executive called for an investigation on Thursday.
    Reuters has not independently verified the media reports.
    Croatia’s national chief police director Nikola Milina said three policemen involved belong to a special intervention unit and will now face disciplinary procedures.
    “We don’t want any such incident tarnishing the image of the Croatian police and the good work it conducts in border control and fighting migrant smugglers,” he said.
    Croatia’s interior minister Davor Bozinovic said the investigation related to an incident in June.
    Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said on Friday he had told EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson that the claims would be investigated.
    “Every claim made is investigated by the judiciary and by our internal audit,” he told reporters at an EU meeting in Luxembourg.
    Johansson earlier said EU countries needed to protect the bloc’s external borders, but that they also had to uphold the rule of law and fundamental rights.
    Under international law, migrants have a right to claim asylum and it is forbidden to send potential asylum-seekers back to where their lives or well-being might be in danger.
    Twelve migration and interior ministers from Austria, Denmark, Greece and eastern European countries wrote on Thursday to the European Commission calling for new tools to avoid, rather than have to deal with, overburdened migrant systems.
    Illegal migration was being used for political purposes, they said.
    Poland and fellow EU states Lithuania and Latvia have reported sharp increases in migrants from countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq trying to cross the border from Belarus, in what Brussels and Warsaw say is a form of hybrid warfare by Minsk.
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold, Karolina Tagaris, Igor Ilic; Editing by Benoit Van Overstraeten, Catherine Evans, Philip Blenkinsop and Raissa Kasolowsky)

10/9/2021 Finland Limits Moderna Vaccine After Reports Of Side Effects In Younger Males by OAN Newsroom
LAHTI, FINLAND – FEBRUARY 25: A Finland flag is waved as the skiers compete in the Men’s Cross Country Skiathlon during
the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships on February 25, 2017 in Lahti, Finland. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
    Finland pauses the use of Moderna vaccines in certain age groups.
    On Thursday, Finland joined Sweden, Norway and Denmark in pausing the use of Moderna vaccines due to reports of rare cardiovascular side effects found in younger males.    The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare announced males under 30 would be offered the Pfizer vaccine instead, after studies found younger males were at a slightly higher risk of developing heart issues with Moderna.
    “An increased risk of side effects such as inflammation of the heart muscle or the pericardium [the double-walled sac containing the heart and the roots of the main vessels].    The risk of being affected is very small,” said Sweden’s Public Health Agency.
    All four countries based their decision on an unpublished study with Sweden’s Public Health Agency and although the study suggests risks of being affected are small, the Nordic countries have encouraged using other vaccines for now.
[SOMEBODY TELL JOE BIDEN TO TELL HIS MINIONS TO STOP TORTURING OUR CHILDREN WITH A VACCINNE THEY DO NOT NEED.].

10/9/2021 Czech Voters Oust Communists From Parliament For First Time Since 1948 by Michael Kahn and Robert Muller
FILE PHOTO: People cast their ballots during the parliamentary elections
in Lovosice, Czech Republic, October 8, 2021. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
    PRAGUE (Reuters) – Czech voters evicted the communists from parliament on Saturday for the first time since the end of World War Two, voting out a party whose forebears ruled the central European nation from 1948 until the Velvet Revolution of 1989 that ushered in democracy.
    The communists jailed tens of thousands in forced labor camps in the 1950s and brutally repressed dissidents such as playwright-turned-president Vaclav Havel, but remained in parliament following the revolution.
    In this week’s election https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/czechs-vote-final-day-election-pm-babis-seeks-cling-power-2021-10-08, the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia took 3.62% of the votes with nearly all precincts reporting, less than the 5% needed to enter parliament and potentially marking a final chapter for a party that has gradually shrunk as its ageing membership dwindled.
    “It pleases me, it pleases me a lot,” Jiri Gruntorad, 69, a former dissident who signed the dissident Charter 77 statement and was jailed for subversion from 1981 to 1985 by the communist authorities, told Reuters.    “But it’s coming too late.”
    “It was one of the last communist parties in the world apart from the Chinese and Cuban ones that held on to its name.    The others have at least renamed themselves and started behaving a little differently.”
Voters also handed a defeat to Prime Minister Andrej Babis’ ANO party against centre-right opposition group Together in a surprise result.
    After 1989, the communists sought to appeal to senior citizens and working class Czechs but they never resonated with younger voters and failed to shake the party’s history with others as a totalitarian rulers who had stifled freedom.
    “I am very disappointed because it is a really big failure,” said Communist Party leader Vojtech Filip, who also resigned.
POST-1989
    Havel opposed banning the party — which resisted the country’s European Union and NATO membership and kept warm ties with Russia and China — despite calls from the public to do so.
    The communists lingered mostly in isolation after 1989, though they cooperated with other parties seeking votes to pass legislation in parliament.    They were also close to current President Milos Zeman.
    The party regained influence in 2018 when Babis — a former Communist Party member — leaned on them to support his minority government with the Social Democrats.
    It was the closest the party came to power since 1989 but appears also to represent their final act as a political force in the former Soviet-bloc nation.
    “I am overjoyed that this era is now over – not only for those of us still living, but also for those who have passed away and who were persecuted by the regime,” said Hana Palcova, 74, who left the country under threat from the secret police.
(Writing by Michael Kahn; Additional reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Mike Harrison)

10/9/2021 Czech Opposition Grabs Election Win From PM Babis, Wants To Form Government by Jan Lopatka and Jason Hovet
Czech Prime Minister and leader of ANO party, Andrej Babis, looks on ahead of casting his vote
in parliamentary elections in Lovosice, Czech Republic October 8, 2021. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
    PRAGUE (Reuters) - Czech centre-right opposition group Together beat Prime Minister Andrej Babis’s ANO party in a surprise parliamentary election result on Saturday and pledged to form a new government with allies who will have a combined majority of seats.
    Together and another opposition group, the liberal Pirates/Mayors, were on track to win a combined 108 seats in the 200-seat lower house of parliament, a calculation by Czech Television showed.
    This gives the two parties a chance to replace Babis and his two allied parties, which both dropped out of parliament in the two-day election that ended at mid-day on Saturday.
    Babis, 67, battled criticism during the campaign that he mismanaged the coronavirus pandemic, stoked fast-rising debt with handouts and tended to his own business interests in office.    Babis has denied all the accusations.
    “We have brought a chance that we will stop getting in debt, that we will remain a part of democratic Europe,” Together leader Petr Fiala, 57, a former political science lecturer and university rector, told reporters.
    “Within 24 hours, negotiations will take place with the leaders of the Pirates/Mayors.    The results are clear, the democratic opposition won a clear majority.”
    Results from 99.97% of voting districts showed Together at 27.78%, pulling ahead of ANO with 27.13% and the Pirates/Mayors at 15.60%.
    The coalitions refuse to work with Babis over what they say are his unacceptable conflicts of interest related to the business empire he created before entering politics.
    The opposition has pledged to cut the budget deficit and improve government transparency.
    It may have to bridge differences among its members on policies such as the approach to European Union partners, with one faction eurosceptic but some others favouring more European integration.
    The Communist Party, which had backed Babis’ minority administration for the past four years, dropped out of parliament for the first time since just after World War Two. His other partner, the centre-left Social Democrats, also dropped out of parliament.
PRESIDENT FAVOURS ANO
    The result is a blow to President Milos Zeman, an ally of Babis, and the Communists, voted out of parliament for the first time since the end of World War Two.
    Zeman has indicated he would still give Babis the first attempt to form a government if ANO won the most votes, which it did as an individual party – a scenario that could keep Babis in power for months and which the opposition have feared.
    Babis conceded Together won more votes as a coalition but did not signal a move into opposition.
    “If the president authorises me to do so, I will lead talks on forming a cabinet,” he said.
    This is despite the fact that he has no mathematical chance for a majority if Together – a coalition of three centre-right liberal and conservative parties – and Pirates/Mayors stick to their pledge to work together.
    Babis was due to meet Zeman on Sunday and again on Wednesday.
    Fiala, speaking to reporters amid the cheers of party members, said that any government must be backed by a majority in parliament and he expected the president to respect that.
    Babis’ big-spending policies, maintained despite a broad recovery from the pandemic, marked a break from traditional Czech fiscal prudence. Debt is set to be among the fastest growing in the EU, albeit from a low base.
    The opposition has also blamed Babis for chaotic policy changes during the peak of the pandemic.    More than 30,000 people have died from the virus, one of Europe’s highest death tolls in terms of the size of the population.
    Babis has also been plagued by conflict of interest allegations since he entered government as a junior member in 2013 and after winning a 2017 election.
    Babis put his Agrofert conglomerate of food, agriculture, chemical and media companies in trust funds in 2017 and has denied wrongdoing, saying he met legal obligations.    But a European Commission audit determined there was a conflict of interest and it has stopped development grants to Agrofert.
(Additional reporting by Robert Muller; editing by Mark Heinrich, Mike Harrison, Frances Kerry and Philippa Fletcher)

10/9/2021 Austria’s Kurz Steps Down Over Corruption Probe To Save Coalition by Francois Murphy
Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who is under investigation on suspicion of corruption offences
gives a statement at the federal chancellery in Vienna, Austria October 9, 2021. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner
    VIENNA (Reuters) -Austria’s conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz resigned on Saturday to end a government crisis after his coalition partner said he was unfit to lead the country because he has been placed under investigation on suspicion of corruption.
    The move by Kurz, who denies wrongdoing, satisfied the demand by his junior coalition partner, the Greens, that he go even though he plans to stay on as his party’s leader and become its top lawmaker in parliament, positions from which he can continue to influence government policy.
    “I would therefore like to make way in order to end the stalemate, to prevent chaos and to ensure stability,” Kurz said in a statement to the media.
    He added that he was proposing to President Alexander Van der Bellen that Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, a career diplomat backed by Kurz’s party, that he take over as chancellor.
    Greens leader and Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler indicated he was satisfied, meaning Kurz had succeeded in pulling their coalition back from the brink.
    “I believe this is the right step for future government work,” Greens leader and Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler said in a statement, adding that he had had a “very constructive” working relationship with Schallenberg.
    A star among Europe’s conservatives and known for his hard line on immigration, Kurz, 35, became one of the continent’s youngest leaders when he took over as chancellor in 2017 at the head of a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party.     Prosecutors said on Wednesday they had placed Kurz and nine others under investigation https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/prosecutors-raid-austrian-conservatives-hq-fresh-headache-kurz-2021-10-06 on suspicion of breach of trust, corruption and bribery with various levels of involvement.
    Starting in 2016 when Kurz was seeking to take over as party leader, prosecutors suspect the conservative-led Finance Ministry paid for advertisements in a newspaper in exchange for manipulated polling and coverage favourable to Kurz.
    Kurz has pledged to defend himself against what he says are false allegations.    He had said he was willing to keep governing with the Greens. But the left-wing party said the investigation made Kurz unfit to serve https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/austrias-greens-question-coalition-ally-kurzs-ability-stay-2021-10-07 as chancellor and called on his party to name a successor who was “beyond reproach.”
NO CONFIDENCE VOTES
    The Greens began talks on Friday with Austria’s three opposition parties, which have all demanded that Kurz resign and had planned to submit one or more no-confidence motions against him at a special session of parliament on Tuesday.
    Austrian media reports before Kurz’s announcement had said he would step down only temporarily.    While Kurz did not say that he did say he would mount a legal defence: “Above all … I will of course use the opportunity to refute and disprove the accusations that have been made against me.”
    “Is it enough?” the leader of the liberal Neos party, Beate Meinl-Reisinger, told a news conference soon after Kurz’s statement, referring to the seriousness of the accusations against Kurz.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy, Editing by William Maclean and Philippa Fletcher)

10/9/2021 Hungary’s Orban Backs Polish Court Ruling Challenging EU Law
FILE PHOTO: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks during the Budapest Demographic
Summit in Budapest, Hungary, September 23, 2021. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
    BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary has called on European Union institutions “to respect member states’ sovereignty” after it backed a Polish court ruling that some EU law is incompatible with the Polish constitution.
    Prime Minister Viktor Orban signed a Hungarian government decree on Saturday, his press chief told state news agency MTI, welcoming the ruling by Poland’s Constitutional Court which has plunged the EU into an existential crisis.
    Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said she was “deeply concerned” by the ruling and that the Commission would do all in its power to ensure the primacy of EU law. [nL1N2R40LR https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/polish-court-ruling-plunges-eu-into-new-crisis-eu-ministers-say-2021-10-08]
    Right-wing populist governments in Poland and Hungary have been at odds with the Commission over issues ranging from media freedoms, migration, LGBT rights to judicial independence.
    The two former communist states, which joined the EU in 2004, have been allies within the bloc, often voting in tandem, and supporting each other’s case.
    Budapest said Thursday’s Polish court ruling had been triggered by a “bad practice of EU institutions” which tried to take away certain competences from member states that had never been conferred upon the EU.
    “The primacy of EU law can only apply in those areas where the EU has powers, the framework for this had been set out in the EU’s treaties,” MTI cited the Hungarian decree as saying.
    The EU’s institutions must respect member states’ national identity, it added.
    Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal took on the case after Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki asked it whether EU institutions could stop Poland reorganising its judiciary.
    Despite the disputes between Brussels and their respective governments, support for membership of the EU remains high in Poland and Hungary.
(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Mike Harrison)

10/9/2021 Poland Will Continue To Respect EU Law, Foreign Ministry Says
FILE PHOTO: he flags of Poland and European Union flutter in front
of the Polish parliament in Warsaw June 29, 2011. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland will continue to respect European Union law, its foreign ministry said on Saturday, after the country’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled that parts of EU law were incompatible with Poland’s constitution.
    The ruling plunged the European Union into an existential crisis on Friday and raised the possibility of Poland leaving the 27-nation bloc.
    France and Germany said in a joint statement that Poland had a legal and moral obligation to abide by the bloc’s rules completely and unconditionally.
    Its foreign ministry said Poland respects binding international law.
    “All obligations arising from both primary and secondary European Union law remain in force and thus, will be continue to be fully respected by Poland,” it said in a statement.
    “The provisions of the Treaty of the European Union indicated in the judgment …remain in force.    What cannot be accepted are only the forms of their interpretation or application that violate the constitution.”
(Reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; editing by Jason Neely; Ydb)

10/10/2021 Poles Demonstrate To Show Support For EU Membership
People carry flags, as they take part in a rally in support of Poland's membership in the European Union
after the country's Constitutional Tribunal ruled on the primacy of the constitution over EU law,
undermining a key tenet of European integration, in Warsaw, Poland, October 10, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    WARSAW (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of Poles demonstrated on Sunday in support of European Union membership after a court ruling that parts of EU law are incompatible with the constitution raised concerns the country could eventually leave the bloc.
    Politicians across Europe voiced dismay https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/polish-court-ruling-plunges-eu-into-new-crisis-eu-ministers-say-2021-10-08 at the ruling by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal on Thursday, which they saw as undercutting the legal pillar on which the 27-nation EU stands.
    According to organisers, protests took place in over 100 towns and cities across Poland and several cities abroad.    In Warsaw, protesters waved Polish and EU flags and shouted “We are staying.”
    Donald Tusk, who is a former head of the European Council and now leader of the main opposition party Civic Platform, said the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party’s policies were jeopardising Poland’s future in Europe.
    “We know why they want to leave (the EU) … so that they can violate democratic rules with impunity,” he said, speaking in front of Warsaw’s Royal Castle, surrounded by thousands of protesters flanked by police vans flashing their lights.
    PiS says it has no plans for a “Polexit.”
    But right-wing populist governments in Poland and Hungary have found themselves increasingly at odds with the European Commission over issues ranging from LGBT rights to judicial independence.
    Welcoming the court ruling on Thursday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said each member state must be treated with respect and the EU should not be only “a grouping of those who are equal and more equal.”
    State-run TVP broadcaster, which critics say focuses heavily on presenting the government’s point of view, ran a news ticker that read “protest against the constitution” during its coverage of Sunday’s events.
    Speakers at the demonstrations included politicians from across the opposition, artists and activists.
    “This is our Europe and nobody is going to take us out of it,” said Wanda Traczyk-Stawska, a 94-year old veteran of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against Nazi German occupiers.
(Reporting by Kacper Pempel and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Editing by Frances Kerry)
[JUST LIKE THE UNITED STATES IS BEING ATTACKED BY GLOBALIST SOCIALIST ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT AND INTO IT IS THE EUROPEAN UNION WHO IS PUSHING THE OVERTHROW OF POLANDS POLICIES OF DECENCY AS WELL AS HUNGARY, AUSTRIA AS SEEN IN THE NEXT ARTICLE, AND ANY NATION CONSIDERING TO NOT COMPLY.].

10/10/2021 Austria’s Ruling Coalition Soldiers On After Fight To Near-Death by Francois Murphy and Alexandra Schwarz-Goerlich
FILE PHOTO: Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who is under investigation on suspicion of corruption offences, leaves
after giving a statement at the federal chancellery in Vienna, Austria October 9, 2021. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner
    VIENNA (Reuters) -Austria’s ruling coalition soldiered on on Sunday after Chancellor Sebastian Kurz quit https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/austrias-kurz-says-stepping-down-chancellor-2021-10-09 to keep it alive, but a top newspaper likened his future role in parliament to Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s stint as prime minister in name only.
    Prosecutors placed Kurz and nine others under investigation https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/prosecutors-raid-austrian-conservatives-hq-fresh-headache-kurz-2021-10-06 last week on suspicion of corruption offences, as part of what they suspect is the use of public funds to produce manipulated polling and newspaper coverage favourable to Kurz.
    Kurz denies wrongdoing, but text-message exchanges that are part of the investigation and have been published in Austrian media have already tarnished the 35-year-old’s image.
    The junior coalition party, the Greens, had demanded Kurz’s head over the investigation, and his resignation announcement on Saturday evening satisfied them.    He will, however, remain leader of his conservative party and become its top lawmaker, positions in which he can keep calling the shots in government.
    Kurz’s designated successor is Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, a career diplomat, relative political novice and close ally of Kurz’s who has defended his hard line on immigration.    Schallenberg is due to be sworn in on Monday.
    “This tactical manoeuvre is reminiscent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who gave way to Dmitry Medvedev only to take over again,” influential tabloid daily Kronen Zeitung said in an analysis, adding that Kurz planned to leave the top job only for a limited time.
    Putin, who had been president from 2000, was prime minister under Medvedev in 2008-2012 and then returned to the presidency.    A leaked U.S. diplomatic cable from the time said Medvedev “plays Robin to Putin’s Batman.”
    Kurz said he planned to fight the allegations against him but left open whether he intends to return as chancellor.
    “We want to make it to the end of this parliament,” the Greens’ parliamentary leader Sigi Maurer told national broadcaster ORF, referring to the current five-year parliament that runs until 2024.
    “I can rule out that he would come back as chancellor during this government term,” she added.
    It remains to be seen how badly the spat has damaged the coalition.    Maurer said she hoped the coalition would return to “calmer waters.”
    Kurz has been undisputed within his party until now and was reappointed as its leader in August with 99.4% support.
    “Sebastian Kurz is chancellor in the shadows,” the leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, told a news conference on Saturday night, adding that Kurz would “continue to pull the strings.”
HYPOCRISY
    A star among Europe’s conservatives, Kurz became one of the continent’s youngest leaders in 2017 when he formed a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party that collapsed in scandal in 2019.    Parliament sacked him but he won the snap election that followed and formed the current coalition.
    Two central features of Kurz’s campaigns have been what he calls a “new style” of politics that he says does not involve smearing opponents, and opposing the traditional centrist alliance between his party and the Social Democrats on the grounds that it has led to deadlock.
    Austrian media on Friday reported a text message exchange from June 2016, when such a centrist coalition was in place and Kurz was foreign minister, showing Kurz and a party loyalist then at the Finance Ministry seeking to block a government daycare initiative so that the then government could not claim credit for it.
    That kind of apparent hypocrisy – causing the deadlock he said he was fighting even when as party leader he ended that coalition in 2017 – could damage Kurz politically, and he said that with hindsight he would phrase some texts differently.
    “Some of them are messages I would definitely not formulate that way again, but I am but a man with emotions and also with faults,” Kurz said in his resignation announcement on Saturday.
    Prosecutors say they suspect officials in the conservative-led Finance Ministry used state funds to pay for manipulated polling and coverage favourable to Kurz to appear in a newspaper as of 2016, when he was vying to become party leader.
    Kurz says the accusations against him are false and many of the allegations involve possible crimes by others, not him.
(Writing by Francois MurphyEditing by Frances Kerry, William Maclean)

10/10/2021 Death Toll From Russian Alcohol Poisoning Incident Rises To 34
FILE PHOTO: Members of the Russian Investigative Committee investigate a criminal case of deaths of people
from alcohol poisoning after consuming locally produced spirits, in Orenburg Region, Russia, in this still
image taken from video released October 9, 2021. Investigative Committee of Russia/Handout via REUTERS
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – The death toll from a mass poisoning linked to illegal alcohol in southwest Russia rose to 34 on Sunday, and 24 more people were being treated in hospital, local authorities said.
    Investigators in the Orenburg region opened criminal cases after people began dying of alcohol poisoning this week.    Police have since detained 10 people in probes into the production and sale of illegal alcohol, TASS news agency reported.
    “There are 67 known victims of surrogate alcohol in the region, 34 of whom have died,” Orenburg’s local government was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
    Seven of the people being treated in hospital were in a bad condition and four of them were on ventilators, it said.
    Police seized 2,000 bottles of alcohol on Saturday and said they had identified methanol, which is toxic.
    Mass cases of alcohol poisonings have shocked the country in the past.    In 2016, 77 people died in Siberia from drinking bath oil laced with methylated spirit in search of alcoholic highs.
    Russians have long had a reputation as some of the world’s heaviest drinkers, but consumption has been declining in recent years, falling 43% from 2003 to 2016, the World Health Organisation said in 2019.
    That has led to a rapid rise in life expectancy, it added.
(Reporting by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Jan Harvey)

10/11/2021 Hunger-Striking Former Georgian Leader Needs Hospital Treatment - Doctor
FILE PHOTO: Georgia's former President Mikheil Saakashvili speaks with journalists after his meeting with members
of Ukraine's Servant of the People parliamentary faction in Kiev, Ukraine April 24, 2020. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
    MOSCOW (Reuters) -Jailed former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, who has been on a hunger strike, needs treatment in hospital as his condition is worsening, his personal doctor was quoted as saying by the RIA and TASS news agencies on Sunday.
    But Georgia’s penitentiary service said in a statement such claims were untrue and Saakashvili’s condition was “satisfactory.”
    The pro-Western politician, who declared a hunger strike on Oct. 1, was arrested after returning to Georgia, having lived abroad for years.    Georgia sentenced him in absentia in 2018 for abuse of power and concealing evidence when he was president.
    Nikoloz Kipshidze, Saakashvili’s doctor, said that he had been discussing his condition with doctors at the prison where he is being held not far from the capital Tbilisi.
    “His condition has worsened. He has difficulty moving, it’s hard for him to speak… Saakashvili has a blood disorder – thalassemia.    This is not a fatal disease, but he absolutely should not hunger strike,” the doctor was quoted as saying by RIA.
    “I plan to visit him (Saakashvili) again tomorrow.    We will probably need to transfer him to hospital,” he was quoted as saying by TASS on Georgian television.
    The penitentiary service, in turn, said Saakashvili’s health has been constantly monitored since he went on a hunger strike and that the politician was taking his prescribed medicines.
    “(His) vital indicators are normal,” it said on its Facebook page, citing Saakashvili’s blood pressure, pulse, blood oxygen and glucose levels.
(Reporting by Tom Balmforth; editing by Hugh Lawson)

10/11/2021 “Brexit Can Happen Here”, Poles Demonstrate In Support Of EU Membership by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk and Kacper Pempel
People carry flags, as they take part in a rally in support of Poland's membership in the European Union
after the country's Constitutional Tribunal ruled on the primacy of the constitution over EU law, undermining
a key tenet of European integration, in Warsaw, Poland, October 10, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    WARSAW (Reuters) - More than 100,000 Poles demonstrated on Sunday in support of European Union membership after a court ruling that parts of EU law are incompatible with the constitution raised concerns the country could eventually leave the bloc.
    Politicians across Europe voiced dismay https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/polish-court-ruling-plunges-eu-into-new-crisis-eu-ministers-say-2021-10-08 at the ruling by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal on Thursday, which they saw as undercutting the legal pillar on which the 27-nation EU stands.
    According to the organisers, protests took place in over 100 towns and cities across Poland and several cities abroad, with 80,000-100,000 people gathering in the capital Warsaw alone, waving Polish and EU flags and shouting “We are staying.”
    Donald Tusk, a former head of the European Council and now leader of the main opposition party Civic Platform, said the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party’s policies were jeopardising Poland’s future in Europe.
    “We know why they want to leave (the EU) … so that they can violate democratic rules with impunity,” he said, speaking in front of Warsaw’s Royal Castle, surrounded by thousands of protesters flanked by police vans flashing their lights.
    PiS says it has no plans for a “Polexit.”
    But right-wing populist governments in Poland and Hungary have found themselves increasingly at odds with the European Commission over issues ranging from LGBT rights to judicial independence.
    “Just as Brexit suddenly became a fact, something no-one expected, the same thing can happen here,” said Janusz Kuczynski, 59, standing in a street in Warsaw’s historic district leading up to the Royal Castle.
    Welcoming the court ruling on Thursday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said each member state must be treated with respect and the EU should not be only “a grouping of those who are equal and more equal.”
    State-run TVP broadcaster, which critics say focuses heavily on presenting the government’s point of view, ran a news ticker that read “protest against the Polish constitution” during its coverage of Sunday’s events.
    Speakers at the demonstrations included politicians from across the opposition, artists and activists.
    “This is our Europe and nobody is going to take us out of it,” said Wanda Traczyk-Stawska, a 94-year old veteran of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against Nazi German occupiers.
(Reporting by Kacper Pempel and Anna Wlodarczak-SemczukEditing by Frances Kerry)
[POLAND HOPEFULLY GOD WILL PROTECT YOU FROM THE GLOBALIST SOCIALIST ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT AND THE ANTICHRISTIAN FORCES].

10/11/2021 Russia’s Navalny Says Prison Has Changed His Status To “Terrorist”
FILE PHOTO: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is seen on a screen via a video link during a hearing to consider his lawsuits against the
penal colony over detention conditions there, at the Petushki district court in Petushki, Russia May 26, 2021. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
    MOSCOW (Reuters) - Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said on Monday that a prison commission had designated him an extremist and a terrorist, but officially no longer regarded him as an escape risk.
    Navalny said on Instagram that he had been summoned before a commission at the prison in Vladimir region, east of Moscow, which voted unanimously in favour of the change of status.
    The designation marks a further escalation of official pressure against President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent domestic critic, currently serving two-and-a-half years in prison for parole violations he says were trumped up to thwart his political ambitions.
    Navalny made light of the announcement, saying that he welcomed the fact he was no longer designated as prone to escape and so would be subjected to less frequent and stringent night time checks by guards.
    “I was afraid they would demand that I kiss portraits of Putin and learn quotes from (former president) Dmitry Medvedev by heart, but there’s no need,” he said in the post, which was published with the help of his lawyers.
    “It’s just that there is now a sign over my bunk that I am a terrorist.”
    There was no confirmation from Russian authorities of the change in Navalny’s status, and the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
CRACKDOWN ON ALLIES
    Navalny, 45, was jailed after returning to Russia at the start of this year from Germany, where he underwent months of treatment to recover from being poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent in Siberia in August 2020.
    The Kremlin denied any involvement and has repeatedly said that his case is a matter for the prison service.    Putin takes pains to avoid even mentioning his name.
    Navalny’s movement suffered a new blow in June when a court ruled its activities to be extremist.    Many of his allies have had their homes raided or their freedom of movement restricted, and some have fled abroad.    Last month Russia opened a new criminal case against Navalny that could keep him in jail for a further decade.
    RIA news agency said a Moscow court on Monday rejected an action by Navalny against the prosecutor’s office over the blocking of his YouTube channel.    The channel had advised Russians how to vote in a parliamentary election that went on to be won by the pro-Putin United Russia party.
    Some of Navalny’s supporters have criticised last week’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, saying Navalny would have been a more deserving winner.    Muratov dedicated the prize to six of his paper’s journalists murdered for their work while also saying he would have given it to Navalny.
(Reporting by Moscow Bureau; Writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Andrew Osborn, Hugh Lawson and Philippa Fletcher)
[IT SOUNDS LIKE THE RUSSIANS ARE LISTENING TO THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION SO THEY NOW IF ANYONE SPEAKS AGAINST THEIR POLICIES THEY IN DESPERATION TAG YOU AS A TERRORIST AND AS AMERICANS IF THEY DO THAT WE WILL SHOW THEM WHAT THAT MEANS SO PUTIN YOU MAY CAUSE YOUR OWN DESTRUCTION IN THE LONG RUN WHICH IS STARTING TO SHOW IN THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION.].

10/11/2021 Austria’s New Leader Defends Kurz As Opposition Calls Him Kurz’s Puppet by Francois Murphy
FILE PHOTO: Austria's designated Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg and successor of Sebastian Kurz walks along the street
after a meeting with President Alexander Van der Bellen in Vienna, Austria October 10, 2021. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner
    VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria’s new Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg pledged on Monday to work closely with his predecessor Sebastian Kurz, who quit https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/austrias-kurz-says-stepping-down-chancellor-2021-10-09 in the face of corruption allegations, fuelling opposition assertions that the new leader will simply do Kurz’s bidding.
    The Greens, the junior partner to Kurz’s conservatives, had demanded Kurz’s head after he and nine others including senior aides were placed under investigation last week on suspicion of varying degrees of breach of trust, corruption and bribery.
    Kurz, who denies wrongdoing, has been the undisputed leader of his party until now and is taking on an additional role as his party’s top lawmaker in parliament.    His opponents say he will continue to control policy from those positions and act as “chancellor in the shadows”
    “I believe the accusations that have been made (against Kurz) are false and I am convinced that at the end of the day it will turn out that there was nothing to them,” Schallenberg, a career diplomat who has become a close Kurz ally, said in a statement to media.
    “I will of course work very closely… with Sebastian Kurz,” he said in his first public pronouncement after moving from his position as foreign minister.
    Schallenberg said he wanted to provide “responsibility and stability” but his remarks did little to appease the opposition.
    “My impression is that he intends to do exactly that: go back to business as usual and act as if nothing happened,” the leader of the liberal Neos party, Beate Meinl-Reisinger, calling on Schallenberg to actively fight corruption.
PULLING THE STRINGS
    Kurz also pushed back against opposition criticism.
    “I am not a chancellor in the shadows,” he said on Twitter, pledging to support the government in its work.
    Anti-corruption prosecutors say they suspect conservative officials in the Finance Ministry used state funds to pay for manipulated polling and coverage favourable to Kurz to appear in a newspaper starting in 2016, when Kurz was seeking to become party leader.    He succeeded and won a parliamentary election the next year with pledges to take a hard line on immigration.
    Critics accuse Kurz of overseeing a system or network that flouted rules on issues like party funding and appointments to state jobs in pursuit of power for him and allies.    Kurz, who is under investigation separately for perjury, says all accusations are false.
    “All opposition parties agree there is no change to the Kurz system.    He still has all the strings in his hands and designated Chancellor Schallenberg is part of this Kurz system,” Kai Jan Krainer of the Social Democrats, who was on a parliamentary commission of inquiry that looked into possible corruption under a previous Kurz government, told ORF radio.
    At Schallenberg’s swearing-in, President Alexander Van der Bellen said public trust in political institutions had been badly damaged by the investigation and text-messages it revealed that appeared to show Kurz and his allies acting cynically behind the scenes.
    “The rearranged government now has a great responsibility not just to successfully continue this government’s projects but also responsibility for restoring the public’s trust in politics,” Van der Bellen said in his speech.
    In some of the text-message exchanges, widely reported by Austrian media, Kurz calls a rival an “ass” and appears to instigate coalition deadlock, which he said he wanted to prevent. He expressed regret at the wording of some texts in his resignation speech on Saturday.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

10/11/2021 Ukraine’s Zelenskiy Says Spoke To Macron, Merkel About Steps To End War In Eastern Ukraine
FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy attends a welcoming ceremony as he meetsbr> with Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Kyiv, Ukraine October 5, 2021. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
    KYIV (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Monday he had spoken to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron about intensifying talks to end the war in eastern Ukraine and preparing a new peace summit.
    Ukraine, France and Germany “stand for agreeing on coordinated successive steps that will ensure peace,” he wrote on Twitter.
    Ukraine has battled Russian-backed separatists in the eastern Donbass region in a conflict that Kyiv says has killed 14,000 people since 2014.
(Reporting by Matthias Williams; Editing by Hugh Law)

10/11/2021 Romania’s President Asks Centrist Party Head Ciolos To Form Government by Radu-Sorin Marinas
FILE PHOTO: Dacian Ciolos, leader of the USR party, attends a news conference at the headquarters of the
USR PLUS alliance, in Bucharest, Romania, September 23, 2021. Inquam Photos/George Calin via REUTERS
    BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has proposed Dacian Ciolos, leader of a centrist party, as a candidate to form a government, after the nine-month-old liberal-led coalition cabinet of Florin Citu was toppled in a vote of no confidence last week.
    Ciolos, an ex-prime minister who headed a technocrat cabinet in 2015-2017 said on his Facebook page: “We’re ready to take responsibility for the government and start negotiations with all political parties for backing.”
    Romania, one of the European Union’s poorest member states, has been in political paralysis for a month, threatening its economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to reduce large twin deficits at a time of rising energy prices.
    “(Ciolos’s) USR party was the sole party who has made a proposal to me,” president Iohannis told reporters on Monday after holding consultations with all the parliamentary parties.
    Under the constitution, Ciolos, whose USR controls only 17% of parliament’s seats, will have 10 days to form a government and ask parliament for a vote of confidence.
    Finding enough support will be tough as opposition groupings have so far said they will not back a minority cabinet nor enter an alliance with USR, a relatively new party that was a junior partner in Citu’s coalition.
    USR’s withdrawal of its ministers in a row over a regional development fund cost Citu’s government its majority and caused it to collapse last week.
    Analysts have said an early election is unlikely as parliament would need to reject two consecutive proposals for premier by Iohannis within 60 days and the fragmented opposition is reluctant to take over, given health and economic challenges.
    In his Facebook post, Ciolos listed fighting a rise in COVID-19 infections and reining in energy prices as his top priorities.
(Reporting by Radu Marinas; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Catherine Evans)

10/11/2021 Coughing Putin Says He’s Fine, Tests For COVID Daily
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with members of the Security Council via a video link
at his residence outside Moscow, Russia October 11, 2021. Sputnik/Evgeniy Paulin/Kremlin via REUTERS
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin, seen coughing during a televised government meeting, reassured officials on Monday that he was fine and said he was being tested for COVID-19 virtually every day.
    “Don’t worry, everything is fine.    They test me practically on a daily basis not just for COVID-19 but all kinds of other infections, so it’s all good,” the Kremlin leader replied when Valentina Matviyenko, speaker of the upper house of parliament, expressed concern about his health.
    Putin, who turned 69 last week, was seen sitting alone at his screen for the online meeting.    He blamed the cough on the cool air temperature and took the opportunity to urge his colleagues to get fully vaccinated.
    Russia’s daily COVID-19 death toll is hovering near an all-time high.    Putin was forced to self-isolate last month after members of his entourage tested positive for the coronavirus, but the Kremlin said at the time he was “absolutely healthy.”
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin, writing by Mark Trevelyan, editing by Hugh Lawson)
[SO DOES THAT MEAN THAT THE VACCINE THAT RUSSIA PROMOTED DID NOT WORK SO HE WILL HAVE TO TAKE THE SAME STUFF THAT TRUMP DID TO GET BETTER WHICH IS THE SAME STUFF THAT RON SANTIS IS USING IN FLORIDA.].

10/11/2021 Russia Aims For Year-Round Shipping Via Northern Sea Route In 2022 Or 2023
FILE PHOTO: Russia's icebreaker Admiral Makarov is pictured in the harbor
of Murmansk, Russia August 22, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia plans to begin year-round shipping via the Northern Sea Route that passes through the Arctic in 2022 or 2023, Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Trutnev said on Monday.     Russia has invested heavily in infrastructure to develop the Northern Sea Route and wants it to become a major shipping lane as the Arctic warms at a faster rate than the rest of the world.    It is not currently used in winter due to thick ice cover.
    “We are planning to start the transition to year-round navigation in 2022-2023,” Trutnev told the Rossiya 24 state television channel.
    The route, which runs along Russia’s northern flank, is currently used to ship hydrocarbons and other resources for up to nine months a year.
    Officials want to increase cargo volumes shipped through the route to 80 million tonnes per year.    Last year, it shipped 33 million tonnes of cargo.
    President Vladimir Putin said last month that Russia should start regular container shipments through the shipping lane.
    Russia also has plans to build icebreakers powered by liquified natural gas as well as super powerful icebreakers to develop the route and make it more suitable for year-round navigation.
(Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov; Editing by Edmund Blair)

10/12/2021 EU Will Give ‘Firm Answer’ To Polish Court Ruling – EU’s Top Diplomat by Pavel Polityuk
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmygal, European Council President Charles Michel, Ukrainian President
Volodymyr Zelenskiy attend a signing ceremony at the Ukraine-EU summit in Kyiv, Ukraine October 12, 2021. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
    KYIV (Reuters) – The European Union will give a “firm answer” to a ruling by Poland’s top court challenging the primacy of EU law, and will tell Warsaw to “abide by the rules of the club,” the EU’s top diplomat said on Tuesday.
    In comments to Reuters in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell reiterated the executive European Commission’s concern about last week’s ruling, but did not indicate what steps it might take to bring Poland into line.
    Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled that parts of EU law were incompatible with the country’s constitution, undermining the central tenet of European integration and fuelling talk that Poland could one day quit the 27-nation EU.
    Asked during a Ukraine-EU summit how the EU would respond to the Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling, Borrell said “the answer will be a firm answer.”
    “It has to clear: You are a member of a club, you have to abide by the rules of the club.    And the most important rule of the club is that the European law is over national law,” he said.
    EU member states must accept the primacy of EU law as otherwise the bloc cannot “work as a union,” Borrell said.
    The Constitutional Tribunal’s ruling followed prolonged disputes in which Poland has been accused by many of its fellow EU member states of curtailing the independence of media and courts under the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party.
    The European Commission is already withholding approval for Poland’s economic recovery plan, which Warsaw needs to tap into billions of euros to help revive growth after the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Despite growing tension, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki says Poland has no desire to leave the EU. GAS SUPPLIES
    At the Ukraine-EU summit Borrell was attending, EU leaders said the bloc would help Ukraine secure a steady supply of natural gas this winter and shield the country from any reduction in Russian output.
    Ukraine is lobbying its Western allies to punish Russia for what it says is Moscow’s attempt to use gas supplies as a weapon against Europe.
    Energy concerns also sparked a row between Ukraine and its EU neighbour Hungary last month, after Budapest signed a new long-term energy deal with Russia that sidelined Ukraine as a transit country.
    Ukraine wants the EU to investigate the deal, arguing it could violate EU energy rules.
    “Member states are free to do bilateral agreements,” Borrell said.    “As far as I know, there is nothing illegal, nothing that goes against European law, on this deal between Hungary and Gazprom.”
(Writing by Matthias Williams, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

10/12/2021 Ukrainian Court Orders Kremlin Ally Medvedchuk To Remain Under House Arrest by Natalia Zinets and Pavel Polityuk
FILE PHOTO: Viktor Medvedchuk, leader of Opposition Platform - For Life political party, attends
a court hearing in Kyiv, Ukraine May 13, 2021. REUTERS/Serhii Nuzhnenko/File Photo
    KYIV (Reuters) – A Ukrainian court on Tuesday ordered pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk to remain under house arrest until December after prosecutors widened their investigation into his activities and accused him of financing separatist fighters.
    Medvedchuk, who strongly denies wrongdoing, has been under house arrest since May, facing accusations of treason and attempting to plunder state resources in Crimea, a part of Ukraine which Russia annexed in 2014.
    Prosecutors had asked a Kyiv court for Medvedchuk to be taken into custody instead of house arrest, saying he posed a flight risk or might try to put pressure on witnesses.
    The court turned down their request and extended Medvedchuk’s house arrest to Dec. 7 from Oct. 31.
    The court decided “to apply a measure of restraint in the form of house arrest, forbidding him to leave his place of residence round the clock,” judge Vita Bortnytska said at a televised court hearing.
    Last week law enforcement officials said they had widened their investigation into Medvedchuk and that they suspected him of colluding with top officials to buy coal from mines in separatist-held areas of eastern Ukraine.
    Medvedchuk, the Kremlin’s most prominent ally in Ukraine, said the charges were trumped up to silence his criticism of government policy.
    “The criminal case and the charges against me are completely groundless and unfounded,” he said before the verdict.    “I regard it as an illegal criminal prosecution and political repression.”
    Ukraine has been at war with Russian-backed separatists in the eastern Donbass region since 2014.    It faced an acute fuel shortage after separatists seized territory where coal mines were located.
    Medvedchuk, whose political party is the second largest in parliament, is a Ukrainian citizen but has close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin and has said the Russian leader is godfather to his daughter.
(Editing by Matthias Williams and Gareth Jones)

10/12/2021 Russia Says Talks With U.S. Fail To Make Headway On Embassies Dispute
FILE PHOTO: Russian and U.S. state flags fly near a factory in Vsevolozhsk,
Leningrad Region, Russia March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov
    MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia and the United States failed to make any major progress on Tuesday in resolving a row over the size and functioning of their embassies and there is a risk that relations could worsen further, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said.
    With ties already at post-Cold War lows, the two countries are in a dispute over the number of diplomats they can post to each other’s capitals, though Moscow said it was willing to lift restrictions imposed in recent years.
    I cannot say that we have achieved great progress,” Interfax news agency quoted Ryabkov as saying after talks in Moscow with U.S. Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.    “There is a risk of a further sharpening of tensions.”     Nuland’s meetings with Russian officials have been “useful,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at a briefing for reporters, adding that U.S. stance on the staffing of U.S. missions in Russia remained “firm.”
    “We expect parity on staffing numbers and we expect visa reciprocity.    There must be fairness, there must be flexibility on the Russian side, if we are to achieve an equitable agreement and that’s precisely what we are after,” he said.
    He said there will be another round of talks at a lower level and that Washington hoped to find a resolution to the ongoing dispute.    “We need an adequately staffed embassy in Moscow,” he said.
    Last week the Russian foreign ministry said a U.S. congressional proposal to expel https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-senators-suggest-expelling-300-russian-diplomats-amid-embassy-dispute-2021-10-05 300 Russian diplomats from the United States would lead to the closure of U.S. diplomatic facilities in Russia, if implemented.
    U.S. senators urged President Joe Biden to remove the Russian diplomats because they said Russian curbs on the hiring and contracting of U.S. Embassy staff had left the United States with only about 100 diplomats in Russia compared with 400 Russians in the United States.
‘HOSTILE’ ACTIONS
    “It was emphasized on the Russian side that hostile anti-Russian actions would not remain unanswered, but Moscow did not seek further escalation,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
    “We propose to remove all restrictions that have been introduced on both sides over the past few years.”
    Moscow does not rule out the work of Russian and U.S. diplomatic missions being frozen, but would like to avoid such a scenario, the RIA news agency cited Ryabkov as saying.
    He said the two sides would hold new consultations on resolving the issue around visas and diplomats, without specifying a date.
    Nuland’s visit to Moscow this week angered some Russian nationalists who ransacked a makeshift memorial to slain Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov in central Moscow early on Monday.
    Nuland, a veteran Russia specialist, is regarded by Kremlin hawks as someone who has stirred up anti-Russian sentiment in former Soviet republics such as Ukraine that Moscow considers within its sphere of influence.
    Her visit comes at a time when ties between Washington and Moscow are badly strained over a host of other issues, including cyberattacks launched from Russia against U.S. businesses and the jailing of Alexei Navalny, the most prominent domestic opponent of President Vladimir Putin
.
    Biden and Putin held a summit in June in Geneva, when the U.S. president said Washington would find out in the next six months to a year whether it was possible to establish a worthwhile strategic dialogue with Moscow.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Daphne Psaledakis in Washington, Anton Kolodyazhnyy, Alexander Marrow, Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber and Andrey Ostroukh; Writing by Mark TrevelyanEditing by Gareth Jones and Cynthia Osterman)

10/13/2021 Russia, EU To Discuss Terms For Recognising COVID-19 Vaccine Certificates – Ifax
FILE PHOTO: The exterior of the European Medicines Agency is seen in Amsterdam,
Netherlands, December 18, 2020. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia and the EU will discuss terms for the mutual recognition of COVID-19 vaccine certificates for their respective shots at talks, the Interfax news agency cited Russia’s health ministry as saying on Wednesday.
    The EU’s ambassador to Moscow last week said Russia has repeatedly delayed inspections by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) necessary for the certification of its Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine in the European Union.
(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

10/13/2021 Ukraine Reports Second-Highest Daily COVID-19 Related Deaths Since Pandemic Start
FILE PHOTO: People wear protective face masks sit in a bus amid the ongoing coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) outbreak in central Kyiv, Ukraine September 29, 2021. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
    KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine registered 471 coronavirus-related deaths over the past 24 hours, approaching the record daily toll of 481, which was reported on April 7, health ministry data showed on Wednesday.
    The number of new daily coronavirus infections in Ukraine, which has a population of 41 million, has also increased over the past several weeks.
    Ukraine registered 16,309 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours.    It reported a total of 2.59 million COVID-19 cases and 59,523 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
(Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

10/13/2021 Russia Can Help Europe, Not Using Gas As A Weapon Says Putin by Vladimir Soldatkin, Kate Abnett and Shivani Singh
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a plenary session of the Russian Energy Week International
Forum in Moscow, Russia October 13, 2021. Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Pool via REUTERS
    MOSCOW/BRUSSELS/BEIJING (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday Russia was not using gas as a weapon and was ready to help ease Europe’s energy crunch as the EU called an emergency summit to tackle skyrocketing prices.
    Energy demand has surged as economies have rebounded from the pandemic, driving up prices of oil, gas and coal, stoking inflationary pressures and undermining efforts to cut the use of polluting fossil fuels in the fight against global warming.
    China, the world’s second biggest economy and its biggest greenhouse gas emitter, has boosted coal output and imports, as domestic coal prices have hit record levels and power stations have struggled to keep the lights on https://www.reuters.com/world/china/china-coal-prices-hit-record-high-floods-add-supply-woes-2021-10-13 in homes and factories.
    The energy crunch has amplified Wednesday’s call by the International Energy Agency (IEA) for tripling investment https://www.reuters.com/business/sustainable-business/world-must-triple-clean-energy-investment-by-2030-curb-climate-change-iea-2021-10-13 in renewables to steady markets and fight climate change.
    Europe’s gas squeeze https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/gas-reserves-subsidies-tax-cuts-eus-tools-combat-energy-price-spike-2021-10-13 has shone a spotlight on Russia, which accounts for a third of the region’s supplies, prompting European politicians to blame Moscow for not pumping enough.
    Putin told an energy conference https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/kremlin-says-russian-gas-supplies-europe-are-maximum-levels-2021-10-13 in Moscow that the gas market was not balanced or predictable, particularly in Europe, but said Russia was meeting its contractual obligations to supply clients and was ready to boost supplies if asked.
    He dismissed accusations that Russia was using energy as a weapon: “This is just politically motivated chatter, which has no basis whatsoever.”
    The European Union has not asked Russia to increase supplies of gas to the bloc, a European Commission official told Reuters.
    Russia and Europe have been embroiled in a dispute over a new pipeline, Nord Stream 2, to supply Russian gas to Germany.    The pipeline is built but awaits approval to start pumping, amid opposition from the United States and some Europeans nations that fear it will make Europe even more reliant on Russia.
    Some European politicians say Moscow is using the fuel crisis as leverage, a charge it has repeatedly denied.
DE-GAS EUROPE
    The European Commission outlined measures on Wednesday that the 27-nation EU would take to combat the energy crisis, including exploring a voluntary option for countries to jointly buy gas.
    Ministers from EU countries hold an extraordinary meeting on Oct. 26 to discuss the price spike.
    “The only way to fully decouple gas from electricity is no longer to use it to generate power,” EU energy policy chief Kadri Simson said.    “This is the EU’s long-term goal, to replace fossil fuels with renewables.”
    The Paris-based IEA said the world had to invest $4 trillion by 2030 in clean energy and infrastructure – triple current levels – to achieve net zero emissions and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, the target of the 2015 Paris climate accord.
    “The world is not investing enough to meet its future energy needs,” it said in a report, published before the United Nations COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland, which starts on Oct. 31.
WINTER SPIKE?
    As renewables have failed to fill gaps amid surging demand, oil and gas prices have roared higher.
    The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries trimmed its world oil demand forecast https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/opec-trims-2021-demand-forecast-says-gas-price-surge-could-help-2021-10-13 for 2021 but said surging gas prices could mean customers switch to oil.
    Benchmark crude was trading close to last week’s more than three-year high above $84 a barrel.
    Putin said that oil prices could reach $100 a barrel.    “This is quite possible,” he said.    “We and our partners at OPEC+ are doing our utmost to stabilise the market.”
    The benchmark European gas price is up more than 350% this year, trading above $31 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) on Wednesday, although down from last week’s spike above $52.
    “Current prices are above fundamentally justified levels, should remain volatile and could still reach $100/mmBtu or above this season if the weather gets very cold,” Citi bank said as it also raised its forecast for European and Asian benchmark gas prices for the fourth quarter by about $3.
    The United States was also likely to feel the pain, according to the Energy Information Administration, which warned on Wednesday that it would cost more to heat U.S. homes this winter.
    The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas (ENTSOG), which monitors security of supply, said a cold winter in Europe would require an increase of gas imports by about 5% to 10% compared to previous maximum levels.
    “We’re reaching out to trade partners to discuss if it’s possible to increase their deliveries in the market,” EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson said.
    The Commission expects prices to remain high until April 2022.
    In China, the most-active January Zhengzhou thermal coal futures touched a record high of 1,640 yuan ($254.54) per tonne on Wednesday, up more than 190% so far this year.
    Local governments in top Chinese coal producing areas Shanxi and Inner Mongolia ordered about 200 mines to boost output, but rain flooded 60 mines in Shanxi. China’s coal imports surged 76% in September.
    Seeking to ease the power crunch, Beijing said it would allow power plants to charge commercial customers market-based prices, breaking with a policy that had allowed industry to lock in fixed-price electricity deals with suppliers.
($1 = 6.4430 Chinese yuan renminbi)
(Reporting by Kate Abnett in Brussels; Vladimir Soldatkin, Oksana Kobzeva and Alexander Marrow in Moscow; Muyu Xu and Shivani Singh in Beijing; Jessica Jaganathan in Singapore, Noah Browning in London; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle, Carmel Crimmins and Alex Richardson)

10/13/2021 Man Armed With Bow And Arrow Kills Five People In Norway Attacks, Police Say by Terje Solsvik and Victoria Klesty
Police officers investigate after several people were killed and others were injured by a man using a bow
and arrows to carry out attacks, in Kongsberg, Norway, October 13, 2021. Hakon Mosvold/NTB/via REUTERS
    OSLO (Reuters) - A man armed with a bow and arrow killed five people and wounded two others in a series of attacks in the Norwegian town of Kongsberg on Wednesday, local police said.
    The suspect was in custody, police added.
    “The man used a bow and arrow … for some of the attacks,” police chief Oeyvind Aas told reporters.    The police were investigating whether other weapons had also been used, he said.
    “The man has been apprehended … from the information we now have, this person carried out these actions alone,” Aas added.
    One of the wounded people was an off-duty police officer.
    Newspaper VG showed images of an arrow that appeared to be stuck in the wall of a wood-paneled building.
    The death toll was the worst of any attack in Norway since 2011, when far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people, most of them teenagers at a youth camp.
    The attacks on Wednesday took place over “a large area” of Kongsberg, a municipality of about 28,000 people in southeastern Norway, 68 km (42 miles) from the capital, Oslo.
    The government said police had launched a large investigation.
    “The reports coming from Kongsberg tonight are horrifying,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg told a news conference.
    “I understand that many people are afraid, but it’s important to emphasise that the police are now in control,” she said.
    Following the attacks, the police directorate said it had ordered officers nationwide to carry firearms.    Norwegian police are normally unarmed but officers have access to guns and rifles when needed.br>     “This is an extra precaution. The police have no indication so far that there is a change in the national threat level,” the directorate said in a statement.
    Aas said police would investigate whether the attack amounted to an act of terrorism.
    Norway’s minister of justice and public security, Monica Maeland, has received updates on the attacks and was closely monitoring the situation, the ministry said.
(Reporting by Terje Solsvik and Victoria Klesty; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)

10/13/2021 Belarus To Make Subscribing To Some Social Media Channels A Criminal Offence
An opposition supporter waves a historical white-red-white flag of Belarus in front of law enforcement officers
during a rally to demand the resignation of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko more than a month after
the disputed presidential election, in Minsk, Belarus September 20, 2020. Tut.By via REUTERS/Files
    KYIV (Reuters) – Belarusians who subscribe to social media channels deemed “extremist” face up to seven years in prison under new proposals published by the authorities on Wednesday.
    Social media channels such as Telegram messenger were widely used during mass street protests against President Alexander Lukashenko last year both to coordinate demonstrations and share footage of a violent police crackdown.
    Some of the most well-known Telegram channels, including the NEXTA news outlet, were categorised as “extremist” after the protests began.    NEXTA has nearly 1 million subscribers while the Telegram channel of the TUT.BY news portal, which was closed down by the authorities, has 500,000.
    The Belarusian directorate for fighting organised crime said in a statement that “subscribers to extremist Telegram channels and chats will be held criminally liable … as members of an extremist group.”
    More than a hundred Telegram channels and chats have been recognised as extremist in Belarus.    Anyone reposting their material can already be fined or detained for up to 30 days.
    Protests erupted last year after a presidential election that Lukashenko’s opponents say was blatantly rigged to keep the veteran leader in power.
    Tens of thousands of people were detained and human rights activists say more than 800 people are now in jail as political prisoners since the protests.
    The authorities have recently launched reprisals against citizens who voice dissent online. Hundreds of people were detained and face prison terms for making disrespectful comments about a KGB officer who died in a shootout in Minsk last month.
    “Belarus’ independent media are destroyed, many journalists are imprisoned, websites are blocked,” exiled opposition figure Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya wrote on Twitter.
    “Now the regime threatens with criminal persecution & up to 7 years in prison for a subscription to extremist” Telegram channels, incl. of free media.    "The truth is banned in Belarus.”
(Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Gareth Jones)

10/13/2021 Putin Sees Potential To Work With Biden On Energy, Security And More
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a plenary session of the Russian Energy Week
International Forum in Moscow, Russia October 13, 2021. Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Pool via REUTERS
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday he saw potential to work with the United States on a host of issues from arms control to energy and that he had established a solid working relationship with President Joe Biden.
    Addressing an energy conference attended by top executives of Exxon Mobil and other oil majors, Putin was largely silent on the many disputes that have driven relations to post-Cold War lows, choosing instead to focus on the potential to mend fences.
    He said Russia was ready for constructive talks on arms control, and the two sides also had “objective mutual interests” in fighting terrorism and money laundering, combating tax havens and stabilising energy markets.
    “These… will definitely lead one way or another to our relations being repaired, and the U.S. political establishment will stop speculating on U.S.-Russian relations to the detriment of its own interests and those of its companies,” Putin added, referring to U.S. sanctions which he said had caused Exxon Mobil to abandon lucrative contracts in Russia.
    He said relations with Biden and his administration were stable and constructive.
    Biden this week sent a top Russia expert, Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, to Moscow for talks that failed to make significant progress in a row over the size and functioning of the two countries’ embassies in each other’s capitals.
    Nuland said on Wednesday she had had productive talks with Kremlin officials and that the United States was committed to having a “stable, predictable relationship” with Russia
.
    Ties are badly strained over a host of other issues, including cyber-attacks launched from Russia against U.S. businesses and the jailing of Alexei Navalny, Putin’s most prominent domestic opponent.
    Biden and Putin held a summit in June in Geneva, when the U.S. president said Washington would find out in the next six months to a year whether it was possible to establish a worthwhile strategic dialogue with Moscow.
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Alexander Marrow; additional reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Gareth Jones)
[IT IS OBVIOUS THAT JOE BIDEN IS WORKING WITH RUSSIA AND CHINA AND EU TO PROMOTE HIS COMBINE TO THE GOALS OF THE GLOBALIST SOCIALIST ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT, DEEP STATE AND SWAMPERS WHICH IS IN FULL FORCE NOW IN THE WORLD FOR A FULL UNIFICATION AND HE USED A PERSON INVOLVED IN THE FAKE RUSSIA, RUSSIA COLLUSION OF 2016 TO DO THIS].

10/13/2021 ECB Policymaker Kazimir Rejects Calls To Quit After Corruption Charge
FILE PHOTO: Peter Kazimir, when Slovakia's Finance Minister, attends the Asian Financial
Forum in Hong Kong, China January 15, 2018. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo
    PRAGUE (Reuters) - Slovak central bank governor and European Central Bank policymaker Peter Kazimir said on Wednesday he would remain in office and fight charges of bribery amid calls to consider standing down.
    Kazimir, a member of the ECB’s governing council, reiterated he was innocent and would appeal the prosecutor’s charges, an early stage of proceedings before a decision is made whether the charged person stands trial.
    “This accusation is not directly connected with the (Slovak) National Bank’s activity,” Kazimir said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.
    “I am working on an appeal against the charges.    I did not commit any crime and I will fulfil my duties as governor going forward.”
    The euro zone country’s Special Prosecutor’s office confirmed on Wednesday that Kazimir, 53, had been charged on Oct. 8 with a “corruption-related crime”. It gave no further details.
    Kazimir’s lawyer, Ondrej Mularcik, said on Tuesday Kazimir was charged with the lowest of three severities of crime in Slovakia’s penal code that is punishable by up to five years in prison, but gave no details.
    President Zuzana Caputova, a former anti-graft activist and lawyer, said earlier on Wednesday Kazimir should consider resigning.
    “In Peter Kazimir’s situation, I would consider resigning from the post of NBS (National Bank of Slovakia) governor to protect the institution he is representing,” Caputova said.
    Kazimir said he respected Caputova’s values and understood her position but would not quit.
    “I feel this accusation as a gross injustice and I will do everything to clear my name and to defend the institution that I represent,” he said.
    Finance Minister Igor Matovic also said Kazimir should ponder stepping aside.
    “He should consider himself what he has done or not,” Matovic said in a video sent by his ministry to media outlets.    “It is a serious accusation, and if it is true, then of course he should not stay at his post.”
    Under Slovak law, the central bank chief is appointed by the president after being nominated by the government and approved by parliament, and can be dismissed if he or she stops meeting criteria which include a clean criminal record.
    ECB Governing Council members can be removed if they have been found guilty of serious misconduct or authorities provide sufficient evidence that they have engaged in such misconduct.
    Kazimir was finance minister from 2012 until 2019, nominated by the leftist SMER party, before he assumed his six-year term at the helm of the central bank.
    Slovak news website aktuality.sk reported on Tuesday Kazimir was a “courier” who brought an around 50,000 euro ($57,845) bribe to the then-chief of the country’s tax administration, who is now being investigated for several crimes and is cooperating with police.    It did not identify its source.
    Slovakia’s new government, elected in March 2020, has launched a series of corruption investigations involving public officials following a voter backlash over the 2018 murder of a journalist who investigated high-level graft.
($1 = 0.8644 euros)
(Reporting by Robert Muller and Jan Lopatka; Editing by Alison Williams, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Nick Macfie)

10/13/2021 Ten Serbs, 10 Policemen Injured In Kosovo Clashes
Damaged cars are pictured following clashes with ethnic Serbs during a police operation against
the smuggling of goods, in Mitrovica, Kosovo, October 13, 2021. REUTERS/Laura Hasani
    PRISTINA (Reuters) -Ten Serbs and 10 police officers were injured on Wednesday when police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd that became hostile after raids on suspected smugglers in a volatile area of Kosovo populated by the Serb minority.
    Kosovo police said officers met resistance with firearms and grenades in Mitrovica as they carried out an operation to seize smuggled goods in several towns on Wednesday.
    Police chief Samedin Mehmeti said 10 officers were injured in the clashes.    Interior Minister Xelal Svecla said the police operation was “not directed against any nationality.”
    “Most of those arrested are Albanians, most of those wanted are Albanians,” Svecla told a news conference in Pristina.
    Serbian state TV showed people in northern Mitrovica running away from tear gas and a car on fire.    Similar clashes were reported in the nearby town of Zvecan.
    At an urgent meeting in Serbia’s border town of Raska, President Aleksandar Vucic, flanked by the defence and interior ministers and military commanders, sought to assure Serbs from northern Kosovo that Belgrade supported them.
    “In that struggle in which we have to protect the lives of our children … we will not only protect them, but we will win,” Vucic told emotional Serbs.
    He did not specify the scope of Serbia’s support.
    The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called for an immediate end to the violence, adding that all “open issues must be addressed through the EU-facilitated dialogue” between Belgrade and Pristina.
    “Unilateral and uncoordinated actions that endanger stability are unacceptable,” Borrell said on Twitter. Belgrade and Pristina agreed to an EU-sponsored dialogue in 2013, but little progress has been made.
    Zlatan Elek, the head of a hospital in northern Mitrovica, said 10 people had been injured, one with a gunshot wound to the shoulder blade.
    Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic urged NATO, which has 3,000 peacekeepers in Kosovo, to step in and stop the violence.
    Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti said: “Crime and criminal groups will not be tolerated and will be fought. We will fight and stop the smuggling.”
    Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but around 50,000 Serbs who remain in the northern part of the country refuse to recognise the Pristina authorities and see Belgrade as their capital.
(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Additional reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic in Belgrade; Editing by Ivana Sekularac, Peter Graff and Giles Elgood)

10/13/2021 Bulgarian Miners March To Protect Coal Industry
A woman holds a placard reading "Timmermans, how will we live without electricity?" as miners and workers at Bulgaria's largest
coal-fired power plant Maritsa East 2 take part in a demonstration urging the government to avoid an early closure of coal-fired
energy production in the Balkan country under the EU Green Deal, Sofia, Bulgaria, October 13, 2021. REUTERS/Spasiyana Sergieva
    SOFIA (Reuters) – About 1,000 miners and workers from Bulgaria’s largest coal-fired power plant marched in Sofia on Wednesday to protect their jobs and to urge the government to support their industry.
    Demonstrators called on the Cabinet to guarantee it would not rush to shut mines and power plants at the Maritsa East lignite coal complex in southern Bulgaria, despite a European Union push to decarbonise the bloc’s economy by 2050.
    “There should be green, clean energy, but time is needed for investment first,” said Spaska Ruskova, 58, who works for a mining equipment company.
    “It will probably happen for our grandchildren, but it cannot happen now, because hundreds of families are destined to lose their jobs and doomed to high power bills,” she said.
    Bulgaria needs to set a date when it will phase out power generation from coal if it wants to draw on EU recovery funds and meet the bloc’s climate goals.
    The interim government has said it will present its plan for EU aid to Brussels on Friday.    It will defend its target of closing coal-fired plants by 2038 or 2040 – largely in line with the miners’ demands.
    Environmental group Greenpeace has demanded that the polluting plants be closed by 2030, urging Bulgaria to focus on renewable energy and providing new jobs in the coal regions.
    Protesters say early closure of the plants, which produce 40% of Bulgaria’s electricity, would lead to power shortages and rising energy costs.
    Some 10,000 people work at the Maritsa East complex, whose lignite coal deposits are rich in sulphur blamed for poor air quality and respiratory diseases.
    Trade unions say the complex provides livelihoods for more than 100,000 people in the European Union’s poorest member and have vowed to keep up pressure on the government that is to formed after a Nov. 14 general election.
(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Giles Elgood)

10/13/2021 Poland’s Kaczynski To Quit Government Job, Focus On Party Helm
FILE PHOTO: Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, attends a vote during
parliamentary elections at a polling station in Warsaw, Poland, October 13, 2019. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    WARSAW (Reuters) -Poland’s ruling party chief Jaroslaw Kaczynski said on Wednesday he would quit his government post to spend more time on leading the party, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters, confirming a report by state-run news agency PAP.
    Kaczynski, 72, is widely seen as Poland’s de facto ruler and will remain key to the direction of the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party as it eyes parliamentary elections in 2023, while dealing with an unstable parliamentary majority and deepening conflicts with the European Union.
    “He wants to devote himself to the party,” one of the sources said.
    PAP reported that Kaczynski had told a meeting of the PiS parliamentary group that he would leave his government post at the beginning of 2022.
    The twin brother of late president Lech Kaczynski, who died in a 2010 plane crash, returned to government in October 2020 as deputy prime minister responsible for national security and defence.
    PiS spokespeople could not immediately be reached for comment.
    The party remains ahead in opinion polls, thanks partly to its generous social benefit programmes, despite an escalating conflict with the EU over accusations that the hard-right PiS has jeopardised the rule of law, media freedoms and LGBT rights.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish, Anna Koper, Pawel Florkiewicz Editing by Gareth Jones and Mark Heinrich)

10/13/2021 Russia’s Putin Touts ‘Stable, Working’ Ties With Biden by OAN Newsroom
Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while speaking at the plenary session of the Russian Energy Week
in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
    President Vladimir Putin is praising Joe Biden for maintaining constructive ties between Washington and Moscow.
    Speaking at an economic forum in Moscow on Wednesday, Putin said he’s had “stable and working” contacts with Biden.    He added he’s currently holding talks with U.S. diplomats to extend communication with Biden.    Earlier in the year, Biden dropped sanctions on Russian-German pipeline Nord Stream 2.
    Putin also said he’s open to working with Biden on arms control and terrorism.
    “In my opinion, President Biden and I have rather stable working relations.    The U.S. under secretary of state is currently in Moscow.    We discuss.    She is holding talks with her Russian counterparts to discuss the issues of our further contacts with President Biden,” stated Putin.    “So, we have quite constructive relations with the current U.S. administration.”
    Putin also warned his international partners against spreading, what he calls, “politically motivated gossip” and called for better relations overall.
[I HAVE BEEN WRITING ABOUT THE FISA-UNDERSURVEILLANACE FILE SINCE 2017 WHICH IS POLITICALLY MOTIVATED REAL NEWS COVERED UP BY THE GLOBALIST SOCIALIST ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT AND ALL THE DEEP STATE ETC. seen at www.mazzaroth.com/ChapterEight/Globalism.htm titled "Globalism Versus Nationalism That Is The Issue.".].

10/14/2021 Danish Man Suspected Of Killing Five In Bow-And-Arrow Attack In Norway by Terje Solsvik and Gwladys Fouche
An arrow left in a wall is seen after several people were killed and others were injured by a man using a
bow and arrows to carry out attacks, in Kongsberg, Norway, October 13, 2021. Terje Bendiksby/NTB/via REUTERS
    OSLO (Reuters) - A 37-year-old Danish citizen is suspected of killing five people with a bow-and-arrow and other weapons in the Norwegian town of Kongsberg in a rare incident of mass killing in Norway, police said on Thursday.
    Two people, including an off-duty police officer, were wounded in the Wednesday evening attacks https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/man-kills-several-people-norway-bow-arrow-attacks-police-say-2021-10-13, which took place in different locations in the town, 68 km (42 miles) southwest of the capital, Oslo.
    The man, who was held in custody, had cooperated with police and implicated himself in the attacks, although he has not yet entered a plea.
    “He is admitting to the facts of the case,” police attorney Ann Iren Svane Mathiassen told news agency NTB.
    “We’ll have to see if he also pleads guilty,” she later told private broadcaster TV2.
    The man, who lives in the Kongsberg area, was believed to have been acting alone, police said.    They said nothing about a possible motive.
    Norway’s royal family expressed its sympathies.
    “We’re horrified by the tragic events at Kongsberg,” King Harald said in a letter addressed to the town’s mayor.
    “The rest of the nation stands with you,” the 84-year-old monarch wrote.
    The death toll was the worst of any attack in Norway since 2011, when far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people, most of them teenagers at a youth camp.
    “This very serious situation is of course making a deep impression on Kongsberg and those who live here,” district police chief Oeyvind Aas said in a statement.
    United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was shocked and saddened by the news.    “My thoughts are with the victims’ loved ones and all the people of Norway at this very difficult moment,” he said in a tweet.
    The police said they were giving information on the man’s nationality after rumours swirled on social media about people not linked to the attacks.
    Norway’s incoming prime minister, Jonas Gahr Stoere, who is due to take power on Thursday after winning a general election last month, said he had been kept informed by the outgoing government.
    “What we’ve learned from Kongsberg bears witness of a gruesome and brutal act,” Stoere said in a statement to news agency NTB.
    The attacks went on for more than half an hour over a “large area” of Kongsberg, including at a Coop Extra grocery store, the Aftenposten newspaper cited police as saying.
    A woman living near the store said she had heard alarms as she was walking home.
    “I saw a group of police officers, including one who held several arrows in his hand,” the woman, Marit Hoefle, told the newspaper.
    Investigators are considering whether the attacks amounted to an act of terrorism and said they would give more details of the incident later on Thursday.
    Police were interrogating the suspect and he was cooperating, his defence lawyer said.
    “He is cooperating and is giving detailed statements regarding this event,” lawyer Fredrik Neumann told public broadcaster NRK.
    Images from one of the crime scenes showed an arrow that appeared to be stuck in the wall of a wood-panelled building.
    About 28,000 people live in the Kongsberg municipality.
    Following the attacks, the police directorate said it had ordered officers nationwide to carry firearms.    Norwegian police are normally unarmed but officers have access to guns when needed.
(Editing by Robert Birsel, Peter Graff and Toby Chopra)

10/14/2021 Hungary’s Daily COVID-19 Cases Rise Above 1,000 For First Time During Fourth Wave Of Pandemic
FILE PHOTO: Guests enjoy the sunny weather as they sit in front of a bistro after the Hungarian government allowed to reopen outdoor
terraces, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in Budapest, Hungary, April 24, 2021. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
    BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary reported 1,141 new COVID-19 infections on Thursday, with the number rising above 1,000 for the first time during the fourth wave of the pandemic, the government said.
    The virus has infected 831,866 people in the country of 10 million so far and killed 30,341.    Nearly 5.7 million people have been fully vaccinated in Hungary and 948,000 people have already received a third, booster shot as well.
(Reporting by Krisztina Than and Anita Komuves)

10/14/2021 Secessionist Leader Says Serbs Will Undo Bosnia State Institutions
FILE PHOTO: Member of Bosnia and Herzegovina's Presidency Milorad Dodik gestures as he speaks during
the Budapest Demographic Summit in Budapest, Hungary, September 23, 2021. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
    SARAJEVO (Reuters) – Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, who advocates the secession of the Serb-dominated region from Bosnia, announced on Thursday that the Serb Republic leadership will soon take measures aimed at unravelling key institutions of the Bosnian state.
    Dodik, who currently serves as the Serb member of Bosnia’s tripartite inter-ethnic presidency, has long complained about state institutions such as the judiciary and prosecutors, saying they were established based on decisions by international peace envoys and were not enshrined in the constitution.
    Under the Dayton peace accords that ended its devastating war in the 1990s, Bosnia was split into two autonomous regions – the Serb Republic and the Federation dominated by Croats and Bosniaks, linked by a weak central government.
    The country’s constitution is part of the peace deal.
    But since the Balkan country was not functional after the war, representatives from the international community imposed rulings creating institutions upon which formation the three rival ethnic groups could not agree.
    “I proclaim the end of this,” Dodik said at a news conference after meeting ambassadors from the European Union countries in Bosnia, adding that about 130 laws imposed by peace envoys will be annulled and authorities given back to the regional parliament.
    He said last week that the Serb Republic would pull out of Bosnia’s armed forces, top judiciary body and tax administration, the three institutions representing key pillars of the state security, rule of law and the fiscal system.
    Among the institutions he plans to unravel are also the State Investigation and Protection Agency), the Intelligence-Security Agency, state court and prosecution, as well as the constitutional court – in reality all institutions that enable the state functioning.
    Dodik said he was not going for the secession of the Serb Republic but for its full autonomy within Bosnia, which would not affect the country’s territorial integrity.
    “There is no war, there will be no war and there is no possibility for the war,” he said, adding the Serb leadership did not plan to take any military measures.
    However Dodik, a staunch supporter of Russia, has earlier said that unidentified “friends” had promised help to the Serb Republic in case of “Western military intervention” against the region.
    Also on Thursday, the Peace Implementation Council, the body grouping representatives of the countries and international organisations overseeing Bosnia’s peace, called on all Bosnian leaders to reject and cease “destabilising and divisive rhetoric,” including threats of secession.
    “Attempting to undo 26 years of hard-won progress and peace is the opposite of what all political leaders have committed to and where Bosnia-Herzegovina needs to go,” the ambassadors said in a statement, with which Russia disagreed.
(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Alistair Bell)

10/14/2021 Poland Passes Legislation Allowing Migrant Pushbacks At Border
Polish Army soldiers are seen in front of the Border Guard headquarters
in Michalowo, Poland October 11, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland’s parliament passed legislation on Thursday that human rights advocates say aims to legalise pushbacks of migrants across its borders in breach of the country’s commitments under international law.
    Poland, Lithuania and Latvia have reported sharp increases in migrants from countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq trying to cross their frontiers from Belarus, in what Warsaw and Brussels say is a form of hybrid warfare designed to put pressure on the EU over sanctions it imposed on Minsk.
    Rights groups have criticised Poland’s nationalist government over its treatment of migrants at the border, with accusations of multiple illegal pushbacks.    Six people have been found dead near the border since the surge of migrants.
    Border guards argue they are acting in accordance with government regulations amended in August and now written into law.    The legislation must now be signed by President Andrzej Duda, an ally of the ruling nationalists, to take force.
    The amendments include a procedure whereby a person caught illegally crossing the border can be ordered to leave Polish territory based on a decision by the local Border Guard chief.
    The order may be appealed to the commander of the Border Guard, but this does not suspend its execution.
    Additionally, the bill allows the chief of the Office of Foreigners to disregard an application for international protection by a foreigner immediately caught after illegally crossing the border.
    Under international law, migrants have a right to claim asylum and it is forbidden to send potential asylum-seekers back to where their lives or well-being might be in danger.
    The EU’s home affairs commissioner has said EU countries need to protect the bloc’s external borders, but that they also have to uphold the rule of law and fundamental rights.
    Critics such as Poland’s Human Rights Ombudsman and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights say the new law does not guarantee effective recourse for people – migrants or refugees – seeking international protection.
    “If there are people who have a legitimate request to seek asylum, there should be a way to allow that to happen,” ODIHR director Matteo Mecacci told Reuters.
    “I understand there are also security concerns…but security concerns cannot completely overrun the need for international protection.”
(Reporting by Justyna Pawlak and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

10/15/2021 Norway Court To Rule On Detention Of Bow-And-Arrow Attack Suspect by Victoria Klesty
FILE PHOTO: Police officers investigate after several people were killed and others were injured by a man using
a bow and arrows to carry out attacks, in Kongsberg, Norway, October 13, 2021. Hakon Mosvold/NTB/via REUTERS
(Adds details)
    KONGSBERG, Norway (Reuters) -A Norwegian court will decide on Friday how long a man suspected of killing five people with a bow and arrow and other weapons can initially be held in detention, police said.
    Investigators have named the suspect as Espen Andersen Braathen, a 37-year-old Danish citizen who has lived for most of his life in Norway’s Kongsberg, where the attacks https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/man-kills-several-people-norway-bow-arrow-attacks-police-say-2021-10-13 took place on Wednesday. He has acknowledged killing the victims, investigators have said.
    He is a convert to Islam who had shown signs of radicalisation, police said.
    Police said the attacks took place over “a large area” of Kongsberg, a municipality 68 km (43 miles) from the capital, Oslo.
    Four women and one man, all aged between 50 and 70, were killed in what appeared to be a random “act of terror” https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/suspect-norway-bow-and-arrow-killings-is-danish-man-police-say-2021-10-14, according to police.
    Three others, including an off-duty police officer, were wounded.
    The attack lasted 35 minutes before police apprehended the assailant.
    The trial in the case is still months away.
    Police have said Braathen is cooperating with the investigation.
    He will not oppose a request to keep him in detention, and will be subjected to a full psychiatric evaluation, his lawyer Fredrik Neumann said on Thursday.
    The outcome of that evaluation could determine whether Braathen risks being sentenced to prison or committed to psychiatric care.
    Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere, who took office https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/norways-labour-led-cabinet-takes-office-day-overshadowed-by-attack-2021-10-14 on Thursday after winning elections last month, will visit Kongsberg on Friday together with Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl.
    The death toll was the worst of any attack in Norway since 2011, when far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people, most of them teenagers at a youth camp.
(Reporting by Victoria Klesty, writing by Terje Solsvik, editing by Gwladys Fouche and John Stonestreet)

10/15/2021 Russia Says It Chased U.S. Naval Destroyer Away From Its Waters
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee (DDG 90) steams during a show of force transit exercise while
underway conducting a composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) with the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group in preparation for an
upcoming deployment in the Pacific Ocean on March 31, 2017. Courtesy Deanna C. Gonzales/U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS
    MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russia said one of its military vessels chased away a U.S. naval destroyer that attempted to violate Russian territorial waters during Russian-Chinese naval drills in the Sea of Japan on Friday.
    There was no immediate comment from the U.S. side.
    The Russian defence ministry said the crew of a Russian anti-submarine vessel, the Admiral Tributs, had radioed a warning to the USS Chafee that it was “in an area closed to navigation due to exercises with artillery fire.”
    The U.S. destroyer failed to change course and instead raised flags indicating it was preparing to launch a helicopter from its deck, meaning it could not turn or change speed, the Russian ministry said in a statement.
    “Acting within the framework of the international rules of navigation, the Admiral Tributs set a course for ousting the intruder from Russian territorial waters,” it said.
    The Chafee eventually changed course when the two vessels were less than 60 metres apart, it said.    It said the incident lasted about 50 minutes and took place in Peter the Great Bay in the west of the Sea of Japan.
    RIA news agency said the Russian defence ministry summoned the U.S. military attache, who was told the of the “unprofessional actions” of the destroyer’s crew, which had “rudely violated international laws on the prevention of collisions of vessels at sea.”
    It was the second time in four months Russia has said it chased a NATO-member warship from its waters.    In June, Russia accused a British destroyer of breaching its territorial waters off Crimea in the Black Sea, and said it had forced it away.
    Britain rejected Moscow’s account of that incident, saying at the time its ship was operating lawfully in Ukrainian waters.
    Earlier on Friday, Russia said it had held joint naval drills with China in the Sea of Japan and practised how to operate together and destroy floating enemy mines with artillery fire.
    Relations between Russia and the United States are at post-Cold War lows, although President Vladimir Putin said this week he had established a solid relationship with his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden and saw potential for ties to improve.
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Gabrielle Tétrault-FarberWriting by Mark TrevelyanEditing by Catherine Evans and Peter Graff)

10/15/2021 Czech PM Babis Prepared To Transfer Power To Opposition – CTK Agency
FILE PHOTO: Czech Prime Minister and leader of ANO party Andrej Babis reacts during a news conference at the party's election
headquarters after the country's parliamentary election in Prague, Czech Republic, October 9, 2021. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
    PRAGUE (Reuters) - Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis is prepared to hand power to a bloc of opposition parties that won a combined majority in the lower house of parliament in an election last weekend, news agency CTK quoted him as saying in a radio interview on Friday.
    Two opposition coalitions, the centre-right Together and the liberal Pirates/Mayors, won 108 seats between them in the 200-seat lower house of parliament and have said they want to form a government together.
    Babis, head of the centrist ANO party, had acknowledged the opposition win but until Friday held out the possibility he may still have the first stab at forming a new cabinet as the head of the biggest single party in parliament.
    Czech President Milos Zeman, an ally of Babis, said before the election that he would nominate the head of the biggest party to make the first attempt at forming a new government.
    However, Zeman, 77, has made no comment on the matter since the election as he was admitted to an intensive care unit of a Prague hospital on Sunday and is being treated for a complication related to an undisclosed chronic illness.
    Babis said he would reject a mandate from the president if he were offered it, CTK quoted him as saying on Frekvence 1 radio.
    Given a lack of potential coalition partners, any Babis-led Cabinet would almost certainly fail to win the necessary vote of confidence in the lower house, though the attempt could have extended his stint in power for possibly a number of months.
(Reporting by Jan Lopatka and Robert Muller; Editing by Gareth Jones)

10/15/2021 Russia Labels Moscow Digital Media And Legal Entity Of Rosbalt ‘Foreign Agents’
FILE PHOTO: A general view shows the headquarters of Russia's justice
ministry in Moscow, Russia December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s Justice Ministry on Friday added Moscow Digital Media and RS-Balt, the legal entity of the Rosbalt media outlet, to its list of “foreign agents,” the ministry’s website showed.     The government uses the “foreign agent” designation to label foreign-funded organisations that it says are engaged in political activity.
    The term carries negative Soviet-era connotations and subjects those designated to extra government scrutiny.
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Chris Reese)

10/15/2021 U.S. Military Disputes Russia’s Comments On Naval Interaction
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee (DDG 90) steams during a show of force transit exercise while
underway conducting a composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) with the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group in preparation for an
upcoming deployment in the Pacific Ocean on March 31, 2017. Courtesy Deanna C. Gonzales/U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS
    MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said one of its military vessels chased away a U.S. naval destroyer that attempted to violate Russian territorial waters during Russian-Chinese naval drills in the Sea of Japan on Friday, something Washington said was false.
    The U.S. military said the guided missile destroyer Chafee was conducting routine operations in international waters in the Sea of Japan when a Russian destroyer came within 65 yards (60 metres) of the American ship, though all interactions were safe and professional.
    “The statement from the Russian Defense Ministry about the interaction between our two Navy ships is false,” the U.S. military statement said.
    “At all times, USS Chafee conducted operations in accordance with international law and custom,” it added.
    Earlier, the Russian defence ministry said the crew of a Russian anti-submarine vessel, the Admiral Tributs, had radioed a warning to the Chafee that it was “in an area closed to navigation due to exercises with artillery fire.”
    The U.S. destroyer failed to change course and instead raised flags indicating it was preparing to launch a helicopter from its deck, meaning it could not turn or change speed, the Russian ministry said in a statement.
    “Acting within the framework of the international rules of navigation, the Admiral Tributs set a course for ousting the intruder from Russian territorial waters,” it said.
    The Chafee eventually changed course when the two vessels were less than 60 metres apart, it said.    It said the incident lasted about 50 minutes and took place in Peter the Great Bay in the west of the Sea of Japan.
    RIA news agency said the Russian defence ministry summoned the U.S. military attache, who was told of the “unprofessional actions/i>” of the destroyer’s crew, which had “rudely violated international laws on the prevention of collisions of vessels at sea.”
    It was the second time in four months Russia has said it chased a NATO-member warship from its waters.    In June, Russia accused a British destroyer of breaching its territorial waters off Crimea in the Black Sea, and said it had forced it away.    Britain rejected Moscow’s account of that incident, saying at the time its ship was operating lawfully in Ukrainian waters.
    Earlier on Friday, Russia said it had held joint naval drills with China in the Sea of Japan and practised how to operate together and destroy floating enemy mines with artillery fire.
    Relations between Russia and the United States are at post-Cold War lows, although President Vladimir Putin said this week he had established a solid relationship with his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden and saw potential for ties to improve.
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Idrees Ali in Washington. Writing by Mark TrevelyanEditing by Catherine Evans, Peter Graff and Jonathan Oatis)

10/16/2021 Pro-Russian Rebels Call On OSCE To Help Secure Release Of Officer Detained By Ukraine by Alexander Ermochenko and Maria Tsvetkova
Protesters set up tents in front of the Park Inn hotel housing OSCE monitor mission during a rally to demand release of a pro-Russian officer, captured
by the Ukrainian military this week, in the rebel-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine October 16, 2021. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko
    DONETSK, Ukraine (Reuters) – About 200 protesters in separatist-controlled Donetsk confronted monitors from Europe’s main security and rights watchdog on Saturday to demand the release of a pro-Russian officer captured by the Ukrainian military.
    The monitoring mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation on Europe has previously faced protests organized by pro-Russian rebels, but this time protesters for the first time appeared to block the entrance to the hotel where they are based.
    A Reuters reporter saw four men in surgical masks standing close to each other at the doorsteps leading to the gate of the Park Inn, where the monitors live and have an office. They appeared to be unarmed.
    Two dozen tents were set up on a lawn in front of the hotel and a protester cut firewood with a chainsaw.
    Several OSCE monitors were seen on a terrace right outside the hotel but did not leave it or come closer to the protesters.    One filmed the crowd on a smartphone.
    Russian-backed rebels claim the Ukrainian military captured their officer, Andrei Kosyak, near the front line on Wednesday while he was part of a joint committee that oversees the ceasefire.
    The Ukrainian defence ministry said that Kosyak, who it said was a Russian citizen, belonged to a group of Russian servicemen who had carried out an undercover reconnaissance mission.
    Russia denies that it has forces in eastern Ukraine, which was taken over by Russian-backed separatists in 2014, in a conflict that Kyiv says killed 14,000 people.
    The protesters demanded that the OSCE help to get the officer released.
    “OSCE, fulfil your mandate,” one of banners held by protesters read.
    The OSCE mission, which has monitored the conflict since its start, said in a statement on Saturday it was ready to facilitate dialogue on the ground between the sides.
    “This readiness has already been communicated to the sides,” it said.    It did not comment on the protest at the hotel.
(Reporting by Alexander Ermochenko in Donetsk and Maria Tsvetkova in Moscow; Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv; Editing by Mike Harrison)

10/16/2021 Czechs Want To Know What’s Wrong With Their Ill President by Jan Lopatka
FILE PHOTO: Czech President Milos Zeman attends his inauguration ceremony at Prague Castle in Prague,
Czech Republic, March 8, 2018, after being re-elected. REUTERS/David W Cerny/File Photo/File Photo
    PRAGUE (Reuters) – When Vaclav Havel nearly died of a ruptured intestine as Czech president in 1998, doctors provided daily updates on his condition.
    Nearly a quarter of a century later, a Czech president is again in hospital but the public has not been told what is wrong with him.
    President Milos Zeman was taken into intensive care in hospital on Oct. 10.    Since then, his spokesperson and doctors have not provided a diagnosis or said how long he will need to recover.
    Politicians and members of the public are now asking whether the 77-year-old president is fit to carry out his duties in the central European country, where communists held power for over four decades until the 1989 Velvet Revolution.
    It is all the more worrying, they say, because the Czech Republic has just held an election and it is the president’s duty to appoint the next prime minister.
    “We are beginning to look like the Soviet Union or North Korea,” said Michael Zantovsky, a spokesperson for Havel in the early 1990s who now runs the Vaclav Havel Library, drawing comparisons with the secretive communist era.
    The president’s spokesperson has said Zeman has been communicating and following developments in the country.    Being in hospital has not got in the way of the president’s constitutional duties, he said.
    The spokesperson did not respond on Saturday to a request for comment on Zeman’s condition.
    Two groups that were in opposition won a majority in the lower house of parliament in the Oct. 8-9 election.    Under the constitution, it is Zeman’s duty to accept the government’s resignation and appoint a prime minister after the new parliament convenes for its first session on Nov. 8.
    The upper house requested information about the president’s prognosis in a letter to Zeman’s office on Monday.    It had received no response as of Saturday, a spokesperson for the chamber said.
‘NOT IN GOOD HANDS’
    Speaker Milos Vystrcil said on Friday the Senate could enact a constitutional clause to relieve Zeman of his duties after the lower house convenes if the situation does not change.
    He questioned whether Zeman was aware of what his office was doing, telling reporters: “The president is not in good hands.”
    The Czech president is directly elected. The government has most of the executive powers but the president is the chief commander of the armed forces, appoints key personnel including judges and central bank board members, and can issue amnesties.
    If the president’s were stripped of his powers on the grounds of incapacitation, his duties would be divided, mostly between the lower house speaker — who would appoint the new prime minister — and the prime minister.
    Zeman’s spokesperson said on Twitter the constitutional clause was meant for situations such as when the president is in a coma or abducted.
    “If grossly abused against a person who normally communicates and thinks, the president would become a de facto state prisoner,” the spokesperson said.
    Citing a lack of clearance from Zeman, the hospital has said only that the president had complications related to an undisclosed chronic illness.
    Zeman’s wife said on Thursday his recovery would “take time” but gave no details.
    Lower house head Radek Vondracek visited Zeman on Thursday and said the president felt better.
    The hospital rebuked Vondracek for visiting without doctors’ knowledge, distanced itself from his comments on Zeman’s health and asked police to enforce a ban on visits without doctors’ consent.
    Zeman, a smoker, has previously battled diabetes and neuropathy – nerve damage or dysfunction – in his legs, and he has started using a wheelchair.
    He spent eight days in hospital in September, when his office said no life-threatening problems were discovered.
(Reporting by Jan Lopatka, additional reporting by Robert Muller, editing by Timothy Heritage)

10/16/2021 Austrian Chancellor Says Government Coalition Can Still Work Together
FILE PHOTO: Austria's Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg speaks during a media statement with European Commission President
Ursula von der Leyen at EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, October 14, 2021. Virginia Mayo/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    ZURICH (Reuters) – Newly installed Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said the country’s ruling coalition is on “thin ice” but could still work together after his predecessor Sebastian Kurz quit last week.
    Kurz stepped down https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/austrias-kurz-says-stepping-down-chancellor-2021-10-09 a week ago at the behest of his junior coalition partner, the Greens, after prosecutors placed him and nine others under investigation on suspicion of breach of trust, corruption and bribery.
    Schallenberg, also a member of Kurz’s conservative OVP party, launched a media blitz over the weekend, giving interviews to 13 newspapers and saying he wanted to repair the shattered trust between the OVP and the Greens and to continue to govern until the next general election, due by 2024.
    Kurz, who denies wrongdoing, remains leader of his conservative OVP party and is now also its top lawmaker in parliament.    Opponents have said he will continue to control policy from those positions.
    “In the long term, the cooperation (in the coalition) will only work if we rebuild basic trust,” Schallenberg told Der Standard and Kleine Zeitung.    “It has to be assumed that everything will not go smoothly, that there will be other voices as well."
    “But if the main players agree, it can work out.    We have a substantial government program. We are all on thin ice.     This must be clear to all of us.”
    The former foreign secretary, who was sworn in as chancellor on Monday, proposed a private get-together for the entire government, where he would “act as a mediator to get into calmer waters,” he told Salzburger Nachrichten.
    Still there remained “wounds” between the OVP and the Greens, he told Kronen Zeitung, and rebuilding trust would not happen overnight.
    Schallenberg said there was no agreement “whatsoever” with Kurz to stand aside after the inquiry is completed.
    “I will hold this office until the next election to the National Council,” Schallenberg told Wiener Zeitung.
    Asked who would have the last word on policy, himself or Kurz, Schallenberg said he had been sworn in as chancellor and would carry out its duties.
    Still, Schallenberg said he believed Kurz would be the party’s main candidate at the next election.
    “I assume so,” Schallenberg told Wiener Zeitung.    “I came to the chancellery in an emergency.    My goal is to bring stability back.”
(Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Frances Kerry)

10/17/2021 Austrians Turn On Ex-Chancellor’s Party After Corruption Claims
FILE PHOTO: Austria's former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz delivers his speech during a session
of the parliament in Vienna, Austria October 14, 2021. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo
    ZURICH (Reuters) – Austrians have turned on the conservative Austrian People’s Party (OVP), the senior partner in their coalition government, after party leader Sebastian Kurz quit as chancellor over corruption allegations, according to a poll published on Sunday.
    Support for the conservative OVP has crashed from 34% to 26% in the wake of the affair, according to the survey published by newspaper Kurier on Sunday.
    The outcome puts the party, which installed former foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg as the new chancellor, only marginally ahead of the opposition Social Democrats (SPO)’s approval rating of 24%, the paper said.
    Kurz, 35, quit as chancellor under pressure from his junior coalition party, the Greens, after prosecutors placed him under investigation on suspicion of various degrees of bribery, corruption and breach of trust.    He denies any wrongdoing.
    Kurz remains leader of his party and is now also its top lawmaker in parliament, triggering opposition claims he is still exercising power behind the scenes.
    Some 71% of the people questioned in the Kurier survey thought Kurz’s resignation as chancellor was justified, with only 22% saying it was unwarranted.
    Anti-corruption prosecutors say they suspect conservative officials then in the Finance Ministry of using state funds to pay for manipulated polling and coverage favourable to Kurz to appear in a newspaper starting in 2016, when he was seeking to become party leader.
    A poll by Unique Research for Profil magazine published on Saturday also showed how the Kurz affair has damaged the OVP.
    The conservatives polled only 25% with Schallenberg as candidate, 10% down on earlier polls and the same level as the Social Democrats.
    Two thirds of respondents told the Unique Research poll they thought there was substance to the allegations against Kurz, while 23% said they thought there was nothing to the affair.
(Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

10/17/2021 Outsider Marki-Zay Jumps To Early Lead In Hungary Opposition Run-Off by Gergely Szakacs
FILE PHOTO: Mayor of Hodmezovasarhely and conservative opposition candidate for prime minister, Peter Marki-Zay, leader of
independent civic political initiative "Everyone's Hungary Movement" speaks at a campaign rally during the second round of the
opposition primary election, in Budapest, Hungary, October 10, 2021. Picture taken October 10, 2021. REUTERS/Marton Monus
    BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungarian small-town mayor Peter Marki-Zay, an outsider with no party affiliation, was ahead of leftist Klara Dobrev with about a fifth of constituencies reporting in an opposition primary run-off to pick Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s challenger.
    In next year’s parliamentary election Orban will, for the first time since he came to power in 2010, face a united front of opposition parties that also includes the Socialists, liberals and the formerly far-right, now centre-right Jobbik.
    With four of 18 Budapest constituencies and four of 19 counties reporting on Sunday, Marki-Zay had 63,308 votes while Democratic Coalition politician Dobrev had 38,227.
    Marki-Zay, who has portrayed himself as a palatable choice for both left-wing and conservative voters, held a wide lead in Budapest, while Dobrev, a lawyer and economist, had the edge in the countryside, early results showed.
    The 49-year-old conservative father of seven with degrees in economics, marketing and engineering rose to prominence when he won a 2018 mayoral contest in his hometown, a ruling Fidesz party stronghold.
    Both candidates are looking to dismantle what they describe as Orban’s “illiberal state,” including its ideological foundations, Hungary’s constitution and a raft of major laws, which critics say have helped Orban cement his grip on power.
    While Orban thrives on conflict and has a series of running battles with the European Union, both Marki-Zay and Dobrev are looking to improve relations with Brussels and they are also in favour of Hungary adopting the euro in the foreseeable future.
    “In general, Dobrev might be better positioned to keep the six diverse opposition parties united, but could also struggle to attract independent and right-leaning voters in the general election,” Andrius Tursa at think-tank Teneo said in a note.
    “Meanwhile, Marki-Zay could be better positioned to challenge incumbent Viktor Orban, but his relatively low profile and limited political experience might make it difficult to keep opposition parties united behind his candidacy.”
(Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

10/17/2021 Czech Opposition Parties Plan Lower 2022 Budget Deficit After Election Win
FILE PHOTO: Leader of Civic Democratic Party (ODS) and Together (SPOLU) coalition candidate for prime minister Petr Fiala attends the last radio
debate before the country's parliamentary election in Prague, Czech Republic, October 8, 2021. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo/File Photo
    PRAGUE (Reuters) – Czech opposition parties seeking to form a new government will aim to rework the 2022 budget to cut the planned deficit to below 300 billion crowns ($13.72 billion), a top party leader said on Sunday.
    Petr Fiala, leader of the centre-right coalition Together which defeated Prime Minister Andrej Babis’s ruling ANO party in an Oct. 8-9 election and plans to form a new government with the Pirate/Mayors group, told a Czech Television debate show that they would reject the current administration’s budget plans.
    That means the budget is unlikely to be approved before year-end, causing the country to revert to a provisional plan that limits discretionary spending. Fiala said a provisional budget for up to two months would not cause a problem.
    Babis’s government has proposed a 376.6 billion crown deficit in 2022, similar to the record gap seen in 2020 after the start of the coronavirus pandemic and the expected gap seen in 2021 as spending stays high.
    “A deficit like this is not possible,” Fiala said.    “We have to count on a provisional budget, but of course it is in everybody’s interest to have the amended budget accepted at the soonest.”    He said changes could be done in weeks.
    When asked if the 2022 deficit could be below 300 billion crowns, Fiala said he would like ministries to seek operational savings of around 6%, which he said could cut the deficit by almost 100 billion crowns.
    Fiala said the parties making up the future administration did not want to raise taxes as part of their plans.
    Babis’s government has faced criticism for driving up budget deficits and state debt with a record income tax cut and pension and public wage hikes on top of pandemic spending. ($1 = 21.8710 Czech crowns)
(Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Jan Harvey)

10/17/2021 Russian Actor And Director Making First Movie In Space Return To Earth After 12-Day Mission
The International Space Station (ISS) crew member Russian actress Yulia Peresild rests after the landing of the Soyuz MS-18 space capsule in a
remote area outside Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan October 17, 2021, in this still image taken from video. Roscosmos/Handout via REUTERS
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – A Russian actor and a film director making the first move film in space returned to Earth on Sunday after spending 12 days on the International Space Station (ISS).
    The Soyuz MS-18 space capsule carrying Russian ISS crew member Oleg Novitskiy, Yulia Peresild and Klim Shipenko landed in a remote area outside the western Kazakhstan at 07:35 a.m. (0435 GMT), the Russian space agency Roscosmos said.
    The crew had dedocked from the ISS three hours earlier.
    Russian state TV footage showed the reentry capsule descending under its parachute above the vast Kazakh steppe, followed by ground personnel assisting the smiling crew as they emerged from the capsule.
    However, Peresild, who is best known for her role in the 2015 film “Battle for Sevastopol,” said she had been sorry to leave the ISS.
    “I’m in a bit of a sad mood today,” the 37-year-old actor told Russian Channel One after the landing.
    “That’s because it had seemed that 12 days was such a long period of time, but when it was all over, I didn’t want to bid farewell,” she said.
    Last week 90-year-old U.S. actor William Shatner – Captain James Kirk of “Star Trek” fame – became the oldest person in space aboard a rocketship flown by billionaire Jeff Bezos’s company Blue Origin.
    Peresild and Shipenko have been sent to Russian Star City, the home of Russia’s space programme on the outskirts of Moscow for their post-flight recovery which will take about a week, Roscosmos said.
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

10/17/2021 Russia Scrambles Fighter Jet To Escort U.S. Military Plane – TASS
ILE PHOTO: A Russian Air Force MiG-31 fighter jet flies during the Victory Day parade, marking the 73rd anniversary of
the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, above Red Square in Moscow, Russia May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – A Russian MiG-31 fighter jet has been scrambled to escort a U.S. B-1B strategic bomber over the Sea of Japan, TASS news agency reported on Sunday citing the Russian military, just days after an incident with a U.S. naval destroyer in the same region.
    It said the bomber had not breached the Russian border.
    Russia said on Friday one of its military vessels chased away a U.S. destroyer that attempted to violate Russian territorial waters during Russian-Chinese naval drills in the Sea of Japan, something Washington said was false.
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Alex Richardson)

10/17/2021 Outsider Marki-Zay Hopes To Blunt Orban’s Attacks In 2022 Hungarian Election by Gergely Szakacs
Opposition candidate for prime minister Peter Marki-Zay waits at the election headquarters after
the opposition primary election in Budapest, Hungary, October 17, 2021. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
    BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Peter Marki-Zay, the small-town mayor who will take on Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Hungary’s 2022 election, figures his conservative, family-man persona will leave nationalist Orban floundering in next year’s vote.
    Marki-Zay beat left-wing front-runner Klara Dobrev in an opposition primary on Sunday in a major upset, as only two of the six opposition parties had endorsed him before the vote.
    The 49-year-old father of seven, who has degrees in economics, marketing and engineering, rose to prominence when he won a 2018 mayoral contest in his hometown, a stronghold of the ruling Fidesz party.
    Portraying himself as a palatable choice for both left-wing and conservative voters, Marki-Zay had said the opposition stood no chance of defeating Orban with Dobrev, the wife of former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, one of the most divisive figures in Hungarian politics.
    “This (contest) is about whether we will be free,” Marki-Zay told a news conference after Budapest’s leftist mayor, Gergely Karacsony, withdrew from the race in his favour last week.
    “Whether Hungary will remain a European country or it sinks.    It loses its track and turns towards the east, becoming a corrupt dictatorship, from which its own people are fleeing.”
    Marki-Zay’s family-man image and Catholic faith, which fit well with the ideology embraced by Orban, could make it harder for Fidesz to vilify him, as the ruling party has portrayed top leftist candidates in the running as Gyurcsany’s puppets.
    “If I were to win the candidacy, (Fidesz) would have to dump all of its playbooks,” Marki-Zay has said, slamming Orban’s past manoeuvring, which saw the 58-year-old premier turn from a fiery liberal into a nationalist self-appointed defender of Christian values.
    Marki-Zay, founder of the grassroots Everyone’s Hungary Movement (MMM), has promised to jail those responsible for what he has described as “theft from state coffers” and pledged to rewrite Orban’s constitution via a referendum.
    He is also looking to annul laws that have helped cement Orban’s power, and to restore the autonomy of local governments. Marki-Zay also said he would adopt the euro.
    Only the leftist Momentum and the Socialists formally endorsed Marki-Zay before the run-off, while others hedged their bets, saying they would back the eventual winning candidate.
(Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Toby Chopra)

10/18/2021 Russia Shuts Mission To NATO In Spy Row Retaliation
FILE PHOTO: Banners displaying the NATO logo are placed at the entrance of the new NATO headquarters
during the move to the new building, in Brussels, Belgium April 19, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman
    MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Monday it would halt the activities of its diplomatic mission to NATO after the Western military alliance expelled eight Russians saying they were spies.
    Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also said staff at NATO’s military mission in Moscow would be stripped of their accreditation from Nov. 1, and the alliance’s information office in the Russian capital would be shuttered.
    “If NATO members have any urgent matters, they can contact our ambassador in Belgium on these questions,” Lavrov told a news conference.
    NATO said on Oct. 6 it had expelled https://www.reuters.com/world/nato-says-expelled-eight-members-russian-mission-alliance-2021-10-06 eight members of Russia’s mission to the alliance who it said were “undeclared Russian intelligence officers.”
    Moscow said at the time that the expulsions undermined hopes that relations with the U.S.-led alliance could normalise.
    “NATO is not interested in equitable dialogue and joint work,” Lavrov said on Monday, announcing the closure of the Russian mission.    “If that’s the case, then we don’t see the need to keep pretending that changes in the foreseeable future are possible.”
    NATO said on Monday it had taken note of Russia’s decision.
    “We regret these steps.    NATO’s policy towards Russia remains consistent,” NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu said.    “We have strengthened our deterrence and defence in response to Russia’s aggressive actions, while at the same time we remain open to dialogue, including through the NATO-Russia Council.”
    The dispute marks the latest deterioration in East-West ties that are already at post-Cold War lows.
    German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Russia no longer seemed willing to talk to the West.
    “It’s more than just regrettable, this decision taken in Moscow,” he said.    “It will seriously damage the relationship.”
    Russia accuses NATO of provocative activity close to its borders, and staged major exercises of its own in September.
    The alliance says it is determined to reinforce the security of member states close to Russia following Moscow’s annexation of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and its backing for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
(Reporting by Angelina Kazakova, Andrey Ostroukh, Philip Blenkinsop and Sabine Siebold; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber, Mark Trevelyan, Philippa Fletcher and Giles Elgood)

10/18/2021 Separatists End Blockade Of Hotel Housing Conflict Monitors In Eastern Ukraine by Alexander Ermochenko and Pavel Polityuk
FILE PHOTO: Protesters set up tents in front of the Park Inn hotel housing OSCE monitor mission during
a rally to demand release of a pro-Russian officer, captured by the Ukrainian military this week, in the
rebel-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine October 16, 2021. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko/File Photo
    HORLIVKA, Ukraine/KYIV (Reuters) - Russian-backed separatists on Monday ended their blockade of a hotel housing international conflict monitors in eastern Ukraine, an incident sparked by the capture of an officer by Ukrainian armed forces last week.
    The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said on Sunday its monitors were unable to leave their patrol base in a hotel in the separatist-controlled town of Horlivka while the separatists demanded the officer’s release.
    The OSCE, Europe’s main security watchdog, said the base’s vehicle entrance had been locked with a chain and padlock and that they had seen tents pitched outside the hotel.
    It was one of several incidents reported by the OSCE of its monitors being prevented from carrying out their work since the officer’s capture.
    On Monday afternoon a Reuters reporter witnessed several protesters who had stood outside the hotel in Horlivka leaving after what they said were talks with the OSCE monitors.
    “We agreed today that the protesters unlock the building and give the OSCE members a chance to continue their duties,” said one of the negotiators, Natalya Kruzhilina.
    Protesters opened the gate of a parking lot where two OSCE cars were parked and dismantled their tents.
    However, the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) said in an emailed statement that its monitors were still not able to deploy from their hotel in the city of Donetsk.
    The OSCE had suspended the monitoring mission by its team in Donetsk after protesters gathered and pitched tents over the issue of the captured officer.
    “As a result of a protest in front of the hotel where Mission members live in Donetsk city, and in line with its safety and security procedures, the SMM does not deploy patrols from the Donetsk Team and its Hub in the same city,” it said.
    “The patrolling from the other SMM locations continues as normal.    We call upon the sides to remove all impediments to the SMM’s freedom of movement.”
    The SMM has been deployed in eastern Ukraine since 2014 with the aim of arranging dialogue between Kyiv’s forces and the separatists amid a conflict that Ukraine says has so far claimed about 14,000 lives.
HOSTAGES
    The Ukrainian government had described the OSCE monitors as “hostages” and in a statement called on the international community to investigate what it said was another attempt to undermine the monitoring mission’s ability to operate.
    “The detention of international observers by armed individuals is a sign of international terrorism,” the Ukrainian delegation to the peace talks said.
    The foreign minister of the Russia-backed self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Natalya Nikonorova, said the OSCE mission in Donetsk was safe and its monitors had not asked to leave the building so far.
    The people outside the hotel were unarmed, Nikonorova said.    “There are no acts of violence… People express their resentment and, by the way, we understand them.”
    The separatists say the officer, Andrei Kosyak, was captured by the Ukrainian military near the front line last Wednesday while he was helping to oversee the ceasefire.
    The Ukrainian defence ministry said Kosyak was a Russian citizen and belonged to a group of Russian servicemen who had carried out an undercover reconnaissance mission.
    On Sunday, the SMM also said three of its patrol vehicles were prevented from travelling from government to separatist-controlled areas until Kosyak was freed.
    The conflict dates back to 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine after mass street protests that ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, a Kremlin ally.
    Fighting then erupted in eastern Ukraine between Kyiv’s forces and Russian-backed separatists.    Moscow rejects Kyiv’s accusations that it has deliberately fomented the conflict and that it has forces in eastern Ukraine.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Margaryta Chornokondratenko in Kyiv, Alexander Ermochenko in Horlivka and Maria Tsvetkova in Moscow;Editing by Gareth Jones, Matthias Williams, William Maclean)

10/18/2021 Russia’s Remote Permafrost Thaws, Threatening Homes And Infrastructure by Maxim Shemetov
A drone picture shows private houses on a territory of former airfield, damaged by thermokarst processes
in the village of Churapcha in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Russia September 5, 2021. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
    CHURAPCHA, Russia (Reuters) – The old airport in the Siberian settlement of Churapcha has been unusable for years, its runway transformed into a swampy field of puffed-up mounds and reliefs.
    Like cities and towns across northern and northeastern Russia, Churapcha is suffering the consequence of climate change thawing the permafrost https://graphics.reuters.com/CLIMATE-CHANGE/PERMAFROST/oakveelglvr/index.html on which everything is built.    “There isn’t a single settlement in Russia’s Arctic where you wouldn’t find a destroyed or deformed building,” said Alexey Maslakov, a scientist at Moscow State University.
    Homes are becoming separated from sinking earth.    Pipelines and storage facilities are under threat. Roads are increasingly in need of repair.
    As Russia warms 2.8 times faster than the global average, the melting of Siberia’s long-frozen tundra is releasing greenhouse gases that scientists fear could frustrate global efforts to curb climate-warming emissions.
    With permafrost covering 65% of Russia’s landmass, the costs are already mounting.
    Russia could face 7 trillion roubles ($97 billion) in infrastructure damage by 2050 if the rate of warming continues, said Mikhail Zheleznyak, director of Yakutsk’s Melnikov Permafrost Institute.
    The bumpy landscape around Churapcha, located some 5,000 km (3,100 miles) east of Moscow, resembles giant sheets of bubble wrap in places where ice wedges inside the ground have melted, causing the ground to crumble, sag or cave in altogether.
    “Roads, electric power supply lines, gas pipelines, oil pipelines – all linear structures respond primarily to the warming climate and its impact on the permafrost,” said Alexander Fyodorov, deputy director of the Permafrost Institute.
‘WE HAVE TO ADAPT’
    Built in the 1960s and 1970s as Soviet Russia expanded into the Arctic, many buildings in the far north and far east were constructed with the assumption that the permafrost – frozen for millennia – was sturdy and would never thaw.
    Apartment blocks sit atop stilts driven metres into the ground.
    Churapcha, with a population of 10,000, saw its airport closed in the 1990s because of the melt, scientists say.
    Over the years, the once-smooth runway has become a mottled field that looks more like a dragon’s back, as the ground sinks and the ice melts.    Eventually, the area could become a lake, according to scientists.
    Fyodorov at the Permafrost Institute has been studying the site for years, and found that some areas were subsiding at an average rate of 2-4 centimetres a year, while others were sinking by up to 12 cms annually.
    In eight settlements in central Yakutia, a region in northeast Russia, 72% of people surveyed by the North-Eastern State University said they have had problems with the subsidence of their homes’ foundations, said Fyodorov.
    Across Russia, there are more than 15 million people living on permafrost foundations.    Russia is investing to better monitor the subterranean thaw.
    “We don’t know what’s actually happening to it,” Ecology Minister Alexander Kozlov said in August.    “We need the monitoring not only to follow what is melting and how.    Scientists will use it to predict its consequences and learn how to prevent accidents.”
    The ministry plans to deploy 140 monitoring stations, each with up to 30-metre wells to measure the situation underground.    While that may help determine how quickly the region is thawing, it won’t help villagers like Yegor Dyachkovsky whose home is already buckling at Churapcha’s former airport.
    In the five years since his family built their home, the ground has sunk below it.    At first the home was raised 30 centimetres off the ground on its stilt foundations. The gap is now a full metre.
    Dyachkovsky has brought five truckloads of soil to fill the gap between the ground and his home, and says he still needs more.
    Some of his neighbors are trying to sell their homes.    “Everyone is trying to figure out the situation on their own,” said Sergei Atlasov, another Churapcha resident.
    But Dyachkovsky’s family is actually building a garage and seems ready to take his chances.
    “How can we go against nature? We have to adapt,” Dyachkovsky said.    “It’s like this everywhere.    There’s no one to complain to.    To the spirit up high, perhaps.”
(Reporting by Maxim Shemetov; additional reporting by Maria Vasilyeva and Dmitry Turlyun; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Katy Daigle and Mike Collett-White)

10/18/2021 Czech President Too Ill To Work, Politicians Discuss Relieving Him Of Duties by Jan Lopatka and Jason Hovet
FILE PHOTO: Czech President Milos Zeman attends his inauguration ceremony at Prague Castle
in Prague, Czech Republic, March 8, 2018, after being re-elected. REUTERS/David W Cerny
    PRAGUE (Reuters) - Czech President Milos Zeman is too ill to work and parliament needs to start discussing when and how to trigger constitutional mechanisms to take away his powers, the head of the assembly’s upper house said on Monday.
    Senate speaker Milos Vystrcil said Zeman’s hospital had informed him it was unlikely the central European country’s president, 77, could return to work in the coming weeks – when his duties will include appointing a new government.
    Zeman was taken to hospital the day after the Oct. 8-9 election in which his ally, Prime Minister Andrej Babis, lost to a group of opposition parties that won a combined majority in the lower house and is aiming to form a new government.
    Speaking to reporters, Vystrcil cited a hospital report he had requested after the presidential office declined to give details of Zeman’s condition for more than a week after he was taken to the hospital’s intensive care unit.
    “In the opinion of the Central Military Hospital, President Milos Zeman is not currently able, due to health reasons, to carry out any work duties,” Vystrcil said.
    “In the (hospital’s) opinion, given the character of President Zeman’s underlying illness, the long-term prognosis of his health condition is highly uncertain and thus the possibility of his return to performing work duties in the coming weeks is evaluated as unlikely.”
    Neither Vystrcil nor the hospital commented on Zeman’s exact diagnosis.
    The silence from the presidential office has drawn rebukes from most of the political scene, and some including Vystrcil have questioned if the president himself was even aware of what his office was doing.
    There was no reaction from the president’s office.
    Czech presidents are directly elected but most executive powers lie with the cabinet.    Still, presidents are crucial in power transitions, are supreme commanders of the armed forces and appoint leading personnel including central bank board members and judges.
    The constitution allows both houses of parliament to agree and, possibly temporarily, relieve the president of their duties when they are incapacitated, and split them mostly among the prime minister and the speaker of the lower house.
    The old lower house’s term ends on Thursday, and any vote would be likely taken by the new house which first meets on Nov. 8.    The task of appointing the new prime minister would fall to the speaker of the new, opposition-controlled lower house.
    Vystrcil said Senate leaders would meet parties elected for the new lower house on Tuesday to discuss next steps.
    Stripping Zeman of his powers would possibly make it easier for the opposition to form a cabinet, as Zeman had previously said he would appoint Babis even without a majority.
    He could also drag out the process of appointing opposition candidate Petr Fiala, or appoint someone else.
    Babis narrowed the field for the president on Friday when he said he would not try to cling on to power and would go into opposition even if offered a new appointment by Zeman.
    Babis called the hospital report “surprising.”
    “It is a question whether it is a permanent condition or there is some chance to improve; that I cannot judge,” he said.
    Fiala said the hospital’s report was “very serious."
    “It is necessary to find an agreement on the way forward across the political spectrum,” he said.
(Reporting by Jan Lopatka and Jason HovetEditing by Mark Heinrich, William Maclean)

10/18/2021 Azerbaijan Wants World Court To Order Armenia To Hand Over Landmine Maps
FILE PHOTO: General view of the International Court of Justice (ICJ)
in The Hague, Netherlands January 23, 2020. REUTERS/Eva Plevier
    THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Azerbaijan on Monday asked the World Court to order neighbouring Armenia to hand over maps it says show the location of landmines on its territory, while the judges consider tit-for-tat claims that the other side violated an anti-discrimination treaty.
    This time last year, Azeri troops drove ethnic Armenian forces out of swathes of territory they had controlled since the 1990s in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh region, before Russia brokered a ceasefire.
    Azeri Deputy Foreign Minister Elnur Mammadov told judges that the emergency measures sought were urgently needed to protect against the “dire threat” posed by what it says is Armenia’s refusal to hand over the maps.
    The alleged campaign of placing landmines “is quite simply a continuation of Armenia’s decades-long ethnic cleansing operation and an attempt to keep these territories cleansed of Azerbaijanis,” Mammadov said.
    Armenia’s agent before the court, Yeghishe Kirakosyan, dismissed the Azeri claims as "manufactured and defensive moves.”
    He pointed out that Azerbaijan itself planted hundreds of thousands of landmines in the conflict area in the early 1990s.
    Armenia has already handed over two minefield maps and “we stand ready to provide any more maps in our possession,” Kirakosyan said.
    Last week, Armenia also sought emergency measures from the World Court.    Lawyers for Armenia told judges then that Azerbaijan promoted ethnic hatred against Armenians.
    Azerbaijan rejected Armenia’s claim and said that it was the other way around and that it was Armenia that carried out ethnic cleansing.
    The requests for emergency measures are part of tit-for-tat cases filed at the World Court last month where both Armenia and Azerbaijan claimed the other country has violated the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, to which both states are signatories.
    The hearings on Monday and last week do not go into the merits of the cases but instead deal with requests from both sides for emergency measures while the court considers the claims.
    The World Court, formally known as the International Court of Justice, is the UN court for resolving disputes between countries.    It has yet to determine whether it has jurisdiction in this case.
(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Nick Macfie and Ed Osmond)

10/18/2021 EU Weighs Further Sanctions On Belarus Over Illegal Migrants by Robin Emmott and Philip Blenkinsop
FILE PHOTO: An Iraqi migrant woman with children sits on the ground as they are surrounded by border guards and police officers after they crossed
the Belarusian-Polish border during the ongoing migrant crisis, in Hajnowka, Poland October 14, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - European Union foreign ministers debated new economic sanctions on Belarus on Monday, including on airlines, to halt what Brussels says is a deliberate policy by Minsk to fly in thousands of migrants and send them across the border.
    The sanctions proposal, first voiced by Latvia on Monday in Luxembourg, was not initially on the agenda for EU foreign ministers and may have been a response to a decision by Belarus to expel France’s ambassador at the weekend, diplomats said.
    France said on Monday its ambassador had left Belarus because authorities ended his accreditation after he failed to present credentials to President Alexander Lukashenko, who the EU no longer recognises as legitimate head of state.
    A tightening of sanctions would follow broad measures imposed on Belarus’s economy in June over Lukashenko’s crackdown on protesters following his disputed re-election in August 2020.    The protesters say the election was rigged, which he denies.
    Many EU states now also accuse Lukashenko of flying in illegal migrants from Iraq, Iran and Africa to send them across the border into the EU to destabilise the bloc.
    Lukashenko denies this and has blamed the West for what he says is a looming humanitarian catastrophe this winter after migrants were left stranded on the Belarusian-Polish border.
    “We need to introduce stricter sanctions … It means to put so-called tourism companies that are organising flights (under sanctions),” Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said as he arrived for a meeting with his EU counterparts in Luxembourg.
    “I also believe that we need to sanction Belavia fully, so that it cannot receive any kind of support,” he said, referring to the Belarusian national airline, already banned from EU air space.
    Belavia leases planes from EU countries, notably Ireland, which appeared wary of measures that would interfere with existing leases, although Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said he was open to preventing future deals.
    “While Ireland wants to increase sanctions and pressure on the Belarusian regime, we’ve also got to make sure that is practicable and implementable,” he told reporters in Luxembourg.
    The EU is also preparing a new package of sanctions against Belarusian individuals, which could include the foreign minister, accused of a role in the campaign to foster illegal migration into the EU.
NEW FLIGHTS, NEW PROMISES
    Since August, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia have reported a surge in illegal border crossings from Belarus.    They accuse Minsk of using a network of travel agents in Iraq and in sub-Saharan Africa to offer migrants Belarusian visas and transport them to the EU border.
    Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said there had been no let-up in the migrant flows, even after the EU had managed to stop departures from Iraq and Jordan.
    “They are employing new flights from a number of countries from the Middle East and North Africa in order to deceive people with the hopes of easy entry to the European Union,” he said.
    German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said after the EU meeting there would be further talks in coming days.
    “We will put more pressure on the airlines that bring people from various locations to Minsk, from which they are brought, with the support of the ruler there, to the borders,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Sabine SieboldEditing by Gareth Jones and Peter Graff)

10/18/2021 Polish PM Vows Loyalty To EU, Warns Of ‘Dangerous’ Centralisation
FILE PHOTO: EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen welcomes Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki
as he arrives for a bilateral meeting in Brussels, Belgium, July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/Pool
    WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland is a loyal member of the European Union but opposes excessive centralisation of power, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Monday in a letter to other European leaders amid a deepening row over the rule of law.
    Brussels has long said reforms introduced by Poland’s right-wing government undermine judicial independence, but their row escalated this month when the Polish Constitutional Tribunal challenged a key tenet of EU integration by ruling that parts of the European treaties were incompatible with the constitution.
    This fuelled talk of a potential “Polexit,” but Morawiecki says his government has no intention of following Britain’s example and taking Poland out of the EU.
    “I would like to reassure you that Poland remains a loyal member of the European Union,” he wrote in the letter, which was published on a government website on Monday.
    However, Morawiecki warned against of a “dangerous phenomenon that threatens the future of our Union.”
    “I mean the gradual transformation of the Union into an entity that would cease to be an alliance of free, equal and sovereign states – and become one, centrally managed organism, governed by institutions deprived of democratic control.”
    In a move sure to further raise tensions, Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro urged his government on Monday to take legal action against Germany over what he said was a politicised system of choosing judges in the bloc’s largest nation.
EQUALITY
    Ziobro, architect of Poland’s judicial overhaul and leader of an arch-conservative junior partner in Morawiecki’s government, has often complained of what he sees as the EU’s unequal treatment of Poland.
    “Since the EU is based on the equality of all states and citizens, it is necessary to check the situation in Germany, where the selection of judges to the counterpart of the Supreme Court is entirely political,” Ziobro told a news conference.
    Ziobro said that while top court judges in Germany are selected by politicians, in Poland judges themselves are more responsible for the selection process.    However, critics say that the body that appoints judges in Poland has come under political influence.
    The German government’s press office and a Polish government spokesman did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
    Laurent Pech, professor of European law at Middlesex University, London, said references to the situation in Germany were “irrelevant.”
    “The references to the situation in Germany or elsewhere should be seen for what they are: to distract Polish citizens from the repeated violations of the Polish Constitution in order to create a de facto autocratic one-party system where judges and prosecutors can be punished at will.”
    Poland’s government says its judicial reforms are necessary to remove the vestiges of communist rule in the country.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk in Warsaw, Andreas Rinke in Berlin; Editing by Gareth Jones)

10/18/2021 Russian Court To Consider Transfer Of Jailed Ex-U.S. Marine Whelan To U.S. – TASS
Former U.S. marine Paul Whelan, who was detained by Russia's FSB security service on suspicion of spying, stands
inside a defendants' cage during a court hearing in Moscow, Russia January 22, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – A Russian court will consider a request next month to transfer former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, sentenced last year to 16 years in a Russian jail, to the United States, his lawyer told TASS news agency on Monday.
    The lawyer, Olga Karlova, said the hearing will take place in the city of Nizhny Novgorod on Nov. 8.
    Russia convicted Whelan, who holds U.S., British, Canadian and Irish passports, of spying last June.    He denied the charge and said he was set up in a sting operation.
(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

10/19/2021 Russia Is Obstacle To Peace In East Ukraine – U.S. Defence Secretary by Matthias Williams and Pavel Polityuk
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Ukrainian Defence Minister Andriy Taran visit a pantheon commemorating
fallen defenders of Ukraine prior to their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine October 19, 2021. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
    KYIV (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary Of Defence Lloyd Austin said on Tuesday Russia was the obstacle to peace in eastern Ukraine and had no right to veto Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO.
    During a visit to Kyiv, at a time when Russia’s relations with the West are at post-Cold War lows, Austin said     Ukraine must be able to decide its own foreign policy and warned Moscow to halt cyberattacks against the United States and its allies.
    Ukrainian troops have been fighting Russian-backed forces in the eastern Donbass region in a conflict that began in 2014, soon after Russia seized the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine.
    “Let’s be clear, that Russia started this war and Russia is the obstacle to a peaceful resolution,” Austin told a news briefing alongside Ukrainian Defence Minister Andrii Taran.
    “So we again call on Russia to end its occupation of Crimea, to stop perpetuating the war in eastern Ukraine, to end its destabilising activities in the Black Sea and along Ukraine’s borders, and to halt its persistent cyber attacks and other malign activities against the United States and our allies and partners.”
    Moscow denies having troops in eastern Ukraine or sending troops and military hardware to prop up two proxy separatist governments in Donbass.    It blames Kyiv for the lack of progress towards peace and denies carrying out cyberattacks.
    The United States has been Ukraine’s most powerful backer since Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which Kyiv says has killed 14,000 people.
    But Ukraine has been frustrated by its slow progress towards NATO membership, especially after a border standoff with Russian troops this year.    Washington has urged Kyiv to implement reforms in the defence sector to become eligible.
    Russia said on Monday it was halting the activities of its diplomatic mission to NATO after the Western military alliance expelled eight Russians it accused of spying.
    The Kremlin also warned last month that any expansion of NATO military infrastructure in Ukraine would cross one of President Vladimir Putin’s “red lines.”
    Austin said “no third country has a veto over NATO’s membership decisions.”
    “Ukraine, as you heard me say earlier, has a right to decide its own future foreign policy and we expect that they will be able to do that without any outside interference,” he said.
(Editing by Timothy Heritage)
[WELL IT WONT BE LONG BEFORE BIDEN'S DEF SECY AUSTIN WILL MAKE THAT SITUATION WORSE FOR UKRAINE AS DID FOR AFGHANISTAN.].

10/19/2021 Poland Comes Under Fire Over Challenge To Primacy Of EU Law by Jan Strupczewski and Philip Blenkinsop
FILE PHOTO: EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen welcomes Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki as he
arrives for a bilateral meeting in Brussels, Belgium, July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/Pool/File Photo
    BRUSSELS/LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - Poland’s prime minister came under repeated criticism during a tense debate in the European Parliament on Tuesday, with the EU’s chief executive telling Warsaw that its challenge to the supremacy of EU law would not go unpunished.
    Poland’s relations with the European Union, already badly strained, took a big knock last week when its Constitutional Tribunal ruled that elements of EU law were incompatible with the Polish constitution.
    “Your arguments are not getting better.    You’re just escaping the debate,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, visibly exasperated with Poland’s Mateusz Morawiecki after more than four hours of back-and-forth in the chamber.
    Von der Leyen described the Polish tribunal’s ruling as “a direct challenge to the unity of the European legal order
    She laid out three options for a response to the Polish court’s attack on the primacy of EU law, ranging from legal action to a cut in funding and suspension of voting rights.
    European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders, speaking after a meeting of EU ministers, said the Commission would start “written procedures” against Poland in the coming weeks, adding that he planned to visit Warsaw for talks.
    EU leaders are expected to discuss the issue at a summit in Brussels on Thursday.    EU diplomats said a large majority of EU countries were critical of Poland, though Hungary defended it.
    Brussels has long accused the Polish government of undermining the independence of its judiciary, but last week’s court ruling turned a stand-off into a full-blown crisis, raising fears that Poland could eventually exit the bloc.
    Poland’s ruling nationalist Law and Justice party says it has no plans for a “Polexit” and – unlike Britain before its Brexit referendum in 2016 – popular support for EU membership remains high in Poland.
    In an open letter sent before his appearance at the EU assembly in the French city of Strasbourg, Morawiecki complained of EU mission creep that would lead to a “centrally managed organism, governed by institutions deprived of democratic control.”
    He doubled down on that view in the parliament debate on Tuesday.
    “EU competencies have clear boundaries, we must not remain silent when those boundaries are breached,” he said.    “So we are saying yes to European universalism, but we say no to European centralism.”
OPTIONS FOR ACTION
    The first option for action outlined by von der Leyen is known as an “infringement,” where the Commission legally challenges the Polish court’s judgment and could lead to fines.
    Another option is a conditionality mechanism and other financial tools, whereby EU funds would be withheld from Poland.
    Until Warsaw’s clash with Brussels is resolved, it is unlikely to see any of the 23.9 billion euros in grants and 12.1 billion in cheap loans that it applied for as part of the EU’s recovery fund after the COVID-19 pandemic.
    The EU could even eventually block Polish access to EU grants for development and structural projects in the 2021-2027 budget worth around 70 billion euros.
    Von der Leyen said a third option was the application of Article 7 of the EU treaty.    Under this, rights of member states – including the right to vote on EU decisions – can be suspended because they have breached core values of the bloc.
    Members of the EU parliament took turns to castigate the Polish premier after he spoke, and some EU ministers meeting in Luxembourg joined the chorus of criticism.
    “The time for talking is never over, but it doesn’t mean that you cannot take action in the meantime,” Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Knapen said.    “It’s going to come soon.”
(Additional reporting by John Chalmers, Kate Abnett, Sabine Siebold, Philip Blenkinsop and Robin EmmottWriting by John Chalmers, Editing by Angus MacSwan and Gareth Jones)
[WTO REGION 5 IN 1995 WESTERN ASIA/EASTERN EUROPE CONSIST OF THE BALKAN STATES, POLAND, ROMANIA, HUNGARY, BULGARIA, CZECHO-SLOVAKIA, YUGOSLAVIA, ALBANIA, ESTONIA, LATVIA, LITHUANIA.    Today Eastern Europe is the eastern part of the European continent.    There is no consensus on the precise area it covers, partly because the term has a wide range of geopolitical, geographical, cultural, and socioeconomic connotations.    It is projected to be Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia and the loss of the nations would affect the European Union financial status and world power if they left so they are desperate to keep them in the fold between influence from the King Of The West and the King Of The North.]

10/19/2021 Taliban Get Aid Promise But Not Recognition On Eve Of Moscow Talks by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber
FILE PHOTO: A Taliban flag is seen in a military position on a hilltop in Kabul, Afghanistan October 7, 2021. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
    MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russia, China and Pakistan are willing to provide aid to Afghanistan, the Russian foreign ministry said on Tuesday, but Moscow said it was not yet ready to recognise the Taliban government.
    The promise of humanitarian aid and economic support came after talks between Russian, Chinese and Pakistani officials, who will be joined by representatives of Afghanistan’s Islamist rulers at a meeting in Moscow on Wednesday.
    But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia was withholding recognition from the Taliban while waiting for them to fulfil promises they made when they took power, including on the political and ethnic inclusivity of the new government.
    Critics say the former rebel movement is backtracking on pledges not to sideline women and minorities, or persecute foes.
    “Official recognition of the Taliban is not under discussion for now,” Lavrov told reporters.    “Like most of other influential countries in the region, we are in contact with them.    We are prodding them to fulfil the promises they made when they came to power.”
RUSSIA SEEKS LEADERSHIP
    In mid-August, the Afghan government collapsed as the United States and allies withdrew troops after 20 years on the ground, leading the Taliban to seize power in a lightning offensive.
    Russia, which fought its own disastrous war in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989, is trying to seize the diplomatic initiative to avoid instability in the wider region that could damage its interests.    In particular it is worried by the possibility of Islamist militants seeping into the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, a region Moscow views as a defensive buffer.
    Other Russian officials have tempered expectations for Wednesday’s talks.    The United States said it would not join this round but planned to do so in the future.
    Zamir Kabulov, President Vladimir Putin’s special representative on Afghanistan, said last week he did not expect any major breakthrough at the talks.
    Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov described them as “an attempt to know what will happen in Afghanistan going forward.”
(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber in Moscow and Olzhas Auyezov in Almaty, writing by Mark Trevelyan, editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

10/19/2021 Germany Offers Poland Border Guards To Help Manage Belarus Arrivals
FILE PHOTO: Polish Army soldiers are seen in front of the Border Guard
headquarters in Michalowo, Poland October 11, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    WARSAW (Reuters) – Germany’s interior minister offered to send border control officers to Poland to help the country manage the influx of refugees seeking to enter the European Union from Belarus, adding that Germany could also offer logistical support.
    In a letter to his Polish counterpart, Horst Seehofer offered both personnel and logistical support to help step up patrols on and around the two EU countries, adding that Germany could also provide logistical support to help house migrants and refugees.
    “Given the Polish border guard’s heavy burden on the Belarus border, I offer to boost the number of German officers to serve … primarily on Polish territory, naturally under the command of Polish border guards,” he wrote.
(Reporting by Johanna Plucinska in Warsaw, writing by Thomas Escritt, Editing by Alex Richardson)

10/19/2021 Poland Almost Doubles Troop Numbers On Belarus Border
FILE PHOTO: Polish Army soldiers are seen in front of the Border Guard
headquarters in Michalowo, Poland October 11, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    WARSAW (Reuters) – Almost 6,000 Polish soldiers are now guarding the country’s border with Belarus in stepped up security measures in the face of a surge in migration, the defence minister said on Tuesday.
    The deployment of fresh troops marks a significant expansion of the military presence on the border as only on Saturday Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak had put the number of soldiers at more than 3,000.
    “Almost 6,000 soldiers from the 16th, 18th and 12th divisions are serving on the Polish-Belarusian border,” Blaszczak said in a tweet.
    “The soldiers provide support to the Border Guard by protecting the country’s border and not allowing it to be illegally crossed.”
    The Border Guard said that on Monday there were 612 attempts to cross the border illegally.
    The European Commission and Warsaw say the flow of migrants has been orchestrated by Belarus as a form of hybrid warfare designed to put pressure on the European Union over sanctions it imposed on Minsk. Belarus has denied this.
    Poland has declared a state of emergency in the region and plans to build a wall on the border.
    Parliament has also passed legislation that human rights advocates say aims to legalise pushbacks of migrants across its borders in breach of the country’s commitments under international law.
    As of Sunday, there had been around 9,600 attempts to illegally cross the border in October, the Border Guard said.
    An increasing number of migrants have also been arriving in Germany and Polish media reported that the head of the German Police trade union has asked the interior minister to temporarily restore border controls with Poland to stop the flow of migrants.
    German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer offered to send border control officers to Poland to help the country manage the influx of migrants along the border between the two EU countries, adding that Germany could also offer logistical support in a letter to his Polish counterpart.
    Authorities in Brandenburg, the eastern German state that is housing most of the new arrivals, are calling for tougher action against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s government.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish and Joanna Plucinska in Warsaw, Thomas Escritt in Berlin; Editing by Angus MacSwan, William Maclean)

10/20/2021 Russia Put Navalny’s Ally Sobol On Wanted List - Reports
FILE PHOTO: Lyubov Sobol, a Russian opposition figure and a close ally of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny,
walks away after a court hearing in Moscow, Russia April 15, 2021. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian police have declared Lyubov Sobol, a prominent ally of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, as wanted, according to various media reports on Wednesday, which cited the police’s wanted list.
    Russia’s RT and REN TV channels, citing sources, said in early August, that Sobol had left Russia days after she was sentenced to parole-like restrictions amid a crackdown on the opposition.
    Commenting on reports that she had been listed as wanted, Sobol, 33, said on social media that the mugshot of her posted by the police must have been taken from the days of a hunger strike in 2019.    She did not elaborate.
    The police declined to comment.
    Sobol is one of the most well-known faces of Navalny’s entourage.
    She was to 1-1/2 years of parole-like restrictions in August for flouting COVID-19 curbs on protests, a charge she called politically-motivated nonsense. The restrictions included not being allowed to leave home at night.
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

10/20/2021 Putin Approves Week-Long Russian Workplace Shutdown As COVID-19 Surges by Alexander Marrow and Darya Korsunskaya
FILE PHOTO: Medical specialists transport a patient outside a hospital for people infected with
the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Moscow, Russia October 13, 2021. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva
    MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday approved a government proposal for a week-long workplace shutdown at the start of November to combat a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths.
    Coronavirus-related deaths across Russia in the past 24 hours hit yet another daily record at 1,028, with 34,073 new infections.
    Speaking at a televised meeting with government officials, Putin said the “non-working days” from Oct. 30 to Nov. 7, during which people would continue to receive salaries, could begin earlier or be extended for certain regions.
    “The epidemiological situation is developing differently in each region/i>,” Putin said.    “In light of this, the heads of regions are given the right to impose additional measures.”
    Authorities have stepped up the urgency of their efforts to slow the pandemic as they confront widespread public reluctance to get injected with the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine.    Moscow’s mayor announced four months of stay-home restrictions for unvaccinated over-60s on Tuesday.
    The mayor’s office was seeking to force shopping centres to connect their security cameras to a centralised facial recognition system that would allow authorities to enforce protective mask-wearing in public, the Kommersant daily reported.
    Half of Moscow’s 600 shopping centres have not connected to the system, Kommersant cited Bulat Shakirov, president of the Union of Shopping Centres, as saying.
    “But now, due to growing infections, authorities have decided to tighten control,” he said, adding that shopping centres that failed to comply could be ordered to close.
    Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said the healthcare system was operating under great strain.    Around 650,000 medical professionals across Russia were involved in treating patients suffering from COVID-19, Interfax news agency cited Murashko as saying on Wednesday.
    Russia began a revaccination campaign in July, one of the first countries to do so, but Putin has yet to receive a booster shot, the Kremlin said on Wednesday.
    “The president has not been revaccinated yet,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.    “He will do this when doctors and specialists tell him to.”
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin, Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber, Alexander Marrow, Darya Korsunskaya, Gleb Stolyarov, Dmitry Antonov and Maria Kiselyova; writing by Mark Trevelyan; editing by Timothy Heritage)

10/20/2021 Britain In Talks To Sell Missiles In Arms Deal With Ukraine - The Times
FILE PHOTO: A sign hangs outside the Ministry of Defence building in London, Britain November 25, 2015. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
    (Reuters) – The UK government is in talks with Ukraine to sell it missiles for the first time in an arms deal, the Times reported on Wednesday.
    Under the plans, the Ministry of Defence would provide surface-to surface and air-to-surface missiles to Ukraine, the newspaper added.
(Reporting by Nishit Jogi in Bengaluru; Editing by Leslie Adler)

10/21/2021 Leaders Tackle Poland For Challenging Core Of European Integration by Gabriela Baczynska, Philip Blenkinsop and John Chalmers
FILE PHOTO: Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki delivers a speech during a debate on Poland's challenge to the supremacy
of EU laws at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France October 19, 2021. Ronald Wittek/Pool via REUTERS
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union leaders will tackle their Polish counterpart on Thursday over a court ruling that questioned the primacy of European laws in a sharp escalation of battles that risk precipitating a new crisis for the bloc.
    The French president and the Dutch premier are particularly keen to prevent their governments’ cash contributions to the EU from benefitting socially conservative politicians undercutting human rights fixed in the laws of western liberal democracies.
    “EU states that violate the rule of law should not receive EU funds,” the head of the European Union parliament,     David Sassoli, said before national leaders of the bloc’s 27 member countries convened in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.
    “The European Union is a community built on the principles of democracy and the rule of law.    If these are under threat in a member state, the EU must act to protect them.”
    Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is set to defend the Oct. 7 ruling by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal stating that elements of EU law were incompatible with the country’s constitution.
    “It’s a major problem and a challenge for the European project,” a French official said of the Polish ruling.
    Morawiecki has already came under fire from EU lawmakers this week and the head of the Commission said the challenge to the unity of the European legal order would not go unanswered.
    This, as well as other policies introduced by his ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party are set to cost Poland money.
“NOT TENABLE”
    With the ruling, the PiS raised the stakes in years of increasingly bitter feuds with the EU over democratic principles from the freedom of courts and media to the rights of women, migrants and LGBT people.
    A senior EU diplomat said such policies were “not tenable in the European Union.”
    The Commission has for now barred Warsaw from tapping into 57 billion euros ($66 billion) of emergency funds to help its economy emerge from the COVID pandemic.    Warsaw also risks losing other EU handouts, as well as penalties from the bloc’s top court.
    Sweden, Finland and Luxembourg are also among those determined to bring Warsaw into line and have stepped up their criticism since PiS came to power in 2015.
    The immediate consequences to Poland – with some 38 million people, the biggest ex-communist EU country – are financial.
    But for the EU, the latest twist in feuds with the eurosceptic PiS also comes at a sensitive time as it grapples with the fallout from Brexit.
    The bloc – without Britain – last year achieved a major leap in integration in agreeing joint debt guarantees to raise 750 billion euros for COVID economic recovery, overcoming stiff resistance from wealthy states like the Netherlands.
    While most EU states share a currency, more fiscal coordination can only hold if the rich ones donating more than they recuperate from the bloc are sure their taxes do not end up financing politicians flouting their core liberal values.
    Morawiecki has dismissed the idea of leaving the EU in a “Polexit.”    Support for membership remains very high in Poland, which has benefitted enormously from funding coming from the bloc it joined in 2004.
    Speaking on Wednesday, a senior Polish diplomat struck a conciliatory tone, saying the Polish tribunal did not challenge EU laws but particular interpretations of some of them.
    Warsaw – backed by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban – wants to return powers to national capitals and has lashed out at what it says are excessive powers held by the Commission.
    While many have grown increasingly frustrated at failed attempts to convince Warsaw to change tack, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has long warned against isolating Poland.
    Her sway, however, is weakened as she visits Brussels for her last scheduled summit before she is due to hand over to a new German chancellor after 16 years.
    Beyond putting pressure on Poland, the leaders will also lock horns over how to respond to a sharp spike in energy prices, discuss migration, their fraught relationship with Belarus and the COVID-19 pandemic.
($1 = 0.8584 euros)
(Additional reporting by Michel Rose, Andreas Rinke, Sabine Siebold; writing by Gabriela Baczynska; editing by Richard Pullin)

10/21/2021 NATO To Agree Master Plan To Deter Growing Russian Threat, Diplomats Say by Robin Emmott
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a news conference ahead of a meeting of NATO
defence ministers at the alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium October 20, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – NATO defence ministers are set to agree a new master plan on Thursday to defend against any potential Russian attack on multiple fronts, reasserting a bid to deter Moscow despite the alliance’s new focus on China, diplomats and officials said.
    The strategy, which is confidential, goes beyond existing regional defence plans and aims to prepare for any simultaneous attack in the Baltic and Black Sea regions, possibly including nuclear weapons, hacking of computer networks or from space.
    Officials and diplomats say no such attack is imminent.    Russia denies any war-like intentions and says it is NATO that risks destabilising Europe with such preparations.
    But U.S. officials, NATO diplomats and former officials say the “Concept for Deterrence and Defence in the Euro-Atlantic Area” – and its strategic implementation plan – is needed as Russia develops advanced weapon systems and deploys troops and equipment closer to allied borders.
    “If you have that kind of major conflict, it will require activity across the entire area of operations,” said a senior U.S. government official.    “Various things could happen at the same time, and that really requires holistic planning.”
    In May, Russia amassed some 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine, the highest number since Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014, according to Western officials.    In September, Russia used new combat robots in large military drills with its ex-Soviet ally Belarus that have alarmed Baltic allies.
    With Russia upgrading or replacing Soviet military space systems to potentially attack satellites in orbit, developing artificial intelligence-based technologies to disrupt allied command systems, Moscow is also developing “super weapons.”
    Unveiled in 2018, they include nuclear-capable hypersonic cruise missiles that could evade early-warning systems.
    Retired U.S. General Ben Hodges, who commanded U.S. army forces in Europe from 2014 until 2017, told Reuters he hoped the strategic plan would lead to more coherence in NATO’s collective defence, meaning more resources for the Black Sea region.
    “To me, this is the more likely flashpoint than the Baltics,” Hodges said, noting fewer big allies such as Britain and France with a strong presence in the Black Sea, and Turkey more focused on conflict in Syria.
    Jamie Shea, a former senior NATO official now at the Friends of Europe think-tank in Brussels, said the plan might also help to cement a focus on Russia at a time when the United States, Britain and France are developing Indo-Pacific strategies.
    The allies are seeking to boost their presence in the Indo-Pacific and counter China’s rising military power, deploying more ships to keep open sea routes.
    “The assumption up until now, has been that Russia is a nuisance, but it’s not an imminent threat.    But the Russians are doing some worrying things, they’re practicing with robotics and hypersonic cruise missiles could be very disruptive indeed,” Shea said.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Alison Williams)

10/21/2021 EU Leaders Lambast Poland Over Its Challenge To Union by Jan Strupczewski, Bart H. Meijer and Gabriela Baczynska
FILE PHOTO: Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki delivers a speech during a debate on Poland's challenge to the supremacy
of EU laws at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France October 19, 2021. Ronald Wittek/Pool via REUTERS
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European leaders lined up to chastise Warsaw on Thursday for challenging the EU’s legal foundations, but Poland’s premier said he would not bow to “blackmail” as he joined a summit of the bloc’s 27 nations.
    Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he was ready to resolve disputes with Brussels, though many are worried that a stubbborn ideological rift between eastern and western Europe poses an existential threat to the EU itself.
    “A few days ago, the legal bedrock of our Union was challenged,” European Parliament President David Sassoli said in a letter as the leaders gathered in Brussels for their summit.
    “This was not for the first time, of course, nor will it be the last. But never before has the Union been called into question so radically,” the leader of the EU assembly said.
    Long-running tensions between Poland’s ruling nationalists and the bloc’s liberal majority have spiked since Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled this month that elements of EU law were incompatible with the country’s charter, challenging a central tenet of EU integration.
    The dispute not only risks precipitating a new fundamental crisis for the bloc, which is still grappling with the aftermath of Brexit.    It could deprive Poland of generous EU handouts.
‘CLUBS HAVE RULES’
    “Some European institutions assume the right to decide on matters that have not been assigned to them,” Morawiecki said as he went into the talks, which come two days after the executive European Commission threatened to take action against Warsaw.
    “We will not act under the pressure of blackmail … but we will of course talk about how to resolve the current disputes in dialogue.”
    His wealthier Western counterparts are particularly keen to prevent their governments’ cash contributions to the EU benefiting socially conservative politicians who they see as undercutting human rights fixed in European laws.
    “If you want to have the advantages of being in a club … then you need to respect the rules,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said.    “You can’t be a member of a club and say ‘The rules don’t apply to me’.”
    Leaders of countries from Ireland to France urged Warsaw to come back in line. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, referring to Poland’s judicial overhaul that puts its courts under more government control, said it was difficult to see how new EU funding could be channeled to the eastern European country, adding: “We have to be tough.”
    Morawiecki’s Law and Justice (PiS) party has raised the stakes in years of increasingly bitter feuds with the EU over a range of democratic principles, from the freedom of courts and media to the rights of women, migrants and LGBT people.
    The Commission has for now barred Warsaw from tapping into 57 billion euros ($66 billion) of emergency funds to help its economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
    The top EU court may also slap more fines on Poland, the largest ex-communist EU country of 38 million people.
    For the bloc, the latest twist in feuds with the eurosceptic PiS also comes at a sensitive time.    The EU last year made a leap towards closer integration by agreeing on joint borrowing to raise 750 billion euros for post-pandemic economic recovery, overcoming stiff resistance from wealthy northern states.
NO ‘POLEXIT’
    Morawiecki has dismissed the idea of “Polexit” – leaving the bloc – and popular support for membership remains very high in Poland, which has benefited enormously from EU funding since it joined in 2004.
    But Warsaw, backed by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, wants to return powers to national capitals and has lashed out at what it says are excessive powers of the European Commission.
    “Poland is one of the best European countries.    There is no need for any sanctions, it’s ridiculous,” Orban said.
    While many have grown increasingly frustrated at failed attempts to convince Warsaw to change tack, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned against isolating Poland.
    “We have to find ways of coming back together,” she said, adding that bringing multiple cases against Poland to the Court of Justice of the European Union was no solution.
    Her sway, however, is weakened as the veteran of more than 100 summits during her 16 years in power visits Brussels for what may be her last gathering of EU leaders before she hands over to a new German chancellor.
($1 = 0.8584 euros)
(Reporting by Marine Strauss, Bart H. Meijer, John Chalmers, Gabriela Baczynska, Philip Blenkinsop, Jan Strupczewski, Michel Rose, Andreas Rinke, Sabine Siebold, Johnny CottonWriting by John Chalmers; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
[AS YOU CAN SEE IN THE ABOVE ARTICLES THAT ONE OF THE FACTIONS OF THE GLOBALIST SOCIALIST ONE WOLRD GOVERNMENT ENTITIES IS BEING ATTACKED AND IT IS RAISING ITS MANY HEADS TO PUSH FOR A CHANGE OF THE PROBLEM OR DESPERATION.].

10/21/2021 Regret And Defiance In Europe’s Vaccine-Shy East As COVID-19 Rages by Janis Laizans and Tsvetelia Tsolova
A medic tends to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients at the intensive care unit (ICU) of Pirogov
hospital in Sofia, Bulgaria, October 15, 2021. Picture taken October 15, 2021. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov
    RIGA/SOFIA (Reuters) – As Latvia goes into lockdown and hospitals in Bulgaria and Romania buckle under a COVID-19 surge while Poland sells surplus vaccine doses, many central and eastern Europeans are torn between defiance and regret over not getting inoculated.
    The region has the European Union’s lowest vaccination rates, an unwelcome distinction in which both political and economic factors play a role, and deadlier variants of the virus are spreading there fast.
    Recovering from bronchial pneumonia caused by a coronavirus infection, Bulgarian Vesela Tafradzhiyska, 47, said she had held back from getting inoculated because media reports about vaccine safety and efficacy had been contradictory and confusing.
    After eight days in hospital, reluctantly, she is changing her mind.    “I am willing to get vaccinated, although I see that it is not a 100% guarantee, because people with vaccines are also getting infected.”
    In Bulgaria – the EU’s poorest state and, according to Our World in Data, currently suffering the world’s third highest COVID-19 death rate – just one adult in four is fully vaccinated.    That compares with over 90% in Ireland, Portugal and Malta.     Hundreds have protested in Sofia and other cities against mandatory certificates that came into force on Thursday, limiting access to many indoor public spaces to those who have been vaccinated.
    Meanwhile, coronavirus hospitalisations have risen 30% over the last month and hospitals in the capital have suspended non-essential surgeries.
    In Latvia, which on Thursday become the first European state to go into lockdown rules since curbs were eased during summer, Biruta Adomane, a pensioner who has got vaccinated, expressed anger at the almost 50% of her adult compatriots who haven’t.
    “I’d like to go to shops and cafes, I’d like to enjoy my life more, instead of lockdown,” she told Reuters.    “People are strange … I don’t understand their motivation.”
FEAR AND DISTRUST
    Vaccine hesitancy is a global phenomenon.
    France and the United States are struggling with it and it is on the rise in some Asian countries including Japan.
    Experts say central Europeans may be particularly sceptical, however, after decades of Communist rule that eroded public trust in state institutions and left underdeveloped healthcare systems that now struggle with poor funding.
    COVID-19 vaccination rates in the European Union
    To view the graphic, click here: https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/EASTEUROPE/mypmngqmbvr/chart.png     A European Commission poll, the Eurobarometer, has shown that at least one person in three in most countries in the EU’s east doesn’t trust the healthcare system, compared to an EU average of 18%.
    “Vaccines show that the shadow of the Soviet Union … still dominates people’s consciousness.    Some still live in fear and distrust,” said Tomasz Sobierajski, a Warsaw University sociologist.
    Media freedom and civil liberties were curbed and industry was largely controlled by the state during Communist rule, a legacy now compounded by the mounting influence of populist politicians who “teach people to be distrustful,” Sobierajski said.
‘I WILL NOT’
    In Slovakia, vaccine scepticism has been fed by opposition politicians, including former Prime Minister Robert Fico, who has said he would not get vaccinated.
    In Poland, where daily cases have reached the highest since May, vaccine uptake is particularly low in the conservative heartland that tends to vote for the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party.    That has left the government with a surplus of shots that it has donated or sold abroad.
    In Romania, ranked second on the COVID-19 death rate list and where new daily cases have soared towards 19,000 this week, about about one adult in three has been vaccinated, the second-lowest EU rate.    The country also has the bloc’s highest rate of distrust in public health care at 40%.
    “It is unimaginable, here we have roughly 60 patients, 90% of them are intensive care cases who need ventilation,” said Amalia Hangiu the head of an emergency unit at a Bucharest hospital.
    “Had we respected the rules and got vaccinated when we were supposed to, then we would not be participating in such a catastrophe.”
    Some, including Bulgarian pensioner Raina Yordanova remain unconvinced.
    “I did not get a vaccine and I will not,” she said.    “Nobody knows what will happen years (after it has been administered) and I have not decided to die now.”
(Additional reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk in Warsaw, Jason Hovet in Prague and Luiza Ilie in Bucharest; editing by John Stonestreet)

10/21/2021 Cuban Prosecutor Warns Dissident Leaders Against November Protests by Nelson Acosta
Actor and playwright Yunior Garcia, 39, leader of the Facebook group called Archipelago speaks with journalists
outside the prosecutor's office in Havana, Cuba, October 21, 2021. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
    HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuban prosecutors on Thursday summoned dissident leaders from across the country who have called for protests on Nov. 15 over curbs to civil rights, warning them against convening the rallies under penalty of the law.
    The protest leaders, organized by a Facebook group called Archipelago, have called on Cubans to demonstrate for the right to peaceful protest and an amnesty for imprisoned government opponents.    The group says it has some 20,000 members, many of whom live outside the country.
    The Cuban government last week denied permission for the protest, saying Archipelago had links with “subversive organizations” and an “open intention of changing the political system in Cuba.”
    A Cuban vice-prosecutor, Yaumara Angulo González, told reporters on Thursday that officials issued the fresh warning because the protest leaders had ignored the government and publicly renewed calls for the marches.
    Yunior Garcia, the group’s leader, told reporters outside the prosecutor’s office in Havana that he still planned to march himself on Nov. 15.
    “We are not mercenaries, nor are we receiving orders from anyone,” said Garcia.    “We are openly demonstrating a difference of opinion.”
    Since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution, dissident protests have been forbidden on grounds that they were fomented by the United States, but Cuba’s new constitution, approved three years ago, opened a space for “legitimate” demonstrations.
    Garcia said his march will be “peaceful, civic, with nothing to do with violence.”
    “This is my personal decision, beyond the threats that I have received today in this building,” he said.
    The latest tensions come three months after two days of the biggest anti-government demonstrations in decades rocked the Communist-run country in July.    They resulted in a flurry of arrests, and well-known government opponents are among those who remain behind bars, some facing long sentences.
    Cuban authorities said those arrested were guilty of crimes including public disorder, resisting arrest, and vandalism.
    Archipelago’s planned protest on Nov. 15 falls on the same day Cuba, an island nation of white sand beaches and coral reefs, plans to reopen to tourism after two years in which it says the all-important industry was hobbled by the coronavirus pandemic and fresh U.S. sanctions.
    The protesters had initially planned demonstrations across the country for Nov. 20, but switched the date to Nov. 15 after authorities declared the 20th a “National Defense Day” during which citizens practice preparedness for a U.S. invasion.
(Reporting by Nelson Acosta; Writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

10/21/2021 Putin Says Russia Should Look Into Law That Labels Some Media Foreign Agents
FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony marking the formal launch of the TurkStream pipeline which
will carry Russian natural gas to southern Europe through Turkey, in Istanbul, Turkey, January 8, 2020. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that authorities will review a law under which dozens of news outlets and reporters have been labelled as “foreign agents,” which critics see as a tool for stifling dissent.
    Putin told a group of journalists and Russia experts that he would look into the “fuzzy criteria” under which media are added to the list.
    The “foreign agent” tag is used to designate what authorities say are foreign-funded organisations engaged in political activity.    It carries highly negative Soviet-era overtones and has prompted some media to shut down after sponsors and advertisers withdrew their support.
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Writing by Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

10/21/2021 Putin Says Afghanistan’s Financial Assets Should Be Unfrozen
Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks during a session of the annual Valdai
Discussion Club in Sochi, Russia October 21, 2021. Sputnik/Maksim Blinov/Kremlin via REUTERS
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday Afghanistan should receive economic support and get its financial assets unfrozen as its stability was in the interest of all its neighbours.
    Washington has said it has no plans to release billions in Afghan gold, investments and foreign currency reserves parked in the United States that it froze after the Taliban seized power in August, despite pressure from humanitarian groups and others who say the cost may be the collapse of Afghanistan’s economy.
    Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers won backing from 10 regional powers at talks in Moscow on Wednesday for the idea of a United Nations donor conference to help the country stave off economic collapse and a humanitarian catastrophe.
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Writing by Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

10/21/2021 Russia’s Putin Congratulates Nobel Peace Prize Winner Muratov
FILE PHOTO: Russian investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta's editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov, one of 2021
Nobel Peace Prize winners, speaks with journalists in Moscow, Russia October 8, 2021. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday congratulated journalist Dmitry Muratov, whose Novaya Gazeta newspaper has at times been a thorn in the side of the Kremlin, on winning the Nobel Peace Prize, over a week after the prize was announced.
    Addressing Muratov at a question-and-answer session with journalists and Russia experts, Putin congratulated him on the prize and on his “noble work” on behalf of a hospice charity.
    Journalists Muratov and Maria Ressa, who braved the wrath of the leaders of Russia and the Philippines to expose corruption and misrule, won the Nobel Peace Prize on Oct. 8, in an endorsement of free speech under fire worldwide.
(Reporting by Anton Zverev; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

10/21/2021 Putin Warns Against Depriving U.N. Security Council Members Of Veto Rights
FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a plenary session of the Russian
Energy Week International Forum in Moscow, Russia October 13, 2021. Sergei Ilnitsky/Pool via REUTERS
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that depriving permanent members of the United Nations Security Council of their veto rights would destroy the world body.
    Russia is one of five permanent veto powers at the U.N. who have for years faced pressure to reform the organisation to take account of changes in world demographics and economics since it was formed after World War Two.
    But Putin told a gathering of Russia experts that removing veto powers would reduce the world body to a talking shop.
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Writing by Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

10/21/2021 Jailed Kremlin Critic Navalny Dedicates EU Prize To Anti-Corruption Fighters
FILE PHOTO: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was detained at a recent protest called under the
slogan "Putin is not our tsar", attends a court hearing in Moscow, Russia May 15, 2018. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Thursday dedicated a European Parliament human rights prize he won a day earlier to anti-corruption fighters around the world.
    The European Parliament on Wednesday awarded Navalny the prize, named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, for his efforts in fighting corruption in Russia, a decision the Kremlin said it could not be forced to respect.
    “I am just one of those many who fight corruption because I consider it not only as the cause of poverty and degradation of states, but also as the main threat to human rights,” Navalny said on Twitter in a message posted via his lawyers.
    Navalny, who is serving 2-1/2 years in jail for parole violations in an embezzlement case he says was trumped up to thwart his political ambitions, said his lawyer had told him he had been awarded the Sakharov prize.
    He said he had just removed his “ushanka” – the trademark Russian hat worn in winter with flaps that cover the ears – and instantly thought of his favourite photo of Sakharov, in which the Soviet dissident also wears an ushanka.
    “I dedicate my prize to all kinds of anti-corruption fighters around the world: from journalists to lawyers, from officials (there are some, yes) and lawmakers, to those who take to the streets to support this fight,” he said.
    “I wish them perseverance and courage even in the scariest of moments.”
(Reporting by Anton Zverev; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

10/22/2021 Swiss Voters Set To Back Government’s COVID-19 Response Plan – Poll
FILE PHOTO: Guests sit outside of a restaurant, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
continues, in the old town of Zurich, May 22, 2021. Picture taken May 22, 2021. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
    ZURICH (Reuters) – Swiss voters look set to support the government’s pandemic response plan in a binding referendum next month, a poll for broadcaster SRG showed on Friday.
    The gfs.bern survey found 61% backed a law passed in March that expanded financial aid to people hit by the COVID-19 crisis and laid the foundation for certificates the government requires to facilitate travel abroad and allow certain events to be held.
    The survey found 36% opposed and 3% were undecided before the Nov. 28 referendum under the Swiss system of direct democracy.    The poll’s margin of error was 2.8 percentage points.
    In two other votes that day, the Swiss would easily support a labour union-backed proposal to boost the nursing profession, the poll found.
    A vote on whether to select federal judges by lottery from a pool of candidates proposed by experts was still too close to call.    The government opposes the idea, which aims to reduce political pressure on the judiciary.
(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Kim Coghill)

10/22/2021 Moldovan Government To Ask Parliament To Back Emergency Energy Measures
FILE PHOTO: Moldovan Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita is welcomed by European Council President Charles Michel
(not pictured) at the EU Council headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, September 27, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo
    CHISINAU (Reuters) – Moldova’s government will ask parliament on Friday to formally approve a state of emergency over gas supply shortages and permission to apply special measures for its duration, Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita said at a briefing.
    The Moldovan government has been unable to agree a new energy deal with Russia’s Gazprom.
(Reporting by Alexander Tanas; Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Edmund Blair)

10/22/2021 EU Leaders Lambast Poland Over Its Challenge To Union by Jan Strupczewski, Sabine Siebold and Marine Strauss
FILE PHOTO: Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki delivers a speech during a debate on Poland's challenge to the
supremacy of EU laws at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France October 19, 2021. Ronald Wittek/Pool via REUTERS
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) -European leaders lined up to chastise Warsaw on Thursday for challenging the EU’s legal foundations, but Poland’s premier said he would not bow to “blackmail” as he joined a summit of the bloc’s 27 nations.
    Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he was ready to resolve disputes with Brussels, though many are worried that a stubborn ideological rift between eastern and western Europe poses an existential threat to the EU itself.
    “A few days ago, the legal bedrock of our Union was challenged,” European Parliament President David Sassoli said in a letter as the leaders gathered in Brussels for their summit.
    “This was not for the first time, of course, nor will it be the last.    But never before has the Union been called into question so radically,” the leader of the EU assembly said.
    Long-running tensions between Poland’s ruling nationalists and the bloc’s liberal majority have spiked since Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled this month that elements of EU law were incompatible with the country’s charter, challenging a central tenet of EU integration.
    The dispute not only risks precipitating a new fundamental crisis for the bloc, which is still grappling with the aftermath of Brexit.    It could deprive Poland of generous EU handouts.
‘CLUBS HAVE RULES’
    “Some European institutions assume the right to decide on matters that have not been assigned to them,” Morawiecki said as he went into the talks, which come two days after the executive European Commission threatened to take action against Warsaw.
    “We will not act under the pressure of blackmail … but we will of course talk about how to resolve the current disputes in dialogue.”
    His wealthier Western counterparts are particularly keen to prevent their governments’ cash contributions to the EU benefiting socially conservative politicians who they see as undercutting human rights fixed in European laws.
    “If you want to have the advantages of being in a club … then you need to respect the rules,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said.    “You can’t be a member of a club and say ‘The rules don’t apply to me’.”
    Leaders of countries from Ireland to France urged Warsaw to come back in line. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, referring to Poland’s judicial overhaul that puts its courts under more government control, said it was difficult to see how new EU funding could be channelled to the eastern European country, adding: “We have to be tough.”
    An EU official said Rutte stood firm when the matter was discussed at the summit, but most leaders said decisions on how to deal with Poland should be left to the European Commission.
    Morawiecki’s Law and Justice (PiS) party has raised the stakes in years of increasingly bitter feuds with the EU over a range of democratic principles, from the freedom of courts and media to the rights of women, migrants and LGBT people.
    The Commission has for now barred Warsaw from tapping into the 36 billion euros of grants and loans it requested from EU funds to help its economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
    The top EU court may also slap more fines on Poland, the largest ex-communist EU country of 38 million people.
    For the bloc, the latest twist in feuds with the eurosceptic PiS also comes at a sensitive time.    The EU last year made a leap towards closer integration by agreeing on joint borrowing to raise 750 billion euros for post-pandemic economic recovery, overcoming stiff resistance from wealthy northern states.
NO ‘POLEXIT’
    Morawiecki has dismissed the idea of “Polexit” – leaving the bloc – and popular support for membership remains at 88% in Poland, which has benefited enormously from EU funding since it joined in 2004.
    But Warsaw, backed by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, wants to return powers to national capitals and has lashed out at what it says are excessive powers of the European Commission.
    “Poland is one of the best European countries.    There is no need for any sanctions, it’s ridiculous,” Orban said.
    While many have grown increasingly frustrated at failed attempts to convince Warsaw to change tack, outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned against isolating Poland.
    “We have to find ways of coming back together,” she said, adding that bringing multiple cases against Poland to the Court of Justice of the European Union was no solution.
    Her sway, however, is weakened as the veteran of more than 100 summits during her 16 years in power visits Brussels for what may be her last gathering of EU leaders before she hands over to a new German chancellor.
($1 = 0.8584 euros)
(Reporting by Marine Strauss, Bart H. Meijer, John Chalmers, Gabriela Baczynska, Philip Blenkinsop, Jan Strupczewski, Michel Rose, Andreas Rinke, Sabine Siebold, Johnny CottonWriting by John Chalmers; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Grant McCool)

10/23/2021 Russian, Chinese Warships Hold First Joint Patrols In The Pacific
A group of naval vessels from Russia and China conduct a joint maritime military patrol in the waters of the Pacific Ocean,
in this still image taken from video released on October 23, 2021. Russian Defence Ministry/Handout via REUTERS
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian and Chinese warships held their first joint patrols in the Western part of the Pacific ocean on October 17-23, Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
    Moscow and Beijing, which staged naval cooperation drills in the Sea of Japan earlier in October, have cultivated closer military and diplomatic ties in recent years at a tme when their relations with the West have soured.
    The naval manoeuvres have been closely watched by Japan which said earlier this week that a group of 10 vessels from China and Russia sailed through the Tsugaru Strait separating Japan’s main island and its northern island of Hokkaido.
    “The group of ships passed through the Tsugaru Strait for the first time as part of the patrol,” Russia’s defence ministry said in the statement.    The strait is regarded as international waters.
    “The tasks of the patrols were the demonstration of the Russian and Chinese state flags, maintaining of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, and guardianship of the subjects of maritime economic activities of the two countries,” the ministry added.
(Reporting by Polina Devitt; Editing by Peter Graff)

10/23/2021 Hungary’s Orban Accuses Brussels, Washington Of Meddling As 2022 Election Race Heats Up by Krisztina Than
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers a speech during the celebrations of the 65th anniversary
of the Hungarian Uprising of 1956, in Budapest, Hungary, October 23, 2021. REUTERS/Marton Monus
    BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who faces a close election race next year, accused Brussels and Washington of trying to meddle in Hungarian politics and called on his supporters to defend the achievements of his nationalist government’s decade in power.
    For the first time since he came to power in 2010, Orban will face a united front of opposition parties including the Socialists, liberals and the formerly far-right, now centre-right, Jobbik in 2022 parliamentary elections.
    The six-party alliance is led by Peter Marki-Zay, a 49-year-old Catholic conservative, father of seven and small-town mayor who seems to embody the traditional values Orban publicly champions and is seen as a tough challenger.
    Orban told tens of thousands of supporters in central Budapest that Washington and billionaire George Soros were trying to get their people, the Hungarian leftist opposition, elected using their money, media and networks.
    But what matters is not what they in Brussels, in Washington and in the media which is directed from abroad, want.    It will be Hungarians deciding about their own fate,” Orban said on Saturday.
    “Our strength is in our unity … we believe in the same values: family, nation, and a strong and independent Hungary.”

    At a separate opposition rally Marki-Zay said that if elected, his government would draft a new constitution, clamp down on corruption, introduce the euro and guarantee freedom of the media.
    “This regime has become morally untenable … the momentum we have now should take us to April 2022,” he said.
    Opinion polls show Orban’s Fidesz party and the opposition alliance running neck-and-neck, with about a quarter of voters undecided.
    Saturday’s anniversary of the 1956 uprising against Soviet rule has offered Orban a symbolic platform for his agenda as his Fidesz party scales up its pre-election campaign.
    He has showered the electorate with handouts, including a $2 billion income-tax rebate for families, and stepped up his strong anti-immigration rhetoric.
    Orban’s government, with its main ally Poland, has clashed with Brussels over media freedoms, rule of law issues and LGBT rights – while stating that Hungary’s interest is to remain a member of a strong European Union.
    “Brussels speaks to us and treats us, along with the Poles, as if we were an enemy … well, it is time for them in Brussels to understand that even the communists could not defeat us,” Orban told cheering suppporters, who were waving the national flag and held banners with slogans such as “Brussels equals dictatorship.”
(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Mike Harrison and Ros Russell)
[GEORGE SOROS IS BECOMING WORLD ENEMY NUMBER ONE FOR HIS INTRUSIONS IN THE LIFES OF THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN DECENCY, GOD, CHRISTIANITY AND FAMILY AND IS THE LEADER OF THE DEEP STATE INTRUSION OF ANYTHING THAT IS NOT WHAT THE GLOBALIST SOCIALIST ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT WANTS DONE AS SEEN BELOW SO I AM INTRODUCING YOU TO THE DEEP STATE IF YOU DID NOT KNOW WHO THEY ARE AND THESE NATIONS ABOVE ARE FIGHTING FOR THEIR LIBERTY AGAINST THAT ENTITY AND IF YOU ARE NOT AWARE OF THIS IT IS DOING THE SAME TO THE U.S.A. ALSO.].
Network diagram showing interlocks between various U.S. corporations and institutions and the Council on Foreign Relations, in 2004
and notice above George Soros name at the bottom who has the one doing their efforts and the CFR Headquarters is located in the former Harold Pratt House in New York City

10/23/2021 Separatists End Week-Long Blockade Of Hotel Housing OSCE In Eastern Ukraine by Maria Tsvetkova and Alexander Ermochenko
Protesters hold a rally to address members of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) following the capture of a pro-Russian
officer by Ukrainian armed forces in the rebel-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine October 23, 2021. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko
    MOSCOW/DONETSK, Ukraine (Reuters) – Russian-backed separatists on Saturday called off a protest outside a hotel in eastern Ukraine housing international conflict monitors, ending a blockade sparked by the capture of a separatist officer by Ukrainian government forces.
    Monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) had been confined to their hotel in the separatist-held city of Donetsk for more than a week and had to suspend their patrolling mission.
    It was one of several instances of the OSCE, Europe’s main security watchdog, being blocked from operating since the capture of the separatist officer on Oct 13.    The separatists had demanded help from the OSCE to secure his release.
    The OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine has been deployed in eastern Ukraine since the outbreak of a war between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed forces that Kyiv says has killed 14,000 people.
    Late on Saturday, a Reuters witness saw the protesters dismantling tents pitched outside the Park Inn hotel in the city centre and saw OSCE monitors walking out of the building.
    One of the protesters at the scene, who did not provide her name, cited the worsening COVID-19 situation as a reason the protest had ended.
    The foreign minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Natalya Nikonorova, said the protesters had ended the blockade ahead of ban public events that comes into force on Monday due to the pandemic.
    “Starting from Monday, the protest will be illegal,” Nikonorova told Reuters by phone.
    The OSCE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.    On Wednesday the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde, had expressed deep concern about the situation at the hotel.
    “There can be no justification for any form of interference in the mission’s work,” she said in a statement.
    The separatists had also blockaded a hotel containing OSCE monitors in nearby Horlivka but quickly called off that protest.
    A Western diplomatic source said the separatists might have used coronavirus restrictions as a pretext to end the blockade.
    “I think that is the cover to call it off … a fig leaf to make it look like it is not a climb-down,” he said.
(Editing by Matthias Williams and Christina Fincher)

10/23/2021 NATO Not Ready For Equal Dialogue With Moscow – Russian Defence Chief
FILE PHOTO: Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu attends the opening ceremony of the International military-technical forum
"Army-2021" at Patriot Congress and Exhibition Centre in Moscow Region, Russia August 23, 2021. Sputnik/Ramil Sitdikov/Kremlin via
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s defence minister accused NATO on Saturday of gradually gathering forces near Russia’s borders and being unwilling to discuss European security with Moscow on equal terms, Interfax news agency reported.
    Shoigu’s comments were the latest sign of mounting tension between Russia and NATO after defence ministers from the Western alliance agreed a new plan https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/nato-agree-master-plan-deter-growing-russian-threat-diplomats-say-2021-10-21 on Thursday to defend against any potential Russian attack on multiple fronts.
    Germany’s defence minister described the plan as “the way of deterrence” but the Kremlin https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/moscow-says-natos-new-russia-plan-shows-it-was-right-cut-ties-2021-10-22 said on Friday that the plan showed Moscow had been right to cut ties with NATO.    Russia shut its diplomatic mission to NATO and the alliance’s mission in Moscow this week after NATO expelled eight Russians accused of spying.
    “NATO is gradually gathering forces near our borders amid calls for military deterrence of Russia,” Interfax quoted Shoigu as saying in a statement, without giving details.
    “The German defence minister (Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer) must know really well how a similar thing ended up for Germany and Europe,” he added in an apparent reference to World War Two.
    He said security in Europe must be mutual and must not infringe on Russia’s interests.
    “But it is NATO that is not ready for an equal dialogue on this issue,” he said.    “Moreover, the implementation of NATO’s ‘deterrence’ plan in Afghanistan has ended up in a disaster, which the whole world is now dealing with.”
(Reporting by Polina Devitt; editing by Timothy Heritage)

10/23/2021 Hunger-Striking Former Georgian Leader Gets Blood Transfusion – Interfax
FILE PHOTO: People take part in a protest demanding the release of jailed Georgian former
President Mikheil Saakashvili in Tbilisi, Georgia October 10, 2021. REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Jailed former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, who has been on a hunger strike, was given a blood transfusion late on Friday and is in stable condition, Interfax news agency quoted his personal doctor as saying on Saturday.
    The pro-Western politician, who declared a hunger strike on Oct. 1, was arrested after returning to Georgia, having lived abroad for years.
    He faces up to six years in jail after being convicted in absentia in 2018 of abuse of power and concealing evidence when he was president, charges he rejects as politically motivated.
    “One of the parameters of Saakashvili’s blood test was bad, so local prison doctors and an emergency ambulance team helped me with the transfusion and after that Saakashvili’s condition stabilised,” Nikoloz Kipshidze, Saakashvili’s doctor, was quoted as saying by Interfax.
    Kipshidze believes that Saakashvili should be transferred to a city hospital because “the crisis can recur and it would be difficult to cope with it in a prison hospital,” Interfax added.
    The 53-year-old Saakashvili led the Rose Revolution in 2003 that ousted veteran leader Eduard Shevardnadze.    Saakashvili ruled as president from 2004 to 2013 before leaving the country and building a new political career in Ukraine.
    He was arrested and jailed on Oct. 1 after returning home on the eve of parliamentary elections to rally the opposition and “take part in saving Georgia.”
    Last week thousands of his supporters rallied in the capital Tbilisi to demand his release.
(Reporting by Polina Devitt; writing by Mark Trevelyan and Polina Devitt; editing by Ros Russell)

10/24/2021 Uzbek Leader Expected To Secure Second Term In Office
FILE PHOTO: Uzbek president Shavkat Mirziyoyev attends a news conference with his Kazakh counterpart
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in Tashkent, Uzbekistan April 15, 2019. REUTERS/Mukhtar Kholdorbekov
    TASHKENT (Reuters) – Uzbekistan votes in a presidential election on Sunday in which incumbent President Shavkat Mirziyoyev faces no genuine opposition and is almost certain to win a second term.
    Mirziyoyev’s predicted victory will allow him to deepen his largely successful reform campaign and likely lead to Uzbekistan opening up further to foreign trade and investment – while retaining a highly centralised political system.
    The 64-year-old leader has rebuilt the resource-rich country’s ties with both Russia and the West which had become strained under his predecessor Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan’s first post-independence president.
    Mirziyoyev has also reined in the powerful security services and oversaw a release of a number of political prisoners who had ended up behind bars due to Karimov’s zero-tolerance approach towards dissent.
    Still, there are no real opposition parties in the mostly Muslim nation of 34 million and the four candidates running against Mirziyoyev have been nominated by parties which support the president.
    Mirziyoyev’s has pledged to cut poverty through rapid economic growth and gradually decentralise decision-making by devolving some powers to district councils.
    Due to COVID-19 concerns, voters are required to wear masks and observe social distancing at polling stations staffed with medical workers.    Polls are set to close at 8pm local time (1500 GMT) and preliminary results are due on Monday.
(Reporting by Mukhammadsharif Mamatkulov; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Ros Russell)

10/24/2021 Russian, Chinese Warships Hold First Joint Patrols In The Pacific
A group of naval vessels from Russia and China conduct a joint maritime military patrol in the waters of the Pacific Ocean,
in this still image taken from video released on October 23, 2021. Russian Defence Ministry/Handout via REUTERS
    MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russian and Chinese warships held their first joint patrols in the western Pacific Ocean over the past week, Russia’s defence ministry said on Saturday, a move Japan said it was monitoring.
    Moscow and Beijing, which staged naval cooperation drills in the Sea of Japan earlier in October, have cultivated closer military and diplomatic ties in recent years at a time when their relations with the West have soured.
    The naval manoeuvres, which Russia said ran from Sunday through Saturday, have been closely watched https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/china-russia-navy-ships-jointly-sail-through-japan-strait-2021-10-19 by Japan, which said earlier in the week that a group of 10 vessels from China and Russia sailed through the Tsugaru Strait separating Japan’s main island and its northern island of Hokkaido.
    “The group of ships passed through the Tsugaru Strait for the first time as part of the patrol,” Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement. The strait is regarded as international waters.
    “The tasks of the patrols were the demonstration of the Russian and Chinese state flags, maintaining of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and guardianship of the subjects of maritime economic activities of the two countries,” the ministry added.
    China’s defence ministry said on Sunday the joint exercise aimed to “further develop the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership in the new era, enhance the joint action capabilities of both parties and jointly maintain international and regional strategic stability.”
    A report on the ministry website said the operation was part of annual cooperation between the two nations and not targeted at third parties.
    Japanese defence officials said on Sunday the Russian and Chinese vessels had also passed through the Osumi Strait off the southern Japanese prefecture Kagoshima, public broadcaster NHK reported.
    Foreign ships are allowed to navigate through the Osumi and Tsugaru straits as they are international waterways, but Japan’s defence ministry said it will monitor the two navies, characterising the recent moves as “unusual,” NHK reported.
    Japanese officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
(Reporting by Polina Devitt in Moscow; Additional reporting by Dominique Patton in Beijing and Ritsuko Ando in Tokyo; Editing by Peter Graff and William Mallard)

10/24/2021 Moscow Decries U.S. Move To Call Russians ‘Homeless’ For Visa Purposes
FILE PHOTO: A flag is seen on the U.S. delegation's car, which is parked in front of the headquarters
of the Russian Foreign Ministry after U.S. Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland arrived
for talks with Russian officials in Moscow, Russia October 12, 2021. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia on Sunday condemned a decision by the United States to add Russians seeking U.S. visas to a list of “homeless nationals” who can apply for visas in third countries.
    The move allowed Russians to apply for U.S. visas in Warsaw instead of their home country after the American Embassy stopped processing most visa applications in May due to Moscow’s ban on employing embassy staff in Russia.
    The U.S. State Department lists as “homeless” applicants from countries in which the United States has no consular representation, or where consular staff cannot issue visas due to the political or security situation.
    Russia became the 10th nation on the list, after Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Libya, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.
    “American diplomats have for many years been destroying the system of consular services in Russia …” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on social media.
    “They have turned a technical procedure, a routine one for the 21st century, into a real hell.”
    With ties already at post-Cold War lows, Russia and the United States are in a dispute over the number of diplomats they can post to each other’s capitals, and failed to make progress at talks this month.
    In addition, Russia has placed the United States on a list of “unfriendly” countries who must seek approval to employ Russian nationals – and has set the U.S. quota at zero.
    At the talks, Moscow said it was willing to lift all the restrictions imposed in recent years, and Washington said it wanted parity on diplomatic staff numbers and visa reciprocity.
(Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova; editing by Matthias Williams and Kevin Liffey)

10/24/2021 Russia-Led Bloc Concludes Drills Near Afghan Border To Boost Tajik Security
Russian service members line up during military drills carried out by the Russia-led
Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) at the Harb-Maidon training ground, located near the
Tajik-Afghan border in the Khatlon region, Tajikistan October 23, 2021. REUTERS/Didor Sadulloev
    HARB-MAIDON TRAINING GROUND, Tajikistan (Reuters) – A Russia-led military exercise held over six days near the Tajik-Afghan border, designed to demonstrate Moscow stands ready to protect Dushanbe in the event of an incursion from the south, reached its conclusion on Saturday.
    Tajikistan’s relations with the Taliban leadership in Kabul have been strained from the start and reports of troop build-up on both sides of the border have alarmed Moscow, which operates a military base in the former Soviet republic.
    The exercise, carried out by the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), which also includes Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, involved over 4,000 troops as well as tanks, artillery and assault aircraft.
    “This is the first time an event of this scale is being held,” Tajik Defence Minister Sherali Mirzo told reporters at the site.
    CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas said the war games were aimed at showing “that no incursions into Tajikistan’s territory will be allowed,” adding “we will not leave Tajikistan alone in the face of danger.”
    Millions of Tajiks live in Afghanistan, comprising its second largest ethnic group, and Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rakhmon has criticised the predominantly Pashtun Taliban for failing to set up an ethnically diverse cabinet.
    The Taliban has forged an alliance with an ethnic Tajik militant group seeking to overthrow Rakhmon, according to Russian media reports.
(Reporting by Nazarali Pirnazarov; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Mike Harrison)

10/24/2021 Croatia’s Right-Wing Eurosceptics Seek Referendum On Euro Adoption
FILE PHOTO: Euro currency bills are pictured at the Croatian National Bank in
Zagreb, Croatia, May 21, 2019. Picture taken May 21, 2019. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic/File Photo
    ZAGREB (Reuters) – Croatia’s conservative and eurosceptic party Hrvatski Suverenisti (Croatian Sovereignists) began a two-week drive on Sunday to collect signatures in a bid to force a referendum on whether to adopt the euro as the country’s currency.
    The eurosceptic party, which has four deputies in the 151-seat parliament, and some small right-wing allies need to collect signatures from 10% of the electorate, or around 370,000 people. They will set up some 250 locations across the country to try to reach that.
    The centre-right government, led by Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, is working to achieve euro adoption from the beginning of 2023 and hopes to get a green light from the euro zone in the first half of 2022.
    Plenkovic says adopting the euro would remove currency risk, reduce interest rates, improve the country’s credit rating and open the way for more investments in an economy dominated by tourism.
    The eurosceptics say the economy is too weak and uncompetitive to be ready to adopt the euro and doing so would cause price rises.
    According to a opinion poll released in July, a bit over 60% of voters favour adopting the common currency, which is used by 19 of the 27 EU members.
    The government says a referendum is not necessary, arguing that Croats already accepted a common currency when they voted in a referendum to join the EU nearly a decade ago.
    As a first step, organisers of the referendum initiative want a referendum on a constitutional change that would make replacing the kuna currency possible only by direct vote of the citizens.
    “Our opinion is that the decision on such an important issue must be taken by the citizens and not by any prime minister or any government,” Marijan Pavlicek, one of the key initiative organizers, told the Vecernji List daily over the weekend.
    If enough signatures are collected by Nov. 7, the Constitutional Court may need to rule on whether the issue of the euro adoption was dealt with at the time of EU accession, or whether the referendum initiative has a legal basis.
($1 = 6.4645 kuna)
(Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Frances Kerry)

10/24/2021 Uzbek Leader Expected To Secure Second Term In Office
Voters stand in a line as they visit a polling station during a presidential
election in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, October 24, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer
    TASHKENT (Reuters) - Uzbekistan voted in a presidential election on Sunday in which incumbent President Shavkat Mirziyoyev faced no genuine opposition and is almost certain to win a second term.
    Mirziyoyev’s predicted victory will allow him to deepen his largely successful reform campaign and likely lead to Uzbekistan opening up further to foreign trade and investment – while retaining a highly centralised political system.
    Shortly after polls closed at 8 p.m., Central Election Commission Chairman Zayniddin Nizamkhodjaev told a briefing that voter turnout reached 89.8%, more than the 87.7% reported in the 2016 vote when Mirziyoyev was first elected president.
    “The people of Uzbekistan acknowledged that the election was carried out transparently, in line with international norms and democratic principles,” he said.
    The 64-year-old leader has rebuilt the resource-rich country’s ties with both Russia and the West which had become strained under his predecessor Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan’s first post-independence president.
    “I voted for Shavkat Mirziyoyev, basing my decision on the real situation,” said 42-year-old Tashkent resident Ahmadjon Turdimurodov.
    “We have seen what he has done over the past years … the change has come even to our doorsteps.    I do not want to say some pompous words, but is a fact that we have witnessed positive changes in all sectors.”
    Mirziyoyev has also lifted some restrictions on religious practices, reined in the powerful security services and oversaw a release of some political prisoners who had ended up behind bars due to Karimov’s zero-tolerance approach towards dissent.
    However, no genuine opposition parties have been registered so far and while bloggers and media can now criticise senior officials and raise sensitive issues, they never target the president himself.
    The four candidates running against Mirziyoyev have been nominated by parties which support the president.
    Nurzoda Umarkulova and Khadicha Olimjonova, both 18 and students of Tashkent’s Islamic college, said they have voted for Mirziyoyev who has done “so many things to improve our life and promises to do even more.”
    “One of his changes you can see in us,” Umarkulova said, referring to the white headscarves both were wearing and which had been banned for decades under the previous leadership.
    Mirziyoyev’s has pledged to cut poverty through rapid economic growth and gradually decentralise decision-making by devolving some powers to district councils.
    Preliminary results of the vote are due on Monday as well as a report by monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
(Reporting by Mukhammadsharif MamatkulovWriting by Olzhas AuyezovEditing by Ros Russell, Raissa Kasolowsky and David Evans)

10/24/2021 German Police Stop Far-Right Vigilantes Patrolling Polish Border
FILE PHOTO: Police patrol as people gather during a vigil against the ultra-right so-called Der Dritte Weg
(The Third Way), in Guben, Germany, October 23, 2021. REUTERS/Michele Tantussi/File Photo
    BERLIN (Reuters) – German police said on Sunday they had stopped more than 50 far-right vigilantes armed with pepper spray, a bayonet, a machete and batons who were trying to patrol the Polish border to stop migrants from entering the country.
    The vigilantes were following a call by the Third Way, a far right-party with suspected links to neo-Nazi groups, for its members to stop illegal crossings near the town of Guben on the German-Polish border.
    Police seized the weapons carried by the 50 suspects and made them leave the Guben area late on Saturday and in the early hours of Sunday, a spokesperson said. Some of the suspects had travelled to the Polish border from other parts of Germany.
    On Saturday, dozens of people held a vigil in Guben to show their opposition to the planned far-right patrols.
    Germany has stationed an extra 800 police officers on the Polish border to control the flow of migrants trying to enter the European Union from Belarus, the interior minister was quoted as saying on Sunday.
    “Hundreds of officers are currently on duty there day and night.    If necessary, I am prepared to reinforce them even further,” Horst Seehofer told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
    Seehofer said there had already been 6,162 unauthorised entries into Germany from Belarus and Poland this year.
    Last week, Seehofer said Germany did not intend to close the border with Poland, but on Sunday he said the country might have to consider reintroducing controls.
    “If the situation on the German-Polish border does not ease, we will also have to consider whether this step needs to be taken in coordination with Poland and the state of Brandenburg.    This decision will come to the next government,” he said.
    The three German parties working to form a coalition government say they aim to wrap up talks by the end of November and elect Social Democrat Olaf Scholz chancellor in December.
    Many EU states accuse Minsk of sending illegal migrants across the border into the EU to put pressure on the bloc, which imposed sanctions on Belarus after President Alexander Lukashenko’s disputed re-election in August 2020.
    Lukashenko denies this and has blamed the West for what he says is a looming humanitarian catastrophe this winter after migrants were left stranded on the Belarusian-Polish border.
(Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Giles Elgood)

10/25/2021 Some Russian Regions Shut Workplaces As Daily COVID-19 Cases Hit New Peak by Gleb Stolyarov and Alexandr Reshetnikov
FILE PHOTO: Medical specialists transport a patient outside a hospital for people infected with the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Moscow, Russia October 13, 2021. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva/File Photo
    MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russia reported its highest single-day COVID-19 case tally since the start of the pandemic on Monday as some regions imposed a workplace shutdown to combat a surge in infections and deaths.
    Faced with worsening disease rates and frustrated by the slow take-up of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine by its own population, authorities are introducing stricter measures this week to try to slow the spread of the pandemic.
    President Vladimir Putin last week declared that Oct. 30 to Nov. 7 would be paid non-working days but said every region could extend that period or start it earlier depending on the epidemiological situation.
    Six regions, including the Samara and Perm regions east of Moscow, began their non-working days on Monday, TASS news agency reported. From this Thursday, Moscow will introduce its tightest lockdown measures since June 2020, with only essential shops like supermarkets and pharmacies remaining open.
    The measures are not popular among some Muscovites who question whether the disruption is justified.
    “I’m very sceptical about the lockdown because it hurts businesses first of all,” said a man who gave his name as Viktor as he walked in front of the Bolshoi Theatre, wearing a medical mask.    “I’m an athlete, and gyms are closing. For people who live and breathe sport, it’s really bad.”
    Moscow schools are also closed, and unvaccinated over-60s in the capital have been ordered to lock down for four months starting Monday.
    Authorities in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city, said COVID-19 restrictions would not be lifted until at least 80% of its population was vaccinated, RIA news agency reported. Nationwide, only about a third of the population has been inoculated.
    Putin has ordered a series of measures including increased testing, tighter monitoring of mask-wearing and social distancing and an acceleration of the vaccine campaign, with employees to get two paid days leave as a reward for getting inoculated.
    Authorities reported 37,930 new COVID-19 infections in the last 24 hours, a daily record, as well as 1,069 deaths related to the virus, six short of the record of 1,075 set on Saturday.
(Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov, Alexander Reshetnikov and Dmitry Antonov; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

10/25/2021 Dutch Consider New Coronavirus Curbs As Infections Soar
FILE PHOTO: People walk past restaurants and bars in Amsterdam, Netherlands
October 14 2020. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/File Photo
    AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The Dutch government may impose new coronavirus restrictions to reduce pressure on hospitals struggling to deal with a swelling number of COVID-19 patients, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said on Monday.
    Coronavirus infections in the Netherlands have been rising for a month and reached their highest level since July in recent days, after most social distancing measures were dropped in late September.
    The new wave of infections has driven up the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals faster than predicted this month, De Jonge said, and many hospitals are already cutting back regular care again to deal with coronavirus cases.
    The government has asked its group of health experts to advise on possible new measures and will decide on its policy on Nov. 2, De Jonge said, without specifying the options.
    “It’s not easy to find new measures that work, as it’s mainly unvaccinated people who need care, who have the highest risk of getting infected and of infecting others,” De Jonge said.
    The Dutch government eased most COVID-19 restrictions on Sept. 25 and introduced a “corona pass” showing proof of vaccination or a recent negative test as a requirement for visitors to bars, restaurants, clubs or cultural events.
    Since then, infections in the country of 17.5 million have increased and they jumped 75% relative to a week before on Sunday to 6,350.    The number of COVID-19 related deaths reported over the weekend more than doubled to 25.
    Four out of five COVID-19 patients on Dutch intensive care wards have not been vaccinated, the National Institute for Public Health said last week.
    According to government data, 84.5% of the Dutch adult population has been fully vaccinated.
(Reporting by Bart Meijer, Editing by William Maclean)

10/25/2021 Russian COVID Cases Hit Record High As Eastern Europe Imposes New Curbs by Luiza Ilie and Gleb Stolyarov
FILE PHOTO: A medical specialist takes care of a patient at the City Clinical Hospital Number 52, where people suffering
from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are treated, in Moscow, Russia October 21, 2021. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/Files
    BUCHAREST/MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russia reported a record high number of daily COVID-19 cases and some central European countries imposed fresh restrictions on Monday, as a new wave of the pandemic gathered pace.
    In Asia, the Red Cross called for urgent help for Papua New Guinea and China’s latest outbreak forced the capital Beijing to delay its annual marathon and step up other curbs, less than four months before it hosts the Winter Olympics.
    Authorities around the world have been sounding the alarm as infections surge, with governments in regions where vaccine uptake has been low forced to toughen up restrictions in a bid to stop the virus raging out of control.
    “The pandemic is far from over. Complacency is now as dangerous as the virus.    Now is the time to be on heightened alert, not to let down your guard,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday.
    Russia on Monday reported 37,930 new COVID-19 infections in the last 24 hours, its highest in a single day since the start of the pandemic, as well as 1,069 deaths related to the virus.
    Frustrated by the slow take-up of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine by its own population, authorities are introducing stricter measures this week to try to curb the spread of the pandemic.
    Some regions imposed a workplace shutdown and from Thursday, Moscow will introduce its tightest lockdown measures since June 2020, with only essential shops like supermarkets and pharmacies open.    Moscow schools are also closed, and unvaccinated over-60s in the capital have been ordered to lock down for four months.
    Vaccine scepticism is high across central and eastern Europe, and as a result the region has become a hotspot.
    Tougher restrictions came into force in Romania and the Czech Republic on Monday, while in Slovakia stricter rules were expanded to more regions.    In Bulgaria, police will start imposing fines on people who break restrictions from Monday.
    Poland also warned it would consider tighter restrictions.
    In Romania, where a deputy minister on Saturday lamented a “disaster situation,” the government reintroduced a curfew and made health passes mandatory for entry to most public venues.
    While experts have said that a lack of confidence in public institutions caused by decades of Communist rule has fuelled vaccine scepticism in the region, there were signs that more people were now getting a jab.
    In Romania authorities said inoculations were on the rise last week, while in the Czech Republic the daily number of doses administered was the highest since late-August.
    The Dutch government also said it may impose new coronavirus restrictions to reduce pressure on hospitals struggling to deal with a swelling number of COVID-19 patients.
‘LOSS OF LIFE’
    The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies warned of the potential for huge numbers of deaths in Papua New Guinea unless international action was taken to help the island nation’s struggling health service.
    Less than 1% of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data figures, with the Red Cross blaming misinformation, public apprehension, and logistical challenges.
    “Urgent efforts and further support are needed in healthcare to prevent a massive loss of life in the coming days and weeks,” Uvenama Rova, PNG Red Cross secretary general, said.
    Chinese health officials warned on Sunday that its latest cluster, caused by the highly transmissible Delta variant, was increasingly likely to expand further.
    Beijing has banned entry of people from other cities with cases, and closed indoor venues such as some chess and card parlours, even in districts without infections.    Although the infection numbers are far smaller than many places outside China, authorities have adopted a zero tolerance strategy.
    New Zealand saw its second-highest daily tally of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, with 109 new locally acquired coronavirus cases reported on Monday, the bulk of them in its largest city, Auckland.
    Once lauded for its success in stamping out the virus, New Zealand has been struggling with an outbreak of the     Delta variant centred in Auckland, despite the city remaining under a strict lockdown for more than two months.
(Reporting by Luiza Ilie in Bucharest, Gleb Stolyarov and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber in Moscow, Jason Hovet in Prague, Tsvetelia Tsolova in Sofia, Bart Meijer in Amsterdam, Lidia Kelly in Melbourne, Roxanne Liu, Ryan Woo and Gabriel Crossley in Beijing, Shashwat Awasthi in Bengaluru; Writing by Alan Charlish; Editing by Alison Williams and Bernadette Baum)

10/25/2021 Poland To Increase Troop Numbers On Belarus Border To Around 10,000
A migrant from Somalia covers herself with a blanket as she crosses the Belarusian-Polish
border in Siemianowka, Poland October 25, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland is increasing the number of troops on its border with Belarus to around 10,000, its defence minister said on Monday, as the country tries to stem a surge in migration which it blames on Minsk.
    Hundreds of people from places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa have been trying to cross the border illegally every day, and Poland has beefed up security in the region, brushing aside criticism that it is treating the migrants inhumanely.
    “We are increasing the number of soldiers helping the Border Guard by 2,5000,” Mariusz Blaszczak wrote on Twitter.    “Soon, about 10,000 soldiers from the 12th, 16th and 18th divisions will be watching over the security of the border.”
    The Border Guard said that over the weekend groups of about 60 or 70 migrants had twice attempted to force their way through the border and two Polish soldiers had been injured.
    “As a result of these events, two Polish soldiers were hospitalised, one of them was hit in the face with a stone, the other with a branch,” Border Guard spokeswoman Anna Michalska told a news conference.    “These people are not in any danger, they have left hospital.”
    The European Commission and Warsaw say the flow of migrants has been orchestrated by Belarus in a bid to put pressure on the European Union over sanctions it imposed on Minsk. Belarus has denied this.
    Poland has declared a state of emergency in the region and plans to build a wall on the border.
    The Polish parliament has also passed legislation that human rights advocates say aims to legalise pushbacks of migrants across its borders in breach of the country’s commitments under international law.
(Reporting by Alicja Ptak, writing by Alan Charlish, editing by Susan Fenton)

10/26/2021 Russia Puts Onus On Regional Leaders To Step Up COVID Fight by Anton Zverev
A medical specialist prepares a dose of a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a vaccination
centre in the State Department Store, GUM, in Moscow, Russia October 26, 2021. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia ordered regional leaders on Tuesday to step up their fight against COVID-19 as the daily death toll hit a record for the sixth time in eight days.
    Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said infections were up by more than 10% in the past week and 268,500 people were receiving treatment in hospitals across the country’s 85 regions.
    Doctors report packed wards and a heavy strain on resources and staff, including junior doctors and medical students who have been brought in to help.
    “At the moment the hospital is completely full.    It has 540 beds – 490 patients in the department and 50 patients in the intensive care unit,” said Roman Mironov, deputy chief physician at a hospital in Volzhskiy, 900 km (550 miles) southeast of Moscow.
    “Most of them – 98-99% – are not vaccinated,” he told Reuters.
    Murashko singled out 13 regions where authorities needed to make more beds available and tighten restrictions on people’s movements.    They ranged from Vladimir, just east of Moscow, to sparsely populated Chukotka, which faces Alaska across the Bering Strait.
    With Russia struggling to contain surging infections and deaths, and frustrated by low domestic take-up of the Sputnik V vaccine it has developed and sold around the world, the Kremlin has sought to pin responsibility on regional authorities to do more.
    President Vladimir Putin has declared a nationwide workplace shutdown from Oct. 30 to Nov. 7 but encouraged regions to impose extra measures at their own discretion.
    “The president has urged governors to use their powers more actively.    Everything will depend on the situation in the particular region,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
UNVACCINATED
    A handful of regions have already sent employees home on paid “non-working days.”    Moscow’s mayor has ordered unvaccinated under-60s to stay at home for four months and will shut all but essential shops, such as pharmacies and supermarkets, from Thursday.
    The measures are the tightest in the capital since June 2020, although Peskov said it was wrong to describe them as a lockdown.
    Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said infections in the capital had risen by 14% in the past week and were still rising, “but maybe not at the same rate.”
    Authorities reported 1,106 COVID-19 deaths nationwide in the past 24 hours, the highest figure since the start of the pandemic.    New cases stood at 36,446, down from 37,930 a day earlier.
    As an incentive to get inoculated, Putin has ordered that employees get two paid days off work, and some signs have emerged that people are responding.    RIA news agency quoted authorities in Siberia’s Altai region as saying demand to get vaccinated had surged by 43% in a week.
    Some companies, though, are bristling at the order to shut down from Thursday.
    Anastasia Tatulova, a public ombudsman for small businesses, launched a social media campaign demanding that the government do more to compensate businesses and employees.
    “Business for 1.5 years has been under the pressure of restrictions and is no longer able to cover the costs of rent, salaries and taxes,” she said.
(Additional reporting by Kirill Braga in Volzhskiy and Gleb Stolyarov in Moscow; Writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Giles Elgood)

10/26/2021 Ukraine Urges Citizens To Get Vaccinated As Daily COVID Toll Hits Record by Natalia Zinets and Sergiy Karazy
FILE PHOTO: A health worker stands near an ambulance carring a COVID-19 patient, as they wait in the queue at a hospital
for people infected with the coronavirus disease in Kyiv, Ukraine October 18, 2021. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich/File Photo
    KYIV (Reuters) -Ukraine’s health minister urged more people to get their COVID-19 shots as coronavirus deaths hit a daily record of 734 on Tuesday, with hospitalisations up more than a fifth on the previous week.
    One of Europe’s poorest countries, Ukraine fell behind in the race for vaccine supplies this year and so far only around 7 million in a population of 41 million are fully vaccinated.
    It is one of several countries in former communist eastern Europe, where vaccination rates are the continent’s lowest, now experiencing a record-setting wave of infections with some of the highest death rates in the world.
    In a bid to combat vaccine hesitancy, Ukraine has made vaccinations compulsory for some government employees such as teachers.    The unvaccinated face restrictions on access to restaurants, sports and other public events.
    The new regulations appear to have had an effect – 1.5 million Ukrainians got either a first or second shot last week, twice as many as the week before.    Long queues have been seen at some vaccination centres, though some Kyiv residents told     Reuters they did not want to get the vaccine unless their jobs forced them to do so.
    Half of the country’s regions have tightened lockdown restrictions after falling into the “red zone” classification.
    At the Kyiv hospital number 3, all the beds designated for COVID-19 patients were occupied, the head of the hospital’s infectious diseases department, Tetyana Mykhailevska, said.
    “Compared to the previous wave, the patients are younger, with a more severe and a faster course of the disease,” Mykhailevska told Reuters.
    “While during the previous waves we were able to influence the course of the disease at least partially, now, unfortunately, we are almost powerless because drugs which we used to use for such patients do not stop the process.”
    Health Minister Viktor Lyashko told a briefing that 94% of patients requiring hospital treatment were not vaccinated.    Two thirds of beds with oxygen supplies were occupied.     “The situation with hospitalisations is getting rampant,” Lyashko said.    “I call on all of you to get your vaccine.    We can and must stop these sad statistics.”
    Ukraine has registered a total of 2.8 million coronavirus cases and 64,936 deaths since the start of the pandemic.    After a lull in the summer, the daily rate of new cases has jumped to around 16,000-20,000 in recent weeks, including 19,120 in the past day.
    The countries with the lowest vaccination rates in Europe are almost all located in the east, including both former Soviet states such as Russia and Ukraine and ex-communist members of the EU such as Romania and Bulgaria.
(Reporting by Natalia Zinets, Sergiy Karazy and Stanislav Kozlyuk; Editing by Matthias Williams, Peter Graff and Nick Macfie)

10/26/2021 Cuba To Welcome Tourists As Home-Grown Vaccine Drive Takes Hold by Marc Frank and Nelson Acosta
FILE PHOTO: A Cuban flag is seen on the beach amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
in Varadero, Cuba, October 22, 2021. Picture taken on October 22, 2021. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini/File Photo
    HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba will open its borders and ease entry requirements next month after vaccinating most of its people with home-grown COVID-19 drugs, allowing it to welcome back overseas visitors and giving a shot in the arm to its ailing tourist industry.
    Tough restrictions due to the pandemic, a drastic reduction in flights to Cuba, and a U.S. ban on most travel to the Communist-run island under former U.S. President Donald Trump have hobbled the business and left it trailing behind regional competitors such as the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas and Cancun.
    But as Nov. 15, Cuba will only require visitors to carry proof of vaccination or a recent PCR to enter the country, replacing what were previously among the strictest protocols in the Caribbean, involving a quarantine period and multiple PCR tests.
    A fully vaccinated population will prove a key selling point for an island already well-regarded for its safety, beaches and turquoise waters, said Francisco Camps, who supervises Spanish firm Sol Melia’s 32 hotels in Cuba.
    “Cuba will be one of the safest sanitary destinations and we believe that we can reach visitations similar to 2019 by the end of next year,” he said.
    Cuba’s home-grown vaccines are currently under review by the World Health Organization and most trial data has yet to be peer reviewed.
    But among countries with more than 1 million people, Cuba is vaccinating faster than any other, according to a Reuters tally of official data.
    The government says the pace is paying dividends, with COVID-19 cases and deaths falling off at least 80% since their peak mid-summer.    At least 90% of the population has received at least one dose of one of the country’s three-dose homegrown vaccines.
    “We are in a favorable moment as we begin to recover our customs, to be able to visit relatives and go on vacation, as well as improve economic activity,” Tourism Minister Juan Carlos Garcia said this month.
    The pandemic closed schools, entertainment venues and restaurants as it reduced to near zero the all-important tourism industry – freezing foreign trips by Cubans and visits to the country from Cubans living overseas – exacerbating an economic crisis that has left residents short of food and medicine.
    Cuba received more than four million tourists in 2019, contributing 10.6 percent to gross domestic product (GDP), and much more through supply chains and informal economic activity.
    But this year just 200,000 guests have arrived and only another 100,000 are expected, Minister Garcia said.
    Cuban economist Ricardo Torres said those numbers meant a “devastating” 92% drop in tourism this year, compared to 2019.
    “So we are talking about next year for any real tourism recovery…which generates a knock-on effect and so is decisive to economic recovery,” said Torres, a visiting professor at American University in Washington.
    The U.S. embargo sharply limits trade with Cuba, so the country depends heavily on flows of foreign currency and basic goods that travelers and the Cuban diaspora bring to the island.
    Despite mounting optimism as tourism resumes, officials have cautioned economic recovery will be more gradual than initially thought following a sharp drop of 10.9% last year and another 2% through June.
    The Varadero beach resort is already partially open, including for the domestic market, for which it is the favorite destination.
    And life is slowly returning to the colonial district of Havana as it prepares to once more welcome visitors after a 19-month hiatus.
    “Old Havana has been sad all this time because there have been no tourists,” said Ernesto Alejandro Labrada, owner of the Antojos restaurant, now packed with Cubans enjoying a meal before the visitors return.
(Reporting by Marc Frank; additional reporting by Nelson Acosta, editing by Dave Sherwood and Angus MacSwan)

10/26/2021 Most Poles Says Govt Should Give Ground In EU Rule-Of-Law Row – Survey
FILE PHOTO: People walk in the city centre as the country's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions eased,
in Warsaw, Poland May 15, 2021. Picture taken May 15, 2021. Slawomir Kaminski/Agencja Gazeta/via REUTERS/File Photo
    WARSAW (Reuters) – Almost three quarters of Poles think authorities should accept some or all EU demands to roll back judicial reforms it says violate the rule of law, a survey showed, suggesting strong disapproval of the hardline stance the government has taken.
    Warsaw’s already fraught relations with Brussels were plunged into crisis on Oct 7 when the country’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled that parts of European Union treaties were incompatible with its constitution.
    Poland was already at risk of losing billions in EU funds for failing to comply with demands to roll back the judicial reforms that Brussels says undermine the independence of the country’s courts.
    According to Tuesday’s IBRiS poll for Rzeczpospolita daily, 40.8% of respondents believe the government should admit defeat and end that row as soon as possible, while 32.5% says it should compromise and accept some of Brussels’ conditions.
    Only 23% believe the government should not compromise at all, even if that means losing EU funds.
    Poland argues that the European Union is overstepping its mandate and, in a Financial Times interview published on Sunday, the ruling nationalist Law and Justice Party’s (PiS) Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, accused the European Commission of holding a “gun to our head.”
    But surveys also show that the Polish public remains overwhelmingly pro-European, with two this month putting support for EU membership at 90%.
    Anna Materska-Sosnowska, a political scientist at Warsaw University said public opinion might persuade the government to compromise.
    However, that could alienate hard-right voters, political scientist Rafal Chwedoruk told Rzeczpospolita.    “It will be more and more difficult for the government,” he was quoted as saying.
    Such voters could be key to PiS’s hopes of gaining an absolute parliamentary majority in national elections scheduled for 2023.    PiS is currently just short of a majority.
    An IBRiS poll published on Monday put support for the party at 36%, in line with recent similar surveys but down from the 43.6% who voted for it at the 2019 election.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; editing by John Stonestreet)

10/26/2021 Poland To Upgrade Army Using Funding Methods First Deployed To Fight COVID
FILE PHOTO: Polish armoured vehicles take part in the Polish National Army Day parade
in Katowice, Poland August 15, 2019. Agencja Gazeta/Kamila Kotusz via REUTERS/File Photo
    WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland will use a mode of financing employed to fight the economic consequences of COVID-19 to help fund a large increase in military spending, the defence minister said on Tuesday, as the government seeks to modernise and expand the armed forces.
    Poland’s government has used bonds issued by institutions such as the national development bank BGK or state fund PFR – but secured by the state – to finance much of its spending on helping the economy through the pandemic.
    This has helped it avoid including such spending in the state budget, a tactic that has been criticised by the Supreme Audit Office as lacking transparency.
    Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said the government would create an Armed Forces Support Fund, financed by government-secured bonds issued by BGK, treasury bonds, the state budget and profits from the central bank.
    “This is a solution that was used by the COVID fund. I want to strongly underline that the Armed Forces Support Fund will be run by BGK, so it won’t be some additional institution,” Blaszczak told a news conference.
    He did not say exactly how much the expansion and modernisation of the armed forces would cost.    However, the leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, said spending would be “significantly higher” than 2% of gross domestic product, the level required of NATO states which Poland already exceeds.
    “It is better to be safe and a little bit more in debt,” Kaczynski said.
    Blaszczak said the Defence Ministry aimed to have more than 250,000 full-time soldiers and more than 50,000 members of the Territorial Defence Force, which is made up of professional and part-time volunteer soldiers. In 2020, there were around 110,000 full-time soldiers.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish, additional reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, editing by Giles Elgood)

10/27/2021 Bulgaria Hits Record High Daily Coronavirus Cases, Hospitals Stretched
Men wearing protective suits are seen outside a future temporary COVID-19 vaccination unit, amid the
coronavirus disease outbreak in Sofia, Bulgaria, December 15, 2020. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov/Files
    SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s tally of coronavirus infections has risen by 6,813 in the past 24 hours, a record daily increase as the European Union’s least vaccinated country grapples with a fourth wave of the pandemic, official data showed on Wednesday.
    The virus has killed 124 people in the past 24 hours, according to the figures, bringing the total death toll to 23,440.
    More than 7,300 people were in COVID-19 wards as hospitals across the Balkan country struggled to deal with the inflow of coronavirus patients amid a shortage of medical staff.
    The interim government imposed a health pass entry to most indoor public venues in a bid to slow the spread of the more contagious Delta variant and spur vaccinations in the country, where only one in four adults has had at least one shot.
    Vaccine take-ups have quadrupled since the pass was made mandatory last Thursday. More than 26,000 new doses were administered in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of vaccinated adults to 1.46 million people.
    But many Bulgarians remain sceptical about the shots amid entrenched mistrust in state institutions, misinformation and contradictory messages by politicians and experts ahead of a third parliamentary election this year on Nov. 14.
    Vaccine opponents have held rallies against the health pass over the past days and a new national protest, organised by restaurants and hotel owners, is planned for Thursday.
    Late on Tuesday, interim Health Minister Stoicho Katsarov said the situation at hospitals was critical and appealed to Bulgarians to observe the restrictions. Out of 700 intensive care beds across the country, 608 are occupied.
    “If these measures do not work, the only option left will be a full lockdown and a halt of economic life,” Katsarov said.
(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Sam Holmes, Robert Birsel)

10/27/2021 Russia Tells Afghan Neighbours To Say No To U.S., NATO Presence
FILE PHOTO: Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a news conference following talks with San Marino's
Foreign Minister Luca Beccari in Moscow, Russia, September 13, 2021. Sergei Ilnitsky/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s top diplomat told Afghanistan’s neighbours on Wednesday to refuse to host U.S. or NATO military forces following their withdrawal from Afghanistan.
    The Kremlin is worried by the risk of Islamist militants spilling into Central Asia from Afghanistan and bristles at the idea of the West gaining a foothold in a region that used to be part of the Soviet Union.
    “We … call on Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries not to allow a military presence of U.S. and NATO forces which plan to move there after leaving Afghan territory,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
    The diplomat made the remarks in a speech by video link at a conference held in Tehran on Afghanistan attended by China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
    Lavrov said it was important to curb and control migration flows from Afghanistan and that criminal and terrorist elements were already trying to enter Afghanistan’s neighbours disguised as refugees.
    Moscow sees the ex-Soviet region as its southern defensive flank, but in June President Vladimir Putin offered Washington the use of Russian military bases in Central Asia, according to the Kommersant newspaper’s sources.
    Russia operates its largest foreign military base in Tajikistan, which has a long border with Afghanistan, and has expanded its own troop and military hardware presence there since the Taliban takeover.
(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

10/27/2021 Czech Daily COVID-19 Cases Top 6,000 For First Time Since April
FILE PHOTO: A woman lights a candle to commemorate all Czech victims of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
pandemic at Prague Castle in Prague, Czech Republic, May 10, 2021. REUTERS/David W Cerny/File Photo
    PRAGUE (Reuters) – The Czech Republic reported 6,274 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, almost doubling in a week as the country struggles to contain a new wave of the pandemic.
    The latest number is the highest since April 7 in the country of 10.7 million.
    Hospitalisations have risen to 1,146 as of Oct. 26, up from 249 at the start of the month, with 166 people in intensive care, data from the Health Ministry showed.
    Despite the rapid growth, cases and hospitalisations are still well below peak levels of early 2021 and the end of last year.
    Vaccination has been gathering pace after a slowdown, with 6.06 million people fully vaccinated.
    Last week the outgoing government decided to force restaurants to check patrons’ COVID-19 status.
(Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by David Goodman)

10/27/2021 Sweden To Extend COVID Booster Shots To All Aged 65 Or Above
FILE PHOTO: People wait to get a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a night club which was turned
into a mass vaccination center, in Stockholm, Sweden, April 16, 2021. Carl-Olof Zimmerman/TT News Agency/via REUTERS
    STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden will start offering COVID-19 booster shots to people aged 65 or older as well as many care workers and plans to gradually extend the third jabs to most Swedes in the coming months, the government said on Wednesday.
    The booster shots of mRNA vaccine will be gradually extended to cover all people in the Nordic country aged 16 or older during the winter and spring, Health Minister Lena Hallengren told a news conference.
    “It is thanks to the fact that so many have been vaccinated that we can live our lives a little bit more as usual,” Hallengren said.    “Now we offer booster shots to 1.5 million more.”
    The healthcare staff to be offered boosters included all employees involved in home care, nursing homes and assisted living programmes.
    Infections remain at fairly low levels four weeks after almost all restrictions and recommendations were abolished in Sweden.    Still, deaths have started to slowly edge higher after a slow summer, pushing the toll over the course of the pandemic above the 15,000 mark this week. [L8N2RL2TZ]
    “According to studies, we notice a diminishing antibody effect.    We saw during the summer that we had outbreaks in nursing homes,” Public Health Agency head Johan Carlson said.    “A third dose provides a substantial increase in antibodies.”
    Previously, people living in elderly care homes and those aged 80 or older were eligible for a booster shot six months after the second dose.    Around 85% of all Swedes aged 16 or above have had one vaccine shot and 80% have had two shots or more.
    In recent weeks, vaccinations have also been offered to children in the 12-15 age group though only relatively few have received inoculations so far.
(Reporting by Johan Ahlander; editing by Niklas Pollard)

10/27/2021 EU Court Fines Poland 1 Million Euros Per Day In Rule Of Law Row
FILE PHOTO: European Union and Polish flags flutter in Mazeikiai, Lithuania April 5, 2019. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo
    WARSAW (Reuters) -Poland must pay 1 million euros ($1.16 million) a day for maintaining a disciplinary chamber for judges, the European Union’s top court said on Wednesday, in the latest episode of a clash over the rule of law with implications for     Warsaw’s future ties with the bloc.
    The long-running conflict over Poland’s judicial reforms that the bloc says undermine the independence of the courts deepened this year, raising questions over the future place of the EU’s largest eastern member in the union.
    “In the ruling issued today, the Vice-President of the Tribunal obliged Poland to pay…a penalty payment of EUR 1 million per day, counting from the date on which this ruling was delivered to Poland,” the statement from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) read.
    Poland has said it will abolish the chamber as part of broader reforms, but has not yet presented detailed plans.
    The Court of Justice of the European Union has already fined Poland 500,000 euros a day for defying a court ruling to halt operations at the Turow coal mine on the Czech border.
    Poland has vowed to continue operations and has said it will not pay the penalties related to the mine.
    A government spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Poland would pay the latest fine.
    However, spokesman Piotr Muller wrote on Twitter: “The path of punishments and blackmail towards our country is not the right one.”
    Wednesday’s decision drew a furious response fom Deputy Justice Minister Sebastian Kaleta.     “The CJEU completely disregards and ignores the Polish constitution and the judgments of the Constitutional Tribunal,” he wrote on Twitter.
    Ruling nationalists Law and Justice (PiS) say the European Union executive, the European Commission, is overstepping its mandate by trying to stop its judicial reforms.
    At the request of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal examined whether certain elements of the EU treaties were compatible with the Polish constitution.
    Earlier this month, the Tribunal https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/polish-constitutional-tribunal-some-articles-eu-treaties-unconstitutional-2021-10-07 said they were not, in a ruling critics said created an existential problem for the bloc by questioning the primacy of EU law, a tenet of European integration.
($1 = 0.8593 euros)
(Reporting by Alan Charlish, Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk and Anna Koper; Editing by Jon Boyle, Mike Harrison and Barbara Lewis)
[POLAND DO NOT BECOME A JUDAS STAND BY YOUR BELIEFS AND PRAY TO THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, ISAAC AND JACOB TO PROTECT YOU AND JESUS CHRIST WILL KNOW YOU FOREVER.].

10/28/2021 Rights Lawyer Who Fled Russia Says He Is Wanted By Authorities
FILE PHOTO: Ivan Pavlov, a lawyer who defended jailed Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny's team, poses for
a picture during an interview in Tbilisi, Georgia September 9, 2021. REUTERS/David Chkhikvishvili/File Photo
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – A top human rights lawyer who fled Russia last month after defending jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s team said on Thursday he had been added to a wanted list by the authorities.
    Defence lawyer Ivan Pavlov is known in Russia for taking on politically sensitive cases, including defending people charged with treason or espionage by the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the Soviet KGB.
    Pavlov fled to the South Caucasus country of Georgia last month, saying it was impossible to work in Russia because of the restrictions imposed as part of a criminal investigation against him.
    “On September 20, the investigator in my criminal case issued a resolution to add me on a wanted list,” Pavlov wrote on his Telegram account.
    The FSB, the interior ministry and the Investigative Committee, the body that probes major crimes, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
    Pavlov came under criminal investigation in April after he was accused of disclosing classified information in his defence of former journalist Ivan Safronov, who is being held on treason charges that he denies.
    Earlier this year Pavlov led the defence of Navalny’s political network at a series of hearings that were closed to the public, which resulted in the groups being banned as “extremist.”
    Pavlov told Reuters last month that he did not think he had been targeted in a criminal case because of his work for Navalny, but for his years of dealing with cases involving the FSB.
(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by David Gregorio)

10/28/2021 Russia Using Gas To Bully Moldova, Says EU by Robin Emmott
FILE PHOTO: A man fills a car with natural gas at a fuel station
in Chisinau, Moldova October 28, 2021. REUTERS/Vladislav Culiomza
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) -The European Union’s top diplomat said on Thursday that Moscow was using natural gas to bully Moldova, as the prime minister of the ex-Soviet republic said the country could not afford the prices Russia was now offering.
    Moldova’s gas contract with Russia’s Gazprom expired at the end of September.    Moldova’s pro-EU Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita told Reuters that Gazprom was not offering the new government the traditional annual rollover of a previous, 30-year contract, but instead a three-fold price increase.
    The Kremlin on Wednesday denied the Russian company was using gas talks to try to extract political concessions, but EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell rejected that argument.
    “In global terms the price increases around the world are not a consequence of weaponisation of the gas supply, but in the case of Moldova, yes it is,” Borrell told a news conference alongside Gavrilita in Brussels.
    He did not offer any detailed evidence of Russian pressure. Gavrilita said in an interview with Reuters that Gazprom had increased its long-standing price for Moldova to $790 per 1,000 cubic metres of gas, from around $250.
    “The price increase for Moldova is just extraordinarily stark.    It has increased threefold and is set to increase fourfold if we buy everything on the spot market.    The country cannot afford this politically, economically or socially,” Gavrilita said.
    Moldova is governed by the pro-Western government of President Maia Sandu who defeated Moscow-backed Igor Dodon in an election last November.    The country was one of the Soviet Union’s 15 republics and has been at the centre of a political tug of influence between Russia and the West since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
    Gavrilita said Moldovan officials continued talks with Gazprom in St. Petersburg and that she took it as a good sign that they were continuing, but it was still unclear if there would be a deal.
    She said the country was looking at swaps, contracts without prepayment conditions and long-term contracts from other sources.    The country bought gas from EU countries for the first time this month.
EU HOPES, BUT NOT NATO
    Asked if Moldova could live without a long-term Gazprom contract, she said: “I want to underline here that no European country is buying its whole supply on the spot (market).”
    Gazprom has said it will suspend gas exports to Moldova, which borders Romania and Ukraine, if it is not paid for previous supplies.
    The EU this week said it would give Moldova 60 million euros ($70 million) by the end of the year to deal with the crisis, after Moldova declared a state of emergency.
    Gavrilita, who said supplies had fallen so low that pressure in Moldovan pipelines went below a critical level, will use the money to help poor Moldovans unable to pay higher energy prices.
    After less than 100 days in office, the Sandu government is looking to end years of endemic corruption and is “looking for a European style of development,” Gavrilita said.    “In the long term, yes, we do see     Moldova as part of the EU,” she said, adding that the country was not seeking to join NATO.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Jan Harvey and Susan Fenton)

10/28/2021 EU Top Military Official Voices Support For Bosnia’s Joint Armed Forces by Daria Sito-Sucic
FILE PHOTO: A soldier of the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina (OSBIH) stands guard during
an exercise on the Manjaca mountain, near Banja Luka, December 14, 2012. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic
    SARAJEVO (Reuters) – The European Union’s top military official voiced support for the unified Bosnian armed forces on Thursday, after Serb leader Milorad Dodik had threatened to pull the Serb component out of the forces and form an exclusively Serb army within Bosnia.
    The formation of the country’s joint armed forces (OSBiH), incorporating Serb, Croat and Bosniak components that fought each other in a 1990s war, has been praised as the greatest achievement since the conflict, in which about 100,000 died.
    The 1995 Dayton peace accords split Bosnia along ethnic lines into two highly autonomous regions, the Serb Republic and the Federation shared by Croats and Bosniaks, linked via a weak central government that have been strengthened over the years in order for the state to be functional.
    But Dodik, a secessionist Serb leader supported by Russia and dissatisfied by the rulings of international peace envoys and the constitutional court, has made it clear he wants to pull out of state institutions including the armed forces.
    Claudio Graziano, the chairman of the EU Military Committee, said his visit aimed to show the great importance that the 27-member bloc attaches to the unity of Bosnia.
    “I bring a message from all the 27 that there is support for the armed forces,” Graziano told a news conference.
    Senad Masovic, the head of the OSBiH joint headquarters, said the armed forces are the only legal and legitimate military force in the whole territory of Bosnia, under the defence law passed by the national parliament.
    “Anything else will be regarded as a paramilitary organisation,” Masovic said.
    Bosnia’s international peace envoy Christian Schmidt, addressing the parliament with regards to the ongoing political crisis caused by the Serb blockade of state institutions, said it was “unacceptable to undo achievements of the past 26 years.”
    Any unilateral undoing of state institutions would be a “very serious setback” for Bosnia, Schmidt said.
(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

10/28/2021 Ban Bikes And Scooters On Moscow’s Red Square, Says Guard Service
FILE PHOTO: A man rides a bicycle along empty Red Square near St. Basil's Cathedral
in central Moscow, Russia May 1, 2020. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov/File Photo
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Kremlin guard service wants Russians banned from riding bicycles, scooters and rollerskates on Red Square and a nearby park, a draft order on a government website showed.
    The order drawn up by the Federal Protection Service that handles security for the Kremlin and high-ranking officials like President Vladimir Putin said that the restrictions would help improve people’s safety.
    Electric scooters have surged in popularity in recent years in the city of more than 12.5 million and officials have imposed speed limits after a string of accidents.
    The use of bicycles has also become more popular and Moscow authorities have set up cycling lanes in parts of the city in recent years.
    Though it is done discretely, Moscow’s Red Square, which lies in the heart of the capital, is strictly policed.    Opposition protests and performance art stunts are rapidly shut down and those involved detained.
    That has not always deterred people.    In June, a dissident artist simulated his suicide on Red Square in a political protest. In 2013, a performance artist nailed his scrotum to Red Square in a protest against the state.
    The proposed ban, which still needs to be assessed and approved by authorities, would also cover Alexander Gardens, a park that runs along the Kremlin’s walls and contains one of Russia’s main World War Two memorials.
(Reporting by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

10/28/2021 Moscow Locks Down As Russian COVID-19 Deaths Surge To New Highs by Tom Balmforth and Andrew Osborn
FILE PHOTO: People receive a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a vaccination centre
in the State Department Store, GUM, in Moscow, Russia October 26, 2021. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina
    MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Russian capital brought in its strictest COVID-19 related lockdown measures in more than a year on Thursday as nationwide one-day pandemic deaths and infections hit new highs amid slow vaccination take-up across the world’s biggest country.
    Moscow’s partial lockdown, in which only essential shops like pharmacies and supermarkets are allowed to remain open and schools and state kindergartens are shut, comes ahead of a week-long nationwide workplace shutdown from Oct. 30.
    Like Moscow, some regions decided to kick off their partial lockdowns on Thursday or even earlier in an effort to cut infection numbers ahead of the nationwide initiative.
    Moscow’s residents are allowed to leave their homes unlike a sweeping lockdown in summer 2020, but the new measures point to rising concern among officials over record numbers of deaths that the Kremlin has blamed on vaccine hesitancy.
    Officials on Thursday reported an all-time high of 1,159 COVID-19 nationwide deaths in the past 24 hours, while the number of daily infections broke through the 40,000 barrier for the first time.
    At the State Duma lower house of parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker, proposed requiring all lawmakers to get vaccinated and suggested that stragglers should have to work remotely.
    “Imagine the consequences for the country if parliament stops working,” Volodin told the lower house.    “Every day we’re seeing how our … colleagues are ending up in hospital beds,” he said.
    His proposal was met by angry shouts from the parliament’s chamber with someone calling out: “What kind of PR is this?.”
    Many Russians have said they are reluctant to get vaccinated and have spurned the four vaccines Russia has registered, including the flagship Sputnik V vaccine.
    Some people say they are hesitant due to mistrust of the authorities, while others cite concerns about the safety of vaccines.
    As of Oct. 22, official data showed that 49.1 million Russians were fully vaccinated.    The total population, excluding annexed Crimea, is officially estimated at around 144 million.
AD CAMPAIGN RELAUNCH?
    The daily Kommersant newspaper reported on Thursday that the Kremlin planned to revamp the troubled public information campaign about the importance of getting vaccinated.
    The new campaign would pay closer attention to Russia’s more than 80 regions and strike a less aggressive and negative tone than previously, the report said.
    The existing campaign has often highlighted the risk of death for Russians who decline to get vaccinated rather than linking vaccination to the freedom to be exempt from lockdown-style restrictions, it said.
    However, the Kremlin denied it planned to relaunch the ad campaign, but said the strategy was constantly being adjusted and that the campaign would be continued.
    Many Russians have decided that now is an ideal time to fly off for a foreign beach holiday instead of hunkering down at home.
    There were mixed feelings about the lockdown on the streets of Moscow on Thursday.    Some residents like Lyubov Machekhina said they thought it would obviously help slow infections.
    But others like Mikhail, a Muscovite who did not give his surname, voiced doubts that there would be any real impact without a larger chunk of the population being vaccinated.
    “In my opinion, it will change nothing.    Perhaps, it will slow down (the spread of cases) a bit, but in fact, without herd immunity – it’s nonsense.    I don’t believe it will work.”
(Reporting by Tom Balmforth, Lev Sergeev, Anton Zverev, Gleb Stolyarov and Andrey Ostroukh; editing by Andrew Osborn)

10/28/2021 As COVID-19 Toll Surges, Ukraine Cracks Down On Fake Vaccination Certificates by Pavel Polityuk and Natalia Zinets
A medical worker fills a syringe with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) at a vaccination centre in Kyiv, Ukraine October 27, 2021. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
    KYIV (Reuters) – The Ukrainian police video shows a doctor seated at his desk while a masked officer counts bundles of cash found stashed in the office: $12,000 worth in total.
    The televised raid this week on a doctor’s surgery in the Khmelnytsky region is one of hundreds of criminal investigations publicised by the authorities in a clampdown on a flourishing black market in forged vaccine and COVID-19 test documents.
    After a lull in the summer, Ukraine is experiencing some of the highest death rates from COVID-19 in the world.
    One of Europe’s poorest countries, Ukraine lagged behind its neighbours in procuring vaccines earlier this year. Now, as in other former communist states in eastern Europe, it is struggling to persuade a sceptical population to take them.
    Only around 7 million Ukrainians out of a population of 41 million are fully jabbed against COVID-19 and surveys suggest around half of adults do not want to be vaccinated.
    The government has made the shots compulsory for some state employees, and unvaccinated citizens face restrictions getting into restaurants and sporting events. The new rules have prompted more people to get vaccinated but also provided more incentive for those who do not want vaccines to get fake ones.     Tetyana Mykhailevska, head doctor at the infectious diseases department at Kyiv hospital number 3, said fake vaccination certificates were prolonging the pandemic, and buying them was “now probably the worst crime committed against the country and our society.”
    “We are tired of this pandemic.    We want to be ordinary doctors.    I am, for example, a cardiologist.    I want to be a cardiologist, not a COVID doctor.    I want to have a good sleep instead of answering night calls by my terrified patients,” she told Reuters.
    Vaccine hesitancy predates the pandemic – it contributed to a measles outbreak in Ukraine in 2019 when a black market in fake certificates also thrived.    A poll in August by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives     Foundation said 56% of the population did not plan to get vaccinated against COVID-19 soon.
    In the city of Sumy in north-eastern Ukraine, law enforcement caught a man hawking fake vaccine certifications on social media. For a fee of 3,000 hryvnia ($114), he would arrange for a doctor to enter people’s names as vaccinated on Ukraine’s national database, a statement by the prosecutor general’s office said.
    In a separate case in the town of Chernihiv, police said they caught a 52-year-old travel agent selling fake certificates for $250 each and producing about 20 of them a day.
    The Ukrainian border guard service says it has found 350 forged certificates since August.    There have also been instances of people buying fake vaccine certificates and then later wanting to get the real vaccine, a doctor at a Kyiv vaccination centre told Reuters.
    “Ukraine has been close to drowning in forged vaccination certificates,” Deputy Interior Minister Yevhenii Yenin said, warning those found guilty would “not escape punishment.    Do not become coronavirus accomplices. Get vaccinated.”
    But some Ukrainians are still not planning to comply.
    “If there is a question of choosing vaccination or dismissal, I will either try to buy a certificate or leave,” said Olena, a Kyiv resident who gave only her first name.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Natalia Zinets, Ilya Zhegulev, Sergiy Karazy, Stanislav Kozlyuk, Valentyn Ogirenko and Margaryta Chornokondratenko; Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Peter Graff)

10/28/2021 Ukraine Capital Tightens Lockdown Measures As New COVID-19 Cases Jump
People wait to receive an injection of vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a vaccination centre in a
shopping mall in Kyiv, Ukraine October 27, 2021. Picture taken October 27, 2021. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
    KYIV (Reuters) - Residents of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv will have to present vaccine certificates to use restaurants, gyms and public transport from Monday, the city authorities announced on Thursday after the country reported new record high daily COVID-19 cases.
    The health ministry said Ukraine registered a record 26,071 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, exceeding the previous high of 23,785 on Oct. 22. The ministry’s data also showed 576 new coronavirus-related deaths.
    “Ukraine is at the highest levels for the entire pandemic for each of the indicators – the number of new daily cases, hospitalizations and deaths,” Health Minister Viktor Lyashko told a televised briefing.
    Ukraine’s pandemic tally of infections stands at 2.85 million, with 66,204 deaths.
    The Ukrainian capital will tighten restrictions due to a spike in coronavirus cases, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said at a televised briefing.
    “We are imposing these severe restrictions because there are no other options to save the health and life of people, to prevent the collapse of the medical system, which may not be able to withstand such an influx of patients,” Klitschko said.
    A government commission on Thursday declared Kyiv a ‘red zone’ area, a designation that carries the most severe restrictions.    From Nov. 1, restaurants, gyms, shopping and entertainment facilities will only be allowed to operate if all staff are vaccinated.
    These institutions are also prohibited from accepting visitors who do not have vaccination certificates or negative COVID-19 tests.    A negative test or vaccine certificate will also be mandatory to use public transport.
    The government has already made the vaccination compulsory for some state employees.
    The new rules have prompted more people to get vaccinated but also provided more incentive for those who do not want vaccines to get fake ones.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Natalia Zinets; Editing by Sam Holmes, Steve Orlofsky and Mark Porter)

10/28/2021 Cuba Approves Laws Granting Greater Rights As Criticism Of Protesters’ Arrests Heats Up by Marc Frank
FILE PHOTO: People shout slogans against the government during a protest against and in support of the government, amidst
the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Havana, Cuba July 11, 2021. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini//File Photo
    HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba’s National Assembly on Thursday approved a raft of laws broadening citizens’ legal rights even as the Communist-run country comes under fire at home and abroad for a crackdown on protests earlier this year.
    The changes stem from the 2019 constitution, which required reforms to modernize Cuba’s judicial and penal codes.    But they address legal voids identified by activists, who allege authorities flaunted due process following unprecedented protests https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/street-protests-break-out-cuba-2021-07-11 on the island in July.
    Cuban lawmakers and judges said the new laws increase protection for those accused of a crime and should improve transparency.
    They require, for example, defendants be notified of potential charges against them, and that those detained be granted the right to an attorney within 24 hours.
    Citizens will also be allowed access to their own court files and documents, according to the new law.
    Eloy Viera, a Cuban lawyer and legal analyst who lives in Canada, said the laws were a major step forward in enshrining a citizen’s right to defend him or herself in a court of law.
    “This law offers more guarantees and adheres much more to international standards than the regulations currently in force,” Viera said.
    But how those laws are implemented will determine whether or not Cubans see significant changes in their legal rights, said William LeoGrande, a professor of government at American University in Washington.
    “The laws… still give officials considerable discretion and only time will tell how they use it, especially in political cases,” he said.
    Dissidents and human rights organizations say more than 1,000 demonstrators were arrested after the July protests, the largest anti-government rallies since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution. Some prisoners were held without charge, incommunicado and without representation, rights groups say.
    The Cuban government says those arrested in July were guilty of crimes including public disorder, resisting arrest and vandalism.    It has declared opposition marches planned for Nov. 15 as illegal, saying they are funded and promoted by the United States.
    The laws passed Thursday are set to take effect in 2022. Legal analyst Viera said it was unlikely they would be retroactive.
    “I do not believe that this new legislation will have a definitive influence on the processes already initiated today, and politically motivated, by the July 11 protesters,” he said.
    Some legal experts said any advances in the penal code would be overshadowed by the one-party system of government.
    “Supreme court justices can still be dismissed easily.    No court may declare unconstitutional a National Assembly act,” said retired Cuban-American scholar Jorge Dominguez.    “There is no independent entity to protect constitutional rights.”
    The reforms nonetheless eliminate a long-critiqued law that allowed authorities to jail someone they said was potentially dangerous, a maneuver critics say was often used against dissidents.
    They also include a prohibition on unlawful detention.
    Independent journalist Yoani Sanchez said that was not enough.
    “Repressive laws are still in force that are arbitrarily applied frequently against opponents, activists and independent journalists, such as home confinement and the prohibition of leaving the country,” she wrote.
(Reporting by Marc Frank, additional reporting by Nelson Acosta and Anett Rios, editing by Dave Sherwood and Rosalba O’Brien)

10/29/2021 Russia Signals Not Ready To Let Afghanistan’s Taliban Into U.N by Michelle Nichols
Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia speaks during a news conference at the
United Nations Headquarters in New York, U.S., October 29, 2021. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
    UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – No-one is in a hurry to recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan’s government, Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said on Friday, signaling that Moscow is not ready to allow the Islamists to represent Afghanistan at the United Nations.
    He also said U.N. and unilateral sanctions on Taliban leaders would have to addressed but “perhaps not right away.”
    “The question of recognition will arise when the international community makes sure that the promises and commitments that the authorities announced will be delivered,” Nebenzia told reporters.
    He was referring to Taliban pledges – made since group ousted the Western-backed government in mid-August – that included upholding human rights, particularly those of women and girls, and combating terrorism and drugs.
    The United Nations is considering rival claims on who should represent Afghanistan.    The Taliban nominated their Doha-based spokesman Suhail Shaheen as U.N. ambassador, while Ghulam Isaczai – the U.N. envoy representing the government ousted by the Taliban – is seeking to remain in the country’s seat.
    “When credentials are presented, they are presented on behalf of the head of a state,” Nebenzia said.    “If it’s presented on behalf of a (head of) state which nobody recognizes then make your conclusions yourself.”
    A nine-member U.N. credentials committee, which includes Russia, China and the United States, is due to consider the rival Afghan claims next month and decision will likely be made before the end of the year.
    “The primary thing today is to stabilize the country,” said Nebezia. “The economy is on the verge of collapse with the lack of any resources, which are frozen and are not being released anytime soon, judging by the statements that we hear.”
    Afghanistan parked billions of dollars in assets overseas with the U.S. Federal Reserve and other central banks in Europe, but that money has been frozen since the Taliban came to power.
    Shaheen posted on Twitter on Friday: “We call on the International Community to support Afghanistan with unfreezing nearly $10 billion assets of the Afghan people and resuming the development aid and projects pledged to Afghanistan.”
    Even the United Nations cannot get enough cash into Afghanistan to deliver aid to millions of people on the brink of starvation and is struggling to develop options to help stabilize the collapsing economy, U.N. officials have said.
    “To carry cash by the planes … perhaps is not the best solution,” Nebenzia said.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

10/29/2021 Ukraine Using Turkish Drones In Donbass Conflict In Self-Defence, Zelenskiy Says
FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy attends a news briefing following
the Ukraine-EU summit in Kyiv, Ukraine October 12, 2021. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko/File Photo
    KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine’s use of Turkish strike drones in the conflict in the eastern Donbass region is defensive and does not violate any agreements, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Friday.
    Russia accused Ukraine of destabilising the situation after government forces used a Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone to strike a position controlled by Russian-backed separatists this week.
    The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said it had deployed the drone to force pro-Russian separatists to cease fire and the drone had destroyed an artillery unit belonging to the separatists using a guided bomb.
    “When the Ukrainian army feels the need to defend its land, it does so,” Zelenskiy said, according to comments published on the presidential website.
(Reporting by Natalia Zinets and Matthias Williams; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

10/29/2021 Poland’s Total Number Of COVID-19 Cases Passes 3 Million
FILE PHOTO: A general view of Castle Square in the Old Town, amid the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) outbreak in Warsaw, Poland December 28, 2020. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland’s total number of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic passed 3 million on Friday, health ministry data showed, as the fourth wave of infections gathers pace.
    Poland reported 9,387 new cases, the highest so far in the fourth wave, and 102 deaths on Friday.    In total, the country of around 38 million has reported 3,008,294 cases and COVID-related 76,875 deaths.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish and Anna Koper; editing by John Stonestreet)

10/29/2021 Russian Says He Dressed As Doctor To Tend To Grandmother In COVID Ward
Local resident Sergei (whose last name was not given) disguised as a doctor in a protective suit takes care of his
grandmother suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in a hospital ward in Tomsk, Russia October 28, 2021, in
this screengrab taken from a video. Video taken October 28, 2021. REUTERS TV/Courtesy of Sergei/Handout via REUTERS
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Worried that hospital staff were neglecting his ailing grandmother in a Siberian COVID-19 ward, a Russian man said he sneaked in disguised as a doctor to look after her himself.
    Sergei, who declined to give his surname, told Rain TV in an interview broadcast on Thursday that he donned protective clothing and walked into the hospital ward in the city of Tomsk last week where he looked after his grandmother for three days, giving her food and pills and changing her bandages and incontinence pads.
    Sergei confirmed his comments to the TV channel in a phone interview with Reuters on Friday.    He also shared footage of what he said was him tending to his elderly grandmother in hospital.    Reuters was unable to independently verify the footage.
    Local authorities in Tomsk, around 3,000 km (1,850 miles) east of Moscow, said they were investigating his complaints.
    Alyona Levko, a deputy regional governor in Tomsk, said a local commission had been brought together to investigate the incident.    “Now they’re in the medical unit … and an inspection is underway,” she said.
    Reuters submitted a request for comment from the hospital but none was immediately available.
    The Rain TV account comes as Russian hospitals grapple with a wave of coronavirus cases.
    Russia on Friday reported 1,163 new COVID-19 deaths, its highest one-day toll of the pandemic, amid a surge in cases that has forced officials to reimpose partial lockdown measures.
(Reporting by Angelina Kazakova; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Frances Kerry)

10/30/2021 Romania’s PM-Designate Seen Losing Confidence Vote, Prolonging Political Crisis
FILE PHOTO: Romania's new Prime minister-designate Nicolae Ciuca, a retired four-star army general, delivers a press statement alongside
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, in Bucharest, Romania October 21, 2021. George Calin/Inquam Photos via REUTERS/File Photo
    BUCHAREST (Reuters) – A minority government lineup put forward by Romania’s centrist Prime Minister-designate Nicolae Ciuca will face a parliamentary vote of confidence next week, which he is widely expected to lose, further prolonging a month-long political stalemate.
    Romania has been in political paralysis since a Liberal-led government was toppled by parliament on Oct. 5, threatening economic recovery and efforts to cut big budget and external shortfalls at a time of rising COVID-19 infections.
    Parliamentary committees decided on Saturday to hold the confidence vote on Wednesday, with parliamentary hearings of cabinet ministers due the day before.
    Retired army general Ciuca, 54, a Liberal serving as defence minister in the current caretaker government led by Florin Citu, has drafted a cabinet lineup made of his party and ethnic Hungarian UDMR ministers, which jointly control 163 parliament seats, 71 seats short of a majority.
    Analysts expect Ciuca to face a tough task convincing the fragmented legislature to back him, with the largest opposition group, the Social Democrats, saying they would only favour a cabinet made of technocrats instead of a minority setup.
    A previous Liberal-led coalition unravelled last month after the centrist USR, a relatively new grouping, withdrew its ministers in a row over a regional development fund, stripping the government of a parliamentary majority.
    If Ciuca fails to win next week’s confidence vote, President Klaus Iohannis can dissolve parliament and call a snap election – an unlikely scenario given current economic and health challenges.
    A fresh nomination for premier from Iohannis might occur as early as next week, pundits say.
(Reporting by Radu Marinas; Editing by Clelia Oziel)

10/31/2021 Georgian Ruling Party Wins Mayoral Elections, Opposition Cries Foul
A woman holds her dog as she casts a ballot at a polling station during the second round
of the municipal elections in Tbilisi, Georgia October 30, 2021. REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze
    MOSCOW (Reuters) -Georgia’s ruling party, Georgian Dream, won 19 of 20 mayoral elections including in the capital Tbilisi, electoral authorities said on Sunday, as the opposition alleged that ballots had been rigged.
    Central Election Commission chief Georgi Kalandarishvili said Saturday’s voting had been competitive, free and transparent, while independent election monitor Transparency International said it had identified up to 150 violations, ranging from minor to relatively serious.
    Denouncing the vote, the head of the United National Movement (UNM) opposition party, Nika Melia, called on supporters to gather in Tbilisi on Sunday to agree a response.
    “No one should have the illusion that they can get away with rigged, violent and insulting elections,” Melia, who ran for office in the capital, was quoted as saying by the RIA news agency.
    Around 2,000 to 3,000 protesters rallied in the centre of Tbilisi later on Sunday and Melia announced plans to stage a larger protest on Nov. 7, Russian new agencies reported.
    There was no immediate response to Melia’s allegations from Georgian Dream, but the ruling party rejected claims of foul play at the previous local election held on Oct. 2.
    Election Commission chief Kalandarishvili said several incidents at polling stations, the nature of which he did not specify, had not had an impact on the results, Interfax said.
    His commission would review complaints over the voting process in coming days, he added.
    Saturday’s elections included second round run-offs to elect mayors in 20 municipalities including four major cities – Batumi, Kutaisi, Poti and Rustavi.
    The only race won by UNM was in Tsalenjikha, a small town in western Georgia, Russian news agencies cited the Election Commission as saying.
    The first round of mayoral elections was held on Oct. 2 during a set of nationwide local elections that Georgian Dream also won.
    Georgia, a country of around 3.9 million, has faced a political standoff since a disputed election last year, which prompted the UNM to boycott the parliament for months.
    The party was founded by former president Mikheil Saakashvili, who was arrested in October after he flew in from exile. He declared a hunger strike on Oct. 1 that his allies have urged him to call off, fearing for his health.
(Writing by Maxim Rodionov; Editing by Tom Balmforth, John Stonestreet and Giles Elgood)

11/1/2021 Russia Counts Cost Of Missteps, Vaccine Refusals As COVID Tide Keeps Rising by Polina Nikolskaya and Maxim Shemetov
People stand in a line to receive a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in a vaccination
centre located at a shopping mall in Oryol, Russia October 25, 2021. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
    ORYOL, Russia (Reuters) – Ambulance attendant Roman Stebakov has come face-to-face with COVID-19 many times – but he’d rather take his chances with the disease than get himself injected with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.
    “I won’t get vaccinated until, I don’t know, they break me and vaccinate me by force.    I don’t see the point in it, there are no guarantees it’s safe,” says the paramedic from Oryol, 300 km (185 miles) south of Moscow.
    Outside one of the city’s hospitals, a young woman, Alina, is clutching a bunch of papers certifying her grandmother’s death. The old woman was unvaccinated and died of COVID-19 three weeks after being admitted.
    But despite her loss, Alina, 26, says she won’t take the vaccine because she has heard too many scare stories.
    “There’s not enough data, not enough checks.”
    Their attitudes help explain why the first nation in the world to approve a COVID-19 vaccine – and then export it to more than 70 countries – is struggling to inoculate its own population and has racked up record 24-hour death tolls on 21 days in the past month.
    In conversations with Reuters, doctors and officials reeled off a host of factors that have fed the spread of the disease and forced Russia to revert to its tightest restrictions since the early months of the pandemic.
    Besides vaccine hesitancy, they cited mixed messaging from the authorities, inconsistent policies, unreliable statistics and attempts to shift responsibility away from Moscow and on to the leaders of Russia’s republics and regions.
    The health ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment for this story.
WAITING IN AMBULANCES
    At Oryol’s Botkin Hospital, chief physician Alexander Lyalyukhin traced the origin of the latest and most virulent COVID wave to three weeks after the start of the school year in September.    At that point some Russian regions sent students home for remote learning.    Oryol, like most others, kept schools open.
    The hospital is short of anaesthesists and infectious disease specialists. Most COVID patients need oxygen support and the supply is tight.
    “Perhaps because the virus is more aggressive. We sometimes have fewer patients than there were in winter, but they consume more oxygen, by about a third,” Lyalyukhin said.
    Ambulance paramedic Dmitry Seregin said patients commonly wait for several hours in ambulances.
    “The healthcare system cannot withstand such an influx.    This wave is more than twice as strong in terms of the number of cases and the severity of the disease,” he said.
    Vladimir Nikolayev, deputy head of the regional health department, told Reuters there were still available beds and patients who needed oxygen were getting it.
    “Unfortunately, if we’d carried out active vaccination we might not be in this situation,” he said.
    What Oryol is experiencing is typical of the country as a whole.    The latest official figures on Monday showed the region ranked 40th out of Russia’s 85 territories for new cases, with 326 in the previous 24 hours, and five new deaths.
    As of last week, nearly 38% of people in Oryol had been injected with their first dose, compared with 39.4% nationally.
    In Seregin’s view, the low rates are down to official miscommunication about the vaccine.    At first authorities said the injection would be good for two years, then they told people it would need renewing after six months, he said.
    “Statements appear with different information from the very same people, and these make people distrustful of the state.”
    A source who previously worked in the COVID operations centre of one of Russia’s regions said the country had locked down early at the start of the pandemic but then blundered by declaring victory too soon and going ahead with a national referendum in June 2020 on constitutional changes to allow President Vladimir Putin to run for potentially two more terms in office.
    “We kind of drew a line on the coronavirus, vaccinations, masks and all the rest of it. And now we have what we have – an insane mountain of corpses,” the source said.
UNRELIABLE DATA
    Official figures on the pandemic’s toll vary widely.
    As of Monday, cumulative deaths stood at 239,693, according to the national coronavirus task force.    The state statistics office puts the figure nearly twice as high, at around 462,000 between April 2020 and September 2021, while Reuters calculated that the number of excess deaths in Russia in the same period was more than 632,000 in comparison with the average mortality rate in 2015-2019.
    Some experts say under-reporting of deaths has made people complacent.
    “People think what’s the point of me running away from it if it’s no more scary than the flu,” said Elena Shuraeva, head of the Oryol doctor’s trade union.
    Her husband Aleksei Timoshenko, a doctor at the COVID hospital, said the picture he sees at work was 6-7 times worse than implied by official figures.    “And now people are afraid, they really see that many are getting sick and many are dying,” he said.
    All this leaves a dilemma for Putin, who has repeatedly urged people to get vaccinated but said last month that even some of his own friends had delayed doing so.
    A source close to the Kremlin said there was evidence that the latest restrictions – which include a nationwide workplace shutdown this week and increasing requirements for people to prove their vaccine status to get access to certain venues – was prompting an increase in take-up.    Oryol’s governor Andrei Klychkov said people were being vaccinated three times faster than before.
    The source close to the Kremlin said compulsory vaccination was out of the question because it would rebound on the government.    “It will be seen as an attack on freedom.    And that, you know, could be like a powder keg.”
(Additional reporting by Anton Zverev, Angelina Kazakova and Gleb Stolyarov, writing by Mark Trevelyan, editing by Angus MacSwan)

11/1/2021 Ukraine Denies Report Of Russian Troop Buildup Near Its Borders
FILE PHOTO: A man walks at a crossing point on the border with Russia, after Ukraine's government tightened up measures to prevent
the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Hoptivka near Kharkiv, Ukraine March 18, 2020. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
    KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine’s defence ministry on Monday denied a media report of a Russian military buildup near its border, saying it had not observed an increase in forces or weaponry.
    The Washington Post said at the weekend a renewed buildup of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border has raised concern among some officials in the United States and Europe who are tracking what they consider irregular movements of equipment and personnel on Russia’s western flank.
    “As of November 1, 2021, an additional transfer of Russian units, weapons and military equipment to the state border of Ukraine was not recorded,” the Ukrainian defence ministry said in a statement.
    This spring, Moscow alarmed Kyiv and Western capitals by building up tens of thousands of troops along the border with Ukraine, though it later ordered them back to base.
    Relations between Kyiv and Moscow have plummeted since 2014, when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and a war broke out between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, which Kyiv says has killed 14,000 people.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

11/1/2021 Russia Will React To Attempts To Break ‘Strategic Parity’ - Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the G20 leaders summit via video link in Moscow, Russia October 30, 2021.
Sputnik/Evgeniy Paulin/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia will react to other countries’ attempts to break “strategic parity,” President Vladimir Putin said on Monday, referring to the global missile defence system being deployed by the United States and its allies.
    Russia is concerned that an efficient missile defence will allow its Western adversaries to abandon the mutual assured defence doctrine that has for decades prevented nuclear superpowers from attacking each other.
    “We know very well that some of our foreign counterparts will not stop trying to break this parity, including by means of deploying elements of global missile defence in close proximity to our borders,” Putin said at a meeting with military leadership and defence contractors.
    “We cannot ignore those threats to Russia’s security and will adequately react to them,” he said.
    Putin also said the participation of U.S. navy command ship Mount Whitney in NATO drills in the Black Sea was part of a trend toward greater Western military activity near Russia’s borders.
    “We can catch a glimpse of it through binoculars, or through the crosshairs of matching defence systems,” Putin said.
(Reporting by Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Mark Porter)

11/1/2021 Russia Says Ukraine Trying To Drag It Into Donbass Conflict
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his South Korean counterpart Chung Eui-yong (not pictured)
attend a joint news conference in Moscow, Russia, October 27, 2021. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s foreign minister accused Ukrainian leaders on Monday of trying to drag Moscow into the conflict in eastern Ukraine, following an escalation in fighting between government forces and rebels in the breakaway region.
    “We observe attempts to carry out provocations, elicit some reaction from the militia and drag Russia into some kind of combat action,” Sergei Lavrov told Russia’s state television.
    Russia accused Ukraine of destabilising the situation after government forces used a Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone to strike a position controlled by Russian-backed separatists last week.
    Rebels supported by Moscow have been fighting government troops in Ukraine’s Donbass region since 2014, soon after Russia seized and annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine.    Kyiv says at least 14,000 people have been killed.
(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Mark Heinrich)

11/1/2021 Poles Visit Cemeteries On All Saints Day
Graves are lightened by candles left by relatives a day before All Saints Day
at the historic cemetery in Lublin, Poland October 31, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    LUBLIN, Poland (Reuters) – Poles lit candles and laid flowers on their loved ones’ graves on Monday to celebrate All Saints Day, resuming a tradition interrupted last year by the coronavirus pandemic.
    In 2020, the government closed all cemeteries for the holiday to avoid crowds forming at a time when COVID-19 vaccines were not yet available and the country was reporting more than 20,000 daily infections.
    The number of confirmed cases in Poland rose strongly again in October but it remains below 10,000 a day as more than 60% of adult Poles are vaccinated.
    “It’s a huge joy that we can finally visit the graves of our loved ones this year, that we can get back to this tradition,” said Aleksander Zarzeka, a 31-year old lawyer from Warsaw who came to Lublin, eastern Poland, to visit family graves.
    Asked if he was worried about getting infected, particularly as the Lublin region has one of the highest incidences of COVID-19 in the country, he said he was not as he was fully vaccinated.
    Few people wore masks at the historic necropolis in Lublin despite calls from the health minister to do so, but even the elderly did not seem worried.
    “Lots of people don’t wear masks, we got used to the fact it’s OK outside…but luckily today on the bus only one young man had no mask,” said 86-year old Krystyna Chruszczewska, adding she had got three doses of a COVID vaccine so she felt safe.
    Facing the highest number of infections during the fourth wave of the pandemic, the government has said it could consider reintroducing tighter pandemic curbs regionally at the beginning of November.
    For now, the police said they had stepped up enforcement of current restrictions such as wearing masks in enclosed spaces and on public transport.
(Reporting by Kacper Pempel; Writing by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

11/2/2021 CIA Director Makes Rare Trip To Moscow For Talks On Russia-U.S. Ties
FILE PHOTO: CIA Director William Burns testifies during a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing about
worldwide threats, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S., April 14, 2021. Saul Loeb/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    MOSCOW (Reuters) - CIA director William Burns is making a rare visit to Moscow to discuss U.S.-Russia relations, the latest in a series of high-level contacts that show both sides want to keep talking despite mutual distrust and a long list of disputes.
    A U.S. Embassy spokesperson said Burns was leading a delegation of senior U.S. officials to Moscow on Tuesday and Wednesday at President Joe Biden’s request.
    “They are meeting with members of the Russian government to discuss a range of issues in the bilateral relationship,” the spokesperson said.
    Russia’s Security Council said Burns, a Russian-speaker and former ambassador to Moscow, held talks with Nikolai Patrushev, the council’s secretary and a former head of Russia’s FSB intelligence service.
    Neither side gave details of the conversation, but security issues loom large in their troubled relationship.
    Ties have hit a series of post-Cold War lows over issues including Russian-based cyberattacks against U.S. targets, Moscow’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the jailing of opposition politician Alexei Navalny and Russia’s behaviour towards Ukraine, from which it seized the Crimea peninsula in 2014.
    Biden sent a top Russia expert, Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, to Moscow for talks last month that failed to yield any progress in a dispute between the two countries over the sizes of their respective embassies.
    Biden met Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit in Geneva in June, and said at the time it would take six months to a year to find out whether the two countries could establish a meaningful strategic dialogue.
    Putin frequently criticises the United States but said last month he had established a constructive relationship with Biden.    The Kremlin has said a further meeting between the two this year is a realistic possibility.
(Reporting by Polina Devitt and Tom Balmforth; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Alison Williams)

11/2/2021 Netherlands Reintroduces Face Masks To Curb Spike In COVID-19 Cases
FILE PHOTO: People with and without protective masks walk on the street while shopping as the spread
of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in Amsterdam, Netherlands October 7, 2020. REUTERS/Eva Plevier
    AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The Dutch government on Tuesday decided to re-impose measures aimed at slowing the latest spike in COVID-19 infections, including the wearing of face masks, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said.
    The use of a “corona pass,” showing proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or recent negative coronavirus test, will be broadened as of Nov. 6 to public places including museums, gyms and outdoor terraces.
(Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Chris Reese)

11/2/2021 Russia Accuses Ex-Reporter Of Being Paid $248 For Treason – Lawyer
FILE PHOTO: Ivan Safronov, a former journalist and an aide to the head of Russia's space agency
Roscosmos who remains in custody on state treason charges, is escorted after a court hearing in
Moscow, Russia September 2, 2020. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/File PhotobBy Maria Tsvetkova
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian special services have charged former journalist Ivan Safronov with selling information on Russian military operations in Syria for $248 to a political analyst who they say then passed it to German intelligence, Safronov’s lawyer said.
    In a rare glimpse into the classified investigation against Safronov, lawyer Ivan Pavlov said the Syria-related charge had been added to the case against him for state treason, which his supporters say is part of a campaign to intimidate journalists.
    Pavlov said the charge states that Safronov sold the information in 2015 to political analyst Demuri Voronin, who in turn passed it to Germany’s BND foreign intelligence agency and to a Swiss university.
    “According to the charges, Voronin paid him compensation of $248,” the lawyer wrote on social media, saying reporters in Russia could be accused of treason just for doing their job.
    Safronov, a former defence reporter who later worked as an aide to the head of Russia’s space agency, was arrested last year and faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty. He denies wrongdoing.
    Russian media reported on Monday that the investigation had been completed. The FSB intelligence service did not reply to a Reuters request for comment, while the BND declined to comment.
    The main accusation against Safronov is that he passed military secrets to the Czech Republic in 2017 concerning Russian arms deliveries to the Middle East and Africa.
    Nearly 100,000 people have signed an online petition accusing the authorities of cooking up fake proof of Safronov’s guilt under the cover of state secrecy which surrounds the case, something the Kremlin has denied.
    Pavlov, one of a team of lawyers defending Safronov, fled Russia and moved to Georgia in September after coming under criminal investigation for disclosing classified information about the case.
    Political analyst Voronin, who holds Russian and German citizenship, was arrested in Moscow in February on treason charges.    His lawyer Maria Orlova denied these were linked to Safronov’s case, telling Reuters that Voronin did not admit guilt and refused to testify against himself.
(Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova, additional reporting by Sabine Siebold and Michael Shields; editing by Mark Trevelyan and Gareth Jones)

11/2/2021 Ukraine’s Defence Minister Submits Resignation
Ukrainian Defence Minister Andriy Taran waits before a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary
Lloyd Austin in Kyiv, Ukraine October 19, 2021. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich/Files
    KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine defence minister Andrii Taran has submitted a letter of resignation, the government representative to parliament Taras Melnychuk said on his Telegram channel on Tuesday.
    Reuters was not able to reach Taran for comment. Melnychuk gave no reason for the resignation.
    Lawmakers from the ruling Servant of the People party had said on Monday they would nominate Deputy Prime Minister Oleksii Reznikov to replace Taran as defence minister.    Parliament plans to discuss a government reshuffle this week.
(Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Editing by Peter Graff)

11/2/2021 Ukraine Criminalises Use And Manufacture Of Bogus COVID-19 Vaccine Certificates by Pavel Polityuk
FILE PHOTO: A medical worker prepares a dose of the Chinese-developed CoronaVac vaccine against the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) at a vaccination centre in Kyiv, Ukraine October 21, 2021. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko/File Photo
    KYIV (Reuters) – Ukrainians who knowingly use or manufacture fake COVID-19 vaccine certificates face fines or jail under new legislation passed in parliament in the first reading on Tuesday to tackle record levels of coronavirus infections and deaths.
    Ukraine lagged behind other European countries in obtaining coronavirus vaccines this year and is now struggling to persuade a sceptical public to take them.
    Vaccines have become mandatory for some state workers, and in “red” zone areas including the capital Kyiv, only vaccinated people or those with negative COVID test results are allowed into restaurants, gyms and on public transport.
    That has led to a flourishing black market in bogus certificates and the police have opened hundreds of criminal cases across the country.
    “Lack of responsibility for such crimes creates preconditions for further … forgery of documents,” Health Minister Viktor Lyashko said on the parliament website, adding that it “poses a direct threat to the life and health of citizens of Ukraine.”
    The draft law stipulates a fine of up to $2,600 or two to three years in prison for using knowingly false vaccination documents and for entering false vaccination data in medical registries.
    The production of false documents for future sale will be punishable by imprisonment for up to three years or a fine of about $6,460, the draft said.
    Ukraine had registered 2.96 million infections and 68,727 deaths as of Nov. 2. Only 7.5 million people, or less than a fifth of the total population of around 41 million, has been fully vaccinated so far.
    An October poll by the Rating research agency showed that 43% of Ukrainians were not ready to take the coronavirus vaccine.
(Editing by Matthias Williams and Marguerita Choy)

11/2/2021 Norway In Legal Quandary After Wind Turbines Ruled A Threat To Reindeer Herder Rights by Gwladys Fouche and Terje Solsvik
FILE PHOTO: A Sami reindeer herder tends to his flock on the
Finnmark Plateau, Norway, June 16, 2018. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov/File Photo
    OSLO (Reuters) – Norway faces hard choices over the future of two major wind farms stripped of their licences for jeopardising the way of life of Sami reindeer herders, but it remains unclear whether they should be dismantled, the energy minister said.
    While herders in the Fosen region of coastal central Norway have called for the giant machines to be removed and the landscape restored, the owners said they hope to apply for a new licence that would not violate Sami rights.
    “This is a quite complex case both legally and politically,” Minister of Petroleum and Energy Marte Mjoes Persen told Reuters on Tuesday after meeting with lawyers for Sami communities.
    “It’s important to emphasise that the government has a responsibility under international law for the legal rights of Sami interests,” she said.
    Reindeer herders in the Nordic country argue that the sight and sound of giant wind turbines frighten their animals grazing nearby and thereby jeopardise age-old traditions.
    Norway’s supreme court unanimously ruled on Oct. 11 that the construction of the Storheia and Roan wind farms in Fosen had violated the herders’ cultural rights set by international conventions, and that the operating permits were thus invalid.
    But the court did not spell out what should happen next to the 151 turbines or to the dozens of kilometres (miles) of roads built to facilitate their construction, and the wind farms therefore remain in operation for the time being.
    Norway, western Europe’s biggest oil and gas producer, is aims to boost its output of renewable energy, such as wind power, in preparing for a transition towards a greener economy.
    Persen plans a trip to the Fosen area to meet with herders and is not ruling out any outcome, including dismantling the turbines, part of a wider $1.13 billion development that has become Europe’s largest onshore wind farm.
    “That could be one of several solutions…, but there may also be other outcomes,” she said.    “We need a thorough process. It’s premature to say that one thing or another will happen.”
    Lawyers representing the herders said their clients saw one only possible option: a removal of the turbines.
    “We are a little disappointed that (Persen) was not more concrete about what needs to be done to address this breach of human rights that goes on every day,” lawyer Jon-Andreas Lange told Reuters after meeting the minister.
    “At the same time, the minister appears willing to go quickly into this case…, and she promises that international law is (to be) applied in Fosen,” Lange said.
    Direct and indirect owners of the wind farms include Germany’s Stadtwerke Muenchen and Swiss BKW, as well as Fosen Vind, Statkraft, TroenderEnergi, Nordic Wind Power, Energy Infrastructure Partners and Roan Vind. (Editing by Mark Heinrich)

11/2/2021 Next Czech Government Will Not Adopt Euro, Main Coalition Party Says
FILE PHOTO: The European Central Bank (ECB) presents the new 50 euro note at the bank's
headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, July 5, 2016. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski/File Photo
    PRAGUE (Reuters) – The next Czech government will not adopt the euro, the man tipped to be the finance minister in the new centre-right coalition said on Tuesday.
    Although the five parties forming coalition are generally in favour of the eventual adoption of the euro, it has not been high on their agenda for the next four-year term.
    “We have to put our public finance in order, so even if someone wanted (the euro), we don’t have a shot at entering now, because we don’t meet the criteria,” said Zbynek Stanjura of the Civic Democrats (ODS), who looks set for the Finance Ministry role.
    The Czech fiscal gap is seen by the ministry at 7.7% of gross domestic product this year, more than double the 3% prescribed for a country to join the euro zone.
    Stanjura saw one more reason for putting the euro off now.
    “It is our long-time position that we should adopt the euro only when it is favourable for the Czech Republic, which has not been the case so far,” Stanjura told reporters at a televised briefing.
    The coalition aims to have the government agenda and ministerial jobs distribution settled by Nov.8 when the newly elected lower house of parliament meets for the first time.
    Stanjura’s ODS, the strongest member of the likely coalition, is also the most reserved towards the euro in the bloc that won a majority in the Oct. 8-9 election, set to replace the current government of Prime Minister Andrej Babis.
    The Pirates, on the other side of the coalition spectrum in terms of the euro, and the smallest party in the nascent coalition, pledged in their manifesto to bring the country into the euro’s ante-room, the ERM-2 exchange mechanism, within the next four years.
    It was not clear whether there would be any mention of any steps toward eventual euro entry in the new coalition’s programme expected to be revealed next week.
(Reporting by Jan Lopatka and Robert Muller; Editing by Alison Williams)

11/3/2021 Czech Centrist, Centre-Right Parties Reach Agreement On Government, Key Agenda
FILE PHOTO: Czech Prime Minister and leader of ANO party Andrej Babis attends a news conference at the party's election headquarters
after the country's parliamentary election in Prague, Czech Republic, October 9, 2021. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
    PRAGUE (Reuters) - Czech centrist and centre-right parties reached an agreement on forming a majority coalition government and its key agenda, the chairman of the strongest party in the new coalition said on Tuesday.
    The five-party coalition faces elevated inflation, mounting debt, an economy curbed by a global shortage of semiconductors and surging energy prices, and a resurgent COVID-19 pandemic which has been gathering pace in recent weeks.
    Petr Fiala, Civic Democrats (ODS) chairman and prospective prime minister, said the parties have agreed on distribution of government posts among them, although he did not name the individual candidates.
    “We have gone through a long, whole day, but also successful negotiations,” Fiala said at a televised briefing after talks which lasted more than 12 hours.
    “We reached an agreement on our coalition treaty, we have also agreed on our coalition agenda,” he said.
    The parties, grouped in two coalitions, won 108 seats in the 200-seat lower chamber of parliament in the Oct. 8-9 election, beating the current Prime Minister Andrej Babis, whose key allies were ousted from the parliament.
    One of the main tasks for the forming coalition is the state of public finances, hit by the pandemic and measures meant to tame it, as well as generous spending by the outgoing government which raised pensions and state employees wages, while it pushed through large tax cuts.
    The Finance Ministry, which sees this year’s fiscal gap at 7.7% of gross domestic product, has proposed a 2022 central budget with a deficit of 377 billion crowns ($17.09 billion), deeper than the final result in 2020 when the pandemic hit.
    The incoming coalition has said that it wanted to change the budget, which may result in provisional financing at the beginning of the next year, because of the limited time left to approve any substantial changes before this year’s end.
    Despite their relatively fast agreement, it may yet take some time to actually form the government, as the key player, President Milos Zeman, has been hospitalised since Oct. 10, with next to no information on his condition.
    Fiala said that he was informed by the president’s chief of staff that Zeman is ready to meet him once he is transferred from intensive care, but he did not give any further details.
($1 = 22.0600 Czech crowns)
(Reporting by Robert Muller; editing by Chris Reese and Richard Pullin)

11/3/2021 Nine Killed In Cargo Plane Crash In Siberia
Emergency specialists work at the crash site of the Antonov An-12 cargo plane in Irkutsk region,
Russia November 3, 2021. Press service of the Governor of the Irkutsk region/Handout via REUTERS
    MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Belarussian-owned cargo plane crash-landed in Siberia and burst into flames, killing all nine people on board, after disappearing from radar just outside the city of Irkutsk, officials said.
    Russia’s federal aviation agency Rosaviatsiya said the Antonov An-12 plane, owned by Belarussian company Grodno, circled around after first coming in to land, at which point communication was lost.
    “The only thing we can see is that, unfortunately, everyone is dead,” said Igor Kobzev, the regional governor of Irkutsk.
    Video footage from the scene showed rescuers battling to put out the flames, illuminated by torchlight in pitch black, snowy conditions.    The local branch of the Russian Investigative Committee said it had opened a criminal case over violation of transport safety rules.
    Belarussian authorities said the plane had been manned by an experienced crew of three Belarussians, two Russians and two Ukrainians, who had all died, and the plane had not been carrying any cargo.    Russian prosecutors later said there had been two additional passengers on board.
    Air accidents are not uncommon across the former Soviet Union, especially involving ageing planes in far-flung regions.
(Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov, Anastasia Lyrchikova and Andrey Ostroukh; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

11/3/2021 Hungary Seals Deal On Massive Wage Hikes For 2022 Election Year
FILE PHOTO: Construction workers are seen at the site of a revamped housing
project in Budapest, Hungary, March 31, 2017. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
    BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary’s government and private sector employers have agreed on the main terms of a nearly 20% hike in the minimum wage and pay for skilled workers for the 2022 election year, the Innovation and Technology Ministry said on Wednesday.
    The wage rises are part of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s pre-election measures to boost economic growth and consumer spending at a time of a surge in inflation, which has eroded some of the steep wage gains of the past few years.
    Facing the prospect of a closely-fought election next year, Orban has showered the electorate with handouts, including a $2 billion income tax rebate for families, scrapping the income tax for career starters and paying pension bonuses.
    Under the agreement, monthly minimum pay will rise to 200,000 forints ($645.72) from 167,400 forints as of January, while the minimum wage for skilled workers will increase to 260,000 forints from 219,000, the government said.
    “Tax cuts worth more than an annual 660 billion forints combined can help sufficiently compensate employers, which domestic enterprises can use to increase wages,” the Innovation and Technology ministry said in a statement. The wage deal is likely to be signed by the middle of this month, it said.
    Economists at Takarekbank have said the wage hikes and tax rebates could trigger a more than 10% increase in net real wages next year.    Employers are also squeezed by growing labour shortages in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.
    Orban’s fiscal stimulus measures will be worth about 15% of gross domestic product over the fourth quarter of this year and the first quarter of 2022, his top economic aide has said.
    The central bank, led by Orban ally Gyorgy Matolcsy, has criticised the 2022 budget for being inflationary and adding unnecessary risks to the economy, which has already surpassed its pre-pandemic level of output.
($1 = 309.73 forints)
(Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

11/3/2021 Russian Regions Extend Workplace Shutdown, Moscow To Lift Curbs
Specialists wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) spray disinfectant while sanitizing the Kazansky railway station
amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Moscow, Russia November 2, 2021. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
    MOSCOW (Reuters) - Five Russian regions said on Wednesday they would extend a one-week workplace shutdown that took effect nationwide on Oct. 30 in response to a surge in COVID-19 cases, as the death toll from the country’s epidemic hit a record high.
    President Vladimir Putin ordered the shutdown last month, giving regional authorities the option of extending it.
    Authorities in the Kursk and Bryansk regions, which border Ukraine, the Chelyabinsk region near the Ural mountains, Tomsk in Siberia and the western region of Smolensk said their shutdowns would be prolonged after Nov. 8.
    “The tense epidemiological situation forces us to extend the period of non-working days by another week,” Tomsk governor Sergei Zhvachkin said in a statement.    “One non-working week is not enough to stop the chain of infection.”
    Russia’s daily COVID-19 death toll rose to a record 1,189 on Wednesday as the government coronavirus task force also reported 40,443 new infections in the last 24 hours.
    The Far Eastern region of Kamchatka plans to start asking for a personal QR code that shows a person has been vaccinated or has recently recovered from the disease to access public transport in the region.
    Other regions, such as Bashkiria, plan to use the QR code system after the end of the non-working days.    Such personal code will be required to access shopping malls, cinemas and museums.
    Moscow authorities, meanwhile, said businesses there would reopen on Monday.
    “The spread of the disease has stabilised in terms of its detection and its severe forms requiring hospitalisation,” RIA news agency quoted the capital’s mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, as saying.
    Other measures, including a requirement that companies have at least 30% of their staff work from home, would remain in place, Sobyanin said.
    The health consumer watchdog in Moscow said it had recorded violations of COVID-19 regulations at more than a quarter of the businesses it inspected last week.
    The Moscow region, which includes the small cities and towns surrounding the city, and the neighbouring Tula region also said they would not prolong the shutdown.
    The Novgorod region announced on Monday it was extending its shutdown by a week.
(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber, Gleb Stolyarov and Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by John Stonestreet and Alistair Bell)

11/3/2021 Belarus Declares Poland-Based Belsat News Channel An ‘Extremist’ Organisation
A logo of the Poland-based Belsat news television channel is pictured at
their studio in Warsaw, Poland November 3, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    (Reuters) – Belarus declared the Poland-based Belsat news channel an “extremist” organisation on Wednesday, meaning its employees and viewers can face up to seven years in prison.
    President Alexander Lukashenko’s government has targeted activists, protesters and journalists in a violent crackdown on dissent since a disputed election last year that the opposition says was blatantly rigged to extend his rule since 1994.
    Belsat, a Warsaw-based satellite channel that provides Belarusians an alternative to Belarusian state media, has been in the government’s crosshairs and two of its journalists were jailed in February for filming a protest.
    Its content was declared “extremist” in an earlier move in July, meaning anyone caught disseminating it risked being detained for 30 days.    The channel is banned in Belarus though viewers access it on the internet on virtual private networks.
    “Groups of citizens united through the Internet resources ‘BELSAT’ are recognised as an extremist formation and their activities are prohibited on the territory of the Republic of Belarus,” the interior ministry said in a statement.
    Belsat’s deputy director, Alyaksei Dzikavitski, called the move “absurd” and a vain attempt to stifle the flow of free and uncensored information.
    “It’s like punishing people for gathering around a bookshelf in a library,” he said in a video statement.
    “Naturally, it is impossible to recognise the millions of Belarusians who watch us or read on social networks as extremists.    This is the same as recognising the entire population as extremists.    Because the overwhelming majority of Belarusians trust independent mass media, including Belsat.”
    The move follows a similar clamp-down last week on three Poland-based social media channels with a large following inside Belarus.
    Tens of thousands of people have been detained since the crackdown began last year and rights groups say more than 800 people are now in jail as political prisoners.
    The crackdown prompted the United States, European Union and Britain to impose new sanctions on Minsk, but Lukashenko has remained in power, buttressed by money and diplomatic support from traditional ally Russia.
    “For the first time in history, the regime labelled the whole TV channel – @Belsat_TV – an extremist group,” Franak Viacorka, a senior adviser to exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, wrote on Twitter.
    “The label extends to both viewers & journalists.    940k people in total. On the one hand – it’s a threatening tool, on the other – it’s proof of the channel’s success.”
    Since the crackdown, Lukashenko has also been at loggerheads with neighbouring EU countries which accuse his government of instigating a migrant crisis on their shared border as a form of hybrid warfare.    Lukashenko denies doing so.
    Poland on Wednesday accused Belarus of staging an armed cross-border intrusion and summoned the Belarusian charge d’affaires to protest what it sees as a deliberate escalation of the migrant crisis at the frontier.
(Additional reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk in Warsaw; writing by Matthias Williams; editing by Nick Macfie)

11/3/2021 Romania’s Centrists Inch Closer To Rebuilding Ruling Coalition
FILE PHOTO: Romanian prime minister-designate Nicolae Ciuca delivers a press statement in
Bucharest, Romania, October 21, 2021. George Calin/Inquam Photos via REUTERS/File Photo
    BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Romania’s ruling centrist Liberals and their former USR ally inched closer to rebuilding their majority ruling coalition on Wednesday, their leaders said, a first step toward ending a month-long political stalemate jeopardising reforms.
    The Liberals (PNL), led by caretaker Prime Minister Florin Citu, cancelled a vote of confidence on a minority cabinet line-up put forward last week by premier-designate Nicolae Ciuca on Monday due to the meagre chances of success.
    Romania has been in political deadlock since Citu’s government was toppled by parliament on Oct. 5, threatening economic recovery and efforts to rein in a large budget shortfall and current account deficit in one of the European Union’s poorest member states.
    “There are great chances to rebuild our coalition, talks today were like group therapy,” Citu told reporters, adding that the USR had agreed to allow him to propose a prime minister.
    The next step will be further negotiations on a cabinet line-up before consultations with President Klaus Iohannis, whose approval will be needed as he will nominate a premier-designate and install the government.
    A previous Liberal coalition unravelled last month after USR, a relatively new grouping, withdrew its ministers in a row over a regional development fund, stripping Citu of a parliamentary majority.
    Citu’s caretaker cabinet, which includes ethnic Hungarian UDMR ministers, jointly controls 163 seats in parliament, 71 seats short of a majority.    Adding USR would give them a functioning majority of 243 seats.
    “These exploratory talks have been very good.    A majority can be formed and can exist, as it used to be, by further co-opting our UDMR colleagues,” USR head Dacian Ciolos said.
(Reporting by Radu Marinas; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

11/3/2021 CIA Director Brings Up Russian Hackers At Talks In Moscow – Sources by Maria Tsvetkova and Anton Zverev
FILE PHOTO: William Burns, nominee for Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director, attends his Senate Intelligence
Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 24, 2021. Tom Williams/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – U.S. Central Intelligence Agency director William Burns raised the issue of Russian cyberattacks during a rare visit to Moscow, where he met high-ranking security officials, three sources told Reuters.
    The trip follows a summit in Geneva in June where U.S. President Joe Biden pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin to act against ransomware groups attacking companies and infrastructure in the United States, and Moscow publicly agreed to track down cyber criminals.
    “Cybersecurity was one of the topics,” a source close to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) said, adding that Burns presented evidence of the involvement of Russian hackers in the attacks.
    A U.S. official familiar with intelligence activities and another Russian cybersecurity source confirmed that hacking was among the topics raised by Burns.
    His trip is the latest in a series of high-level contacts that show both sides want to keep talking despite mutual distrust and a long list of disputes that have plunged relations to post-Cold War lows.
    The CIA director, a Russian-speaker and former ambassador to Moscow, held talks https://www.reuters.com/world/heads-russias-security-council-cia-discuss-russia-us-ties-ria-2021-11-02 on Tuesday with Nikolai Patrushev, Russia’s Security Council secretary and a former FSB head.
    On Wednesday, Burns met with Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) chief Sergei Naryshkin and the two discussed U.S.-Russia cooperation in fighting international terrorism, the Interfax news agency reported.
    “Dialogue at this level and on such sensitive issues is extremely important for bilateral relations and for exchanging views on the issues that we have,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
    Burns’ trip coincided with developments in both countries that highlighted their tensions over cybersecurity, where no progress has been reported since the Biden-Putin summit in June.
    On Wednesday the U.S. Commerce Department added https://www.reuters.com/technology/us-blacklists-four-companies-israel-russia-singapore-citing-spyware-2021-11-03 Russian cybersecurity company Positive Technologies, which has been under sanctions since April, to its trade blacklist, saying it trafficked in cyber tools used to gain unauthorized access to computer networks.
    On Tuesday, Russia, which has proposed to hand over cyber criminals if Washington did the same, briefly detained in St. Petersburg former Belarussian hacker Sergei Pavlovich, who is wanted by the United States and lives in Russia.
    Pavlovich said in a YouTube video after his release that he had been detained due to an Interpol red notice and freed because Russia and the United States have no extradition agreement.    The St. Petersburg police department declined to comment.
(Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova and Anton Zverev; Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington and Gleb Stolyarov, Maxim Rodionov and Alexander Marrow in Moscow; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Jonathan Oatis)

11/4/2021 Lithuania Starts Building First European Wall To Ward Off Migrants From Belarus by Janis Laizans
Belarusian and Lithuanian border mark poles are pictured near a four-meter-high fence on
the Belarusian border in Druskininkai, Lithuania November 4, 2021. REUTERS/Janis Laizans
    DRUSKININKAI, Lithuania (Reuters) – Lithuania has built the first stretches of a steel wall on its border with Belarus since migrants from the Middle East and other areas began entering from Belarus this year.
    The European Union accuses Belarus of deliberately encouraging the migrants to enter EU states Poland, Lithuania and Latvia via Belarusian territory as a way of putting pressure on the bloc.
    Belarus has repeatedly denied this but its president, Alexander Lukashenko, has said his country would no longer stop the migrants since EU sanctions drain resources.
    All three EU countries have put stretches of razor wire on the border to stop the migrants. Last week Lithuania began putting up the first stretches of the 3.4-metre (11-foot) high steel fence, topped with 0.6 metres (2 feet) of razor wire.
    “It’s probably impossible to build a totally unpassable obstacle, so I think that this barrier can too be overcome.    But that would take a long time, and we would be able to react,” said Virgilijus Raugale, the chief boarder guard in southern Lithuania.
    Lithuania has allocated 152 million euros to build 500 kilometres (300 miles) of the wall by September next year.    The wall is supplemented by a 3-metre high heap of coiled razor wire next to it and video surveillance equipment.
    More than 4,000 migrants entered Lithuania from Belarus this year before August, when the country resorted to sending almost all entering migrants back to Belarus.    Over 5,600 migrants were prevented from entering since then, the border guard service said, including 2,300 who tried to enter in October.
    Meanwhile the Polish Defence Ministry said on Thursday, that Belarusian soldiers threatened to open fire on Polish troops just across the border, in what it said was an attempt to escalate a crisis over migrants at their common frontier.
(Additional reporting by Alan Charlish in Warsaw; Writing by Andrius Sytas; Editing by Frances Kerry)

11/4/2021 Latvia Allows Businesses To Fire The Unvaccinated
FILE PHOTO: A man receives his first dose of the AstraZeneca coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine
at a mass vaccination centre in Riga, Latvia, April 16, 2021. REUTERS/Janis Laizans/File Photo
    (Reuters) – The Latvian parliament on Thursday allowed businesses to fire workers who refuse to either get a COVID-19 vaccine or transfer to remote work, as the country battles one of the worst COVID-19 waves in European Union.
    About 61% of Latvian adults are fully vaccinated, less than the European Union average of 75%.
    The country was the first in EU to return to a lockdown this autumn as COVID-19 cases spiked, and has asked other EU members for medical help as makeshift COVID-19 facilities are installed in halls and garages of its hospitals.
    The new law allows businesses to suspend the unvaccinated without pay if they refuse to either get the COVID-19 jab or, if possible, to get transferred to remote work.    They can then fire the employees if they do not get the vaccine in three months of the suspension.
    “There is a sufficient reason to believe that such person is not suitable for the position,” the Latvian government wrote in a submission to the parliament, explaining the reasoning.
    The new rules will take effect on Nov. 15 as Latvia emerges from the lockdown, and there are exceptions for those with medical reason to not vaccinate, such as the recent survivors of the disease.
    Previously, the vaccine mandate only applied only to workers in healthcare, education, and social care, the Latvian public broadcaster reported.
(Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

11/4/2021 Putin Marks Russia’s Unity Day In Crimea, Ukraine Protests
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech as he visits a monument, dedicated to the end of the Civil War of
1917-1922, on Russia's Unity Day in Sevastopol, Crimea November 4, 2021. Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Pool via REUTERS
    MOSCOW/KYIV (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin celebrated Russia’s National Unity Day on Thursday with a visit to annexed Crimea, drawing a sharp protest from Ukraine.
    Speaking in Sevastopol, home to the Russian Black Sea fleet, Putin said the city and Crimea “are now forever with Russia.”
    Ukraine, from which Russia seized the peninsula in 2014, condemned the visit as a “gross violation of Ukrainian sovereignty” and of international law.
    National Unity Day is a public holiday created by Putin’s administration in 2004 to replace the Communist October Revolution Day, when tanks, missiles and troops used to parade through Moscow’s Red Square.
    Crime’s seizure drew international condemnation and sanctions against Moscow, but provided a significant boost to Putin’s domestic popularity and he has angered Ukraine with a series of visits in the past seven years.
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Pavel Polityuk, editing by Mark Trevelyan/Mark Heinrich)

11/4/2021 Belarus’s Lukashenko Moves Closer To Putin In Wake Of Crackdown
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a session of the Supreme State Council of the Union State of Russia
and Belarus via a video link in Sevastopol, Crimea November 4, 2021. Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Pool via REUTERS
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia and Belarus edged closer to integrating their economies at a virtual summit meeting on Thursday where presidents Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko affirmed their brotherly ties in language redolent of the old Soviet Union.
    Russian news agencies said the two leaders signed a package of documents on closer cooperation in a series of areas ranging from energy to defence.
    The two Slav neighbours are formally part of a “union state” and have been in talks for years to move closer together, but the process has accelerated since Putin propped up Lukashenko last year when his rule was threatened by months of mass street protests.
    The Belarus opposition, which accuses Lukashenko of rigging a presidential election in August 2020, said no agreements reached by him would be valid.
    “In 2020 our people denied authorization for Lukashenko to sign anything on their behalf,” opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said on Twitter.
    Belarus is by far the junior partner in the relationship with a population of 9.5 million to Russia’s 144 million.    Lukashenko has become still more beholden to Putin in the wake of the protests, which he crushed with mass arrests and heavy jail sentences.
    Lukashenko said the two countries, which staged huge military exercises on the border with NATO countries in September, would strengthen their joint military grouping.
    Putin said Belarus was not only a good neighbour and ally but “a truly fraternal republic, fraternal people.    And we are striving to do everything to keep it that way for ever, based on the will of our countries for unity.”
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin, writing by Mark Trevelyan, editing by Andrew Heavens)

11/4/2021 Sweden Moves Closer To Getting First Woman Prime Minister
Sweden's Minister of Finance Magdalena Andersson delivers a speech after being elected as party leader of the Social
Democratic Party at the party's congress, in Gothenburg, Sweden, November 4, 2021. Adam Ihse/TT News Agency via REUTERS
    STOCKHOLM (Reuters) -Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson moved a step closer to becoming Sweden’s first woman prime minister on Thursday when the ruling Social Democrat party elected her as its leader in place of Stefan Lofven.
    Lofven, the current prime minister, wants to step down before national elections due in September 2022.
    His minority coalition with the Green Party has struggled to survive since coming to power in 2014 and Andersson would need backing from the Greens as well as the Left and Centre parties to also succeed Lofven as leader of the country.
    Neighbouring Norway got its first female leader 40 years ago.    Sweden’s failure to follow suit has grated in a country that prides itself on leading the world in gender equality and has a self-described “feminist” foreign policy.
    If appointed, Andersson will face tough budget negotiations this year and need to reverse a deficit in the opinion polls if she is to extend her premiership beyond next September.
    She said her priorities would be reducing the role of the private sector in education, health and elderly care, addressing climate change and tackling Sweden’s wave of gang crime.
    “With all the problems we have had, it is clear to people that we need to do more together,” she told reporters.
    The 54-year-old will become prime minister if a majority in parliament does not reject her in a confirmation vote, probably this month.
    Support from the Centre and Left parties is not a given, however.
    The Centre Party wants changes to rules over forestry rights and building regulations in exchange for its support. Those policies are opposed by the Greens.
    The Left wants a say in policy while the Centre Party wants them excluded.
    A vote against Andersson could lead to a snap election or to Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson becoming prime minister.
    His centre-right bloc is backed by the Sweden Democrats, a populist, anti-immigration party that the Greens, Left and Centre want to prevent from having a say in government policy.
(Reporting by Simon Johnson; Editing by Andrew Heavens and John Stonestreet)

11/5/2021 Death Of Pregnant Woman Ignites Debate About Abortion Ban In Poland by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk and Kacper Pempel
FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators takes part in a protest against the verdict restricting abortion
rights in Warsaw, Poland, January 29, 2021. REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel/File Photo
    WARSAW (Reuters) – The death of a pregnant Polish woman has reignited debate over abortion in one of Europe’s most devoutly Catholic countries, with activists saying she could still be alive if it were not for a near total ban on terminating pregnancies.
    Tens of thousands of Poles took to the streets to protest in January this year when a Constitutional Tribunal ruling from October 2020 that terminating pregnancies with foetal defects was unconstitutional came into effect, eliminating the most frequently used case for legal abortion.
    Activists say Izabela, a 30-year-old woman in the 22nd week of pregnancy who her family said died of septic shock after doctors waited for her unborn baby’s heart to stop beating, is the first woman to die as a result of the ruling.
    The government says the ruling was not to blame for her death, rather an error by doctors.
    Izabela went to hospital in September after her waters broke, her family said. Scans had previously shown numerous defects in the foetus.
    “The baby weighs 485 grams.    For now, thanks to the abortion law, I have to lie down.    And there is nothing they can do.    They’ll wait until it dies or something begins, and if not, I can expect sepsis,” Izabela said in a text message to her mother, private broadcaster TVN24 reported.
    When a scan showed the foetus was dead, doctors at the hospital in Pszczyna, southern Poland, decided to perform a Caesarean.    The family’s lawyer, Jolanta Budzowska, said Izabela’s heart stopped on the way to the operating theatre and she died despite efforts to resuscitate her.
    “I couldn’t believe it, I thought it wasn’t true,” Izabela’s mother Barbara told TVN24.    “How could such a thing happen to her in the hospital?    After all, she went there for help.”
    Budzowska has started legal action over the treatment Izabela received, accusing doctors of malpractice, but she also called the death “a consequence of the verdict.”
    In a statement on its website, the Pszczyna County Hospital said it shared the pain of all those affected by Izabela’s death, especially her family.
    “It should … be emphasised that all medical decisions were made taking into account the legal provisions and standards of conduct in force in Poland,” the hospital said.
    On Friday, the hospital said it had suspended two doctors who were on duty at the time of the death.
    The Supreme Medical Chamber, which represents Polish doctors, said it was not immediately able to comment.
NOT ONE MORE
    When the case came to public attention as a result of a tweet from Budzowska, the hashtag #anijednejwiecej or ‘not one more’ spread across social media and was taken up by protesters demanding a change to the law.
    However, Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party rejects claims that the Constitutional Tribunal ruling was to blame for Izabela’s death, attributing it to a mistake by doctors.
    “When it comes to the life and health of the mother … if it is in danger, then terminating the pregnancy is possible and the ruling does not change anything,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Friday.
    PiS lawmaker Bartlomiej Wroblewski told Reuters that the case should not be “instrumentalised and used to limit the right to life, to kill all sick or disabled children.”
    But activists say the ruling has made doctors scared to terminate pregnancies even when the mother’s life is at risk.
    “Izabela’s case clearly shows that the ruling of the Constitutional Tribunal has had a chilling effect on doctors,” Urszula Grycuk of the Federation for Women and Family Planning told Reuters.
    “Even a condition that should not be questioned – the life and health of the mother – is not always recognised by doctors because they are afraid.”
    In Ireland, the death of 31-year-old Savita Halappanavar in 2012 after she was refused a termination provoked a national outpouring of grief credited by many as a catalyst for the liberalisation of abortion laws.
    Budzowska told Reuters that a debate similar to the one that took place in Ireland was underway in Poland.
    “Both Izabela’s family and I personally hope that this case … will lead to a change in the law in Poland,” she said.
    Poland’s president proposed changing the law last year to make abortions possible in cases where the foetus was not viable.    The Law and Justice dominated parliament has yet to debate the bill.
(Reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk and Kacper Pempel; Additional reporting by Anna Koper; Writing by Alan Charlish; Editing by Giles Elgood)

11/5/2021 Diplomat Found Dead Outside Berlin Embassy Was Russian Secret Agent – Der Spiegel
FILE PHOTO: The national flag flutters on top of the Russian embassy after Germany expelled
two Russian diplomats in Berlin, Germany, December 4, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
    BERLIN (Reuters) - German security services believe that a man found dead in a street outside the Russian Embassy in Berlin last month was an undercover agent of Russia’s FSB intelligence service, Der Spiegel reported on Friday.
    The body of the 35-year-old man was found early on Oct. 19 by Berlin police officers guarding the building, the magazine said.    Quoting security sources, it said the man had fallen from an upper floor at the embassy.
    The officers called an ambulance, but medics were unable to resuscitate him, it added.
    The embassy confirmed in a statement to Interfax news agency that a Russian diplomat had died but said it was “not commenting on this tragic event for ethical reasons.”
    Berlin police declined to comment and directed all questions to public prosecutors, who said they could neither confirm nor deny the Der Spiegel report.    The discovery of a body outside the Russian diplomatic mission had not previously been reported.
    Security sources told the magazine it was unclear how the diplomat had fallen and what had caused his death.    The Russian Embassy had not agreed to an autopsy, Der Spiegel said.
    “All formalities linked to repatriating the body of the diplomat were promptly settled with the responsible law enforcement and medical authorities of Germany in accordance with the practices in place,” the embassy said in its statement to Interfax.
    The man, who has not been named, was officially listed as a second secretary at the embassy, the magazine said.    He was also a relative of a Russia-based senior officer of the FSB’s second directorate, which deals with anti-terrorism.
    The embassy did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the Spiegel report.
    A German Foreign Ministry spokesman told a regular news briefing on Friday that the German government was aware of the death of a Russian diplomat in Berlin but could not give any details.
(Reporting by Thomas Escritt, Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber and Miranda MurrayEditing by Jon Boyle and Frances Kerry)

11/5/2021 Poland And Czech Republic Need Until Monday For Turow Talks, Says Minister
FILE PHOTO: A cooling tower from the Turow coal-fired power plant is seen near the Turow open-pit coal mine
in Bogatynia, Poland, June 15, 2021. Picture taken June 15, 2021. REUTERS/David W Cerny/File Photo
    WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland and the Czech Republic need until Monday to conclude talks on the Turow open-pit lignite mine, Polish climate minister Anna Moskwa said on Friday as the two countries try to resolve their most serious spat in decades.
    The European Union’s top court told Poland to halt operations at the Turow lignite mine and power plant on the border with the Czech Republic after Prague complained of environmental damage in nearby Czech villages.
    Poland, which has not complied with the court’s order, has been trying to reach an agreement with its neighbour to keep the mine open, and brought an offer to Prague in late September to end the dispute.
    “We are in good dialogue, but we have to agree on the details and then we will come back…with the final message,” Moskwa said.
    Talks have resumed after being suspended at the start of October, before a Czech parliamentary election, with the main sticking point being the length of the agreement, according to Czech authorities.
    The talks have also sought to clarify financial compensation and technical improvements to safeguard the environment around the mine.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish and Anna Koper; Editing by Alison Williams, Kirsten Donovan)

11/5/2021 Croatia Tightens Measures To Fight Spreading Of COVID-19
FILE PHOTO: General view of Porec, Croatia, April 20, 2021. Picture
is taken with drone on April 20, 2021. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic
    ZAGREB (Reuters) – Amid new record-high COVID-19 daily infections Croatia decided on Friday to tighten measures against the spreading of the disease, including introducing obligatory digital certificates for public sector employees.
    Croatia reported 6,932 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, the highest daily number since the beginning of the pandemic.    Slightly over 50% of around four million Croats are fully vaccinated and experts largely blame a low vaccination rate for a large increase in the number of infections in recent weeks.
    “To prevent the disease from spreading we need to reduce the number of people that can gather indoors, increase the number of vaccinated people and increase safety when doing business,” said Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic.
    The number of people that can gather indoors will be reduced from this weekend to 50 from 100 unless they have digital certificates that prove they are vaccinated, tested negative or already had the disease.
    All indoor gatherings will have to be over by midnight.
    From Nov. 15 digital certificates will be obligatory for all public sector employees and all citizens who need services in the public sector institutions.    So far, it was a condition only in the health sector and among social care workers.
    “If the number of infections continue rising from Nov. 15 we will also introduce digital certificates for entering bars, restaurants or fitness centers,” Bozinovic said.
    He added that from Jan. 4, 2022, unless the situation improves, the digital certificates will be valid only for those who are vaccinated or have had the disease.    Currently it is valid also for those who have tested negative for the virus.
    “This period is enough for those who are not vaccinated to do so by the end of the year,” Bozinovic said.
(Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

11/5/2021 COVID-19 Tears Through Generation Of Unvaccinated Romanian Elderly by Luiza Ilie and Octav Ganea
FILE PHOTO: Valeriu Ghorghita, president of the National Committee for Coordination of Vaccination Activities against
COVID-19, administers a dose of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine to a man during a vaccination marathon,
in Bucharest, Romania, 24 October 2021. Picture taken October 24, 2021. Inquam Photos/Georg Calin via REUTERS/File Photo
    GIURGIU, Romania (Reuters) – Elderly patients gasping for air through oxygen masks in a central Romanian hospital struggled to explain why they had not been vaccinated despite easy access earlier in the coronavirus pandemic.
    Romania has the second lowest vaccination rate in the 27-nation European Union and one of the highest COVID-19 mortality rates in the world, with doctors warning that the pandemic is ravaging a generation of grandparents.
    Florea Traznea, 73, said he thought he knew better than other people, including his family.    “My children are vaccinated, I have two grandchildren, but my wife and I aren’t, because we’re smarter, or stupid, rather,” he said.    “Look at what I’m going through – this disease has brought me to the ground.”
    Across the hallway, 72-year-old Elena Boziru said she stuck mostly to home and had no health problems, so she chose not to get the vaccine, like many of her neighbours.
    Steliana Ene, a 77-year-old widow who lives alone and doesn’t want to bother her son said she misses her husband.
    “What was the point (of the vaccine)?    Why not go and join my husband, he left me all alone, I mourn him day and night.”
    Roughly 85% of the more than 50,000 people who have died of COVID-19 in Romania were over 60 years old, according to public health institute data. More than 90% of all deaths have been among unvaccinated patients.
    “There is this mentality of, ‘At my age I will live for as long as I am meant to,’ and it is very difficult to convince the respective people to get vaccinated, it is a matter of how they perceive life and risk of disease,” said Valeriu Gheorghita, a doctor in charge of coordinating Romania’s vaccination campaign.
    Vaccine uptake has risen significantly since last month with 1.4 million people getting their first shot as fear and movement restrictions kicked in, but the vast majority were under 60.
ISOLATED ELDERLY
    Gheorghita said that unlike in other EU countries where many aging people are living in retirement homes or receiving some form of institutional care, in Romania they are more likely to remain in their homes, alone and harder to reach.
    “There is also an issue of trust, they are extremely hesitant and reticent to get vaccinated, and this also ties into their religious beliefs.”
    Having tried other methods in vain, Gheorghita said authorities were working on sending letters to citizens about the benefits of vaccines and how to access them via fixed centres, family doctors and mobile units.
    Across the EU, 81% of the adult population has received at least one vaccine dose.    In Romania that figure is 43.8%, the second lowest in the bloc after neighbouring Bulgaria.    For Romanians over 80, it is just 23.6%.
    Nearly a third of all COVID-19 deaths in Romania since the onset of the pandemic early last year have occurred in just the past few weeks as daily infection numbers rocketed to record highs and depleted intensive care beds across the country.
    The low vaccine uptake has exposed anew an entrenched East-West divide defined by poverty, underdevelopment and weak health education, especially visible among the old in ex-communist eastern EU states where confidence in government is low.
    The government was late to tighten restrictions to limit contagion, critics said, and an attempt to enforce COVID-19 health passes in state institutions is lagging in parliament.
    “The COVID-19 vaccination campaign now comes against an older problem of vaccine reluctance which has several roots like…trust and (lack of) medical education, which cannot be fixed in a short period of time,” Gheorghita said.
    “At the moment we need actions that can help produce results immediately, because we are in a fight against the clock.”
(Reporting by Luiza Ilie and Octav Ganea Editing by Mark Heinrich)

11/5/2021 A Father And Son’s Ice Age Plot To Slow Siberian Thaw by Maxim Shemetov, Tom Balmforth and Clare Baldwin
Sergey Zimov, 66, a scientist who works at Russia's Northeast Science Station, checks for permafrost at the Pleistocene
Park outside the town of Chersky, Sakha (Yakutia) Republic, Russia, September 13, 2021. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
    CHERSKY, Russia (Reuters) – In one of the planet’s coldest places, 130 km south of Russia’s Arctic coast, scientist Sergey Zimov can find no sign of permafrost as global warming permeates Siberia’s soil.
    As everything from mammoth bones to ancient vegetation frozen inside it for millennia thaws and decomposes, it now threatens to release vast amounts of greenhouse gases.
    Zimov, who has studied permafrost from his scientific base in the diamond-producing Yakutia region for decades, is seeing the effects of climate change in real time.
    Driving a thin metal pole metres into the Siberian turf, where temperatures are rising at more than three times the world average, with barely any force, the 66-year-old is matter-of-fact.
    “This is one of the coldest places on earth and there is no permafrost,” he says.    “Methane has never increased in the atmosphere at the speed it is today … I think this is linked to our permafrost.”
    (Open https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/climate-un-russia-permafrost in an external browser to see a picture package)
    Permafrost covers 65% of Russia’s landmass and about a quarter of the northern landmass.    Scientists say that greenhouse gas emissions from its thaw could eventually match or even exceed the European Union’s industrial emissions due to the sheer volume of decaying organic matter.
    Meanwhile permafrost emissions, which are seen as naturally occurring, are not counted against government pledges aimed at curbing emissions or in the spotlight at U.N. climate talks.
    Zimov, with his white beard and cigarette, ignored orders to leave the Arctic when the Soviet Union collapsed and instead found funding to keep the Northeast Science Station near the part-abandoned town of Chersky operating.
    Citing data from a U.S.-managed network of global monitoring stations, Zimov says he now believes the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that permafrost has begun to release greenhouse gases.
    Despite factories scaling back activity worldwide during the pandemic which also dramatically slowed global transport, Zimov says the concentration of methane and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been growing at a faster rate.
    Whole cities sit on permafrost and its thawing could cost Russia 7 trillion roubles ($100 billion) in damage by 2050 if the rate of warming continues, scientists say.
    Built on the assumption that the permafrost would never thaw, many homes, pipelines and roads in Russia’s far north and east are now sinking and increasingly in need of repair.
ICE AGE ANIMALS
    Zimov wants to slow the thaw in one area of Yakutia by populating a nature reserve called the Pleistocene Park with large herbivores including bison, horses and camels.
    Such animals trample the snow, making it much more compact so the winter cold can get through to the ground, rather than it acting as a thick insulating blanket.
    Zimov and his son Nikita began introducing animals into the fenced park in 1996 and have so far relocated around 200 of different species, which they say are making the permafrost colder compared with other areas.
    Bison were trucked and shipped this summer from Denmark, along the Northern Sea Route, past polar bears and walruses and through weeks-long storms, before their ship finally turned into the mouth of the Kolyma River towards their new home some 6,000 kilometres to the east.
    The Zimovs’ surreal plan for geo-engineering a cooler future has extended to offering a home for mammoths, which other scientists hope to resurrect from extinction with genetic techniques, in order to mimic the region’s ecosystem during the last Ice Age that ended 11,700 years ago.
    A paper published in Nature’s Scientific Reports last year, where both Zimovs were listed as authors, showed that the animals in Pleistocene Park had reduced the average snow depth by half, and the average annual soil temperature by 1.9 degrees Celsius, with an even bigger drop in winter and spring.
    More work is needed to determine if such “unconventional” methods might be an effective climate change mitigation strategy but the density of animals in Pleistocene Park — 114 individuals per square kilometre — should be feasible on a pan-Arctic scale, it said.
    And global-scale models suggest introducing big herbivores onto the tundra could stop 37% of Arctic permafrost from thawing, the paper said.
PERMATHAW?
    Nikita Zimov, Sergey’s son, was walking in the shallows of the river Kolyma at Duvanny Yar in September when he fished out a mammoth tusk and tooth.
    Such finds have been common for years in Yakutia and particularly by rivers where the water erodes the permafrost.
    Three hours by boat from Chersky, the river bank provides a cross-section of the thaw, with a thick sheet of exposed ice melting and dripping below layers of dense black earth containing small grass roots.
    “If you take the weight of all these roots and decaying organics in the permafrost from Yakutia alone, you’d find the weight was more than the land-based biomass of the planet,” Nikita says.
    Scientists say that on average, the world has warmed one degree in the last century, while in Yakutia over the last 50 years, the temperature has risen three degrees.
    The older Zimov says he has seen for himself how winters have grown shorter and milder, while Alexander Fedorov, deputy director of the Melnikov Permafrost Institute in Yakutsk, says he no longer has to wear fur clothing during the coldest months.
    But addressing permafrost emissions, like fire and other so-called natural emissions, presents a challenge because they are not fully accounted for in climate models or international agreements, scientists say.
    “The difficulty is the quantity,” says Chris Burn, a professor at Carleton University and president of the International Permafrost Association.
    “One or two percent of permafrost carbon is equivalent to total global emissions for a year.”
    Scientists estimate that permafrost in the Northern Hemisphere contains about 1.5 trillion tons of carbon, about twice as much as is currently in the atmosphere, or about three times as much as in all of the trees and plants on earth.
    Nikita says there is no single solution to global warming.
    “We’re working to prove that these ecosystems will help in the fight, but, of course, our efforts alone are not enough.”
(Reporting by Maxim Shemetov in Chersky, Russia, Tom Balmforth in Moscow, Clare Baldwin in Hong Kong; Editing by Alexander Smith)

11/6/2021 Russia Not Expecting Progress At Talks With U.S. On Visas, Diplomats - Agencies
FILE PHOTO: Russian and U.S. state flags fly near a factory in Vsevolozhsk,
Leningrad Region, Russia March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov/File Photo
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia on Saturday said it does not expect progress in talks in the coming weeks with the United States on issues including visas and the size and functioning of their embassies, Russian news agencies reported.
    With ties already at post-Cold War lows, Moscow and Washington are in a dispute over the number of diplomats they can post to each other’s countries, though Russia has said it was willing to lift restrictions imposed in recent years.
    Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Saturday said recent contacts with Washington had simply involved the two sides repeating their previously stated positions, but that a new round of talks in a third country would take place in the coming weeks.
    “There is no progress and, it seems, none is expected,” Interfax cited Ryabkov as saying.
    Russia and the United States failed to make major headway on the embassies dispute during a visit to Moscow last month by U.S. Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.
    The U.S. State Department is getting to the point of being able to maintain only a “caretaker presence” in Russia, a senior department official said in late October, with just 120 staff at the embassy in Moscow.
    Russia has just over 400 diplomats in the United States, including its delegation to the United Nations in New York, the U.S. official said.
    “The Americans need to simply increase the number of their staff in Russia to restore normal consular and visa services,” Ryabkov said on Saturday.
    TASS cited Ryabkov as saying that the next round of U.S.-Russia talks on strategic stability could take place in January.
(Reporting by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Ros Russell)

11/6/2021 Georgian Protesters Rally In Support Of Jailed Former President
FILE PHOTO: Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia's former President and newly appointed head of the
executive committee of Ukraine's National Reform Council, speaks during an interview with Reuters at his
house in the village of Lisnyky outside Kiev, Ukraine May 8, 2020. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
    MOSCOW (Reuters) -Around 3,000 Georgian protesters held a rally in support of jailed former president Mikheil Saakashvili on Saturday outside the prison where he says he is on hunger strike.
    Georgia’s state security service said the protests were part of a planned coup devised and directed by Saakashvili.
    The stage was set for a potentially tense standoff between security forces and opposition supporters, but the rally outside the prison in the town of Rustavi, southeast of the capital Tbilisi, was largely peaceful.
    “The organisers of the protests plan to block government buildings,” Russia’s TASS news agency quoted a state security spokesman as saying.
    “Those actions aimed at violently seizing power are being planned by the convicted Mikheil Saakashvili from prison.”
    Saakashvili, 53, has been on hunger strike for more than a month in prison, his lawyers have said, but Georgia’s prison service on Saturday published video footage shot in early November that appeared to show Saakashvili eating from a small cup with a spoon.
    Saakashvili, who was given a blood transfusion in late October, said he had been prescribed a liquid solution by prison doctors for medical reasons from Oct. 30.
    The Public Defender of Georgia, or human rights ombudsman, whose representatives visited Saakashvili in prison on Saturday, rejected the prison service’s claims and corroborated Saakashvili’s version of events.
    Saakashvili faces a six-year sentence after being convicted in absentia in 2018 of abuse of power and concealing evidence when he was president, charges he rejects as politically motivated.
    Saakashvili led the Rose Revolution in 2003 that ousted veteran leader Eduard Shevardnadze.
    Saakashvili served as president from 2004 to 2013 before leaving the country and building a new political career in Ukraine.
    He was arrested on Oct. 1 after returning to Georgia on the eve of local elections on what he described as a mission to rally the opposition and save the country.
(Reporting by Alexander Marrow and Olzhas AuyezovEditing by Gareth Jones and Ros Russell)

11/6/2021 Bosnia’s Disintegration Would Affect Entire Region, Says Peace Envoy by Andreas Rinke
FILE PHOTO: European Union High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina Christian Schmidt speaks during
the handover ceremony in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina August 2, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo
    BERLIN (Reuters) – If a multi-ethnic Bosnia is pushed towards disintegration, that will inevitably have an impact on other unresolved conflicts in the Western Balkans such as that between Serbia and Kosovo, Bosnia’s peace envoy told Reuters on Saturday.
    German politician Christian Schmidt, who is international High Representative in Bosnia, said this week that the peace deal that ended the country’s war in the 1990s was at risk of unravelling https://www.reuters.com/world/bosnias-peace-deal-risk-unravelling-envoy-warns-un-2021-11-02 unless the international community took measures to stop Serb separatists.
    He was referring to moves by the Bosnian Serb leadership aimed at undoing key state institutions such as the joint armed forces, the indirect taxation authority and the top judicial body, as well as other institutions.
    “The unrest in this region will also affect the question of the difficult relationship between Serbia and Kosovo in the same or similar way,” Schmidt said in an interview.
    “Serbia should have an interest in Bosnia-Herzegovina staying together,” he said, adding that Belgrade’s path towards European Union membership could be gravely affected by instability in Bosnia, where it supports its ethnic kin.
RISK
    Asked if there was a realistic possibility of Bosnia breaking apart, Schmidt said it was not an imminent danger.
    “But if the degradation of the Dayton treaty https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/what-is-causing-political-crisis-bosnia-2021-11-03 continues … there is a risk that the country will break apart,” he added.
    The U.S.-sponsored Dayton peace accords signed in 1995 ended the 3-1/2-year war among Bosnian Serbs, Croats and Muslim Bosniaks by splitting the country along ethnic lines into two autonomous regions – the Serb-dominated Serb Republic and the Federation shared by Croats and Bosniaks.
    While Schmidt said he still hoped that international pressure would move developments in a “sensible direction,” the red line would be the Serb Republic’s withdrawal from the joint armed forces and the creation of its own separate army within Bosnia, as announced by Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik.
    “If this proves to be true… then we in the international community will have to think very, very, very seriously about how we can move forward,” Schmidt said.
    He said that using his sweeping powers to sack officials and impose laws would be the last resort.
(Additional reporting and writing by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Gareth Jones)

11/8/2021 Global COVID-19 Cases Hit 250 Million, Eastern Europe Infections At Record Levels by Roshan Abraham and Rittik Biswas
FILE PHOTO: Medical workers wearing personal protective equipment carry a patient on a stretcher,
as she arrives on an ambulance at the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) ward of the Ippokrateio General
Hospital in Thessaloniki, Greece, November 3, 2021. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis/File Photo
    (Reuters) – Global COVID-19 cases surpassed 250 million on Monday as some countries in eastern Europe experience record outbreaks, even as the Delta variant surge eases and many countries resume trade and tourism.
    The daily average number of cases has fallen by 36% over the past three months, according to a Reuters analysis, but the virus is still infecting 50 million people every 90 days due to the highly transmissible Delta variant.
    By contrast, it took nearly a year to record the first 50 million COVID-19 cases.
    Health experts are optimistic that many nations have put the worst of the pandemic behind them thanks to vaccines and natural exposure, although they caution that colder weather and upcoming holiday gatherings could increase cases.
    “We think between now and the end of 2022, this is the point where we get control over this virus … where we can significantly reduce severe disease and death,” Maria Van Kerkhove, an epidemiologist leading the World Health Organisation, told Reuters on Nov. 3.
    Infections are still rising in 55 out of 240 countries, with Russia, Ukraine and Greece at or near record levels of reported cases since the pandemic started two years ago, according to a Reuters analysis.
    Eastern Europe has among the lowest vaccination rates in the region. More than half of all new infections reported worldwide were from countries in Europe, with a million new infections about every four days, according to the analysis.
    Several Russian regions said this week they could impose additional restrictions or extend a workplace shutdown as the country witnesses record deaths due to the disease.
VACCINE INEQUITY
    Several world leaders have stressed the need to improve vaccination programs around the world, particularly in the least wealthy countries.
    More than half the world’s population has yet to receive a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to Our World in Data, a figure that drops to less than 5% in low-income countries.
    Improving vaccine access will be on the agenda of meetings of the powerful Asia-Pacific trade group APEC, hosted virtually by New Zealand this week.
    APEC members, which include Russia, China and the United States, pledged at a special meeting in June to expand sharing and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines and lift trade barriers for medicines.
    “Together we are continuing to keep supply chains functioning and are supporting trade in critical medical supplies – including testing kits, PPE and now vaccines,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday.
    The World Health Organization (WHO) and other aid groups last month appealed to leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies to fund a $23.4 billion plan to bring COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and drugs to poorer countries in the next 12 months.
(Reporting by Roshan Abraham and Rittik Biswas in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Jane Wardell)

11/8/2021 Jailed Ex-U.S. Marine Whelan To Keep Fighting For Transfer From Russia
FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who was detained and accused of espionage, holds a sign as he stands
inside a defendants' cage during his verdict hearing in Moscow, Russia June 15, 2020. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
    MOSCOW (Reuters) -Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, convicted by Russia of spying, will continue to fight for his transfer to the United States despite losing a court appeal on Monday, Interfax news agency quoted his lawyer as saying.
    Whelan, who holds U.S., British, Canadian and Irish passports, was sentenced last year to 16 years in jail.    He denies espionage and has said he was set up in a sting operation.    Washington has demanded his release.
    Whelan had challenged the refusal of a regional court to hear his case for being sent home, but an appeals court in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, around 400 km (250 miles) east of Moscow, deemed the original ruling lawful.
    Ahead of the hearing, one of Whelan’s lawyers, Vladimir Zherebenkov, said that negotiations between Washington and Moscow to try to agree his release were no longer taking place, but that his team would continue to seek deportation through other channels.
    “According to my information, all negotiations, including about a possible exchange, extradition or pardon of Whelan are not being held now, everything is suspended,” Zherebenkov was quoted as saying.
    “That is why we are trying to do it this way.    I hope our justice system will expel him.”
    However, Zherebenkov said that extradition was unlikely without the recognition of the Russian sentence by the U.S. side Whelan has said he hoped to be freed as part of a prisoner swap, a topic President Vladimir Putin discussed with his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden at a summit in June.
    Moscow said that Whelan had been caught red-handed with classified information in a Moscow hotel room where agents from the Federal Security Service detained him on Dec. 28, 2018.
    Whelan said he was in Russia for a wedding and on holiday and set up by a Russian man he thought was a friend.
(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Alexander Marrow; editing by Tom Balmforth and Mark Trevelyan)

11/8/2021 Relatives Of MH17 Victims Call For Clarity On Russia’s Role In Crash
FILE PHOTO: Toys are placed at a memorial to victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 plane crash near the
village of Hrabove in Donetsk region, Ukraine March 9, 2020. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko/File Photo
    AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Relatives of the 298 people who died when a Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down over Ukraine in 2014 on Monday asked judges presiding over the Dutch murder trial looking at the crash to provide clarity over the alleged role of Russia in the incident.
    Piet Ploeg, whose brother, sister-in-law and nephew died in the crash, told judges to look specifically at Russia’s role in the Ukraine conflict.
    “We want to know what happened, why it happened and who was responsible: from the person who pushed the launch button to the highest-ranking person responsible, maybe in the Kremlin,” Ploeg said.
    Flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was hit by what international investigators and prosecutors say was a Russian surface-to-air missile likely fired by pro-Russian militias.
    Ploeg criticised the lack of Russian cooperation in the MH17 probe and the eventual trial as well as “years of misinformation, alternative theories, denials and untruths
    Russia denies any involvement with the crash.    The suspects, three Russians and a Ukrainian national, remain at large but one of them has sent lawyers to represent him.
    Dutch media reported last month that lawyers representing the families of MH17 victims had been offered protective measures after being subjected to intimidation.
    The trial is set to continue in December with the prosecution’s closing statements and a verdict is expected next year.
(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg, editing by Ed Osmond)

11/8/2021 Russia Ends Workplace Shutdown But COVID Numbers Stay High by Tom Balmforth
Passengers wait before boarding a train at Kurskaya metro station, after some of the partial
lockdown measures imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) were lifted
by local authorities, in Moscow, Russia November 8, 2021. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Most Russians went back to work on Monday for the first time in more than a week as a nationwide workplace shutdown was lifted across most regions, even though the numbers of new COVID-19 cases and deaths are hovering near record daily highs.
    President Vladimir Putin announced last month that Oct. 30 to Nov. 7 would be paid “non-working days” – an attempt to slow the surge in cases by imposing the strictest nationwide restrictions since the early months of the pandemic last year.
    But officials on Monday reported 1,190 nationwide coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours, higher than in the days before the enforced work break and just five short of the record reported last Thursday.
    There were 39,400 new COVID-19 cases, down from a peak of 41,335 on Saturday.
    The Kremlin said it was early to judge the impact of the shutdown yet, but it cited Moscow’s mayor, a close Putin ally, as saying the epidemic in the capital was stabilising.     Despite developing one of the first vaccines against COVID-19 infection last year, Russia has failed to persuade swathes of the population to accept it. Only around 40 percent of the population is immunised.
    Immunologist Nikolay Kryuchkov told Reuters he was sceptical of the effectiveness of the work pause, which only a handful of Russia’s more than 80 regions have chosen to extend into this week.
    “I think it will either have a weak effect or a very weak effect,” Kryuchkov said.    “It has to be longer and fuller… This is not the same as a European lockdown. It’s a much softer version.”
    While people were not meant to work during the lockdown, there was nothing to stop them socialising or travelling in Russia or abroad.    Travel agents reported a boom in people flying off on foreign beach holidays.
    In Moscow, all shops apart from pharmacies and supermarkets were meant to close, but some pubs and beauty salons were still working.
    Kryuchkov said rather than relaxing the curbs, regions such as Moscow and St Petersburg should be expanding them and keeping them in place for longer.
    “I fear there is going to be a significant period in which we stay at the same point (in the pandemic) and then it will go down and the rate is going to slowly fall.    That is not a very good scenario,” he said.
    The Kremlin has said it is up to regional authorities to tailor their lockdowns to match the severity of the outbreaks they face.
    Many regions that have lifted the workplace shutdown will now require visitors to present a QR code on their mobile phones when visiting cafes, restaurants or shopping centres to prove they have been vaccinated or previously had the virus.
    The situation in the region surrounding Moscow remained “tense”, but the number of people being rushed to hospital has stabilised over the last week, a senior local health official was quoted by TASS news agency as saying.
    The recent surge in COVID-19 inpatients has put oxygen supplies under strain, and the Russian navy’s Baltic Fleet said it had handed over five tonnes of liquefied oxygen to help treat hospital patients, the Interfax news agency reported.
(Reporting by Tom Balmforth, Gleb Stolyarov, Maria Kiselyova, Polina Nikolskaya; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Peter Graff)

11/8/2021 European Court Says Two Polish Judges’ Right To Fair Hearing Was Breached
FILE PHOTO: The courtroom of the European Court of Human Rights is seen ahead of the start
of a hearing concerning Ukraine's lawsuit against Russia regarding human rights violations in Crimea,
at in Strasbourg, France, September 11, 2019. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler/File Photo
    WARSAW (Reuters) -Two Polish judges’ right to a fair hearing was violated after they had job applications blocked, Europe’s top human rights court said on Monday, in a ruling that questioned the independence of Poland’s judiciary.
    The decision was the latest blow to Poland in an international row over the rule of law and judicial reforms which critics say limit the independence of Polish courts.    Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party says reforms are needed to rid the judicial system of the residue of communism.
    Monday’s ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) criticised Poland’s National Council of the Judiciary (NCJ), a public body responsible for nominating judges, and the procedure for their appointment.
    Judges Monika Joanna Dolinska-Ficek and Artur Ozimek complained to the ECHR after they had applications for posts blocked in Poland, the largest former communist state in the EU.
    They alleged that the NCJ and the Supreme Court’s Chamber of Extraordinary Review and Public Affairs, which heard their appeals, were not independent and impartial.
    “The Court concludes that the Chamber of Extraordinary Review and Public Affairs of the Supreme Court, which examined the applicants’ cases, was not a ‘tribunal established by law’,” the ECHR ruling said.
    Poland was ordered to pay the judges 15,000 euros ($17,000) each.    The court also said in a statement that “in the interests of the rule of law … and the independence of the judiciary, a rapid remedial action on the part of the Polish State is required.”
    Poland’s Deputy Justice Minister Sebastian Kaleta criticised the verdict on Twitter.
    “The ECHR has issued another verdict in which it questions the Polish NCJ under the bizarre principle that there are countries which are mature democracies and can have an extremely politicised procedure for choosing judges (Germany) and there are countries which need guardianship (Poland),” he wrote.
    In October, Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro urged his government to take legal action against Germany over what he said was a politicised system of choosing judges in the bloc’s largest nation.
    The European Court of Justice, the EU’s top court, told Poland last year to suspend its Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Chamber, saying it breached EU law. The court recently said Poland must pay 1 million euros a day for not dissolving the chamber.
    Poland has said it will get rid of the Disciplinary Chamber, with the potential to replace it with a new body, but it has not presented detailed plans yet.
    Separately, Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled this year that elements of EU law were incompatible with the country’s constitution, challenging a central tenet of EU integration.
    Ziobro also asked the Tribunal to rule on whether the article of the European Convention of Human Rights on the right to a fair hearing was constitutional as far as it allows the ECHR to verify the legality of the appointment of the Tribunal’s judges.    A first hearing in the case has been set for Nov. 24.
($1 = 0.8655 euros)
(Reporting by Joanna Plucinska and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Hugh Lawson)

11/8/2021 Activists Take Credit Suisse Climate Case To Europe Human Rights Court by Emma Farge
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Swiss bank Credit Suisse is seen at a branch office
in Zurich, Switzerland, November 3, 2021. REUTERS/Arnd WIegmann/File Photo
    GENEVA (Reuters) – A group of climate activists convicted for a protest against Swiss bank Credit Suisse applied on Friday for a review by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), in a step their lawyers said could set a precedent for such cases.
    A Swiss appeals court last year reversed a ruling that had acquitted the 12 climate activists of trespassing at Credit Suisse on the grounds their actions were necessitated by the “imminent danger” of global warming.    That decision was later upheld by Switzerland’s top court.
    The case went to court after protesters refused to pay a fine for trespassing in a branch in November 2018, when they had pretended to be tennis superstar Roger Federer to highlight his sponsorship by the bank, which finances fossil fuel projects.
    Credit Suisse declined to comment on an ongoing court case.    A spokesman for Switzerland’s second largest bank said its sponsorship partnership with Federer and a partnership with the Roger Federer Foundation were both still in place.
    Federer has previously expressed gratitude to climate activists “for pushing us all to examine our behaviours and act on innovative solutions.”    A spokesperson for his Foundation did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
    Some of the 12 activists delivered the appeal, known as an ‘application’, at the Strasbourg court.    Wearing sweat bands and sneakers they played a tennis match outside, using a banner reading ‘#RogerForClimate’ as a make-shift net.
    “This case is one of the first and it could create a European precedent,” Raphaël Mahaim, one of the lawyers for the activists, told Reuters from Strasbourg.
    A spokesperson for the court did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    The activists’ request coincides with a youth rally through Glasgow to demand that leaders at the U.N. COP26 climate conference https://www.reuters.com/business/cop safeguard their future.
    A growing portion of climate justice cases are invoking human rights and that may increase after the U.N. rights council recognised access to a clean and healthy environment as a fundamental right.
(Additional reporting by Oliver Hirt in Zurich; Editing by Alexander Smith)

11/8/2021 Poland Fears ‘Major Incident’ As Migrants From Belarus Head For Border by Matthias Williams and Joanna Plucinska
Hundreds of migrants are seen on the Belarus side of the border with Poland, guarded by the
Polish soldiers near Kuznica Bialostocka, Poland, in this video-grab released by the Polish Defence
Ministry, November 8, 2021. MON/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY
    KYIV (Reuters) - Polish authorities accused Belarus of trying to spark a major confrontation on Monday and said they had mobilised additional soldiers as footage on social media showed hundreds of migrants walking towards the Polish border.
    In one video, shared by the Belarusian blogging service NEXTA, migrants carrying rucksacks and wearing winter clothing were seen walking on the side of a highway.
    Other videos showed large groups of migrants sitting by the road and being escorted by armed men dressed in khaki.
    “Belarus wants to cause a major incident, preferably with shots fired and casualties: according to media reports, they are preparing a major provocation near Kuznica Bialostocka, that there will be an attempt at a mass border crossing,” Deputy Foreign Minister Piotr Wawrzyk told Polish public radio.
    The European Union has accused Belarus of encouraging migrants from the Middle East and Africa to cross into EU countries via Belarus, as a form of hybrid warfare in revenge for Western sanctions on Minsk over human rights abuses.
    Neighbouring EU member Lithuania announced it was moving additional troops to the border to prepare for a possible surge in migrant crossings.    Its government may follow in Poland’s footsteps by declaring a state of emergency.
    Poland has stationed more than 12,000 troops at the border, the defence minister said, while sharing aerial footage of migrants clustered on the Belarusian side.    Latvia, which shares a border with Belarus, called the situation “alarming.”
    Exiled Belarusian leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya urged a strong response from the EU and United Nations.
    “Belarus’ regime escalates the border crisis – migrants are pushed to EU border by armed men,” she tweeted.    “The migrant smuggling, violence & ill-treatment must stop.”
MIGRANT CRISIS
    Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s government has repeatedly denied manufacturing a migrant crisis, blaming the West for the crossings and treatment of migrants.
    The Belarusian state border committee confirmed that many refugees were moving towards the Polish border, and said Warsaw was taking an “inhumane attitude.”
    The EU, the United States and Britain imposed sanctions on Belarus after Lukashenko unleashed a violent crackdown on mass protests following a disputed election last year.
    Lukashenko has defied opposition calls to resign, buttressed by money and diplomatic support from traditional ally Russia. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday defended Minsk’s handling of the migrant issue, saying Belarus was taking all necessary measures to act legally.
    Charities say migrants face gruelling conditions trying to cross the border from Belarus in freezing weather with a lack of food and medical attention.
    Polish authorities said seven migrants have been found dead on Poland’s side of the border, with reports of more deaths in Belarus.
    Humanitarian groups accuse Poland’s ruling nationalists of violating the international right to asylum by pushing migrants back into Belarus instead of accepting their applications for protection.    Poland says its actions are legal.
    Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Facebook that “the Polish border is not just a line on a map.    The border is sacred – Polish blood has been spilled for it!.”
(Reporting by Matthias Williams in Kyiv, Joanna Plucinska and Pawel Florkiewicz in Warsaw; Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv and Dmitry Antonov in Moscow; writing by Matthias Williams, editing by Ed Osmond)

11/8/2021 Five Czech Parties Sign Deal To Form Government, Oust Babis by Robert Muller and Jan Lopatka
FILE PHOTO: Czech Republic's Prime Minister Andrej Babis speaks during the summit of the Visegrad Group
countries and South Korea, in Budapest, Hungary, November 4, 2021. REUTERS/Marton Monus/File Photo
    PRAGUE (Reuters) -The Czech Republic’s prospective new centre-right prime minister promised rapid change on Monday, after reaching an agreement among a coalition of five parties to form a government and oust Prime Minister Andrej Babis following an election last month.
    The parties – ranging from the mildly eurosceptic Civic Democrats to the progressive Pirate Party – pledged to cut budget deficits, which have spiralled since last year amid the pandemic and hikes in pensions and wages.
    “We need to solve the problems which trouble the people as fast as possible, and to lead the country out of the several crises it has been in – health, economic, and a crisis of values,” prospective premier Petr Fiala said at the signing ceremony.
    Grouped in two coalitions – Together and Pirates-Mayors – the parties won 108 seats in the 200-member lower house of parliament in the Oct. 8-9 election.
    During campaigning they said they were united by a desire to oust Babis, accusing him of conflicts of interest as the wealthy founder of the Agrofert chemicals, food and media empire.    Babis has regularly denied any wrongdoing and put his firms in trust funds in 2017 before he became prime minister.
    Fiala, 57, is a historian and political scientist who took over the Civic Democrats seven years ago at the start of a long stint in opposition.    He has ironed out differences in the new coalition with a consensual, soft-spoken style.
    Apart from a fiscal deficit expected to exceed 7% of GDP this year, the new government will face surging energy prices, a new wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the impact of EU climate policies on one of the bloc’s most industrialised countries.
    The Czechs will hold the EU’s rotating presidency in the second half of 2022, and the coalition said it would aim to phase out domestic coal before the current cutoff in 2038.
    In foreign policy, it pledged to build on the country’s pro-western roots in the EU and NATO and revive focus on human rights-based policies championed by the late President Vaclav Havel.    It would raise defence spending to the NATO target of 2% of GDP by 2025, and exclude Russia and China from a tender to build a new nuclear power plant, on security grounds.
    Questions may arise around relations within the Visegrad Group with Poland, Hungary and Slovakia.    The Pirates who will have the foreign ministry have been critical of Hungary’s nationalist leader Viktor Orban, while Fiala’s Civic Democrats have taken a conciliatory tone.
    Fiala can be appointed by President Milos Zeman after the outgoing government resigns following the opening session of parliament, which starts on Monday and is expected to last several days.    Appointing the cabinet could take several more weeks as Zeman has been hospitalised since Oct. 10, suffering from what one doctor last week said was liver disease.
(Reporting by Robert Muller and Jan Lopatka;Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Andrew Heavens)

11/8/2021 Lithuania Starts Building First European Wall To Ward Off Migrants From Belarus by Janis Laizans
Belarusian and Lithuanian border mark poles are pictured near a four-meter-high fence on
the Belarusian border in Druskininkai, Lithuania November 4, 2021. REUTERS/Janis Laizans
    DRUSKININKAI, Lithuania (Reuters) – Lithuania has built the first stretches of a steel wall on its border with Belarus since migrants from the Middle East and other areas began entering from Belarus this year.
    The European Union accuses Belarus of deliberately encouraging the migrants to enter EU states Poland, Lithuania and Latvia via Belarusian territory as a way of putting pressure on the bloc.
    Belarus has repeatedly denied this but its president, Alexander Lukashenko, has said his country would no longer stop the migrants since EU sanctions drain resources.
    All three EU countries have put stretches of razor wire on the border to stop the migrants.    Last week Lithuania began putting up the first stretches of the 3.4-metre (11-foot) high steel fence, topped with 0.6 metres (2 feet) of razor wire.
    “It’s probably impossible to build a totally unpassable obstacle, so I think that this barrier can too be overcome.    But that would take a long time, and we would be able to react”, said Virgilijus Raugale, the chief boarder guard in southern Lithuania.
    Lithuania has allocated 152 million euros to build 500 kilometres (300 miles) of the wall by September next year.    The wall is supplemented by a 3-metre high heap of coiled razor wire next to it and video surveillance equipment.
    More than 4,000 migrants entered Lithuania from Belarus this year before August, when the country resorted to sending almost all entering migrants back to Belarus.    Over 5,600 migrants were prevented from entering since then, the border guard service said, including 2,300 who tried to enter in October.
    Meanwhile the Polish Defence Ministry said on Thursday, that Belarusian soldiers threatened to open fire on Polish troops just across the border, in what it said was an attempt to escalate a crisis over migrants at their common frontier.
(Additional reporting by Alan Charlish in Warsaw; Writing by Andrius Sytas; Editing by Frances Kerry)

11/8/2021 Russia Declares Rights Lawyer Who Defended Navalny’s Group ‘Foreign Agent’
FILE PHOTO: Ivan Pavlov, a lawyer who defended jailed Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny's team,
poses for a picture during an interview in Tbilisi, Georgia September 9, 2021. REUTERS/David Chkhikvishvili
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – A top Russian human rights lawyer who defended the Anti-Corruption Foundation of jailed opposition politician Alexei Navalny was added to the Justice Ministry’s list of “foreign agents” on Monday.
    Ivan Pavlov and four other lawyers were placed on the list, now comprising 93 names, of rights activists, journalists, media outlets and others who the ministry says are receiving foreign funding to carry out political activity.
    Those listed are subjected to stringent financial reporting requirements and obliged to preface anything they publish with a disclaimer stating they are foreign agents, a term with negative connotations suggestive of spying.
    On his social media channel, Pavlov greeted it as a badge of honour.
    “To become a ‘foreign agent’ today is almost like receiving a state prize for special services in the area of freedom of speech and information,” he said.    “The long list of honorees includes so many brilliant journalists and rights defenders that it would even be kind of hurtful not to be one of them.”
    Pavlov came under criminal investigation in April after he was accused of disclosing classified information in his defence of former journalist Ivan Safronov, who is being held on treason charges that he denies.
    Earlier this year, Pavlov led the defence of Navalny’s political network at a series of hearings that were closed to the public, which resulted in the groups being banned as “extremist.”
    Navalny himself is in jail for parole violations over an embezzlement case he says was trumped up.    He was arrested in Moscow this year after flying back from Germany where he had been recovering from a nerve agent poisoning in Russia.
    The Kremlin rejects the idea that media are being persecuted and says the “foreign agent” legislation is needed to protect Russia from foreign meddling.
(Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh and Anton Zverev; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Peter Graff)

11/9/2021 Swiss Pursue ‘Special Path’ With Big Trade Partner China - Minister
FILE PHOTO: Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis attends a news conference
in Bern, Switzerland, December 18, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
    ZURICH (Reuters) – Switzerland’s foreign minister played down prospects for his neutral country to embrace Western sanctions against China over its human rights record as Bern pursues a “special path” with Beijing, a major trade partner, he told a newspaper.
    “It is a balancing act.    On the one hand, we have difficult discussions with China about human rights, but on the other hand, the country is an important partner in economic and other issues,” Ignazio Cassis said in an interview with the Neue Zuercher Zeitung published on Tuesday.
    “We want to take a special path that lets us hold summit meetings in Geneva like the one between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin or peace talks.    We cannot play the role of bridge-builder if we always sing along in the chorus with other countries.”
    The Swiss government has been discussing whether to adopt human rights sanctions the EU imposed on China in March.
    “The issue is on the table, the lead is with the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs.    From a foreign policy perspective, the question is whether Switzerland wants to continue to play a role as an honest broker or whether it automatically wants to follow the EU.    For me, the answer is clearly the first,” said Cassis, from the pro-business Liberals party.
    In 1950 Switzerland was one of the first western countries to recognise Communist China.    Since 2010, China has been its biggest trading partner in Asia and its third-largest globally after the European Union and the United States.
    A bilateral free trade agreement took effect in July 2014.
(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Michael Perry)

11/9/2021 Romania’s Ruling Liberals To Negotiate New Cabinet With Rival Leftists
FILE PHOTO: Klaus Iohannis, President of Romania, speaks during the UN Climate Change
Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain, November 2, 2021. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/Pool
    BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Romania’s ruling Liberals late on Monday chose to negotiate a new parliamentary majority with their former rivals, the opposition leftist Social Democrats (PSD), rather than rebuild a centrist coalition government which splintered two months ago.
    Political infighting has extended a policy deadlock at a time the European Union state grapples with rising energy costs and its deadliest COVID-19 wave since the start of the pandemic as vaccine uptake is the second-lowest in the bloc.
    The Liberals “decided with an absolute majority of votes to begin negotiations with PSD to coagulate a majority which ensures Romania has the stability needed to overcome political and sanitary crises,” the party said in a statement.
    A resulting coalition will include the Liberals’ current junior ally, ethnic Hungarian party UDMR.
    However, talks will likely take weeks, PSD leaders said, adding their list of demands included hikes in pensions, child subsidies and the minimum wage.    Romania is struggling to contain large budget and current account deficits.
    Negotiations will likely be fraught, as not all Liberals support an alliance with the Social Democrats.    The party came to power in a general election in late 2020 strongly campaigning against efforts by the PSD to weaken the fight against corruption and the rule of law.
    The PSD, parliament’s biggest party with 157 seats to the Liberals’ 134, is also likely to request key ministries.
    President Klaus Iohannis, who retains a firm grip on the Liberal Party and who has the final say in designating a prime minister, will also complicate negotiations.
    The Liberals chose against rebuilding a centrist coalition with former ally USR Plus, which withdrew from the cabinet in a row over a controversial regional development fund in early September, stripping Prime Minister Florin Citu of a parliamentary majority.
    Nearly a third of all COVID-19 deaths in Romania since the onset of the pandemic early last year have occurred in just the past few weeks as daily infection numbers have soared to record highs and hospitals ran out of intensive care beds.
(Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Dan Grebler)

11/9/2021 Poland Warns Of Further Large Migrant Clashes On Belarus Border by Matthias Williams and Joanna Plucinska
Migrants gather near a barbed wire fence in an attempt to cross the border with Poland in
the Grodno region, Belarus November 8, 2021. Leonid Scheglov/BelTA/Handout via REUTERS
    KYIV (Reuters) -Thousands of migrants were massing near the Belarus border on Monday, Polish authorities said, as European Union member states called for more sanctions against Minsk and security forces braced for more attempts to force through the frontier.
    Warsaw has accused Belarus of trying to spark a major confrontation, with video clips showing hundreds of migrants walking towards the Polish border and some trying to breach the fence using spades and other implements.
    “We expect that in the coming hours attacks on our border will be renewed by groups of several hundred people,” Pawel Soloch, the head of Poland’s National Security Bureau, told reporters.
    Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller said that there were currently 3,000-4,000 migrants near the border, and more than 10,000 others across Belarus ready to try and cross into Poland.
    Warsaw said it had deployed additional soldiers, border guards and police, while neighbouring Lithuania said it might introduce a state of emergency on its border with Belarus.
    Poland said it had withstood the first attempts on Monday by the migrants to force their way across the border.
    The Polish Border Guard announced that as of 0600 GMT on Tuesday the crossing at Kuznica, near the site where migrants tried to force their way through, would be closed.
    “We have three border crossings with Belarus,” Deputy Interior Minister Maciej Wasik told private broadcaster Polsat News.    “The closure of one of them can… be treated as a kind of economic sanction.”
    Wasik said there should be tougher EU sanctions against Minsk following the escalation of tensions on the border.    The Baltic states Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have issued similar calls.
    European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she was calling for member states to approve extended sanctions against the Belarusian authorities.
    The EU also wants to target airlines from third countries that help transport the migrants from the Middle East to Belarus.
    The European Union accuses Minsk of encouraging migrants from the Middle East and Africa to cross into the EU via Belarus, as a form of hybrid warfare in revenge for Western sanctions on President Alexander Lukashenko’s government over human rights abuses.
    A video distributed by Polish authorities showed one man cutting part of a barbed wire fence, another attacking the fence with a spade, while a Polish soldier sprayed an unidentified substance from a can.
    In an earlier video, shared by the Belarusian blogging service NEXTA, migrants carrying rucksacks and wearing winter clothing were seen walking on the side of a highway.    Other videos showed large groups of migrants sitting by the road and being escorted by armed men dressed in khaki.
    Lithuania said it also was moving additional troops to the border to prepare for a possible surge in migrant crossings.    Latvia said the situation was “alarming.”
‘INHUMANE ATTITUDE’
    Lukashenko’s government has repeatedly denied manufacturing a migrant crisis, blaming the West for the crossings and treatment of migrants.
    The Belarusian state border committee confirmed on Monday that many refugees were moving towards the Polish border, but said Warsaw was taking an “inhumane attitude.”
    Poland has stationed more than 12,000 troops at the border, its defence minister said, while sharing aerial footage of migrants clustered on the Belarusian side.
    “They throw tree trunks on the fence so as to reduce the height of this fence to breach it,” said Katarzyna Zdanowicz, spokeswoman for Polish border guards in the area.
    The EU, the United States and Britain imposed sanctions on Belarus after Lukashenko unleashed a violent crackdown on mass protests following a disputed election last year.
    The U.S. State Department on Monday said it was concerned with disturbing images and reports from the border, and called on the government of Belarus to immediately halt its campaign of orchestrating and coercing irregular migration flows across its borders.
    The United Nations called the scenes at the border “deeply concerning.”
    Lukashenko has defied opposition calls to resign, buttressed by money and diplomatic support from traditional ally Russia.
    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday defended Minsk’s handling of the migrant issue, saying Belarus was taking all necessary measures to act legally.
    Charities say the migrants face freezing weather conditions and a lack of food and medical attention.
    Poland said seven migrants had been found dead on its side of the border, with reports of more deaths in Belarus.
    Humanitarian groups accuse Poland’s ruling nationalists of violating the international right to asylum by pushing migrants back into Belarus instead of accepting their applications for protection.    Poland says its actions are legal.
    Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Facebook: “The Polish border is not just a line on a map.    The border is sacred – Polish blood has been spilled for it!.”
(Reporting by Matthias Williams in Kyiv, Joanna Plucinska, Pawel Florkiewicz, Alan Charlish and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk in Warsaw; Andrius Sytas in Vilnius, Jan Strupczewski in Brussels, Simon Lewis and Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv, Dmitry Antonov in Moscow and Christian Kraemer in Berlin; writing by Matthias Williams and Alan Charlish, editing by Ed Osmond, Gareth Jones and David Gregorio)

11/9/2021 Hundreds Of Migrants Remain At Poland-Belarus Border As Temperatures Drop
Migrants gather near a barbed wire fence in an attempt to cross the border with Poland in
the Grodno region, Belarus November 8, 2021. Leonid Scheglov/BelTA/Handout via REUTERS
    WARSAW (Reuters) – Hundreds of migrants camped out near the Belarus border with Poland on Tuesday in freezing overnight temperatures as the Polish Prime Minister visited the border and officials warned tension could increase in coming days.
    Poland has accused Belarus of trying to spark a major confrontation by encouraging the migrants to cross into Poland and the European Union.
    Video clips have shown hundreds of migrants walking towards the Polish border near Kuznica village and some trying to breach a fence using spades and other tools.
    Footage published by the Polish police on Tuesday showed migrants’ tents and campfires on the Belarus side of the barbed wire fence.
    Poland’s Border Guard told Reuters that about 800 people were camped out on the Belarusian side of the fence, part of a group of up to 4,000 migrants there and in nearby forests.
    A spokesman for Poland’s special services said estimates showed there could be up to 12,000 migrants in Belarus.
    Polish authorities shut an official border crossing with Belarus at 0600 GMT on Tuesday near where thousands of migrants tried to push through the day before.
    Poland said it had deployed additional soldiers, border guards and police, while neighbouring Lithuania said it might introduce a state of emergency on its border with Belarus.
    Polish police said on Twitter on Tuesday that the night was calm, although a rock was thrown at a police car, after the Monday confrontation.
    A Polish official said tension could increase in coming days and additional international help could be accepted if that were the case.
    Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski, speaking to private Radio Zet, restated that for now, Poland did not need additional help from the EU border guard Frontex.
    European Union ambassadors at the United Nations are expected to meet to discuss the tension on Tuesday, the PAP news agency reported Poland’s U.N. ambassador as saying.
    The Belarusian state news agency Belta quoted the interior minister to say that no migrants had broken the law.
(Reporting by Joanna Plucinska and Pawel Florkiewicz in Warsaw, Matthias Williams in Kyiv; Editing by Robert Birsel)

11/9/2021 Ex-U.S. Marine Held In Russia Starts Hunger Strike Over Treatment, Family Says
FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, who was detained in 2019 and accused of assaulting police officers,
stands inside a defendants' cage during a court hearing in Moscow, Russia July 30, 2020. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, who is serving a nine-year jail sentence in Russia, has started a hunger strike to protest against his incarceration and violations of his rights, his family said.
    Reed was convicted last year on charges of endangering the lives of two policemen in Moscow while drunk, a charge he denied.    He said the ruling was clearly political, and Washington called his trial a “theatre of the absurd.”
    “We have received a report from an attorney that Trevor has begun a hunger strike to protest his arbitrary detention and Russian authorities’ numerous and flagrant violations of his basic human rights and his rights under Russian law,” the family said in a statement late on Monday.
    There was no immediate comment about the hunger strike from the prison holding him.    The U.S. embassy in Moscow did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    Reed’s family did not say how long he planned to keep the hunger strike up, but urged U.S. authorities to support him, noting comments by Washington during a hunger strike by jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny earlier this year.
    “We recall the strong response from this Administration when a Russian dissident went on hunger strike several months ago and look forward to our son receiving the same attention,” the family said.
(Reporting by Tom Balmforth; editing by)

11/9/2021 Denmark Revisits Its ‘Corona Pass’ As Third Wave Of Epidemic Looms
Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen speaks during a news conference on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
alongside the Director of the National Board of Health, Soeren Brostroem, Minister of Health, Magnus Heunicke and
Director of Statens Serum Institut (SSI), Henrik Ullum, in the Mirror Hall in the PM's Office at Christiansborg Palace,
in Copenhagen, Denmark, November 8, 2021. Ritzau Scanpix/Olafur Steinar Gestsson/via REUTERS
    COPENHAGEN (Reuters) -Denmark’s government on Monday proposed reinstating the use of a digital “corona pass” to be presented when Danes visit indoor bars and restaurants, as the country is entering a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Denmark was one of few countries to lift almost all remaining restrictions in September after having avoided a third wave of infections over spring and summer due to broad lockdown measures imposed since Christmas.
    But the number of daily infections has risen steadily to around 2,300 in recent days from a low of just over 200 in mid-September.
    The positivity rate, the share of total tests made that were positive, has also risen steadily in the past weeks from 1.2% in mid-September to 2.3% by the end of October.
    “Several European countries are now in the middle of their fourth wave of corona.    In Denmark we are heading into our third corona wave,” health minister Magnus Heunicke said during a televised briefing on Monday.
    The corona pass, which is usually presented via an app on Danes’ phones, is used to verify that the holder is vaccinated or has tested negative for the coronavirus.
    The measure presented by the government, which is subject to parliamentary approval, will also require the pass to be presented for indoor gatherings over 200, such as in cinemas and museums.
(Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Jonathan Oatis)

11/9/2021 Exclusive-EU Close To Deal On New Round Of Belarus Sanctions, Diplomats Say by Robin Emmott
Hundreds of migrants gather at the Belarus side of the border with Poland near Kuznica Bialostocka, Poland, in this photograph released
by the Polish Defence Ministry, November 8, 2021. MON/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union is close to imposing more sanctions on Belarus, targeting some 30 individuals and entities including the foreign minister and Belarusian airline Belavia, with approval as early as next week, three EU diplomats said.
    The EU and NATO accuse President Alexander Lukashenko of using migrants as a weapon to pressure the West by sending people fleeing the Middle East to Minsk and then onto the borders of Poland and the Baltic states.
    The new round of sanctions is set to target Belarusian officials that the EU says have organised the migrant arrivals in revenge for sanctions on Minsk over human rights abuses.
    On Wednesday, in a crucial step, the EU’s 27 ambassadors are set to formally agree that the swelling numbers of migrants along Belarus’ border with Poland amount to “hybrid warfare” and can serve as a legal basis on which to build sanctions.
    Minsk denies any such operations and rejects all Western accusations of wrongdoing.    Sanctions on senior officials have so far not been effective in weakening the rule of Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994 and is a close ally of Moscow.
    EU states are also considering broadening economic sanctions on Belarus imposed in July by targeting the local reinsurance sector and its main company state-owned BelarusRe, diplomats said.
    The fifth package of asset freezes and travel bans on Belarusian state officials and businesses would be the EU’s latest response to an worsening stand-off with Belarus over what the West and the Belarus opposition was a rigged presidential election in August 2020 by Lukashenko.
    EU officials including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are calling for even tighter measures, including on international airlines accused of flying migrants into Minsk, who are then transported to the Belarusian border.
    Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei, who defended Belarus’ record at the United Nations General Assembly in September, is one senior official set to be sanctioned because his ministry is accused of handing out Belarusian visas to non-EU nationals, notably Syrians and Iraqis, diplomats said.
    The EU has banned state-owned airline Belavia from EU airspace and EU airports after Minsk forced a Ryanair flight to land to arrest a Belarus opposition journalist.    Now, direct sanctions on the airline would prevent it from being able to lease aircraft from Irish, Romanian and Danish companies.
    However, there is debate in the EU over whether the sanctions should only apply to new leases or existing contracts.
    More sanctions this month would take the total number of people under asset freezes and travel bans in Belarus to almost 200 people – including Lukashenko and his sons – as well as more than a dozen institutions and companies.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

11/10/2021 Serbia’s Police Detain Activist Over War Crimes Protest
A mural of former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic in
Belgrade, Serbia, November 9, 2021. REUTERS/Zorana Jevtic.
    BELGRADE (Reuters) – The Serbian police late on Tuesday briefly detained a local opposition activist after she threw eggs at a downtown Belgrade wall painting of Ratko Mladic, a convicted war criminal and the wartime commander of Bosnian Serbs.
    A video posted on an Instagram profile showed plainclothes men who identified themselves as police officers, whisking away Aida Corovic, after she threw eggs at the wall painting depicting Mladic saluting and wearing his officer’s cap.
    “This outrage tonight is the face of (Serbia’s President) Aleksandar Vucic’s regime,” the Belgrade-based N1 TV quoted Corovic as saying after she was released from a local precinct.
    Corovic’s detention prompted protests by dozens of opposition and leftist activists and riot police cordoned off the area near the building with the mural.
    The Serbian opposition has frequently criticised Vucic, a former nationalist who later adopted pro-European policies, as well as his allies, of autocracy, stifling media freedoms, attacks on opposition, corruption and ties with organised crime.    Vucic and his allies have denied that.
    In a statement, Serbia’s Interior Ministry said the police were enforcing public order and an earlier ban on all public gatherings related to the wall painting of Mladic.
    “Henceforth, identification of all persons regardless of their views about the mural depicting Gen. Ratko Mladic is being made,” it said.
    Mladic, 78, led Bosnian Serb forces during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war and was convicted by the United Nations war crimes tribunal for genocide and war crimes, including the killing of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the eastern town of Srebrenica in 1995.
    But many in Serbia, a candidate for membership in the European Union, including some prominent politicians, still see Mladic as a hero of the war in which more than 100,000 people died.
    In 2010, Serbia’s 250-seat parliament adopted a declaration condemning the Srebrenica massacre.
(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic in Belgrade; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

11/10/2021 Russia Jails Pro-Navalny Activist For Two Months In First ‘Extremism’ Arrest
FILE PHOTO: Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny takes part in a rally to mark the 5th anniversary
of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov's murder and to protest against proposed amendments
to the country's constitution, in Moscow, Russia February 29, 2020. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov/File Photo
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – A Russian court jailed an activist ally of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny for two months on Wednesday awaiting trial after she became the first person to be arrested in a new “extremism” case against Navalny’s network.
    The court in the city of Ufa ruled that Liliya Chanysheva should be held in custody until Jan. 9 on a charge of creating an extremist organisation, lawyer Vladimir Voronin told Reuters.
    The crime is punishable by up to 10 years in jail.
    Voronin said her arrest was the first of its kind since the political movement set up by Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent domestic opponent, was banned as extremist this summer in a wide-ranging crackdown.
    He tweeted that they would appeal the decision.    He said Chanysheva had told the court she thought she was in the early stages of pregnancy, but that a state investigator had argued she was a potential flight risk.
    Chanysheva headed one of Navalny’s network of regional campaign groups in Ufa until Navalny’s team disbanded them after Moscow’s prosecutor went to court to have them branded extremist.
    Once that ruling had come into force, authorities in September opened a criminal case against Navalny as well as some of his allies for founding and organising an extremist organisation.
    Chanysheva was detained on Tuesday and several other activists had their homes searched by police, the OVD-Info protest monitor said.
    Navalny, 45, is serving two-and-a-half years in prison for parole violations related to a conviction for embezzlement that he says was trumped up to thwart his political ambitions.
(Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Anton Zverev; editing by Mark Trevelyan)

11/10/2021 Russia And NATO Weigh In As Crisis Mounts On Belarus-Poland Border by Dmitry Antonov and Robin Emmott
A Polish soldier instals barbed wire on the Poland/Belarus border near Kuznica, Poland, in this photograph
released by the Polish Defence Ministry, November 9, 2021. Irek Dorozanski/DWOT/Handout via REUTERS
    MOSCOW/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union accused Belarus on Wednesday of mounting a “hybrid attack” by pushing migrants across the border into Poland, paving the way for widened sanctions against Minsk in a crisis that threatens to draw in Russia and NATO.
    Russia took the rare step of dispatching two nuclear-capable strategic bombers to patrol Belarusian airspace in a show of support for its close ally. Poland briefed fellow NATO allies at a closed-door meeting and they pledged their support, an alliance official said.
    Migrants from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa trapped in Belarus made multiple attempts to force their way into Poland overnight, Warsaw said, announcing that it had reinforced the border with extra guards.
    U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called on states to de-escalate and resolve the “intolerable” crisis.
    “These hundreds of men, women and children must not be forced to spend another night in freezing weather without adequate shelter, food, water and medical care,” she said.
    The EU, which has repeatedly sanctioned Belarus for human rights abuses, accuses Minsk of luring migrants from war-torn and impoverished countries and then pushing them to cross into Poland to try to sow violent chaos on the bloc’s eastern flank.
    “We are facing a brutal hybrid attack on our EU borders.    Belarus is weapon migrants’ distress in a cynical and shocking way,” EU Council President Charles Michel said.
    The bloc’s 27 ambassadors agreed this constituted a legal basis for further sanctions, which could come as early as next week and target some 30 individuals and entities including the Belarusian foreign minister and the national airline.
    “Very rapidly at the beginning of next week there will be a widening of the sanctions against Belarus,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters after a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington.
    “We will look into the possibility of sanctioning those airlines who facilitate human trafficking towards Minsk and then the EU-Belarus border,” she added.
    Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin have pinned the blame on the EU.
    The Kremlin accused Europe of failing to live up to its own humanitarian ideals and trying to “strangle” Belarus with plans to close part of the frontier. Moscow said it was unacceptable for the EU to impose sanctions on Belarus over the crisis.
PRESSURE POINT
    The crisis strikes the EU in a vulnerable area.
    In 2015, the bloc was deeply shaken by an influx of over a million people fleeing conflict in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan that led to deep rifts between member states, strained social security systems and fanned support for far-right parties.
    The EU appears more united this time but there are signs of internal friction: some in Brussels have warned Poland that it should not use EU funds to erect border walls and razor wire while others argue the bloc needs to help defend its borders.    Michel said on Wednesday the EU needed to make up its mind.
    Compared with 2015, the current crisis has an added geopolitical dimension as it is unfolding on the dividing line between NATO to the west and Russia-allied Belarus to the east.
    The Tupolev Tu-22M3 bombers that Russia sent to overfly Belarus are capable of carrying nuclear missiles, including hypersonic ones of the kind designed to evade sophisticated Western air defences.
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he hoped responsible Europeans would “not allow themselves to be drawn into a spiral that is fairly dangerous.”
    German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Putin to put pressure on Belarus, a German government spokesperson said.    The Kremlin said Putin told her the EU should talk directly to Belarus.
STRANDED FAMILIES
    Thousands of people have converged on the border this week, where makeshift razor wire fences and Polish soldiers have repeatedly blocked their entry. Some of the migrants have used logs, spades and other implements to try to break through.
    “It was not a calm night. Indeed, there were many attempts to breach the Polish border,” Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak told broadcaster PR1.
    Video from the border obtained by Reuters showed young children and babies among the people stuck there.
    “There are lots of families here with babies between two and four months old. They have not eaten anything for the past three days,” the person who provided the video told Reuters, saying they were a migrant themselves and declining to be identified.
    Some migrants have complained of being repeatedly pushed back and forth by Polish and Belarusian border guards, putting them at risk of hypothermia, lack of food and water.
    Reuters found ripped up tickets from Middle Eastern airlines, documents from tourist agencies and receipts in the forest near the Polish town of Hajnowka at what appeared to be an abandoned camp site.
    Poland’s prime minister said the EU needed to block flights from the Middle East to Belarus.
    Poland denies accusations by humanitarian groups that it is violating the international right to asylum by hustling migrants back into Belarus instead of accepting their applications for protection. Warsaw says its actions are legal.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish in Suprasl, Poland; Kacper Pempel and Felix Hoska in Hajnowka, Poland; Joanna Plucinska, Anna Koper and Pawel Florkiewicz in Warsaw; Andrius Sytas in Kapciamiestis, Lithuania; Robin Emmott in Brussels; Kirsti Knolle in Berlin; Dmitry Antonov and Maria Kiselyova in Moscow; Matthias Williams in Kyiv; Jeff Mason and Andrea Shalal in Washington; Writing by Matthias Williams, Andrew Osborn and Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Philippa Fletcher, Nick Macfie and Mark Heinrich)

11/10/2021 Stranded Migrants Try To Breach Polish Border Many Times As EU Readies Belarus Sanctions by Alan Charlish and Robin Emmott
Migrants sit on the ground as they gather near Poland - Belarus border in Grodno District, Belarus,
in this still image taken from a social media video on November 9, 2021. Obtained by REUTERS
    SUPRASL, Poland (Reuters) - Migrants trapped in Belarus made multiple attempts to force their way into Poland overnight, Warsaw said on Wednesday, announcing that it had reinforced the border as the European Union prepares to impose sanctions on Belarus over the crisis.
    The bloc’s 27 ambassadors are set to agree on Wednesday that the growing numbers of migrants flying to Belarus to reach the EU border amount to “hybrid warfare” by President Alexander Lukashenko – a legal basis for new sanctions.
    “Mr. Lukashenko …unscrupulously exploits people seeking refuge as hostages for his cynical power play,” Germany’s acting Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Twitter.
    He described images from the Belarusian border, where people are stuck in freezing conditions with little food and shelter, as “horrific” but said the EU could not be blackmailed.
    The EU accuses Belarus of encouraging the migrants – from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa – to try to illegally cross the frontier in revenge for earlier sanctions imposed on Minsk over human rights abuses.
    Lukashenko has denied using the migrants as weapons and on Wednesday won a fresh show of support from his most powerful ally, Russia, which blamed the EU for the crisis and sent two strategic bombers to patrol Belarusian airspace.
    “It is apparent that a humanitarian catastrophe is looming against the background of Europeans’ reluctance to demonstrate commitment to their European values,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a briefing.
    German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, urging Moscow to put pressure on Belarus over the situation at the border, a German government spokesperson said. Putin’s office said he suggested to Merkel that EU members discuss the crisis directly with Minsk.
    Thousands of people have converged on the border this week, where razor wire fences and Polish soldiers have repeatedly blocked their entry. Some of the migrants have used logs, spades and other implements to try to break through.
    “It was not a calm night. Indeed, there were many attempts to breach the Polish border,” Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak told broadcaster PR1.
    Video from the border obtained by Reuters showed young children and babies among the people stuck there.
    “There are lots of families here with babies between two or four months old.    They have not eaten anything for the past three days,” the person who provided the video told Reuters, saying they were a migrant themselves and declining to be named.
REINFORCEMENTS
    The Polish border guards service reported 599 illegal border crossing attempts on Tuesday, with 9 people detained and 48 sent back.    Blaszczak said the force of Polish soldiers stationed at the border had been strengthened to 15,000 from 12,000.
    After midnight, two groups of migrants were turned back. One that was around 200 people near the town of Bialowieza and another of around two dozen was turned back near Dubicze Cerkiewne, a spokeswoman told Reuters.
    Neighbouring EU state Lithuania, which followed in Poland’s footsteps by imposing a state of emergency at its border on Tuesday, reported 281 migrants were turned back that day, the highest figure since August when such pushbacks began.
    The EU accuses Lukashenko of using “gangster-style” tactics in the months-long border standoff, in which at least seven migrants have died.    The new EU sanctions would target around 30 individuals and entities including the Belarusian foreign minister, three EU diplomats told Reuters.
    Lukashenko’s government blames Europe and the United States for the plight of the people stranded at the border.
    The crisis erupted after the EU, United States and Britain imposed sanctions on Belarus over its violent crackdown on mass street protests that were sparked by Lukashenko’s disputed election victory in 2020.
    Lukashenko turned to traditional ally Russia for support and financing to ride out the protests.    The migrant crisis has given Moscow an opportunity to double down on its support for Belarus, a country it regards a strategic buffer against NATO, and criticise the EU.
    Peskov accused the EU of trying to “strangle” Belarus.
    Poland denies accusations by humanitarian groups that it is violating the international right to asylum by hustling migrants back into Belarus instead of accepting their applications for protection.    Warsaw says its actions are legal.
    Some migrants have complained of being repeatedly pushed back and forth by Polish and Belarusian border guards, putting them at risk of exposure, lack of food and water.
    “Yesterday we helped to secure and evacuate one group of immigrants,” said Michal Swiatkowski, 30, a member of the Polish Red Cross rescue group from Ostrowiec Swietokrzyski.
    “There were 16 people, most of them were children.    They did not require medical attention, although we donated warm clothes, blankets and some food,” he told Reuters.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish in Suprasl, Poland, Andrius Sytas in Kapciamiestis, Lithuania, Joanna Plucinska, Anna Koper, Pawel Florkiewicz in Warsaw, Robin Emmott in Brussels, Kirsti Knolle in Berlin, Dmitry Antonov and Maria Kiselyova in Moscow and Matthias Williams in Kyiv; writing by Matthias Williams; editing by John Stonestreet and Philippa Fletcher)

11/10/2021 Cuba Threatens To Sue Facebook, Alleging It Aided Dissidents
FILE PHOTO: Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parilla speaks during a news
conference in Havana, Cuba, July 13, 2021. Ismael Francisco/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    HAVANA (Reuters) -Cuba threatened to sue Facebook on Wednesday, alleging the social media platform had aided the dissident movement in the communist-run country by allowing groups to simulate a large presence on the island ahead of planned protests on Nov. 15.
    Dissidents in September requested permission to conduct a “Civic March for Change” in mid-November following widespread protests on the island in July.
    Cuban authorities denied that request last month, alleging protesters were seeking to overthrow the government.
    Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez told a group of foreign diplomats in Havana on Wednesday that dissidents organized in groups on Facebook had violated the social media platform’s own policies, “altering logarithms, altering the geolocation mechanism to simulate the massive presence in Cuba of people in accounts that are known to reside outside our country and fundamentally in Florida and in the U.S. territory.”
    Rodriguez said these practices violated both U.S. and international law.
    “As has already happened, Facebook could perfectly be, with strict adherence to the laws, sued for these practices against Cuba.”
    Facebook, which recently changed its company name to Meta, did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
    Cuban dissident leader Yunior Garcia, who has organized support for the Nov. 15 protest on a Facebook group called Archilpielago, could not be immediately reached for comment.
(Reporting by Dave Sherwood and Nelson Acosta, additional reporting by Elizabeth Culliford in New York, Editing by Nick Zieminski and Nick Macfie)

11/10/2021 Ahead Of Planned Protests, Cuban Government And Dissidents Wage ‘Battle Of Ideas’ by Dave Sherwood and Marc Frank
FILE PHOTO: Protesters shout slogans against the government during a demonstration, which also
involved counter-protesters who are in support of the government, amidst the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Havana, Cuba July 11, 2021. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghin/File Photo
    HAVANA (Reuters) – A war of words fought in the media and rife with espionage – double agents, wire taps and hidden cameras – is raging in Cuba ahead of protests planned for Nov. 15, setting up a showdown between the government and a dissident movement that says its most potent weapon is the cellphone.
    Dissidents in September requested permission to conduct a “Civic March for Change” in mid-November, following widespread protests on the island in July.    The Communist-run government denied that request last month, but protesters say they plan to go ahead anyway.
    The government has since launched a media campaign employing tactics favored by former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, leveraging the state security forces to unearth evidence it says proves the organizers are working covertly with the United States to overthrow the government, a charge the protest leaders deny.
    Historians and long-time Cuba watchers say Nov. 15 will mark the first real test of the government’s Cold War-era strategies against a movement that is younger and more internet savvy than any before it.
    “Clearly, they’ve reverted to their old playbook,” said Paul Hare, a former British ambassador to Cuba during the so-called “Black Spring” in 2003 when Castro jailed 75 dissidents.
    But with more Cubans online than ever before, it has become more difficult for the government to dominate the airwaves, Hare said.    “They’ve lost the narrative, the battle of ideas, especially with young people.”
    A Cuban government spokesperson rejected that argument.
    “In Cuba, there is another youth, with many other viewpoints, the majority of which are not considered by international media,” the spokesperson said.
    The stakes for Cuba are high, said historian Michael Bustamante of the University of Miami.
    Protesters plan to march the same day that Cuba reopens its doors to international tourism after a nearly two-year hiatus during the coronavirus pandemic.    Tourist revenue is vital to Cuba’s ailing economy.
    “This is the moment where the Cuban state is looking to turn the corner on what has been a very bad year… and here you have this group saying ‘no, we are choosing this specific moment to press for political change’,” said Bustamante.
    “I think that explains the intensity of the state’s response.”
SPYCRAFT
    The call for protests is being led by a Facebook group called Archipielago.    It said in a Nov. 3 post on the platform that it has 31,501 members, the majority of which are between 25 and 44 years old.
    In a barrage of primetime television news programs on state-run channels, Cuba’s government has used spycraft to question the motives of Yunior Garcia, a Cuban playwright who is the leader of Archipielago.
    In a dramatic TV segment aired last week, a cancer doctor in hospital scrubs revealed he was really ‘Agente Fernando,’ a double-agent who for 25 years infiltrated the dissident movement and accompanied Garcia to a workshop to discuss the Cuban military’s role in promoting a transition to democracy.
    “Yunior Garcia Aguilera is looking for a confrontation between the armed forces and the people,” Fernando told viewers of the program.
    Reuters was unable to reach Fernando, whose real name is Dr. Carlos Leonardo Vazquez, for comment.
    Garcia told Reuters he recalls Fernando at the workshop but rejected any suggestion he was seeking to violently overthrow the government.
    He said he has never taken U.S. funds.
    “It is very difficult for the regime to admit that it has deployed all its forces against a group of young people on phones,” Garcia said in an interview at his home in Havana.    “They are scared of a public that no longer believes in them and that isn’t afraid to say so on social media.”
    Garcia says Cuban authorities have thus leaned on an age-old strategy: blaming the United States.
    In another segment, state-run TV aired a phone call in which Ramon Saul Sanchez, a Miami-based exile whom Cuba accuses of being behind a series of terror attacks decades ago, appears to pledge support to Garcia and asks whether he should send a flotilla of boats into waters near Cuba on the day of the planned protests.    Garcia is reluctant.
    Garcia confirmed the call took place and said it was recorded without his knowledge.
    Sanchez, who has denied the terror attack accusations, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    The Cuban government has said their evidence points to a movement that is looking to topple the leadership and is backed by outsiders.
    Such subterfuge is not without precedent.    A 1975 U.S. Senate committee report revealed attempts by U.S. spies to kill Castro using “devices that strain the imagination,” including exploding cigars and poison pills.    As recently as 2009, the United States backed efforts to create a “Cuban Twitter” to stir unrest on the island.
    Nearly half of Archipielago members reside outside of Cuba, according to figures provided by the group.    Around one-quarter live in the United States.
    The U.S. State Department did not immediately reply to a request for comment.    In late October, a department spokesman said the United States supports the right of Cubans to protest but that the rallies were not a “demonstration… of the desires of the United States government.”
    The U.S. government has threatened sanctions amid a wave of arrests following the July 11 protests, believed to be the largest since Castro’s 1959 revolution.    Cuban authorities say those arrested were guilty of crimes including public disorder, resisting arrest, and vandalism.
    Many who have publicly advocated for protests say they have been harassed or put on notice by state security and government supporters in a bid to keep them off the streets next Monday.
    It is not clear how many plan to march on Nov. 15, either at home or abroad, nor what the Cuban government’s response will be.
    “I think the question is whether Cuba can put the July 11 genie back in the bottle or not,” said Bustamante.    “November 15 will be one measure of that.”
(Reporting by Dave Sherwood and Marc Frank, additional reporting by Nelson Acosta; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Rosalba O’Brien)

11/10/2021 Russia Blames EU For Looming Migrant ‘Catastrophe’, Sends Bombers To Overfly Belarus
FILE PHOTO: Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov attends a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic
Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, June 4, 2021. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/File Photo
    MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russia blamed the European Union on Wednesday for the migrant crisis on the border between Belarus and Poland, accusing it of trying to “strangle” Belarus with plans to close part of the frontier and urging it to talk directly with Minsk.
    As migrants from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa made new attempts to break into Poland overnight, Moscow sent a further signal of support for its ally Belarus by dispatching two strategic bomber planes to patrol Belarusian airspace.
    The Tu-22M3 bombers helped test Belarus’s joint air defence system, RIA news agency quoted the defence ministry as saying in a statement that did not refer to the migrant crisis but served to underline the rise in tensions on NATO’s eastern frontier.
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a joint news conference with his Belarusian counterpart Vladimir Makei that he hoped responsible Europeans would “not allow themselves to be drawn into a spiral that is fairly dangerous.”
    Makei said Russia and Belarus were mutually supporting each other “including in terms of a joint response to unfriendly activity against our countries
    President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a phone call that the EU should discuss the crisis directly with Minsk, the Kremlin said.
    “It is apparent that a humanitarian catastrophe is looming against the background of Europeans’ reluctance to demonstrate commitment to their European values,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a briefing.     He described as “absolutely irresponsible and unacceptable” a comment by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Tuesday that the crisis “has its mastermind in Moscow.”
    Russian financial and other backing helped Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko survive mass protests against his rule last year after a disputed election.
    Moscow has doubled down on its support for Belarus and criticised the EU over the migrant crisis, which Brussels says has been manufactured by Belarus in retaliation for EU sanctions over the election and other human rights issues.
    Peskov said the EU had in the past let in similar groups of migrants and its moves to close the border now were aimed against Minsk.
    “This is nothing other than further attempts to actually strangle Belarus,” he said.
(Reporting by Dmitry Antonov, Maria Kiselyova, Andrew Osborn and Tom Balmforth; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov and Mark Trevelyan; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

11/11/2021 Russian Nuclear-Capable Bombers Rehearse Bombing Runs In Belarus Training Exercise
FILE PHOTO: A Russian Tu-160 strategic bomber flies during the Victory Day Parade
in Moscow, Russia, June 24, 2020. Host photo agency/Vladimir Astapkovich via REUTERS
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Two Russian Tu-160 nuclear-capable bombers rehearsed bombing runs in a training exercise in Belarus on Thursday amid tensions over a migrant crisis at the Poland-Belarus border, the Belarusian Defence Ministry said.
    It was the second day running that Russia has sent strategic bomber planes to overfly Belarus in a show of support for its close ally Belarus, which the European Union has accused of mounting a “hybrid attack” by pushing migrants across the border into Poland.
(Reporting by Maxim Rodionov; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Mark Trevelyan)

11/11/2021 Denmark To Impose COVID-19 Isolation For Travellers From Singapore
FILE PHOTO: People pass the control tower of Singapore's Changi Airport,
Singapore January 18, 2021. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo
    SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Denmark will impose self-isolation requirements on travellers from Singapore, its embassy in the city-state said on Thursday, following a surge in COVID-19 infections.
    Singapore was removed this week from a European Union list of non-EU countries for which travel restrictions should be lifted.
    “Singapore is now considered a high risk country for travel to Europe,” the embassy of Denmark in Singapore posted on Facebook.
    The EU’s safe list of countries is reviewed every two weeks and is not legally binding on member nations.    Last month, the United States advised citizens against travel to Singapore, raising the alert level to its highest.
    Singapore detected 3,481 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday.
    But most of its recent new cases are asymptomatic or mild, with 85% of the 5.45 million population vaccinated.    A Reuters tracker shows that its average daily infections are at 75% of the peak.
    Singapore had kept the infection numbers very low through most of last year and early this year.
    With the exception of certain groups such as Danish citizens “who are fully vaccinated regardless of where,” all travellers from Singapore must be tested upon arrival and self-isolate for 10 days, the Danish embassy said.
    The isolation will end on the fourth day if there is a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result.
    The rules applied to all travellers regardless of vaccination status as Denmark does not recognise Singapore’s vaccination certificate, it said.
    Last month, Singapore had included Denmark in a short list of countries for which quarantine-free travel would be allowed for fully vaccinated people.
(Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan in Singapore; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

11/11/2021 Austrian Lockdown For The Unvaccinated Is Days Away, Chancellor Says by Francois Murphy
FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker in protective equipment is seen at a rapid antigen mass testing station, as the spread of the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Vienna, Austria, February 3, 2021. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo
    VIENNA (Reuters) -Austria is days away from placing millions of people not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 on lockdown, as daily infections are at a record high and intensive-care units are increasingly strained, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said on Thursday.
    Around 65% of Austria’s population https://info.gesundheitsministerium.at is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, national statistics show. Austria has the lowest vaccination rate of any Western European country apart from tiny Liechtenstein, according to European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control data.
    Many Austrians are sceptical about vaccinations, a view encouraged by the far-right Freedom Party, the third-biggest in parliament.
    Under an incremental government plan agreed in September, once 30% of intensive-care beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients, people not vaccinated against the coronavirus will be placed under lockdown, with restrictions on their daily movements.    The current level is 20% and rising fast.
    “According to the incremental plan we actually have just days until we have to introduce the lockdown for unvaccinated people,” Schallenberg told a news conference, adding that Austria’s vaccination rate is “shamefully low.”
    The conservative-led government said on Friday it was banning the unvaccinated from restaurants, theatres, ski lifts and providers of “services close to the body” like hairdressers.
    “A lockdown for the unvaccinated means one cannot leave one’s home unless one is going to work, shopping (for essentials), stretching one’s legs – namely exactly what we all had to suffer through in 2020,”     Schallenberg said, referring to three national lockdowns last year.
    The surge in Austria comes at a time when Eastern European states, with the continent’s lowest vaccination rates, are experiencing some of the world’s highest daily death tolls per capita.    Dutch experts on Thursday recommended a two-week partial lockdown, which would be Western Europe’s first since vaccines were widely deployed, and other countries are requiring vaccination certificates to enter public spaces.
    Austria, by contrast, wants to avoid imposing extra restrictions on those who are fully vaccinated.
    After Schallenberg’s announcement the conservative governor of the province of Upper Austria, a Freedom Party stronghold that has the lowest vaccination rate and the highest infection rate of Austria’s nine provinces, said it planned to introduce a lockdown for the unvaccinated on Monday.
    It will be introduced “provided there is a legal green light from the federal government and/or it creates the legal basis for it,” Governor Thomas Stelzer said in a statement, adding that the situation in his province is “dramatic.”
(Reporting by Francois MurphyEditing by Peter Graff and Jonathan Oatis)

11/11/2021 In Eastern Poland, A Fire Station Opens Its Doors For Migrants by Alan Charlish and Kacper Pempel
A volunteer sorts clothes for migrants at a centre for migrants in a fire station during migrant
crisis on Belarusian - Polish border, in Michalowo, Poland, November 11, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    MICHALOWO, Poland (Reuters) – As migrants on the Polish-Belarus border face cold and hunger, people in the eastern Polish town of Michalowo have decided to help, setting up a centre in a fire station where migrants can come for warmth, food and drink.
    So far, out of the masses trying to gain entry to Poland and the European Union, two migrants, one Iraqi and the other Syrian, stayed in the fire station for two nights, according to a worker there who declined to be identified.
    “I believe it has a very deep symbolic dimension because it shows that this place is friendly for migrants, that this place and the people who live here want to help.    They are kind and are able to show it,” said Urszula Dragan from the Families without Borders initiative, who had come to visit the centre.
    Most migrants in the border area remain trapped between Belarusian and Polish security services, enduring freezing weather in makeshift camps.    Poland has reported at least seven migrant deaths in the months-long crisis and other migrants have expressed fear they would die https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/no-going-back-migrants-tell-being-trapped-belarus-poland-border-2021-11-10.
    The centre in Michalowo receives donations of food and other supplies from around Poland and even from abroad, one person working there said. In addition to providing a place to stay for migrants, the centre provides supplies to organisations helping migrants on the border.
    “I am impressed… by this initiative from the townspeople, that they have this humanity in them and that they want to help these people,” said Klaudia Jachira, a lawmaker from the opposition Civic Coalition grouping.
    Just a few hundred metres away from the fire station, in the grounds of a school, volunteers from around Poland are running another centre providing supplies to NGOs on the ground.
    This centre was created by the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity, which runs a fundraising event every January and buys equipment for hospitals.
    “Here all the organisations, volunteers and activists can get supplied with everything they need, for example food packages which they give directly to refugees,” said volunteer Purtas Pur.
    Critics of the Polish government say it is treating migrants inhumanely and not letting them apply for international protection.    The government says the migrants are Belarus’ responsibility as they are legally on its territory, and offers of humanitarian aid have been refused.
    For Pur, the most important thing is the well-being of the migrants.
    “We simply don’t agree with the situation that there is here, everything should be done in a humanitarian way,” he said.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish, Kacper Pempel and Leon Malherbe; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

11/12/2021 Netherlands To Impose Partial Lockdown To Halt COVID-19 Surge – Media
FILE PHOTO: An empty street is seen during lockdown in Amsterdam,
Netherlands December 15 2020, REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw
    AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The Netherlands will impose Western Europe’s first partial lockdown since the summer this weekend, in a bid to stop a surge in COVID-19 cases, Dutch broadcaster NOS said on Friday.
    Bars, restaurants and non-essential stores will be ordered to close at 7 P.M. for at least three weeks starting Saturday, NOS said, citing government sources.
    People will be urged to work from home as much as possible, and no audiences will be allowed at sporting events in the coming weeks. Schools, theatres and cinemas would remain open.
    Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s cabinet will take a final decision later on Friday, and will announce the new measures during a televised press conference scheduled for 1800 GMT.
    New coronavirus infections in the country of 17.5 million have increased rapidly after social distancing measures were dropped late September and hit a record of around 16,300 in 24 hours on Thursday.
    The new wave of infections has put pressure on hospitals throughout the country, forcing them to scale back regular care again to treat COVID-19 patients.
    To contain the outbreak, the government’s pandemic advisory panel on Thursday recommended imposing a partial lockdown and to limit entrance to public places to people who have been fully vaccinated or have recently recovered from a coronavirus infection.
    A new lockdown would mean a drastic turn in policy for the Dutch government, which until last month thought that a relatively high vaccination rate would mean it could further ease measures towards the end of the year.
    But it is not alone in considering strict measures as infections spike to record levels.    Austria on Thursday said it was days away from placing millions of unvaccinated people in lockdown.
    Many developed countries, however, are sticking to the view that vaccine rollouts mean lockdowns are unnecessary, with Britain, for instance, relying on booster shots to increase immunity.
    Around 85% of the adult Dutch population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Booster shots have so far only been provided to a small group of people with weak immune systems, and will be offered to people aged 80 years and older in December.
    Last month, roughly 55% of patients in Dutch hospitals and 70% of those in intensive care were unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated, data provided by the Netherlands’ Institute for Health (RIVM) showed.
(Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

11/12/2021 Belarus Airline Says It Will Bar Syrians, Iraqis And Yemenis From Boarding In Turkey At Ankara’s Request
Passengers queue near a check-in desk to register for a flight of Belavia Belarusian Airlines heading
to Minsk at the Domodedovo Airport outside Moscow, Russia May 28, 2021. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/Files
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Belarusian airline Belavia said on Friday it would not allow citizens of Iraq, Syria and Yemen to board flights from Turkey at the request of Turkish authorities.
    It said the decision would take effect on Friday.
    The European Union says Belarus is encouraging thousands fleeing war-torn parts of the world to try to cross its borders and may impose new sanctions on Belarus and airlines ferrying the migrants as soon as Monday.
(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Writing Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

11/12/2021 Russia, Western Nations Row At U.N. Over Belarus Migrant Crisis by Michelle Nichols
Electric poles are are seen during the morning hours near the road that links the
border village of Bialowieza to Hajnowka during the migrant crisis on the Belarusian
- Polish border near Hajnowka, Poland, November 11, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Russia traded barbs with Western members of the U.N. Security Council on Thursday over a crisis on the border between Belarus and Poland, with Russia’s deputy U.N. envoy suggesting his European colleagues have “masochist inclinations.”
    Estonia, France, Ireland, Norway, the United States and Britain raised the migrant crisis during a closed-door meeting of the 15-member body.
    “We condemn the orchestrated instrumentalisation of human beings whose lives and wellbeing have been put in danger for political purposes by Belarus, with the objective of destabilizing neighboring countries and the European Union’s external border and diverting attention away from its own increasing human rights violations,” they said in a statement.
    They described the Belarusian approach as “unacceptable,” and accused President Alexander Lukashenko of becoming a threat to regional stability and called for a “strong international reaction” to hold Belarus accountable, pledging “to discuss further measures that we can take.”
    The EU says Belarus is encouraging thousands fleeing war-torn parts of the world to try to cross into Poland and other neighboring countries to retaliate for EU sanctions.
    Belarus has warned the crisis could escalate into a military confrontation https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/poland-reports-violent-clashes-overnight-migrants-attempt-new-border-breach-2021-11-11, while Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia said Belarus posed a serious threat to European security.
    Russia’s deputy U.N. Ambassador, Dmitry Polyanskiy, told reporters ahead of the council meeting that he believed his Western council colleagues “have some kind of masochist inclinations because to raise this topic, which is a total shame for the EU, in front of us would be very brave.”
    When asked if Russia or Belarus were helping move the migrants to the Polish border, Polyanskiy said: “No, absolutely not.”    He added that not all problems needed to be tackled by the Security Council.    Russia is a council veto-power so can shield Belarus from any possible attempts to impose U.N. sanctions.
    Estonia, France, Ireland, Norway, the United States and Britain said: “We will remain united and determined to protect the EU against these hybrid operations by Belarusian authorities.”
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Alistair Bell)

11/12/2021 Neighbours Of Belarus Say Migrant Crisis Risks Military Clash by Andrius Sytas and Joanna Plucinska
Polish soldiers patrol Poland/Belarus border near Kuznica, Poland, in this photograph
released by the Polish Ministry of Defence, November 11, 2021. MON/Handout via REUTERS
    KAPCIAMIESTIS, Lithuania/WARSAW (Reuters) – Countries bordering Belarus on Thursday warned the migrant crisis on the European Union’s eastern borders could escalate into a military confrontation while Ukraine said it would deploy thousands more troops to reinforce its frontier.
    Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia said Belarus posed serious threats to European security by deliberately escalating its “hybrid attack” using migrants to retaliate for EU sanctions.
    “This increases the possibility of provocations and serious incidents that could also spill over into the military domain,” a joint statement by the countries’ defence ministers said.
    The Belarus defence ministry earlier said that in response to a build-up of Polish military forces near the border it would be obliged it to take “appropriate response measures,” both independently and together with its strategic ally, Russia.
    While not an EU member, Ukraine, wary of becoming another flashpoint, announced drills and the deployment of 8,500 additional troops https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/ukraine-deploy-troops-helicopters-guard-belarus-border-2021-11-11 and police officers to the country’s long northern border with Belarus.
    Migrants stranded inside Belarus threw rocks and branches at Polish border guards and used logs to try to break down a razor wire fence overnight in new attempts to force their way into the EU, the authorities in Warsaw said.
    The EU says Minsk is encouraging thousands fleeing war-torn parts of the world to try to cross its borders and may impose new sanctions on Belarus and airlines ferrying the migrants as soon as Monday.
    Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko threatened to retaliate, including by shutting down the transit of Russian natural gas via Belarus, although there was no immediate response from Russia, its ally and financial backer.
BOMBERS, TENSIONS
    Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Moscow will try to help Europe weather an energy crunch and is hoping German authorities will soon certify the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that will carry more Russian gas to Europe’s biggest economy.
    Moscow reacted angrily in the past when Ukraine, another transit country, disrupted gas supplies to the West, but Lukashenko has pushed back against its wishes at times while accepting loans and subsidised energy.
    Minsk said two Russian strategic bombers were patrolling Belarusian airspace for a second day in a show of support.
    In comments carried by local media, Lukashenko also said there were attempts to transfer weapons to the migrants, but neither provided any evidence nor said who was behind what he called a provocation.
    The Kremlin said Russia had nothing to do with tensions on the border and suggested the presence of heavily armed people on both sides was a source of concern.
    It also said Putin held a second phone call in two days with German Chancellor Angela Merkel telling her the EU should talk to Belarus about the crisis.
    The Kremlin earlier rejected as “crazy” a suggestion in a media report that Russia’s flag carrier Aeroflot could be targeted with sanctions.
    The EU has not said which airlines will be included, but Turkey also responded angrily to a report that its flag carrier Turkish Airlines might be affected.
    “We reject efforts to portray Turkey, which is not a party to this issue, as part of the problem,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.
FREEZING WEATHER
    Trapped between two borders, the migrants have endured freezing weather in makeshift camps. Poland has reported at least seven migrant deaths in the months-long crisis and other migrants have expressed fear they would die.
    None of around 150 migrants gathered near the town of Bialowieza managed to breach the border, with 468 attempted crossings on Wednesday, according to the Polish border guard service.
    Neighbouring Lithuania, which like Poland has imposed a state of emergency on the border, also reported new crossing attempts.
    It said it had asked the United Nations to discuss creating a “humanitarian corridor” from the border zone to help the migrants return to their home countries, saying social media accounts showed some people trapped there wanted to go back.
    The Iraqi embassy in Moscow on Thursday said it was ready to help evacuate any Iraqi nationals who wanted to return home from Belarus, inviting them to contact it by WhatsApp or email.
    EU foreign ministers may approve more Belarus sanctions on Monday that could include individuals and companies, according to one diplomat.    The bloc’s executive commission said airlines that bring migrants would be on the list and two diplomats said the main airport in Belarus was also being considered.
    The EU accuses Lukashenko of manufacturing the crisis in revenge for earlier sanctions in response to a violent crackdown on mass street protests against his rule in 2020.    Germany said he must be countered with all strength.
    “Lukashenko is making an inhumane power play with people,” German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who is set to become the country’s next chancellor, said.
    Lukashenko and Russia have said the EU was not living up to its humanitarian values by preventing migrants from crossing.
    Large groups fleeing conflicts and poverty in the Middle East and elsewhere started flying to Minsk this spring with the help of Belarusian travel agencies.
    Many have travelled to the border with Poland, Lithuania or Latvia and tried to cross into the EU, sometimes using wire cutters they say were given to them by Belarusian border guards.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish in Suprasl, Joanna Plucinska in Warsaw, Andrius Sytas in Kapciamiestis, Lithuania, Sabine Siebold, Robin Emmott and Jan Strupczewski in Brussels, Maxim Rodionov, Tom Balmforth and Andrew Osborn in Moscow, Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv; Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Philippa Fletcher, Tomasz Janowski and Andrew Heavens)

11/12/2021 Austria Plans To Approve Lockdown For The Unvaccinated On Sunday
FILE PHOTO: A health care worker in protective equipment is seen at a rapid antigen mass testing station, as the spread of the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) continues, in Vienna, Austria, February 3, 2021. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo
    VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria’s government is likely to decide on Sunday to impose a lockdown on people who are not fully vaccinated against the coronavirus as daily infections have surged to record levels, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said on Friday.
    Schallenberg did not say when the lockdown would take effect, but the two provinces hardest-hit by this wave of infections, Upper Austria and Salzburg, will introduce the measure for themselves on Monday.
    Roughly 65% of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, one of the lowest rates in Western Europe.    Many Austrians are sceptical about vaccines, a view encouraged by the far-right Freedom Party, the third-biggest in parliament.
    “The aim is very clear: that we give the green light this Sunday for a nationwide lockdown for the unvaccinated,” Schallenberg, a conservative, told a news conference, adding that intensive-care units are increasingly strained.
    “The development is such that I do not think it is sensible to wait … We will take this step now and my wish is that we take this step on Sunday and nationally for all nine provinces.”
    Schallenberg said on Thursday the unvaccinated would face the same restrictions on their daily movements that the whole country endured in three lockdowns last year.
    Schallenberg wants to avoid placing further restrictions on those who are vaccinated to encourage holdouts to get a shot.    Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein said health workers will be required to get vaccinated.
    In possibly a bigger blow to Austria’s economy than the planned lockdown its biggest source of tourists, Germany, will classify the country a high-risk region as of Sunday, imposing a quarantine on people arriving from there.    Austria is a popular destination for winter sports.
    Infections are surging across Europe as colder weather sets in and Netherlands is expected to announce a three-week partial lockdown that would apply to the whole population.
(Reporting by Francois MurphyEditing by Jon Boyle, Andrei Khalip and Frances Kerry)

11/12/2021 Dutch Return To Partial Lockdown As COVID-19 Cases Soar by Bart H. Meijer and Anthony Deutsch
FILE PHOTO: People with and without protective masks walk on the street while shopping as the spread of
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in Amsterdam, Netherlands October 7, 2020. REUTERS/Eva Plevier
    AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -The Netherlands will return to a partial lockdown from Saturday after the government ordered restaurants and shops to close early and barred spectators from major sporting events in an effort to contain a rapid surge in COVID-19 cases.
    Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte said restrictions that the Dutch people had thought had ended for good were being reimposed for three weeks.
    Supermarkets and non-essential retailers will also close earlier and social distancing measures will be reimposed.    The government recommended that no more than four visitors be received at home, effective immediately.
    “Tonight we are bringing a very unpleasant message with very unpleasant and far-reaching measures,” Rutte said in a televised address on Friday evening.    “The virus is everywhere and needs to be combated everywhere.”
    Supermarkets and non-essential retailers will also close earlier and social distancing measures will be reimposed.    The number of recommended no more than four visitors at home.
    Rutte said the government was also exploring ways to limit public access to people who have not been vaccinated after the lockdown period.
    The Dutch government was also exploring ways to restrict access to indoor venues for people who have not been vaccinated, a politically sensitive measure that would require parliamentary approval.
    The measures are meant to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases that is straining hospitals across the country.
    New infections topped 16,000 for the second day in a row on Friday, beating the previous record of just under 13,000 confirmed cases in a day set in December last year.
(Reporting by Bart Meijer and Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Edmund Blair, Giles Elgood and Gareth Jones)

11/12/2021 Ukraine Says It Sends Officers To Polish Border To Share Intel On Migrant Crisis
Polish soldiers and police watch migrants at the Poland/Belarus border near Kuznica, Poland,
in this photograph released by the Territorial Defence Forces, November 12, 2021.
Picture taken November 11, 2021. Irek Dorozanski/DWOT/Handout via REUTERS
    KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine said on Friday it was sending border guards and national guard officers to its frontier with Poland to share intelligence and operational know-how on dealing with the Belarus migrant crisis.
    Thousands of migrants are sheltering in freezing conditions in the woods on the border between Belarus and the EU states Poland and Lithuania, which are refusing to let them cross.
    The EU accuses Belarus of creating the crisis as part of a “hybrid attack on the bloc, by distributing Belarusian visas in the Middle East, flying in the migrants and pushing them to cross the border illegally.    Belarus denies doing so."
    Ukraine, which is on Belarus’ southern border, is wary about becoming a new flashpoint in the crisis, and has already said it is sending thousands of additional troops to reinforce its own frontiers.
    “Ukraine supports Poland in this difficult time and hopes that it will be able to resolve the artificially inspired crisis in a peaceful and civilized way,” Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyskiy told his Polish counterpart, according to a statement.
    “We are ready to promptly consider any request from the Polish side to provide assistance in resolving the current situation.”
    Ukraine has also accused Russia of stoking the crisis – an accusation denied by Russia.    Russian and Belarusian paratroopers held joint drills in western Belarus on Friday.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Natalia Zinets; writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

11/12/2021 France Warns Russia Over Ukraine, Moscow Denies Weighing Attack by Dmitry Antonov, John Irish and Robin Emmott
FILE PHOTO: Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov sits in front of an electronic screen during
Russian President Vladimir Putin's annual end-of-year news conference, held online in a video
conference mode, in Moscow, Russia December 17, 2020. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo
    MOSCOW/PARIS (Reuters) - France on Friday warned Russia against harming Ukraine’s territorial integrity, after the United States shared with European allies its fears over Russian troop movements on the Ukrainian border and over a potential attack.
    Four European diplomats told Reuters that U.S. officials had raised their concerns about an attack on Ukraine with their European Union allies at a briefing in Brussels.    Two said the meeting was held on Wednesday with 30 ambassadors at the level of the NATO transatlantic alliance.
    France’s foreign and defence ministers, Jean-Yves Le Drian and Florence Parly, issued an unusually blunt statement after meeting their Russian counterparts in Paris.
    “The two ministers expressed their concerns about the deteriorating security situation in Ukraine and clearly warned of the serious consequences of any further possible damage to the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” the statement said.
    Earlier in the day, Russia had dismissed as inflammatory suggestions Moscow might be weighing an attack and accused the United States of aggressive moves in the Black Sea.
    The European diplomats declined to give further details on U.S. reasons or evidence for fearing an attack.
    In addition, one diplomatic source said that last week at a North Atlantic Council meeting – the principal political decision-making body within NATO – Karen Donfried, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, briefed in more detail on her recent trip to Moscow and shared her concern about the troop build-up.
    “The patterns of Russian behaviour are different from what we have seen before,” a NATO source said without elaborating.    “So far, it is unclear if this military build-up is intended to lead to an incursion into Ukraine or if it is just another exercise.”
    Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and says the waters around it belong to Moscow now despite most countries continuing to recognise the peninsula as Ukrainian.
    Russian-backed separatists took control of Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region that same year and soldiers on both sides continue to be regularly killed in the conflict there.
    The Kremlin said it was up to Moscow where it deployed within its borders.    “Such headlines do nothing more than pointlessly and groundlessly fuel tensions.    Russia does not pose a threat to anyone,” said spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
    Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, in Paris for the talks with Parly and Le Drian, was quoted by TASS as saying it was important to work with France to de-escalate the Ukrainian situation.
REBUKE
    In another rare rebuke of Moscow, Paris earlier this week accused it of blocking efforts to put together a ministerial meeting between France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine that aims to push peace accords agreed in 2014.    France and Germany accused Russia of imposing unrealistic conditions, something Moscow denies.
    The European Union this week accused close Russian ally Belarus of encouraging thousands fleeing war-torn parts of the world to try to cross its borders.
    Brussels is expected to impose new sanctions next week, diplomats have said.    There is no suggestion at this stage that Russia is supporting Belarus operationally, although it has publicly chided the EU.
    Russia’s ministry of defence said it detected six flights by NATO spy planes in airspace over the Black Sea, part of what it described as intensifying reconnaissance by the Western military.
    The Russian military also said it was tracking U.S. naval ships in the Black Sea and accused Washington of studying the region as a potential theatre of war.
    After returning from Washington, Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Kyiv and its Western allies had stepped up diplomatic efforts to warn Russia against launching a new military attack on Ukraine.
    A spokeswoman at Germany’s foreign office said ministers from France, Germany and Ukraine would discuss the crisis on Monday in Brussels.
(Additional reporting by Robin Emmott in Brussels; Sabine Siebold and Andreas Rinke in Berlin; Writing by Tom Balmforth, John Irish, Ingrid Melander; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Andrew Cawthorne)

11/12/2021 Analysis: Lukashenko Ties Fate To Moscow While Testing Putin’s Patience by Mark Trevelyan
FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko attend a news conference
following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia September 9, 2021. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov/File Photo
    (Reuters) – Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko has made a political art form of drawing on Kremlin support to keep himself in power for 27 years while seemingly giving little in return.
    Now, shunned by the outside world and facing yet more international sanctions, he is more dependent than ever on the backing of President Vladimir Putin – but Moscow has made clear there are lines it will not allow him to cross.
    When the European Union accused Belarus this week of mounting a “hybrid attack” by trying to push thousands of Middle Eastern, Afghan and African migrants across the border into Poland, Russia was quick to send nuclear-capable bombers to patrol Belarusian skies and stage joint paratroop drills.
    But when asked about a threat by Lukashenko to block the Russian pipeline that carries gas across Belarus to Poland and Germany, the Kremlin’s response on Friday was a clear slap-down.
Lukashenko had not discussed it with Moscow and his words and actions were “not coordinated in any way” with Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
    Franak Viacorka, an adviser to Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, said the energy gambit was a typically impulsive attempt by Lukashenko to play the Russia card against the West but without asking Moscow first.
    “It’s like a small boy hiding behind the older brother,” Viacorka said in a telephone interview. “Lukashenko is trying to use the Kremlin and to threaten the West with the Kremlin, (but) very often not consulting (over) his statements with it.”
PRICKLY PARTNER
    It is not the first time that Lukashenko has tested Putin’s patience.
    For decades he has skilfully extracted concessions from Moscow, particularly in the form of cheap energy supplies and state loans.    At the same time he has paid lip service to the idea of a “union state” with Russia while keeping it at sufficient arm’s length to avoid giving up Belarusian sovereignty or seeing his own power eroded.
    He snubbed a 2015 Russian request to host a military airbase in Belarus, in what Moscow called an “unpleasant episode.”    And he has withheld formal Belarusian recognition of Crimea, the territory annexed by Russia from     Ukraine in 2014, even while joking with Putin at their most recent meeting this month that he was looking forward to an invitation to go there with him.
    Neil Melvin, director of international security studies at the RUSI think-tank in London, said Lukashenko had “played quite a weak hand rather well” in dealings with Russia for the past 20 years.
    He said the reason for Putin’s continued backing, including in the face of mass protests that threatened to topple Lukashenko last year, was fear of a revolution that could install another pro-Western government next door.
    “He doesn’t want to have Lukashenko overthrown by a popular movement that would shift Belarus to the West, like we saw in those so-called ‘colour revolutions’, particularly in Ukraine,” Melvin said.    “Putin has to handle that very carefully.”
    The present crisis, though, is not without its advantages for Putin.
    It has given him the chance to flex Russia’s muscles near the border with NATO at a time when tensions with the alliance are high and Moscow is keen to show it is vigorously defending itself and its allies against what it portrays as aggressive alliance manoeuvres in the Black Sea.
    And the potential for the migrant crisis to sow disarray in Europe is in line with Putin’s strategy of challenging and undermining the EU.
    “I think destabilisation, conflict in various neighbouring countries in the EU, places like the United Kingdom, is just generally part of (the Kremlin’s) playbook in recent years,” said Olga Onuch, an Eastern Europe specialist at the University of Manchester.
    She said Lukashenko could be “a little bit of a loose cannon” while still operating with Moscow’s tacit approval and in line with its objectives.
(Reporting by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Gareth Jones)

11/12/2021 Russia’s Lavrov Discusses NATO Build Up With France - RIA
FILE PHOTO: Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a meeting with Mali's Minister of Foreign Affairs and
International Cooperation Abdoulaye Diop in Moscow, Russia November 11, 2021. Yuri Kochetkov/Pool via REUTERS
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday after talks with French counterparts that they had discussed an increased presence of NATO naval forces in the Black Sea, RIA news agency reported.
    He accused the military alliance of being aggressive towards Russia recently.
    Lavrov said relations between Moscow and the European Union had reached a dead end and the Russian delegation proposed to look for a way out.
(Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova; Editing by Chris Reese)

11/12/2021 Top U.S., Ukrainian Diplomats Meet Amid Tensions In Eastern Europe by OAN Newsroom
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba talk
at a news conference following the U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Dialogue talks at the State
Department in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021. (Leah Millis/Pool via AP)
    Top U.S. and Ukrainian officials met to discuss potential threats from Russia.    Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity during a meeting with its foreign minister.    He assured the U.S. is closely monitoring unusual Russian activity near Ukraine.
    “The United States commitment to Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity is ironclad and that’s something that I said again to Dmytro (Kuleba) today,” said Blinken.    “It’s a position that will not change. We stand with Ukraine.”
    The two diplomats met Thursday to discuss mutual ties and the alleged movement of Russian troops near Ukrainian borders.    Blinken said he commends Ukraine for its strength amid pressure from Russia.
    “I commend our Ukrainian colleagues and partners for the remarkable strength, the restraint that they continue to demonstrate,” stated the U.S. Secretary of State.    “Because if there are any provocations that we’re seeing, they’re coming from from Russia with these movements of forces that we see along Ukraine’s borders.”
    Blinken suggested Russia may invade Ukraine in coming weeks, adding that would be a serious mistake.
    “We do know its playbook and our concern is that Russia may make the serious mistake of attempting to rehash what it undertook back in 2014 when it amassed forces along the border, crossed into sovereign Ukrainian territory, and did so claiming falsely that it was provoked,” he explained.
    The Ukrainian diplomat said these statements should prevent another escalation in its relations with Russia.
    “And all of this is done not to provoke Russia, not to give it an excuse, but to deter,” stated Foreign Minister Kuleba.    “To deter Russia and to demotivate it from taking…from resorting to further escalation.”
    The talks come amid calls to deploy U.S. troops to Ukraine by some House Republicans who say Russia’s behavior has become more aggressive on Joe Biden’s watch.

11/12/2021 Says It Has Turned Back 2,000 Migrants
FILE PHOTO: Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei attends a news conference following the annual meeting of the collegiums of the
Russian and Belarusian Foreign Ministries in Moscow, Russia, November 10, 2021. Yuri Kochetkov/Pool via REUTERS
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Belarus has sent some 2,000 migrants back to their countries as part of efforts to stop illegal migration, its foreign minister said on Friday, as Minsk faces accusations of encouraging the migrants to cross into Poland and Lithuania via its territory.
    Vladimir Makei said Belarus had revoked the right of 30 tourist firms to invite migrants “just about a month ago,” according to transcript of a news conference published by his ministry.
    “We have detained around 700 violators at the border.    We have turned back around 2,000 people who came from other countries and did not have proper documents,” he said, without elaborating.
    It was not clear whether those detained or turned back included any who arrived in Belarus in more recent weeks as the migrant crisis has rapidly escalated along the Belarusian borders with EU member states Poland and Lithuania.
    The EU accuses Minsk of creating the crisis as part of a “hybrid attack” on the bloc – distributing Belarusian visas in the Middle East, flying in the migrants and pushing them to cross the border illegally.
    Minsk denies the accusation.
    Thousands of migrants from the Middle East are currently sheltering in freezing conditions in the woods on the border. Some have already died.
(Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova, writing by Maria Kiselyova; editing by Diane Craft and Gareth Jones)

11/13/2021 Putin Says NATO Drills In Black Sea Are Serious Challenge For Moscow
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government via a video link
at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia November 10, 2021. Sputnik/Mikhail
Metzel/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that unscheduled NATO drills in the Black Sea posed a serious challenge for Moscow and that Russia had nothing to do with the crisis on close ally Belarus’s border with the European Union.
    In comments published on the Kremlin’s website, Putin said he hoped that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and German Chancellor Angela Merkel would speak directly about the crisis and that the migrants primarily wanted to go to Germany.
(Reporting by Tom Balmforth; editing by Katya Golubkova)

11/13/2021 Polish Police Find Body Of Syrian Man Near Belarus Border by Pawel Florkiewicz and Andrius Sytas
Trucks from 16th Pomeranian Mechanised Division are seen behind a barbed wire at the temporary camp during migrant
crisis on Belarusian - Polish border near Siemianowka, Poland, November 12, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    WARSAW/DRUSKININKAI, Lithuania (Reuters) - The body of a young Syrian man has been found in Poland near the border with Belarus, Polish police said on Saturday, amid mounting international tension over a migrant crisis the European Union says has been orchestrated by Minsk.
    Thousands of migrants from the Middle East are sheltering in freezing conditions in the woods on the border between Belarus and EU states Poland and Lithuania, which are refusing to let them cross.
    Some have already died and there are fears for the safety of the rest as bitter winter conditions settle in.
    “Yesterday, in the woods, near the border, near Wolka Terechowska, the body of a young Syrian man was found,” Podlaska Police said on Twitter.
    The police said they had been unable to determine the cause of death at the scene.
    The discovery of the body comes amid mounting international tension over the migrant crisis, with neighbours of Belarus warning the situation could escalate into a military conflict https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/poland-reports-violent-clashes-overnight-migrants-attempt-new-border-breach-2021-11-11 and U.S. President Joe Biden expressing his concern https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/biden-says-us-concerned-about-situation-belarus-2021-11-12.
    Russian President Vladimir Putin, the most important ally of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, was quoted by Ifax on Saturday as saying Belarus has nothing to do with the migrant crisis.
    The Polish Border Guard said on Saturday that during the night Belarusian soldiers had torn up a section of the temporary fence erected by Poland to deter migrants.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish and Pawel Florkiewicz in Warsaw, Andrius Sytas in Druskininkai, Lithuania; Writing by Alan Charlish; Editing by Jan Harvey)

11/13/2021 Austria Plans To Approve Lockdown For The Unvaccinated On Sunday
FILE PHOTO: A health care worker in protective equipment is seen at a rapid antigen mass testing station, as the spread of the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Vienna, Austria, February 3, 2021. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo
    VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria’s government is likely to decide on Sunday to impose a lockdown on people who are not fully vaccinated against the coronavirus as daily infections have surged to record levels, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said on Friday.
    Schallenberg did not say when the lockdown would take effect, but the two provinces hardest-hit by this wave of infections, Upper Austria and Salzburg, will introduce the measure for themselves on Monday.
    Roughly 65% of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, one of the lowest rates in Western Europe.    Many Austrians are sceptical about vaccines, a view encouraged by the far-right Freedom Party, the third-biggest in parliament.
    “The aim is very clear: that we give the green light this Sunday for a nationwide lockdown for the unvaccinated,” Schallenberg, a conservative, told a news conference, adding that intensive-care units are increasingly strained.
    “The development is such that I do not think it is sensible to wait … We will take this step now and my wish is that we take this step on Sunday and nationally for all nine provinces.”
    Schallenberg said on Thursday the unvaccinated would face the same restrictions on their daily movements that the whole country endured in three lockdowns last year.
    Schallenberg wants to avoid placing further restrictions on those who are vaccinated to encourage holdouts to get a shot.    Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein said health workers will be required to get vaccinated.
    In possibly a bigger blow to Austria’s economy than the planned lockdown its biggest source of tourists, Germany, will classify the country a high-risk region as of Sunday, imposing a quarantine on people arriving from there.    Austria is a popular destination for winter sports.
    Infections are surging across Europe as colder weather sets in and Netherlands is expected to announce a three-week partial lockdown that would apply to the whole population.
(Reporting by Francois MurphyEditing by Jon Boyle, Andrei Khalip and Frances Kerry)

11/13/2021 Biden Says U.S. Concerned About Situation In Belarus
U.S. President Joe Biden holds a Cabinet meeting to discuss the implementation of the $1 trillion
infrastructure bill at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 12, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday expressed concern about the situation in Belarus as it faces accusations of encouraging migrants to cross into Poland and Lithuania via its territory.
    “We think it’s a great concern.    We communicated our concern to Russia, we communicated our concern to Belarus,” Biden told reporters as he departed the White House for a weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat.    “We think it’s a problem.”
    The European Union has accused Belarus of mounting a “hybrid attack” to destabilize the bloc by flying in thousands of migrants from war-torn areas and encouraging them to cross the border into the EU illegally.
    Migrants, mainly from Iraq and Afghanistan, are sheltering in freezing conditions on the border between Belarus and EU states Poland and Lithuania, which are refusing to let them cross. Some have already died and there are fears for the safety of the rest as bitter winter conditions settle in.
    Biden’s remarks came hours after Vice President Kamala Harris voiced similar concerns during a visit to France, where she said she discussed the issue with President Emmanuel Macron.
    Belarus “is engaged in very troubling activity.    It is something that I discussed with President Macron, and the eyes of the world and its leaders are watching what is happening there,” she told a news conference.
    Belarus denies fomenting the crisis but has said it cannot help resolve the matter unless Europe lifts sanctions.    The EU imposed several rounds of measures in response to Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko’s violent crackdown on mass street protests against his rule in 2020.
    Lukashenko, a close ally of Russia, threatened this week to cut off Russian gas supplies delivered to Europe through Belarusian territory.    On Friday, the Kremlin appeared to distance itself from that threat, saying it was not consulted in advance of the remarks and would fulfill its delivery contracts.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Steve Holland; Editing by Chris Reese and Cynthia Osterman)

11/13/2021 Dutch Return To Partial Lockdown As COVID-19 Cases Soar by Bart H. Meijer and Anthony Deutsch
FILE PHOTO: People with and without protective masks walk on the street while shopping as the spread of
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in Amsterdam, Netherlands October 7, 2020. REUTERS/Eva Plevier
    AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -The Netherlands will return to a partial lockdown from Saturday after the government ordered restaurants and shops to close early and barred spectators from major sporting events in an effort to contain a rapid surge in COVID-19 cases.
    Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte said restrictions that the Dutch people had thought had ended for good were being re-imposed for three weeks.
    Supermarkets and non-essential retailers will also close earlier and social distancing measures will be re-imposed.    The government recommended that no more than four visitors be received at home, effective immediately.
    Cafes and nightclubs will have to close at 8 pm from Saturday.
    “Tonight we are bringing a very unpleasant message with very unpleasant and far-reaching measures,” Rutte said in a televised address on Friday evening.    “The virus is everywhere and needs to be combated everywhere.”
    A group of around 100 anti-lockdown protesters gathered outside the government building in The Hague where Rutte was speaking.    Several people were detained for setting off fireworks and throwing objects at the police.
    The government was also exploring ways to restrict access to indoor venues for people who have not been vaccinated, a politically sensitive measure that would require parliamentary approval.
INFECTIONS AT RECORD HIGH
    The measures are meant to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases that is straining hospitals across the country.
    New infections topped 16,000 for the second day in a row on Friday, beating the previous record of just under 13,000 confirmed cases in a day set in December last year.
    Rutte instructed people to work from home whenever possible, and said no spectators would be allowed in the coming weeks to attend sporting events, including the Dutch soccer team’s World Cup qualifier against Norway on Tuesday.
    Schools, theatres and cinemas will remain open.
    Friday’s announcement marked a dramatic change of policy for the Dutch government, which until last month had thought that a relatively high vaccination rate would allow it to further ease measures towards the end of the year.
    Nearly 85% of the adult Dutch population has been fully vaccinated.    Since the start of the pandemic, the Netherlands has recorded 2.27 million COVID-19 cases and 18,695 related deaths.
    The Dutch are not alone in Europe in taking unpopular measures as infection rates spike.    Austria said on Thursday it was days away https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-austria/austrian-lockdown-for-the-unvaccinated-is-days-away-chancellor-says-idINL1N2S218H from placing millions of unvaccinated people in lockdown.
(Reporting by Bart Meijer, Anthony Deutsch, Toby Sterling; Editing by Edmund Blair, Giles Elgood and Gareth Jones)

11/13/2021 Ukraine Says Russia Has Nearly 100,000 Troops Near Its Border
FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy attends a news briefing following
the Ukraine-EU summit in Kyiv, Ukraine October 12, 2021. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
    KYIV (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said there are nearly 100,000 Russian soldiers near Ukraine’s border and that Western countries had shared information about active Russian troop movements with Kyiv.
    “I hope the whole world can now clearly see who really wants peace and who is concentrating nearly 100,000 soldiers at our border,” he said in a video of a speech on Wednesday carried on his website.
    The Russian troop movements near the Ukrainian border have spurred fears of a possible attack.
    Moscow has dismissed such suggestions as inflammatory and complained about increasing activity in the region by the NATO transatlantic alliance.
    On Nov. 3, the Ukrainian Defence Ministry put the number of Russian troops near Ukraine’s border at 90,000.
(Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Mark Potter and Andrew Cawthorne)

11/13/2021 Ukraine To Speed Up Construction Of Naval Base In Sea Of Azov – Defence Minister
FILE PHOTO: Cranes and ships are seen in the Azov Sea port of
Berdyansk, Ukraine November 30, 2018. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
    KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine said on Saturday it would speed up the construction of a naval base at the port of Berdyansk to prevent what Kyiv calls a gradual attempt by Moscow to take control of the Sea of Azov that flows past Russian-annexed Crimea.
    Ukraine’s newly-appointed defence minister announced the plans after a trip to Berdyansk that followed Western warnings this week about Russian troop movements near Ukraine’s borders and a possible attack.
    Russia has dismissed as inflammatory suggestions Moscow might be weighing an attack and accused Washington of aggressive moves in the Black Sea where Ukraine and the United States held military drills on Saturday.
    Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said it was vital for Ukraine to strengthen its naval forces.    “The corresponding instructions will be given to accelerate the construction of the naval base,” Reznikov said in a statement.
    Ukraine announced plans to build a base in Berdyansk in 2018 after losing its military bases on the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014 before backing separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine.
    Moscow has since taken de facto control of the Kerch Strait, which provides a passage from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov, where two large Ukrainian ports are located – Berdyansk and Mariupol.
    In his statement, Reznikov said Russia’s actions in the Azov and Black Seas had sharpened security risks and created systemic threats to shipping.
    “Following the occupation of Crimea and parts of (eastern Ukraine), Russia is trying to de facto occupy the Sea of Azov as well,” Reznikov said.
    Russia has in the past denied the allegation it wants to take control of the Sea of Azov.    There was no immediate reaction from Russia to the Ukrainian defence minister’s comments.
(Reporting by Natalia Zinets; editing by Tom Balmforth and Andrew Cawthorne)

11/13/2021 Putin Says West, Not Belarus, Root Cause Of Migrant Crisis On Border
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government via a video link
at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia November 10, 2021. Sputnik/Mikhail
Metzel/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
    MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that Western countries, rather than Belarus, were ultimately responsible for a migrant crisis on the Belarus-Poland border, pointing to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    Russia is a key ally of Belarus, which the European Union has accused of mounting a “hybrid attack” by flying in thousands of migrants https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/poland-reports-violent-clashes-overnight-migrants-attempt-new-border-breach-2021-11-11, mainly from the Middle East, and pushing them to try to cross illegally into Poland.
    As the EU prepares to impose new sanctions on Minsk, Putin told Russian state television he thought Belarus was not to blame for the crisis.
    “Let’s not forget where these crises with migrants came from … Is Belarus a pioneer in these problems? No, the reasons were created by Western and European countries themselves,” Putin said.
    Referring to conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, Putin noted that Iraqi Kurds and Afghans were among the migrants at the Belarusian border.
    “Belarus has nothing to do with it … the fact they’ve come via Belarus is unsurprising because Belarus … has visa-free entry for the countries of origin,” he said.
    He accused Polish forces on the border with Belarus of beating migrants, firing rounds above their heads and turning on lights and sirens at night nearby.
    “This doesn’t really tie in well with the ideas of humanity that supposedly underpin all the policies of our Western neighbours,” he said.
    Putin said he hoped Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and German Chancellor Angela Merkel would discuss the crisis, saying the migrants mainly wanted to go to Germany and that Moscow had nothing to do with the standoff.
    As the crisis has unfolded, the West has raised fears over Russian troop movements near the Ukrainian border and a possible attack, while Moscow has complained about increasing NATO activity in the region.
    Putin said unscheduled NATO drills in the Black Sea posed a “serious challenge” for Moscow, saying the exercises involved a powerful naval group and armed strategic aircraft.
    Russia’s Defence Ministry said it had detected and tracked four NATO spy planes flying in the Black Sea region in the last 24 hours, including a U.S. U-2S high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft in Ukrainian airspace, the RIA news agency reported.
(Reporting by Tom BalmforthEditing by Katya Golubkova and Helen Popper)

11/13/2021 It’s Worth It: Pregnant Iraqi Woman Tells Migrants To Keep Crossing EU Border by Yara Abi Nader and Joanna Plucinska
Iraqi migrant Umm Malak, 26 years old and nine months pregnant, talks to Reuters at the migrants centre
in Bialystok, Poland, November 12, 2021. Picture taken November 12, 2021. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
    BIALYSTOK, Poland (Reuters) – Umm Malak, 26 and due to give birth in weeks, was willing to go through chest-deep water, hiding in cold forests with her three small daughters in the hopes of giving them a better life in Germany.
    The Iraqi woman said she did not regret her efforts, even though she said she and her family had been shunted between Polish and Belarusian border guards six times in the last few weeks.
    “The future of my children, I have to think about this first, because in Iraq, there is no future, neither for us nor for them.”
    A Polish police spokesperson said police did not conduct activities such as taking migrants back to the border.    Neither the Polish Border Guard nor Belarusian authorities responded to requests for comment on her case.
    Reuters could not independently verify her account.
    Umm Malak, who declined to give her full name, is one of thousands of migrants, many of them Iraqis, who have tried to get into the European Union through Belarus starting in the spring.
    Reuters spoke to her in a migrant centre in the Polish city of Bialystok, where she was staying with her husband and three daughters.    The migrant centre is an open one, meaning migrants can come and go freely, once they have fulfilled any coronavirus quarantine requirements.
    Umm Malak said she was due to give birth in three weeks and hoped it would be in Germany.
    The European Union accuses Minsk of creating the crisis as part of a “hybrid attack” on the bloc – distributing Belarusian visas in the Middle East, flying in the migrants and then pushing them to cross the border illegally.
    Belarus denies fomenting the crisis, but has also said it cannot help resolve it unless Europe lifts existing sanctions.
    Poland has detained some migrants in closed detention centres and transferred others to open centres, mostly those who are sick, elderly or have small children.
    Umm Malak said she landed in Belarus from Dubai at the beginning of October and had hoped to cross the Belarusian border then go by road to Germany with her daughters, all under the age of 10, and her husband.    She said six of their attempts to cross into Poland were foiled.
FELL IN A POND
    On a few occasions, she said the Polish authorities caught them, taking them back to the border with Belarus.    On another attempt, she said they crossed into Lithuania but got tired and returned.
    On one attempt to enter Poland, Umm Malak said the Belarusian authorities helped her cut the border fence with Poland to let her and her family through.
    She said she then fell into a pond near the border and got sick, already eight months pregnant.    The Polish authorities detained her for three days, then took her to a closed migrant centre for a day, then to an open one, she said.
    “We fell into the pond at noon then overnight… they (the Polish border guard) got us.    When they got us, I couldn’t stand by myself,” she said.
    Some migrants at the open center in Bialystok told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity, that they regretted the journey to Poland and that they were calling loved ones back in the Middle East telling them not to come.
    But Umm Malak said migrants, especially those from Iraq like her, should still try getting over the border to the EU.
    “I would advise all those thinking of coming to do it, because there is no future or security or anything in Iraq,” she said.    “So bear the difficulties of the journey for a month or two, for a week or two, instead of continuing to suffer in Iraq for years.”
(Reporting by Yara Abi Nader and Joanna Plucinska; Editing by Frances Kerry)

11/13/2021 Putin Says Any Belarusian Move To Cut Gas Flows Risks Hitting Ties by Katya Golubkova and Tom Balmforth
FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a ceremony launching the Amur gas processing plant managed by
Gazprom company via video link outside Moscow, Russia June 9, 2021. Sputnik/Sergei Ilyin/Kremlin via REUTERS
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that Belarus had not consulted him before raising the possibility of cutting Russian natural gas flows to Europe, adding that such a move would risk harming ties between Minsk and its key ally Moscow.
    Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko threatened on Thursday to retaliate against any new European Union sanctions against Minsk over a migrant standoff on the Belarus-EU border, suggesting he could halt the transit of gas and other goods via Belarus.
    His warning briefly lifted spot gas prices in Europe, which gets about a third of its supplies of the fuel from Russia, including via the Yamal-Europe pipeline that runs through Belarus to Poland and Germany.
    The Belarusian section of the Yamal-Europe pipeline is owned by Russia’s state gas monopoly, Gazprom.
    “I’ve recently spoken to (Lukashenko) twice and he didn’t mention this to me once, he didn’t even hint,” Putin said in a state television interview, making his first public comments about the Belarusian threat.
    “Of course, in theory, Lukashenko as president of a transit country could order our (gas) supplies to be cut to Europe.    But this would mean a breach of our gas transit contract and I hope this will not happen,” Putin added.
    Russia has been Belarus’s closest ally for years, helping with everything from cash to cheap energy supplies and military assistance, but Lukashenko’s comments come at a sensitive time for Russia’s energy exports to Europe.
    Analysts say Lukashenko’s gas comments have likely tested Putin’s patience https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/lukashenko-ties-fate-moscow-while-testing-putins-patience-2021-11-12 with Russian gas supplies already at the centre of heated debate in Europe.
    European gas prices – and therefore, energy bills – are on the rise this year as the recovery from the pandemic has triggered a spike in demand, forcing customers from Europe to Asia to fight for supplies.
    Some European politicians have accused Moscow of failing to do more than just send contractual gas volumes, in order to calm down prices.
    The European Commission said on Friday that if Lukashenko made good on his threats, it would further harm gas suppliers.
    During Saturday’s interview, Putin said that if Belarus did cut off supplies, it would “cause great damage” to the European energy sector “and would not help in developing our relations with Belarus as a transit country.”
    “I will raise this with him (Lukashenko) in case this wasn’t something (he) said in the heat of the moment,” Putin said.
    Russia, which this week started to increase supplies to refill its European storage ahead of the winter heating season, has said more could come once its newly built Nord Stream 2 pipeline gets a green light from Germany.
    Nord Stream 2 is another Russian pipeline designed to bypass transit countries, particularly Ukraine, which has a history of gas pricing standoffs with Moscow.
    The Kremlin calls the pipeline a “purely commercial project” and denies that politics are behind it in any way.
(Reporting by Katya Golubkova and Tom Balmforth; Editing by Helen Popper)

11/13/2021 Belarus Leader Says He Wants Russian Nuclear-Capable Missile Systems
FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko shake hands during a newsza
conference following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia September 9, 2021. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov/File Photo
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Belarus wants Russian nuclear-capable Iskander missile systems to deploy them in the south and west of the country, President Alexander Lukashenko said in an interview with a Russian defence magazine published on Saturday.
    Russia is a close ally of Belarus, which the European Union has accused of engineering a crisis on its border by flying in thousands of migrants and pushing them to try to cross illegally into Poland.    Brussels is gearing up to sanction Minsk.
    Lukashenko told the National Defence magazine that he needed the Iskander mobile ballistic missile system, which has a range of up to 500 kilometres and can carry either conventional or nuclear warheads.
    “I need several divisions in the west and the south, let them stand (there),” he said.
    EU members Poland and Lithuania lie to the west of Belarus.    Its south borders Ukraine.
    Lukashenko gave no indication of whether he had held any talks with Moscow about receiving the missile system.
    Russia’s Defence Ministry did not immediately reply to a request to comment.
    Belarus and Russia are formally part of a “union state” and have been in talks for years to move closer together.
(Reporting by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Mark Potter)

11/14/2021 Bulgarians Vote In Third Election This Year In Bid To Break Deadlock by Tsvetelia Tsolova
FILE PHOTO: A man pastes election posters in Haskovo, Bulgaria,
November 8, 2021. Picture taken November 8, 2021. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov
    SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgarians vote on Sunday in their third parliamentary election this year, with opinion polls pointing to another inconclusive result that could hamper efforts to tackle high energy prices, a jump in COVID-19 cases and widespread corruption.
    Another failure to break a prolonged political impasse and forge a functioning cabinet in the European Union’s poorest member state could also potentially slow plans for the country to adopt the euro by 2024.
    An election for the largely ceremonial post of president will also be held on Sunday.    Polls show incumbent Rumen Radev, 58, is poised to win re-election for a second five-year term after a likely run-off vote on Nov. 21.
    Bulgaria has been gripped by political uncertainty since April, when an election ended the decade-long rule of former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and his centre-right GERB party following massive anti-graft protests against him last year.
    Policy differences and rivalry prevented his opponents, the so-called parties of change, from forging a ruling coalition after the April election and another ballot in July.
    GERB has seized on the deadlock, rising energy costs and a rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths in the EU’s least vaccinated country – helping it bolster support among party loyalists.
    The latest polls give the party backing of 24%, putting it on track to be the biggest in parliament.
    But Borissov, 62, a burly former bodyguard of late Communist dictator Todor Zhivkov, is unlikely to find allies to forge a coalition, analysts say.
    A new centrist party pledging “zero corruption,” set up by two Harvard-educated former interim ministers, is seen as having the biggest chance of steering talks for a new administration with two other anti-graft factions and the Socialists.
    Called “We Continue the Change,” the new party appears tied with the Socialists for second position, both with support of about 15-16%.
    “For the time being, a government around the so-called parties of change, and the Socialists, looks more likely,” said analyst Dobromir Zhivkov at the Market Links pollster.
    Ivailo Mihailov, a 52-year-old engineer, said he hoped Sunday’s election would yield a ruling coalition to address high-level graft in the country – ranked the most corrupt EU member state by Transparency International.
    “The judicial system is the biggest problem or rather the lack of justice,” he said.    “Until we have a politician and leading businessman actually sentenced, nothing good will happen.”
    Thousands of Bulgarians joined street protests in mid-2020, accusing Borissov of cosying up with the chief prosecutor to benefit local oligarchs and businesses close to his GERB party.
    Borissov denies any wrongdoing.
    Polls open at 7 a.m. (0500 GMT) and close at 8 p.m. (1800 GMT).
(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Helen Popper)

11/14/2021 Putin Says No Need To Escalate Black Sea Tensions With NATO, Rejects Snap Drills
FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in Artificial Intelligence Journey 2021 conference
arranged by Sberbank in Moscow, Russia November 12, 2021. Sputnik/Sergey Guneev/Pool via REUTERS
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview broadcast on Sunday that he had rejected a defence ministry proposal to hold snap Black Sea military drills in response to NATO activity because he did not want to escalate tensions in the region.
    Russia has complained about what it has called a dangerous increase in military activity by the United States and its allies in the Black Sea region with greater Western spy plane activity, more strategic bombers flights, and the presence of two U.S. warships.
    Some of the activity has been taking place in the vicinity of Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014 and which Kyiv wants back.
    Tensions are also high over what U.S. officials have called a worrying Russian military build-up near Ukraine and a migrant standoff between Belarus, a close ally of Russia, and the European Union.
    In a state TV interview published on the Kremlin website due to be aired late on Sunday, Putin said he did not want to fuel tensions in the Black Sea area.
    “I should say that our Defence Ministry had a proposal to hold our own snap drills in those waters.     But I believe that would be pointless and that there is no need to further add to tensions there,” Putin said.
    “So the defence ministry is limiting itself to escorting (NATO) jets and ships,” Putin told the Rossiya-1 channel.
    The United States has said its warships are in the Black Sea to enhance collaboration with NATO allies in the region.
    “The United States and their NATO allies are really holding unplanned, I want to highlight it, unplanned drills in Black Sea waters,” Putin said.
    “…This is a serious challenge for us.”
(Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

11/14/2021 U.S., Poland Discuss Belarus Migrants, Russian Aggression – Blinken
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers remarks on modernizing American diplomacy during a speech from the
Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., October 27, 2021. REUTERS/Leah Millis/Pool
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Top U.S. and Polish diplomats condemned the treatment of migrants by the Belarusian government in a telephone call on Saturday, the State Department said, and expressed support for Ukraine against Russian military aggression.
    “Secretary (Antony) Blinken reaffirmed U.S. support for Poland in the face of the Lukashenko regime’s cynical exploitation of vulnerable migrants,” spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement Sunday.    “The actions by the Lukashenko regime threaten security, sow division, and aim to distract from Russia’s activities on the border with Ukraine.”
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

11/14/2021 Polish PM Calls For ‘Concrete Steps’ From NATO Amid Belarus Border Crisis by Joanna Plucinska and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk
FILE PHOTO: Polish soldiers and police watch migrants at the Poland/Belarus border near Kuznica, Poland, in this
photograph released by the Territorial Defence Forces, November 12, 2021. Irek Dorozanski/DWOT/Handout via REUTERS
    HAJNOWKA, Poland (Reuters) -NATO must take “concrete steps” to resolve the migrant crisis on the Belarus border, the Polish prime minister was quoted as saying on Sunday, adding that Poland, Lithuania and Latvia may ask for consultations under the alliance’s treaty.
    Thousands of migrants have travelled to Belarus in the hope of crossing into the European Union (EU), only to find themselves trapped on the border https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/polish-police-find-body-syrian-man-near-belarus-border-2021-11-13 in freezing conditions.
    The EU accuses Minsk of orchestrating the crisis to put pressure on the bloc over sanctions, but Belarus has repeatedly denied this.    Some countries https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/putin-says-nato-drills-black-sea-are-serious-challenge-moscow-2021-11-13 in the region have warned the stand-off could escalate into a military conflict.
    “It is not enough just for us to publicly express our concern – now we need concrete steps and the commitment of the entire alliance,” Mateusz Morawiecki told Polish state-run news agency PAP.
    Under Article 4 of the NATO treaty, any ally can request consultations whenever, in the opinion of any of them, their territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened.
    Russian President Vladimir Putin, a key backer of Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko, said that Russia was ready to help resolve the crisis, RIA news agency reported on Sunday, citing an interview on a state TV channel.
    Morawiecki told PAP that EU leaders would discuss further sanctions against Belarus, including completely closing the border.
    EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell was quoted as saying that the bloc will widen sanctions on Belarus on Monday to include airlines and travel agencies thought to be involved in transporting migrants.
    Morawiecki said that the EU should jointly finance a border wall.
    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau on Saturday and said Belarus’ actions threaten regional security and distract from Russian military activities on the Ukraine border, State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
    “Secretary Blinken reaffirmed U.S. support for Poland in the face of the Lukashenka regime’s cynical exploitation of vulnerable migrants,” Price said in a statement on Sunday.
BORDER TENSION
    Meanwhile, Polish forces described an increasingly tense situation on the frontier, with the Border Guard saying migrants were receiving instructions and equipment from Belarusian guards and it expected another “big attempt” to break through.
    “Huge logs of wood are being brought in, probably to lower the fence,” Border Guard spokeswoman Katarzyna Zdanowicz told private broadcaster TVN24.
    Belarusian blogging service NEXTA shared a video of what it said was a large column of migrants walking towards the frontier.
    Footage posted on Twitter by the Polish Interior Ministry showed what appeared to be a water cannon deployed at the border, as a recorded message warned migrants that force could be used against them if they did not follow orders.
    NGO Grupa Granica said in a statement it had received information about attempts by Belarus to force migrants to use violence against Polish officers.
    “Due to the risk of escalation of violence we want to remind all parties that migrants are not aggressors but hostages of Lukashenko’s regime,” it wrote.
    The Belarusian State Border Guard Committee spokesperson Anton Bychkovsky said the accusations were disinformation.    “It does not correspond with the reality,” he said.
    On Saturday, a group of about 50 migrants broke through defences on the border and entered Poland near the village of Starzyna, police said on Sunday. The Border Guard told PAP they were all caught.
($1 = 4.0476 zlotys)
(Reporting by Joanna Plucinska in Hajnowka, Alan Charlish and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk in Warsaw, Maria Tsvetkova in Moscow; Writing by Alan Charlish; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle, Alex Richardson and Daniel Wallis)

11/14/2021 Exit Polls Show No Clear Winner In Bulgarian National Election by Tsvetelia Tsolova
A person casts vote at a polling station, during parliamentary and presidential
elections, in Sofia, Bulgaria, November 14, 2021. REUTERS/Spasiyana Sergieva
    SOFIA (Reuters) - No clear winner emerged in Bulgaria’s parliamentary election, the third held this year, exit polls showed on Sunday, with the centre-right GERB party of former premier Boyko Borissov ahead in three surveys and a new centrist group leading in another.
    Alpha Research’s exit poll showed GERB narrowly leading the election with 24.8%, while Gallup International saw the new faction, We Continue The Change, coming first with 25.7%.
    The other exit polls showed GERB leading with about 23.5%-24.7% of the vote.
    The close poll results underscore deep political divisions after a decade of Borissov’s rule.    They coincide with a rise in coronavirus cases, high energy costs and anger at widespread corruption in Bulgaria, the European Union’s poorest member.
    In the presidential vote also held on Sunday, incumbent Rumen Radev, a harsh critic of Borissov, was seen winning around 49% support in the first-round vote, two exit polls showed.
    Even if official results confirm GERB as the largest party, with no obvious allies in parliament, its chances of forging a ruling coalition are slim, political observers say.
    The new faction may be better-positioned to forge a ruling coalition with the support of likely partners in two small anti-graft groupings and the Socialists, thereby ending a prolonged political impasse in the Balkan country.
    Inconclusive elections in April and July failed to produce a functioning government.
(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Nick Macfie and Barbara Lewis)

11/14/2021 Blinken Condemns Cuba For ‘Intimidation’ Ahead Of Planned Protests by Matt Spetalnick
FILE PHOTO: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken looks on during a news conference with Qatar's
Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani following a signing ceremony at the
State Department in Washington, DC on November 12 , 2021. Olivier Douliery/Pool via REUTERS
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned what he called “intimidation tactics” by the Cuban government ahead of Monday’s planned protest march in Cuba and vowed that the United States would pursue measures seeking “accountability” for the crackdown.
    Opposition groups have called the march to demand greater political freedoms and the release of jailed activists, following street protests in July, the largest in decades. Cuba’s communist government has banned the demonstration, saying it is part of a destabilization campaign by the United States.
    “We call on the Cuban government to respect Cubans’ rights, by allowing them to peacefully assemble … and by keeping Internet and telecommunication lines open,” Blinken said in a statement on Sunday.
    Blinken urged U.S. partners to echo Washington’s support for the demonstrators and pledged that the United States “will continue to pursue measures that both support the Cuban people and promote accountability for the Cuban regime’s repression.”
    President Joe Biden’s administration imposed targeted sanctions on Cuban officials and security forces following the July protests.
    Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, rolled back a historic rapprochement that his predecessor, Barack Obama, oversaw between the United States and its old Cold War foe.
    Biden, who served as Obama’s vice president, promised during the 2020 election campaign against Trump to re-engage with Cuba.
    But tensions have increased since the Cuban government’s harsh response to the summer protests that erupted amid a severe economic crisis and a surge in COVID-19 infections.    Thousands took to the streets, angry over shortages of basic goods, curbs on civil liberties and the handling of the pandemic.    Hundreds of protesters were arrested.
    Blinken said that in addition to banning Monday’s march, the Cuban government had “dismissed opposition supporters from their jobs and threatened dissenters with imprisonment.”    “We strongly condemn these intimidation tactics,” he said.
(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

11/14/2021 Hungary Will Not Leave EU, Wants To Reform It, PM Orban Says
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban gestures during the Fidesz party
congress in Budapest, Hungary, November 14, 2021. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
    BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary will not leave the European Union but will resist attempts from Brussels to erode its sovereignty, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told his Fidesz party on Sunday.
    Nationalist Orban, who faces a close parliamentary election next year for the first time in more than a decade, was re-elected chairman of Fidesz on Sunday.
    “After communist bureaucracy … we don’t want new dictates this time from Brussels,” Orban told cheering party delegates, adding Hungary would reject western liberalism.
    “We will not give up the right to defend our borders, to stop migrants … we insist that marriage in Hungary is between a man and a woman, a father is a man and a mother is a woman … and they should leave our children alone.”
    In power since 2010, 58-year-old Orban has cast himself as a defender of Hungary’s cultural identity against Muslim migration into Europe and a protector of Christian values against Western liberalism.
    That has won him domestic popularity, especially among core Fidesz voters, but brought criticism from rights groups and LGBT campaigners.
    Orban said the EU must be reformed and Hungary’s aim was to achieve change, not leave the bloc that it joined in 2004.
    “We don’t want to leave the EU at all, they can’t get rid of us so easily,” he said.    “We want to keep our sovereignty and we don’t want to find ourselves in a united states of Europe, instead of integration.”
    In the election, likely in April 2022, Orban will face a united front of opposition parties including the Socialists, liberals and the formerly far-right, now centre-right, Jobbik.
    The six-party alliance is led by Peter Marki-Zay, a 49-year-old Catholic conservative, father-of-seven and small-town mayor who seems to embody the traditional values Orban publicly champions and is seen as a tough challenger. nL8N2RI2T5
    In the past weeks Orban has made a number of spending pledges, including a $2 billion income-tax rebate for families, and stepped up his anti-immigration rhetoric.
(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Alex Richardson)
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11/14/2021 Cuba Withdraws Accreditation For Journalists From Spanish News Agency EFE
FILE PHOTO: A view of a street in downtown Havana, Cuba, November 9, 2019.
Picture taken on November 9, 2019. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini//File Photo
    MADRID (Reuters) - The Cuban government withdrew press credentials from five journalists from the Spanish news agency EFE but later reinstated two of them, EFE said, ahead of a banned protest march by opposition groups planned for Monday.
    An editor and a photographer were told by the Cuban government that their accreditations would be returned, EFE said on Sunday.
    Hours earlier, the Cuban authorities summoned three editors, a photographer and a television cameraperson to inform them of the decision to withdraw their press credentials, EFE said in a statement.    It noted that the action took place on the eve of Monday’s banned march https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/cuban-protest-leader-march-alone-white-rose-hand-ahead-rallies-2021-11-11.
    Juan Fernandez Trigo, Spain’s secretary of state for Latin America and the Caribbean, telephoned the head of the Cuban Embassy in Madrid on Sunday to demand that Havana return the press credentials to the three other EFE journalists.
    “At the same time, he rejected the accusation that EFE works for foreign powers and defended the work of the Spanish agency as an international reference for information, as was demonstrated by the repercussions caused by the withdrawal of the journalists’ accreditations,” a foreign ministry spokesman told Reuters.
    The Cuban government’s International Press Center did not reply to a request for comment.
    Gabriela Cañas, president of EFE, said the Cuban government’s decision to reinstate the accreditation of two journalists was “insufficient” and called on the government to also reinstate the credentials of the other three.     Cuba currently has no ambassador in Madrid.
    A spokesperson for EFE said the Cuban government had not given a reason for the withdrawal of the accreditations.
    The Cuban Embassy in Madrid did not respond to calls for comment when contacted by Reuters, although on a Sunday the embassy was closed.
    The accreditation of another EFE journalist was withdrawn a month ago, EFE said.
    Opposition groups called Monday’s march to demand greater political freedoms and the release of jailed activists.    The planned demonstration follows nationwide protests in July amid anger over economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic on the communist-ruled island.
    President Miguel Diaz-Canel’s government banned Monday’s march saying it is part of a destabilization https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/cuba-says-united-states-facebook-helping-foment-nov-15-protests-2021-11-10 campaign by the United States.
(Reporting by Graham Keeley in Barcelona, David Sherwood in HavanaEditing by Frances Kerry and Barbara Lewis)

11/15/2021 New Centrist Party Poised To Win Bulgaria’s Election, Partial Results Show
A person casts vote at a polling station, during parliamentary and presidential
elections, in Sofia, Bulgaria, November 14, 2021. REUTERS/Spasiyana Sergieva
    SOFIA (Reuters) – A new centrist political party is expected to win Bulgaria’s parliamentary election, increasing the chances of an end to a political stalemate in the European Union’s poorest member state, partial results from the vote showed on Monday.
    The anti-graft We Continue The Change party, launched by two former interim ministers two months ago, leads with 26% of the vote, with 42% of ballots counted from Sunday’s election, data from the central electoral commission showed.
    It was the Balkan country’s third election this year.
    The centre-right GERB party of long-serving premier Boyko Borissov is second with 21.4% of the vote.    His decade-long rule ended after an election in April amid public anger at widespread corruption.
    Political wrangling has prevented Borissov’s opponents from building a government, after both the April election and another one in July.
    Analysts said We Continue The Change is better positioned this time to seal a coalition with the support of two other anti-corruption groupings and the Socialists. But tough talks lie ahead.
    Bulgarians have grown tired of the political impasse amid a surge in energy prices and a jump in COVID-19 cases and deaths that overwhelmed hospitals.
(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Robert Birsel)

11/15/2021 EU Agrees New Sanctions On Belarus, Airlines Over Border Crisis by Sabine Siebold, Andrius Sytas and Gabriela Baczynska
Migrants gather around a fire in a makeshift camp on the Belarusian-Polish border in the Grodno region,
Belarus November 14, 2021. Picture taken November 14, 2021. Oksana Manchuk/BelTA/Handout via REUTERS
    BRUSSELS/WARSAW/MOSCOW (Reuters) – The European Union agreed on Monday to step up sanctions against Belarus, which denounced as “absurd” Western accusations that it was driving a migrant crisis that has left up to 4,000 people stranded in freezing forests on its border with Poland.
    EU foreign ministers want to increase pressure on Belarus, which they say is pushing migrants towards the bloc in revenge for earlier sanctions over a crackdown on protests last year against veteran leader Alexander Lukashenko’s contested re-election.
    Migrants – mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan – began appearing on Belarus’ land borders with the EU this year, trying to cross into member states Lithuania, Latvia and Poland via routes not used before.
    “This inhumane system of using refugees as tools to exert pressure on the European Union … has got worse over the last days,” said Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas.
    “We will toughen sanctions on individuals who are involved in this human trafficking, and we will have to talk about the fact that severe economic sanctions are inevitable.”
    Monday’s unanimous political agreement among EU countries must be worked out in detail before specific new sanctions come into force.
    Stranded on the Belarusian side of the border and increasingly desperate, migrants have tried to force makeshift fences in several places in recent days.    Poland has reported 5,100 irregular attempts to cross the border so far in November.
    Latvia said on Monday it had deployed 3,000 troops for a previously unannounced military exercise near the border.    It, Lithuania and Poland make up the eastern flank of the EU and NATO, the paramount Western military alliance.
    The top EU diplomat, Josep Borrell, said the new package of sanctions would target airlines and travel agencies involved in “this illegal push of migrants.”
    Middle East travel agencies working together with operators in Belarus provided tourist visas to thousands of people in recent months, a Reuters investigation revealed.
    EU executive said it was looking into whether other airlines should face sanctions after the bloc banned Belarus’ state-owned carrier Belavia from its skies and airports.    Germany’s Maas stressed Turkish Airlines had stayed away.
    The Belarusian foreign ministry dismissed as “absurd” accusations that Minsk had engineered the migrant crisis, according to Russian state news agency RIA.
    Lukashenko said Belarus was trying to convince migrants to go home.    “But nobody wants to go back,” he said, according to Belarus’ state news agency Belta. Minsk would retaliate against any new EU sanctions, he was quoted as saying.
    The EU has been stepping up sanctions on Belarus for months. Curbs already in place include blacklisting of Lukashenko, his son and 165 other Belarusian officials, as well as restrictions on trade in potash, an important export.
STRANDED MIGRANTS
    The EU called on Lukashenko’s most powerful ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin, to put pressure on Minsk to stop risking people’s lives in a geopolitical tug-of-war.
    “It is obvious what Lukashenko’s regime and its allies want – to test unity of the Western world,” said Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda.
    Vilnius says some migrants fly to Belarus via Moscow and wants the EU to “make the Minsk airport a no-fly-zone,” according to Lithuanian foreign minister.
    The Kremlin said it was ready to mediate between Belarus and the EU, that Putin would talk to Lukashenko, and that Moscow had no plans to reroute gas flows away from Belarus despite Minsk threatening to cut transit to Europe through the Yamal pipeline.
    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also dismissed as “wrong” a U.S. State Department statement that the Belarus border crisis was meant to distract attention from increased Russian military activity close to Ukraine.
    Peskov said Russia was already acting as an intermediary while the EU’s chief executive said coming days would be decisive.
    At least eight people have died along the 200 kilometre long land border between Poland and Belarus, including from cold and exhaustion. The sparsely populated area of lakes, swamps and forests is becoming even more hostile to people trying to keep warm around bonfires through the cold November nights.
    Polish border guards said on Monday several hundred people had gathered on the Belarusian side of a closed border crossing point in Kuznica and might try to get into Poland.
    Maas and Borrell urged Warsaw to allow humanitarian aid on the frontier, where Poland has deployed some 20,000 police, border guards and soldiers.
    Poland’s nationalist government also came under criticism from rights activists for seeking to cut off all the migrants without giving individuals a chance to claim asylum.
    Eastern EU states Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have warned of a risk of military conflict.    Their presidents and Poland’s Andrzej Duda said on Monday Lukashenko should be held accountable for human trafficking.
    Poland and Lithuania are considering requesting NATO consultations on the situation under the military alliances’ collective security provisions.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott, Sabine Siebold, Maria Kiselyova, Dmitry Antonov, Tom Balmforth, Olzhas Auyezov, Gabriela Baczynska, Alexander Ratz, Thomas Escritt, Pawel Florkiewicz and Andrius Sytas, Writing by Gabriela Baczynska, Editing by Catherine Evans)

11/15/2021 NATO Warns Russia Over Ukraine Military Build-Up by Sabine Siebold and Robin Emmott
FILE PHOTO: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a news conference following the talks with
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kiev, Ukraine October 31, 2019. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich/File Photo
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned Russia on Monday that the western military alliance was standing by Ukraine amid a large and unusual concentration of Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders.
    Stressing that the important thing now was to prevent situations from spiralling out of control, Stoltenberg urged Russia to be transparent about military activities, to reduce tensions and prevent an escalation.
    “We have to be clear-eyed, we need to be realistic about the challenges we face.    And what we see is a significant, large Russian military build-up,” Stoltenberg told a news conference with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Brussels.
    He said he did not want to speculate about Russia’s intentions but added: “We see an unusual concentration of troops, and we know that Russia has been willing to use these types of military capabilities before to conduct aggressive actions against Ukraine.”
    The Russian troop movements have over the past days spurred fears of a possible attack.    Moscow has dismissed such suggestions as inflammatory and complained https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/russia-is-not-threat-says-kremlin-after-media-report-about-possible-ukraine-2021-11-12 about increasing activity in the region by the NATO transatlantic alliance.
    Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and says the waters around it belong to Moscow now, despite most countries continuing to recognise the peninsula as Ukrainian.
    Russian-backed separatists took control of Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region that same year and soldiers on both sides continue to be regularly killed in the conflict there.
    The troop border build-up – which Ukraine last week estimated at 100,000 – was dangerous, said Stoltenberg, because it reduced the amount of warning time, should Russia decide to “conduct a military aggressive action against Ukraine.”
    “This is partly forces close to the border between Russia and Ukraine, but it is also partly troops and capabilities which are inside Ukraine, meaning they are in Crimea, which is illegally annexed, and also we see the militants, the separatists in Donbass, which is also part of Ukraine, supported and helped by Russia,” he said.
    A NATO source, asked to describe how Russia is going about deploying its military equipment towards Ukraine, said: “large equipment such as tanks, self-propelled artillery and infantry fighting vehicles is moved at night to avoid tell-tale pictures showing up on social media as they did during the Russian military build-up in spring.”
    “It can go either way,” Lithuania’s foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told reporters, also on Monday, on the margins of a meeting with his European Union counterparts.
    The West cannot exclude a Russian attack on Ukraine while international attention is focused on the Belarus migration crisis, or that Russia establishes a permanent military presence in Belarus, he said.
    “I would not exclude that as a possibility,” he said.
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold and Robin Emmott; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Alex Richardson, William Maclean)

11/15/2021 Armenian PM Accuses Azeri Forces Of Breaching Border, Sacks Defence Minister
FILE PHOTO: Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan attends a meeting of the Collective Security Council of the
Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in Dushanbe, Tajikistan September 16, 2021. REUTERS/Didor Sadulloev
    MOSCOW (Reuters) -Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan accused Azerbaijan’s troops on Monday of violating the border between the two countries and sacked his defence minister, the Interfax news agency reported.
    Another Russian news agency, RIA, quoted Armenia’s Security Council as saying the incident took place on Sunday but the Azeri troops had since left.
    Interfax quoted an Azeri foreign ministry spokesperson as saying Azeri forces were operating on the country’s own sovereign territory and accusing Armenia of “provocations.”
    The incident marked an escalation of tensions between the two former Soviet republics, which fought a 44-day war last year that killed at least 6,500 people and ended in a decisive victory for Azerbaijan.
    Pashinyan did not say on what scale the alleged incursion had taken place but told a security council meeting that he had dismissed minister Arshak Karapetyan over the incident.
    TASS news agency said Armenia had reported the episode to Russia and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a military alliance of post-Soviet states.
    Last year’s war over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh was ended by a Russian-brokered deal under which Moscow deployed 1,960 peacekeepers to the region for an initial five-year period.
    But the accord left many questions unresolved, including the legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Armenians who live there, who numbered up to 150,000 before the war.
(Reporting by Maria KiselyovaWriting by Olzhas Auyezov and Mark Trevelyan, Editing by William Maclean and Angus MacSwan)

11/15/2021 How Minsk Became A Mecca For Migrants Travelling As Tourists by Charlotte Bruneau, Joanna Plucinska and Yara Abi Nader
Belongings of migrants are pictured in the forest during the migrant crisis near the Belarusian-Polish
border in Hajnowka, Poland, October 28, 2021. Picture taken October 28, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo
    SULAIMANIYA, Iraq/HAJNOWKA, Poland (Reuters) – When Kamaran Mohammed travelled with his wife and three children to the Belarus capital Minsk last month from their home in northern Iraq, they went as tourists.
    They were among thousands of people provided with tourist visas in recent months with the help of travel agencies in the Middle East working in partnership with tour operators in Belarus, according to documents and witness accounts.
    A few days after arriving in Minsk, the family made its way to the Belarus-Poland border, joining a wave of Iraqis, Syrians, Afghans and others attempting the hazardous and sometimes deadly crossing into the European Union to start a new life.
    “The planes carry tourists that are not going for tourism,” said Mohammed, speaking on Thursday in his home in the northern Iraqi city of Sulaimaniya.
    “The Belarusian government knows very well that these people are not tourists, but that they are going to the Polish border.”
    Mohammed and his family made it to Poland, but only briefly.    They were deported back to Iraq on Oct. 31, a reminder that spending thousands of dollars and risking lives are no guarantee of settling in the EU.
    Reuters could not independently verify his account.
    The migrant crisis has stoked tensions between the West and Belarus’ ally Russia.    Moscow has sent nuclear-capable bombers to patrol Belarusian skies and nations bordering Belarus voiced alarm that the row could escalate into military confrontation.
    The European Union has accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of orchestrating the influx of migrants to pressure it to back down over sanctions slapped on his government.
    Poland and Lithuania have produced documents, seen by Reuters, that they say show at least one Belarusian state-owned travel company made it easy for would-be migrants to visit from May, while a state carrier more than doubled flights on a route popular with asylum seekers.
    Lukashenko denies facilitating the crisis, although he has said he would no longer hold back migrants due to the penalties imposed by the EU after a disputed presidential election last year and subsequent crackdown on protesters.
    Reuters spoke to more than 30 migrants or would-be migrants from the Middle East for this article in their homelands, on the Belarus-Poland border and in migrant centres in Poland.
    Around 20 specified what visas they travelled on and all said they were for tourism.    The documents released by Poland showed nearly 200 Iraqis received visa support from a state-run travel company in Belarus to visit for hunting and other trips.
    Migrants and travel agents in Iraq and Turkey described the relative ease with which they have obtained documents for passage to Belarus in recent months.
    Despite the cost – Iraqi migrants said they spent between around $1,250 and $4,000 reaching Minsk – thousands have made the journey, getting visas with the help of Belarusian firms and taking commercial flights that have become more frequent since the spring.
    The surge in migrants has been aided by a small industry of travel agents, companies, smugglers and drivers seeking to take a cut of the profits, according to those travelling to or at the frontier.
    Several migrants near the border told Reuters that Belarusian border guards helped them try to cross into Poland or turned a blind eye when they did so.    Two migrants separately said they handed them wire cutters.
    Belarusian authorities did not respond to requests for comment on accusations that they facilitated the migrant crisis.
    But Belarus’ foreign ministry said on Monday allegations that Minsk had engineered the crisis on its borders with the European Union were “absurd.”
    Russian news agency RIA cited the ministry as saying Belarus had tightened border controls and its state-owned airline Belavia has carried no illegal migrants.
SAFER ROUTE TO EUROPE
    Most migrants Reuters spoke to said they made the journey because they saw no future for themselves or their children, be it in Syria or Iraq.    A handful said they were trying to enter the EU to reunite with friends or relatives.
    They saw a chance to get to Europe via land – less risky than by sea, especially when travelling with young children.    As 2021 went on, they read on social media that visas were becoming readily available. Middlemen and agents offered their services.
    Hussein al-Asil is an Iraqi based in Ankara who provides travel services to would-be tourists and migrants.
    He said he arranged invitations for his clients from three Belarusian partners and processed passports sent from Iraq. Once returned, their owners could travel to Minsk via Turkey.    According to Asil, it was much harder for Iraqis to get visas for Belarus before this year.
    Asil said he charged $1,250 per person – which he claimed made him one of the cheapest travel agents.
    “The (Belarus) embassy of course knows that this person is not going for tourism,” he said.    “What kind of tourism would that be, to book a plane ticket for $800 and get a visa for $1,250?    They know that these people are coming to go to Europe.”
    Flights to Minsk became more frequent since the spring.
    Belavia, for example, flew 28 times from Istanbul to Minsk in February, 2021, and 31 times in March.     By July that had more than doubled to 65, according to Flightradar24 data.
    Turkish Airlines flights on the same route also jumped, to 64 in July and August from 32 in March and April.    In October, both airlines flew a combined 124 times to Minsk.
    The EU has moved to counter that.    Amid pressure from Brussels, Baghdad suspended flights from Iraq to Minsk this autumn.
    On Friday, Belavia and Turkish Airlines confirmed they would no longer take passengers from Yemen, Iraq or Syria to Minsk, except for diplomats.
    And on Saturday Cham Wings Airlines, a private Syrian carrier, told Reuters it had suspended flights to Minsk.
‘EVERY DAY FRIENDS LEAVE’
    Once migrants arrive in Minsk, most move quickly to the border. City residents said they had seen a large increase in people who appeared to be from the Middle East waiting in malls, sleeping on benches and buying provisions for their onward journey.
    Some migrants who made it to Poland said they were beaten by Belarusian border guards and chased back and forth across the frontiers.    They faced exhaustion, hunger, thirst and fear.
    Belarus authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment on their accusations.
    Umm Malak, a 26-year-old Iraqi woman weeks away from giving birth, told Reuters that she and her family were shunted between Poland and Belarus six times before she made it to a migrant centre in the Polish city of Bialystok.
    She said she, her husband and their three small daughters waded through chest-deep water and hid in cold forests.
    A Polish police spokesperson said police did not conduct activities such as taking migrants back to the border.    Neither the Polish Border Guard nor Belarusian authorities responded to requests for comment on her case.
    Umm Malak may consider herself lucky.
    Many migrants do not make it into the EU and are forced to try to get back to Minsk – sometimes having to pay a bribe to do so – or their homeland.    At least eight migrants have died trying to cross and fears are growing for the safety of others as harsh winter conditions set in.
    Despite the crackdown on flights from the Middle East to Minsk, Fabrice Leggeri, director of the EU border agency Frontex, warned on Friday that the bloc must be prepared for an increase in the number of migrants trying to enter.
    Numbers have already spiked. The Polish Border Guard said over 17,000 illegal attempts to cross the border were made in October, more than double the attempts in September, and thousands of migrants were camping out near Belarus’ border with Poland.
    Back in northern Iraq, in Said Sadiq, barber Warzer Ibrahim said dozens of people from his town had left Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region for Belarus in recent weeks.
    The 37-year-old father of two has decided to join them.
    “I have a child who is eight, she can’t write properly.    Why?    Because school is not good.    And I can see that the life of my children doesn’t look good,” he said.
    “I see the images every day, of people in the forest, but I am not afraid.    The hardship in Belarus is temporary.    A week, two weeks. But here, it is every day.”
    Iraq’s Kurdistan regional government told Reuters it was investigating local travel agents involved in the exodus, and blamed politicians and smugglers for exacerbating the crisis.
    Ibrahim said he had paid $1,600 for each of his family of four to get to Minsk.    Some would-be migrants said they had sold land and homes to pay for fares, hotels, smugglers and bribes.
    “Every day to see your good friend leave,” Ibrahim added.    “You know each other for 20 years and then they leave for Belarus and you don’t know what will happen to them.    That is hard.    But I still say go, and I am going because it is better than here.”
(Charlotte Bruneau reported from Suleimaniya and Joanna Plucinska and Yara Abi Nader reported from Hajnowka; Additional reporting by Ako Rasheed and Ali Sultan in Sulaimaniya, Alan Charlish in Warsaw, Abdallah Issam in Beirut, Can Sezer in Ankara, Natalia Zinets in Kyiv, Dmitry Antonov in Moscow and Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; Writing and Editing by Mike Collett-White)

11/15/2021 Hospitals In Slovak East Fill Up As COVID Wave Rages, New Law Tightens Rules
FILE PHOTO: Medical staff are seen as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination continues
at the University Hospital, in Nitra, Slovakia January 11, 2021. REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa
    PRAGUE (Reuters) – Hospitals in Slovakia, one of Europe’s least-vaccinated nations, have been filling up with coronavirus patients, with the northeastern region of Presov reporting almost no spare intensive care beds, authorities and hospitals said on Monday.
    President Zuzana Caputova has signed a law allowing the government to force unvaccinated people to test twice a week before attending work in the worst-affected regions and keep them out of restaurants and other services.    The country of 5.5 million was not planning a national lockdown, however.
    Neighbour Austria imposed a lockdown on unvaccinated people on Monday as winter approaches and infections rise across Europe.    Germany is considering tighter curbs and Britain expanding its booster program to younger adults.
    The Slovak Health Ministry said the Presov region had 96% of lung ventilator beds occupied and has had to send 35 seriously ill patients elsewhere over the past week.
    “Presov region hospitals report critical situation – only 2 beds with lung ventilation are free,” the ministry said in a statement.
    In neighbouring Kosice, the capital of the southeastern region, the main hospital said it was admitting 20-40 patients per day and had nearly 90% of beds full.    There were only few high-flow oxygen and lung ventilators left.
    “It really is serious – deciding who gets the instruments,” the Luis Pasteur University Hospital Director Jan Slavik said in a statement.
    The hospital said 80% of its patients were not vaccinated, and that it had only one fully vaccinated patient to date on lung ventilator.
    Slovakia has has reported more than 6,500 cases per day in the past week.    The country’s total death toll from the pandemic at 13,598.
    There were 2,637 people in hospitals with coronavirus on Monday, including 241 on lung ventilators.    That is still below the peak of 3,800 seen in March.
    Slovakia had 53.7% of adults vaccinated as of Monday according to data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), below the EU average of 76%.
(Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

11/15/2021 Balkans Democracy At Risk, Rifts Growing, Croatia Warns by Robin Emmott
Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman takes part in European Union foreign
ministers meeting, in Luxembourg, June 21, 2021. REUTERS/Johanna Geron/Pool
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Democracy is at risk in the Balkan countries seeking to join the European Union, with Bosnia a particular concern, Croatia’s foreign minister warned on Monday as the EU’s top diplomat promised to revive North Macedonia’s membership bid https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/status-balkan-hopefuls-eu-membership-bids-2021-09-28.
    A political crisis in Bosnia, sporadic violence between Kosovo and Serbia and political instability in Montenegro and North Macedonia – against a backdrop of a stalled EU enlargement process – risk eroding years of progress in the region.
    “The situation in the Western Balkans is getting worse, divisions are deepening … we also see the threat to democracy,” Foreign Minister Grlic Radman told reporters.
    He also warned against calls for separatism in Bosnia.    “Actions echoing the 1990s need to stop,” he added, referring to the ethnic conflicts of that decade following the break-up of Yugoslavia.
    According to a diplomatic note seen by Reuters, EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels were briefed on an “increasingly challenging” political situation in the Balkans.
    “The public support for EU integration is receding and exclusionary nationalistic rhetoric and identity politics are gaining momentum,” said the diplomatic note circulated among the EU’s 27 states.
    The EU’s strategy to bring Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania and North Macedonia into the EU needs new momentum, the note said, in recognition that 18 years of efforts to bring the countries into the bloc are paralysed.
    Bosnia is experiencing its gravest political crisis since the end of the war in the 1990s, reviving fears of a new conflict after Bosnian Serbs at the end of July blocked the work of the central government.
    Germany threatened https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/germany-condemns-irresponsible-bosnian-serb-talk-secession-2021-11-12 on Friday to cut financial support to Bosnia, labelling calls for parts of Bosnia to secede or for the Balkan state to be weakened “irresponsible and unacceptable” and naming Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik as a particular culprit.
    Under the U.S.-sponsored Dayton peace accords that ended the devastating 1992-1995 war, Bosnia was split into two autonomous regions – the Serb Republic and the Federation dominated by Croats and Muslim Bosniaks, linked by a weak central government.
    The country’s constitution is part of the peace deal.
    After North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev avoided a no-confidence vote last week, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Twitter that formal EU membership talks should start soon.    Bulgaria is against North Macedonia joining because of language and cultural reasons.
    “Our position remains unchanged: both North Macedonia and Albania have delivered and we look forward to holding the first Intergovernmental Conferences as soon as possible,” Borrell said, referring to the membership talks.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by William Maclean)

11/15/2021 Locals Helping Migrants On Poland-Belarus Border Fear Backlash by Joanna Plucinska
Migrants walk towards the Bruzgi-Kuznica Bialostocka border crossing in an attempt to cross the Belarusian-Polish
border in the Grodno Region, Belarus November 15, 2021. Leonid Scheglov/BelTA/Handout via REUTERS
    HAJNOWKA, Poland (Reuters) – Paulina Bownik says police removed her from a hospital in the Polish city of Bialystok last month when she tried to give a sick migrant papers to sign so he could seek asylum.
    She had heard the migrant would soon be taken back to the border with Belarus and wanted to help him begin the asylum process.    But police intervened and she says she now faces a court hearing for allegedly disturbing the peace.
    “From my understanding, helping is legal but they are trying to intimidate us,” Bownik, 37, a doctor who has been providing support to migrants at the border, told Reuters.
    Police in Bialystok did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment about her case.
    She’s one of over half a dozen locals, doctors and activists in the Poland-Belarus border region who said they felt authorities and hostile groups intimidated people helping migrants, threatening them with legal repercussions or violence.
    Tens of thousands of migrants from Middle Eastern countries have tried to cross into Poland from Belarus to reach the European Union.    Thousands have made it in recent months.
    The EU says Belarus is waging hybrid warfare, sending migrants to the border in retaliation for sanctions against President Alexander Lukashenko’s rule. https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/eu-step-up-sanctions-belarus-over-escalating-border-crisis-2021-11-15
    Polish charities say the situation on the border has created a humanitarian crisis as temperatures drop, and local groups say they face reprisals from the community and from authorities for helping the migrants.
    Border Aid (Medycy na Granicy), which includes medics and doctors volunteering to treat sick migrants near the border, said their ambulance’s tyres were deflated earlier this month and the windows of four of their cars were smashed recently.
    “If at any point there was a situation in which someone was threatened for providing help, that’s unacceptable,” Jakub Sieczko, one of the medics running the operation, told a news conference.
    They have suspended their activities on the advice of a security specialist, handing over to the Polish Centre for International Aid, an NGO.
THREATS FOR HELPING
    Many people living near the border said they had faced the threat of being charged as smugglers for providing food and shelter to migrants – activities which lawyers said are not illegal.
    One woman said she was threatened by a police officer with smuggling charges after she told him that she would allow migrants to sit in her car and would drive them to a doctor if temperatures continue to drop.
    “I told him that I’m ready to go to court so that the court can prove that I’m smuggling people instead of helping those whose health and life are at risk,” she told Reuters, asking to remain anonymous.
    A spokesperson for the regional police said warming a migrant in one’s car is not smuggling.
    Another activist living near the state of emergency zone – a 3km-wide strip of land along the border which is off-limits to journalists, charities and non-residents – said she was fined 300 zlotys ($75) by the border guard for driving soup and clothes to a group of migrants in the zone.
    While it is illegal for people who don’t live in the border zone to enter it, many locals living nearby told Reuters that they have been allowed to enter to work or visit family.
    The activist said she drives into the zone regularly and had never been fined until she was seen helping migrants.
    A regional police spokesperson told Reuters that they were not responsible for handing out such fines and the border guard handled such situations in the state of emergency zone.
    A border guard spokesperson said locals need to get permission to enter the zone and that will only be granted for the purpose of meeting someone who lives there permanently.
    The interior ministry referred queries to the police and border guard.
    Some residents of border towns said they understood the police and border guard were just doing their jobs.
    Kamil Syller, a lawyer and resident of Werstok, has however started displaying a green light at his house to show migrants that help is available.
    “It’s so we are all united, so we’re not afraid and we show each other that there’s room to help,” he said.
(Reporting by Joanna Plucinska, Leon Malherbe, Yara Abi Nader, Felix Hoske, Kuba Stezycki and Kacper Pempel; Editing by Giles Elgood)

11/15/2021 EU Seeks Commitment From Swiss To Resolve Differences In Relationship
European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic speaks to members of the media during a video
conference after a bilateral meeting with Switzerland's Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis at the
European Union headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, November 15, 2021. John Thys/Pool via REUTERS
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union urged Switzerland on Monday to set out a clear timetable for resolving issues over its place in the EU internal market by January after breaking off talks with its biggest trading partner in May.
    Brussels has been pushing for a decade for a treaty that would sit atop a patchwork of bilateral accords and have the Swiss routinely adopt changes to single market rules.    It would also have provided a more effective way to resolve disputes.
    Maros Sefcovic, the European commissioner overseeing EU-Swiss affairs, told a news conference on Monday that the EU’s door remained open, but that “it takes two to tango.”
    “What we now need from Switzerland is the unambiguous political will to engage with us on the real issues that count and a credible timetable.    In other words, any political dialogue must be focused and substantial,” he said after a meeting with Swiss Foreign Minister Ignacio Cassis.
    The European Union wants Switzerland to agree to dynamic alignment of its laws with EU law, a level-playing field, a mechanism to settle disputes and regular contributions to EU funds for poorer EU members.
    “We will meet again in Davos in the second half of January to assess the progress. By then, we will see whether a true political commitment is there,” Sefcovic said.
    One of the earlier impacts of the impasse has been on Swiss scientists’ participation in the Horizon Europe, the world’s largest research and innovation funding programmes with a budget of 95 billion euros ($108.7 billion).
    Sefcovic said Swiss researchers and institutions could continue to participate, but they would not be able to access EU taxpayers’ money until other issues are resolved.
    The Swiss government aims to deploy transitional measures to make up for the funding shortfalls.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Nick Macfie)

11/15/2021 Pressure On Dutch Hospitals Mounts As COVID Cases Break Records
FILE PHOTO: Members of the medical personnel wearing full protective suits are seen as they treat Maastricht UMC+ Hospital in Maastricht, Netherlands, November 10, 2020. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw
    AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Dutch hospitals are feeling the strain from a surge in COVID-19 patients but the worst has yet to come, the head of the country’s hospital association said on Monday.
    The number of COVID-19 patients in Dutch hospitals increased to around 2,000 on Monday, including almost 400 in intensive care, reaching the highest level since May.
    With almost 250 new admissions every day, the hospitals are set to pass last winter’s peak of around 2,800 coronavirus patients in little over a week, the LNAZ association’s head, Ernst Kuipers, told lawmakers.
    “We haven’t seen the peak yet, numbers will continue to rise,” Kuipers said.
    Hospitals throughout the country have been scaling back regular care for weeks in order to deal with urgent COVID-19 patients.
    Hospitals in the southern province of Limburg, one of the worst-hit regions, last week even said they had no space or staff to handle more coronavirus patients.
    The Netherlands returned to a partial lockdown https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/netherlands-impose-partial-lockdown-halt-covid-19-surge-media-2021-11-12 last Saturday after the government ordered restaurants and shops to close early and barred spectators from major sporting events in an effort to contain the rapid surge in cases.
    Over 100,000 new infections were registered in the week through Monday, the highest level for a single week since the start of the pandemic.
    In the past week, an average of around 14,500 new cases were confirmed every day in the country of 17.5 million, beating the previous record of just under 13,000 infections in a day set in December last year.
    Coronavirus cases are at record levels across Europe, with Germany reporting its highest level https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/german-coronavirus-infections-hit-new-high-tighter-measures-planned-2021-11-15 since the start of the pandemic on Monday, while Austria entered a lockdown for people not vaccinated https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/austria-enters-hard-to-enforce-covid-19-lockdown-unvaccinated-2021-11-15 against the coronavirus.
    Around 85% of the Dutch adult population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and the country will start to administer booster shots to health workers and the elderly at the end of this week.
(Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Nick Macfie)

11/15/2021 Latvia Begins Military Exercise Near Belarus Border Amid Migrant Crisis
FILE PHOTO: A Latvian border guard and an army serviceman walk past temporary barbed wire fencing along the
Latvian-Belarus border near Robeznieki, Latvia, September 28, 2021. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo
    (Reuters) – European Union member Latvia has deployed 3,000 troops for a previously unannounced military exercise near its border with Belarus this weekend amid an escalating migrant crisis along the Belarusian-Polish border.
    The EU planned to widen sanctions against Belarus over Western accusations, which on Monday it denounced as “absurd,” that it is orchestrating a crisis that has left up to 4,000 migrants stranded in freezing forests on its border with Poland.
    European leaders accuse Belarus of mounting “a hybrid attack” by flying in migrants from countries like Syria and Afghanistan and pushing them to cross illegally into EU member Poland.    Belarus has repeatedly denied the accusation.
    “We cannot exclude that part of these (migrant) groups will move further north and can reach the Latvian border.    We’re ready for it,” Latvian Defence Minister Artis Pabriks told the national broadcaster.
    The message to Belarus is that the Latvian army movements are “not just for fun,” he added.
    The military drill began on Saturday and is scheduled to last until Dec. 12, army spokeswoman Sandra Brale told the BNS news wire.    She did not reply to Reuters messages seeking further comment on Monday.
    Polish border guards have reported 5,100 attempted irregular crossings from Belarus so far in November, compared to 120 in all of 2020.    Comparative numbers also spiked in Latvia and Lithuania, the two Baltic states that border on Belarus.
    Poland and Lithuania have also reinforced their borders with military forces, and all three countries have secured sections of their frontier with Belarus with razor wire fencing.
(Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

11/15/2021 Belarus Must Be Held Accountable For Human Trafficking, Baltic States Say by Andrius Sytas
Migrants gather on the Belarusian-Polish border in an attempt to cross it at the Bruzgi-Kuznica
Bialostocka border crossing, Belarus November 15, 2021. Oksana Manchuk/BelTA/Handout via REUTERS
    VILNIUS (Reuters) - Belarus is forcing migrants to breach its borders with the European Union, and the government of President Alexander Lukashenko must be held accountable for human trafficking, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia said on Monday.
    “We … condemn the actions taken by the Lukashenko regime instrumentalising migrants for political purposes,” the presidents of the three Baltic states said in a joint statement after meeting Polish President Andrzej Duda via video link.
    The European Union has accused Lukashenko of orchestrating an influx of migrants to EU members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia to pressure the EU to back down over sanctions slapped on his government.    Belarus has repeatedly denied the accusation.
    “Thousands of people who flew into Belarus from Middle Eastern and African countries are being directed, in caravans, to storm the border of the European Union,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda told a news conference.
    “It is obvious what Lukashenko’s regime and its allies want – to test unity of the Western world,” he added.
    He said that “video recordings, pictures and other evidence” proved involvement of Belarus officials, as well as its close ally Russia in stirring up the crisis.
    “This is illustrated by the obvious increasing activity of migrants travelling via Moscow (to the EU border), compensating for the loss of flights from Iraq to Minsk,” Nauseda said.
    He did not give evidence to show routes via Moscow were being used.    Russia has repeatedly denied any role in the movement of migrants to Belarus and on to its western borders with the EU.
    European Union foreign ministers signed off on Monday on changes to the bloc’s sanctions framework, preparing the way for a new round of sanctions on Belarus as well as airlines and travel agencies moving the migrants.
    Estonian President Alar Karis, Latvian President Egils Levits and Nauseda urged the European Commission to change EU laws to tighten asylum options and pay for barriers to be built on the bloc’s external borders, such as those with Belarus.
    Lithuania and Latvia would join Poland if it decided to ask for emergency NATO consultation under Article 4 of the defence alliance’s governing treaty, the presidents of the two countries said.
    Under Article 4, any ally can request consultations whenever, in the opinion of any of them, their territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened.
    “The integration of Belarus into the Russian military system is now a done deal.    NATO needs to change its strategy and military plans accordingly,” Nauseda said.
    The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the suggestions migrants were flying through Moscow and that Belarus was being militarily integrated with Russia.
(Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius and Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow, editing by Terje Solsvik and Gwladys Fouche; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

11/15/2021 Austrian Govt. Forces Unvaccinated Into Lockdown, Police Monitoring Citizens’ Activities by OAN Newsroom
A lockdown for the people who are not vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus
starts today in Vienna, Austria, Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner)
    Austria’s government is forcing around 2 million unvaccinated residents into isolation.    Beginning Monday, anyone over the age of 12 was forced into at least 10 days of lockdown measures.
    Police will be performing spot checks on people who are out in public and have been ordered to fine those who are not out for pre-approved reasons such as work or shopping.
    Data shows around 65 percent of the country’s population are vaccinated, which Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said was “shamefully low.”    He called for the government to be given the ‘green light’ for sweeping restrictions.
    “Every citizen, every person living in Austria must be aware that they can be checked by the police at any time,” stated Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer.    “Among others, we will also control the 2G status and the reason for entering the public space.”
    Schallenberg is also pushing the booster shots, saying without them the country will “never get out of this vicious cycle.”    Meanwhile, protesters have taken to the streets in opposition to the vaccine mandate.

11/16/2021 With Cuban Dissidents Wary Or In Jail, Call For Fresh Protests Falls Flat by Marc Frank and Nelson Acosta
People take part in a protest to support Cuban dissidents and to demand human rights in Cuba,
at Puerta del Sol square in Madrid, Spain, November 15, 2021. REUTERS/Susana Vera
    HAVANA (Reuters) - A rallying cry for protests in Cuba in favor of greater civil rights fell flat on Monday as most Cuban dissidents stayed home in the face of government pressure, appearing to end a standoff on the same day the Caribbean island reopened its borders to tourists.
    Dissidents have for months called on social media for a “Civic March for Change” following street protests in July https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/street-protests-break-out-cuba-2021-07-11, the largest on the island in decades.    Hundreds remain in jail following those rallies, according to rights groups.
    Cuba’s communist government banned https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/ahead-planned-protests-cuban-government-dissidents-wage-battle-ideas-2021-11-10 Monday’s planned demonstrations, saying they were part of a destabilization campaign by the United States, which maintains a Cold War-era embargo on Cuba.    U.S. officials have denied that.
    Dissidents on social media called on supporters to launch protests at 3 p.m. (2000 GMT) in 10 cities across Cuba, from the capital Havana to Pinar del Rio and Guantanamo.
    More than three hours later, there was little sign of organized protests, though dissidents on social media shared videos of individuals or small groups who were quickly shouted down by pro-government supporters.
    In Havana, plain-clothed and uniformed police were visible at gathering points throughout the city.    Streets appeared quieter than normal as some parents kept their children home from school.
    “I decided to keep my 6-year-old home from his first day at school because I was worried that something might happen,” state worker Jennifer Puyol Vendesia said.
    Demonstrations planned on Sunday by a Facebook group called Archipielago, which has led the call for protests, also fizzled out https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/cuban-americans-rally-miami-support-dissidents-who-plan-protests-cuba-2021-11-14.
    The timing of the protests – the same day tourism and schools were reopening after pandemic restrictions – touched a nerve with the government, according to Cuban political analyst and former diplomat Carlos Alzugaray.    He said protest leaders miscalculated in the timing.
    “I think Archipelago chose the wrong day,” Alzugaray told Reuters.    “People are concerned about the reopening of the economy and the return to normalcy.”
    Officials at Havana’s international airport said they expected incoming flights to more than triple this week, from around 51 to 170, as tourists arrive to enjoy the island’s white sand beaches and warm waters.
    Cuba has vaccinated nearly its entire population against the coronavirus with its own domestically developed vaccines and says cases of COVID-19, as well as deaths, have fallen sharply, allowing it to re-open its borders to tourism, officials said.
‘PEOPLE ARE SCARED’
    Eunice Pulles, dressed in a white shirt on a Havana street to show her support for the dissident movement, said she thought most government opponents were too intimidated to answer the protest call.
    “There will be no protests because the people are scared that we will be repressed,” she said.
    State security and groups of pro-government supporters had staked out the homes of high-profile dissidents, according to rights groups and reports on social media.
    Government supporters on Sunday surrounded the home in Havana of Yunior Garcia, a playwright and Archipielago leader.    That prevented him from marching alone, as he had planned https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/cuban-protest-leader-march-alone-white-rose-hand-ahead-rallies-2021-11-11, to draw support for peaceful demonstrations.
    Neither Garcia nor his wife answered their phones on Monday, and fellow dissidents said on social media they had not heard from him by mid-afternoon, just prior to the start time of the protests.
    On Monday morning, Saily Gonzalez, another Archipielago leader, posted on Facebook a video that appeared to show government supporters gathering outside her Santa Clara home.
    In the video, the group, some dressed in red in support of the government, called her a traitor and warned her against marching.    Gonzalez yelled back, telling them she would march despite their threats.
    Several others posted videos of similar scenarios at their homes.
    The government has not commented on those incidents.    It says the protests violate Cuba’s 2019 constitution and has for weeks warned against participation in the protests.
    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday condemned “intimidation tactics” by Cuba’s government ahead of the planned march and vowed Washington would seek “accountability” for the crackdown.
    Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez responded on Twitter, telling the United States to stay out of Cuban affairs.
    On Monday, Rodriguez said in a televised statement the Cuban people had opted to sit out the protests, despite U.S. officials goading Cubans “to do something that they do not want to do.”
    “One can see on our streets… that none of that has occurred,” Rodriguez said.
(Reporting by Marc Frank and Nelson Acosta in Havana, editing by Dave Sherwood and Rosalba O’Brien)

11/16/2021 Poland Turns Water Cannon On Migrants, Crisis Stokes East-West Tension by Robin Emmott, Joanna Plucinska and Yara Abi Nader
Belarusian service members stand guard as migrants walk towards the transport and logistics centre Bruzgi on the
Belarusian-Polish border in the Grodno region, Belarus November 16, 2021. Maxim Guchek/BelTA/Handout via REUTERS
    BRUSSELS/WARSAW (Reuters) – Polish security forces fired water cannon at rock-throwing migrants on the border with Belarus on Tuesday, and NATO reiterated its support for Warsaw in a crisis that has left thousands stranded on the frontier in icy temperatures.
    Video footage released by Polish authorities showed migrants also throwing bottles and logs across a barbed-wire border fence, and using sticks to try to break through.
    Seven police were hurt in the violence, the latest in a crisis the European Union says is orchestrated by Belarus – an ally of Russia – in retaliation for EU sanctions imposed over a crackdown on political protests, a charge that Minsk denies.
    Up to 4,000 migrants, mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan, are now waiting in freezing forests on what is not only Poland’s frontier but is also the external border of the EU and NATO, the Western military alliance.
    “We are deeply concerned about the way the (Belarusian leader Alexander) Lukashenko regime is using vulnerable migrants as a hybrid tactic against other countries,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told alliance defence ministers meeting in Brussels.    “We stand in solidarity with Poland and all the allies affected.”
    Lithuania and Latvia, which like Poland are members of NATO and the EU, have also reported a sharp increase in attempts to cross from Belarus since summer.
    At least eight migrants have died at the border during the crisis.    One, a 19-year-old Syrian man, was buried on Tuesday in the northeastern Polish village of Bohoniki.
    A nine-year old Kurdish boy who has had both legs amputated was among those stuck between the lakes, swamps and forests at the frontier after Poland refused to let them in and Belarusian forces prevented them heading back.
‘ENORMOUS SUFFERING’
    “We can see enormous suffering of people who are left in limbo,” said Dunja Mijatovic, human rights commissioner for the Council of Europe, a European rights watchdog that is larger than the EU and also counts Russia among its members.
    After visiting a migrants’ aid centre in a Polish town nearby the border, she said: “We need to find a way to de-escalate, to make sure that the focus is on stopping the suffering.”
    Relations between Belarus and the EU worsened after a contested presidential election last year in which Lukashenko, who has held power since 1994, claimed victory.    That triggered mass street protests and, in turn, a police crackdown.
    The EU agreed on Monday to impose more sanctions on Belarus to target airlines, travel agencies and individuals involved in pushing migrants towards the border.
    The EU and NATO have asked Russia, Lukashenko’s most important ally, to make him end the crisis.    The West has also warned the Kremlin over what NATO says is a Russian military buildup on the border with neighbouring Ukraine.
    In Brussels, French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said Europe was keeping a close eye on both the Belarus-Polish border and Russia’s activity near Ukraine.
    “It is an unsupportable instrumentalisation (of migrants),” she said.
    Italian Defence Minister Lorenzo Guerini said the West was acting together to “firmly condemn the Belarusian regime.”
    Russian President Vladimir Putin and Lukashenko discussed the matter on Tuesday, Russian state news agency TASS quoted the Kremlin as saying.
    Belarusian state news agency BELTA said border guards had started moving migrants who gathered at a closed crossing point to a reception centre further away from the frontier.
    Moscow has dismissed a U.S. State Department comment that the crisis was meant to distract attention from Ukraine, from which Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. Russia has also backed separatists fighting government troops in eastern Ukraine.
(Additional reporting by Pawel Florkiewicz, Marko Djurica, Anita Kobylinska, Fedja Grulovic, Anna Koper, Matthias Williams, Polina Devitt, Writing by Gabriela Baczynska, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

11/16/2021 Russia Tells Armenia And Azerbaijan To De-Escalate After Deadly Border Clash
FILE PHOTO: Azeri service members take part in a procession marking the anniversary of the end
of the 2020 military conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh breakaway region, involving Azerbaijan's troops
against ethnic Armenian forces, in Baku, Azerbaijan, November 8, 2021. REUTERS/Aziz Karimov
    (Reuters) - Russia on Tuesday urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to step back from confrontation after a border clash in which Yerevan said 15 of its soldiers had been killed, 12 captured, and two combat positions had been lost.
    Armenia had earlier asked Russia to help defend it against Azerbaijan after the clash, the worst fighting since a 44-day war last year fought between ethnic Armenian forces and the Azeri army over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave which killed at least 6,500 people and ended in a victory for Azerbaijan.
    That conflict ended after Russia brokered a peace deal and deployed almost 2,000 peacekeepers to the region.    Turkey took the side of Azerbaijan, which took back swathes of land it had lost in an earlier conflict.
    Russian President Vladimir Putin and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan discussed the situation on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border in a phone call on Tuesday, the Kremlin said, without elaborating.
    Earlier, Russia Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu spoke by phone to his Armenian and Azeri counterparts and called on them to cease all hostilities, the Interfax news agency quoted the ministry as saying.
    The Armenian defence ministry, in a series of statements carried by Armenian and Russian news agencies, said its troops had come under fire from Azeri artillery, small arms and armour.
    It said 15 of its soldiers had been killed, 12 captured and that two combat positions near the border with Azerbaijan had been lost.
    “Since Azerbaijan has attacked Armenia’s sovereign territory we are asking Russia to defend Armenia’s territorial integrity based on an existing 1987 (mutual defence) agreement between our countries,” Interfax had quoted Armen Grigoryan, the secretary of Armenia’s Security Council, as saying.
    Russia has a military base in Armenia as well as the peacekeeping force in Nagorno-Karabakh.
    The Azeri defence ministry said it had launched a military operation to respond to what it called large-scale “provocations” from the Armenian side and in a statement blamed Armenia’s military-political leadership.
    It said Armenian forces had shelled Azeri army positions with artillery and mortar fire and that its own operation had been successful.
    “The Azerbaijan Army has operational and tactical superiority,” it said in the same statement, saying it had targeted Armenian troops and hardware along the border.
    “Armenian servicemen are leaving their positions in fear and panic.    Military equipment belonging to the opposing side has been destroyed,” it said.
    The French foreign ministry said it was very concerned about the deteriorating situation and called on both countries to respect a ceasefire.
(Reporting by Polina Devitt in Moscow and by Nailia Bagirova in Baku, Writing by Andrew Osborn, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

11/16/2021 EU To Aim For Rapid Deployment Force Without U.S. Help By 2025, Document Says by Robin Emmott
FILE PHOTO: Members of the EU-Battlegroup wait for Austrian Defence Minister Norbert Darabos as he visits their
barracks in Mautern about 60 kilometres (38miles) west of Vienna May 11, 2012. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union is considering a joint military force of up to 5,000 troops by 2025 to intervene in a range of crises and without relying on the United States, according to a draft plan.
    The “EU Rapid Deployment Capacity” should be made up of land, sea and air components that could be swapped in and out of any standing force, depending on the crisis, according to the confidential 28-page document dated Nov. 9 and seen by Reuters.
    EU foreign and defence ministers began debating the plan on Monday evening in Brussels and continued on Tuesday, aiming to settle on a final document by March next year.
    Italy and France, two of the EU’s military powers, welcomed the draft. The view of Germany’s incoming federal coalition government, expected soon, will prove critical.
    “The document combines a high level of ambition but also makes concrete and operational proposals.    It’s a good balance,” French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly told reporters. Her Italian counterpart, Lorenzo Guerini, said it would also be complementary to NATO and strengthen transatlantic ties.
    Two decades after EU leaders first agreed to set up a 50,000-60,000-strong force but failed to make it operational, the draft strategy by the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell is the most concrete effort to create a standalone military force that does not rely on U.S. assets.
    “We need more rapidity, robustness and flexibility to undertake the full range of military crisis management tasks,” said the draft, called the “Strategic Compass.”
    “We need to be able to respond to imminent threats or quickly react to a crisis situation, for example a rescue and evacuation mission or a stabilisation operation in a hostile environment,” the draft said.
JOINT MILITARY PROJECTS
    Not all 27 EU states would need to take part, although approval of any deployment would require consensus.
    The Strategic Compass is the closest thing the EU could have to a military doctrine and akin to U.S.-led NATO’s “Strategic Concept” that sets out alliance goals.    Crucially for the EU, Borrell wants EU states to commit to “providing associated assets and the necessary strategic enablers.”
    That means developing the logistics, long-range air transport and command and control capabilities of the United States that European allies in NATO have relied on.
    Borrell told reporters there were now 60 joint EU military projects for weapons and other capabilities under development, after 14 more were approved on Tuesday, including one called “Strategic Air Transport for Outsized Cargo
    The United States has urged Europeans to invest in deployable troops and U.S. President Joe Biden has said such moves would be complementary to NATO.    The EU has maintained battlegroups of 1,500 troops since 2007 but they have never been used, despite efforts to deploy them in Chad and Libya.
    Breaking up the battlegroups into smaller units could make them more flexible and more deployable.
    “The use of modules will give us greater flexibility to tailor our force to the nature of the crisis … This is key if we want to overcome the obstacles that we have faced in the past,” the draft strategic plan said.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott Editing by Alex Richardson and Mark Potter)

11/16/2021 Britain’s Defence Minister Visits Ukraine As Concern Over Russian Troop Movements Persists
FILE PHOTO: Britain's Defence Secretary Ben Wallace walks outside Downing
Street in London, Britain, February 3, 2021. REUTERS/John Sibley/File Photo
    KYIV (Reuters) - Britain’s defence minister Ben Wallace met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on a visit to Kyiv on Tuesday, a show of support at a time when Ukraine and NATO countries have expressed concern about Russian troop movements near Ukraine’s borders.
    Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government this week had voiced Britain’s “unwavering” support for Ukraine and said it would back Kyiv in the face of Russian hostility while opposing the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
    In a statement after their meeting, Zelenskiy welcomed a framework agreement to use British financing to enhance Ukraine’s naval capabilities, allowing Ukraine to buy missiles, build missile ships and a navy base on the Sea of Azov.
    “The United Kingdom has become our key partner in building the Ukrainian fleet,” Zelenskiy said, according to a statement on the presidential website.
    Ukraine and NATO countries have expressed concern about Russian troop movements near Ukraine’s borders.    Moscow in turn accused Ukraine, the United States and allies of destabilising behaviour, including in the Black Sea.
    Britain’s most senior military officer, General Nick Carter, said there was a greater risk of an accidental war breaking out between the West and Russia than at any time since the Cold War.
    Relations between Ukraine and Russia collapsed after Russia’s annexation of the Crimea peninsula in 2014 and the outbreak of conflict in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed forces in the same year.
    The West and Russia have also clashed over a migrant crisis unfolding on the European Union’s eastern borders with Belarus, a close Moscow ally.
(Reporting by Natalia Zinets and Valentyn Ogirenko; writing by Matthias Williams; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

11/16/2021 Putin, Pashinyan Discuss Situation On Armenia-Azerbaijan Border
FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government via a video link at the
Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia November 10, 2021. Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Kremlin via REUTERS.
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan discussed the situation on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border during a phone call on Tuesday, the Kremlin said in a statement, without elaborating.
    Armenia on Tuesday asked Russia to help defend it against Azerbaijan after a border clash in which it said 15 of its soldiers had been killed, 12 were captured, and two combat positions were lost.    Russia’s defence ministry called on the two countries to halt activity which provokes escalation between them.
(Reporting by Polina Devitt; editing by)

11/16/2021 Poland Turns Water Cannon On Rock-Throwing Migrants At Belarus Border by Pawel Florkiewicz and Joanna Plucinska
A still image, taken from a handout video released by the Polish Defence Ministry, shows Polish
law enforcement officers, who stand guard and use a water cannon on migrants at Kuznica - Bruzgi
checkpoint on the Polish-Belarusian border, Poland, November 16, 2021. MON/Handout via REUTERS
    WARSAW (Reuters) – Polish security forces turned water cannon on migrants who threw rocks across the Belarusian border, where thousands have gathered in a chaotic attempt to reach the European Union, video footage shared by authorities showed on Tuesday.
    The crisis has led the EU to prepare further sanctions against Belarus, which it accuses of attempting to destabilise the bloc by pushing migrants across the border illegally.
    Footage shared by a Polish government spokesperson and the Ministry of Defence showed a further escalation of the crisis at the border, where migrants have assembled in growing numbers on the Belarusian side in the last week.
    “Attention, attention, if you don’t follow orders, force will be used against you,” said a loudspeaker message directed at migrants throwing objects, according to the images that were shown on public broadcaster TVP.
    Migrants threw bottles and wooden logs at Polish soldiers, and used sticks to try to break through the fence, the video showed.
    The Interior Ministry said a policeman was seriously injured by an object thrown across the border and was in hospital with a suspected fractured skull.
    The Polish defence ministry said in a tweet that Belarusian authorities had given migrants sound grenades to throw at Polish soldiers and border guards.
    The EU says Belarus is encouraging migrants to cross the border in revenge for earlier sanctions over a crackdown on protests last year against President Alexander Lukashenko’s contested re-election.
    NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he was deeply concerned about how Belarus was putting the lives of vulnerable migrants at risk.
    Belarus, a close Russian ally, said assertions it had fuelled the border crisis were “absurd.”
    Lukashenko had a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday to discuss the crisis, Belarusian news agency BELTA reported.
    Polish authorities said they were informed about a phone call on Monday between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Lukashenko, when they discussed aid to migrants on the Poland-Belarus border.
PESSIMISTIC OUTCOMES
    Poland’s government spokesperson said the government was discussing whether to launch formal consultations on the crisis with NATO allies.
    “We are preparing for a pessimistic outcome – that this conflict could stretch out for months,” spokesperson Piotr Muller told a news conference.
    According to Polish authorities, more than 20,000 members of the police, border guard and army are reinforcing the border where migrants have gathered near the Polish town of Kuznica.
    An estimated 4,000 migrants are at the border and many say Belarusian authorities are not allowing them to return to Minsk.
    Poland’s ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said his country was facing a hybrid war.
    “We have a hybrid war, but an actual war, with arms, is not on our horizon. We are facing an unpredictable enemy,” Kaczynski told Polish public radio.
    Iraq meanwhile scheduled an evacuation flight from Minsk on Thursday.    So far about 150 to 200 Iraqis already in Minsk have registered to fly home.
    Other Iraqis at the border have struggled to register.    “We are working on this with the Belarusian authorities,” said Iraq’s consul for Russia and Belarus, Majid al-Kinani.
    “The number is fluctuating, because people are stuck on the Belarusian border with Poland or Lithuania and so far they have not been authorised to go back to Minsk by the Belarusian authorities,” the consul said.
    In Lithuania, authorities said they had detained 47 people who had tried to approach the border.
(Reporting by Joanna Plucinska and Pawel Florkiewicz in Warsaw, Andrius Sytas in Vilnius, Charlotte Bruneau in Baghdad; Editing by Catherine Evans and Giles Elgood)

11/16/2021 Zelenskiy Welcomes Financing Deal With Britain To Enhance Ukraine’s Naval Power
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy shakes hands with Britain's Defence Secretary Ben Wallace during
a meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine November 16, 2021. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS
    KYIV (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy welcomed a framework agreement on Tuesday to use British financing to enhance Ukraine’s naval capabilities.
    Hosting Britain’s defence minister Ben Wallace, Zelenskiy in a statement said they had discussed how to ensure safe navigation for ships in the Black Sea and Azov Sea, and Ukraine’s aspirations to join the NATO military alliance.
    Wallace visited in a show of support at a time when Ukraine and NATO countries have expressed concern about Russian troop movements near Ukraine’s borders.
(Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Writing Matthias Williams)

11/16/2021 Norway Urges Support For U.N. Fund To Aid Afghans by Victoria Klesty
FILE PHOTO: Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway Anniken Huitfeldt during the Foreign Ministers
statements at the Nordic Council Session 2021, in the Folketing Hall at Christiansborg,
in Copenhagen, Denmark. November 2, 2021. Mads Claus Rasmussen/ Ritzau Scanpix/via REUTERS
    OSLO (Reuters) – Norway on Tuesday urged other countries to contribute to a United Nations fund by providing cash directly to Afghans so they can survive the winter, its foreign minister told Reuters.
    With the Afghan economy “imploding,” the United Nations set up the fund last month to provide direct help for local households, bypassing the Taliban and drawing on donor funds frozen since it took power in August.
    Norway has pledged 200 million Norwegian crowns ($23 million) to the fund, which is managed by the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP).
    “We encourage other countries to do the same, to pitch in to avoid a pressing humanitarian crisis and a potential famine,” Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said in an interview ahead of a U.N. Security Council meeting on Wednesday.
    Norway was also funneling cash to aid women’s organisations in Afghanistan, she said, and Norway’s humanitarian aid to the country would total 325 million crowns this year.
    Norway will take over the U.N. Security Council presidency from January.
    “I hope the discussion in the Security Council tomorrow will contribute to give some attention to the situation in Afghanistan … to mobilise more funds,” Huitfeldt said.
    “(The fund’s) purpose is to build a bridge between a humanitarian effort and something more long-term, in order for people to support themselves,” she added.
(Reporting by Victoria Klesty; Editing by Giles Elgood)

11/16/2021 ‘Razor-Sharp Precision’: Russia Hails Anti-Satellite Weapons Test by Tom Balmforth
FILE PHOTO: The International Space Station (ISS) photographed by Expedition 56 crew members from
a Soyuz spacecraft after undocking, October 4, 2018. NASA/Roscosmos/Handout via REUTERS
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia said on Tuesday it had conducted a weapons test that targeted an old Russian satellite with “razor-sharp precision” and denied allegations by the United States, Britain and NATO that the test had been dangerous for orbiting spacecraft.
    U.S. officials said Monday’s test had generated a debris field in low-Earth orbit that endangered the International Space Station (ISS) and that would pose a hazard to space activities for years.
    NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the test was reckless, posed a threat to the ISS and an orbiting Chinese spacecraft, and showed Russia was developing new weapons systems.    A British government spokesperson condemned the test and urged Moscow to join discussions at the United Nations on “responsible behaviour when it comes to space.”
    Russia’s Defence Ministry said the debris from the test had not posed a threat to the ISS, and that Washington knew this.
    “We did indeed successfully test a promising system. It hit the old satellite with razor-sharp precision.    The fragments that formed pose no threat to space activity,” Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu was quoted as saying by the RIA news agency.
    The target was a non-operational spacecraft, Tselina-D, that had been in orbit since 1982, the ministry said in a statement.
    It said the United States, China and India had conducted similar tests in the past.
    Russia’s space agency said the ISS’s crew had temporarily to moved into their respective spacecraft.
    The Defence Ministry said Russia was forced to beef up its defence capabilities because of weapons tests by the United States and Washington establishing a space force in 2020.
    Moscow said it had sought an agreement to stop weapons being deployed in space for years, but that Washington and its allies had blocked the deal at the United Nations.
(Reporting by Polina Devitt in Moscow, Sabine Siebold and Robin Emmott in Brussels, Idrees Ali and Steve Gorman in Washington, and Kate Holton in London; writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Catherine Evans and Timothy Heritage)

11/16/2021 Swedish Finance Minister Given More Time To Try To Form New Government
FILE PHOTO: Sweden's Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson attends a news conference where her nomination to take over as the leader
of the Social Democrats has been announced, in Stockholm, Sweden, September 29, 2021. Jessica Gow/TT News Agency/via REUTERS
    STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Swedish Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson has been given more time to try to form a new government, and is hopeful of striking a deal with the Left Party to become the country’s first female prime minister.
    Andersson is negotiating with the Left Party over support in a potential confirmation vote. Parliament’s speaker said in a statement that Andersson now had until Nov. 22.
    “The conversations were constructive so in that sense it is worth asking for more time.    I think we can reach an agreement,” Andersson told a news conference.
    Andersson was elected by the Social Democrat party to replace former Prime Minister Stefan Lofven as its chairperson this month. Lofven handed in his resignation as prime minister last week. [L8N2S26V2]
    Lofven led a shaky, minority government with the Greens from 2014.
    It relied on support from parties on the left and right and Andersson will also need to find support from outside the current coalition to win a confirmation vote in parliament.
    While she does not need a majority in the 349-seat house to back her as prime minister, she must avoid a majority voting against her.
    She has secured the backing of the centre-right Centre Party but she also needs tacit support from the Left Party.
    If Andersson passes a confirmation vote, she faces a tough task to push through a budget later this month.
    On Tuesday, three opposition parties said they would back an alternative finance bill.    Without support for the government’s budget from the Left Party and the Centre Party, the opposition’s bill would be passed.
    The Centre Party – which was formerly part of a right-of-centre government – and the Left Party – the former communists – have very different policy priorities.
    Parliament will vote on the budget on Nov. 24.
(Reporting by Johan Ahlander and Simon Johnson; Editing by Helena Soderpalm, Alex Richardson and Jonathan Oatis)

11/16/2021 Croatia’s Eurosceptics Fail In Bid On Referendum To Block Euro
FILE PHOTO: Euro currency bills are pictured at the Croatian National Bank in
Zagreb, Croatia, May 21, 2019. Picture taken May 21, 2019. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic
    ZAGREB (Reuters) – Croatia’s right-wing eurosceptic Hrvatski Suverenisti party acknowledged on Tuesday it had failed in an initiative to force a referendum to block the planned adoption of the euro currency.
    The centre-right government of Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic aims to get a green light from the euro zone by June to adopt the euro from January 2023.    Adopting the common currency is popular in Croatia: according to an opinion poll released in July more than 60% of voters favour it.
    Marijan Pavlicek, a leading Hrvatski Suverenisti member, told a news conference the party, which gathered signatures last month in its bid to force a referendum, was 34,000 signatures short of the 370,000, or 10% of the electorate, required.
    “Still, this is a respectable figure and the government should not ignore it… Croatia is not ready for the euro yet.”
    The government says adopting the euro would remove currency risk, reduce interest rates, improve the country’s credit rating and open the way for more investment.
    The key challenge for the government and the central bank is to keep a lid on inflation and budgetary expenditures to satisfy nominal macroeconomic criteria for joining the euro zone. October annual inflation in Croatia was 3.8%.
    The eurosceptics say the economy is too weak and uncompetitive to adopt the euro, and doing so would cause price rises.
    The Fitch rating agency last week raised Croatia’s credit rating to ‘BBB’ with a positive outlook, saying it expects Croatia to be in a position to adopt the euro at the beginning of 2023.
(Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Peter Graff)

11/16/2021 Sanctions Possible For Those Undermining Bosnia Peace Deal - Blinken
FILE PHOTO: Antony J. Blinken, of New York, speaks during his confirmation hearing to be Secretary of State before the U.S. Senate Foreign
Relations Committee at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, U.S. January 19, 2021. Graeme Jennings/Pool via REUTERS
    SARAJEVO (Reuters) – The United States, which brokered Bosnia’s 1995 peace accord, may impose sanctions against those who try to unilaterally withdraw from its state institutions or destabilise the deal, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on Tuesday.
    Bosnia faces its gravest political crisis since the end of its 1992-95 war, reviving fears of a new conflict after Bosnian Serbs at the end of July blocked the work of the central government and their separatist leader     Milorad Dodik announced measures to dismantle key state institutions.
    “As a signing witness of the Dayton Peace Accords, the United States reiterates that moves to unilaterally withdraw from state-level institutions or otherwise destabilise the DPA will be met with appropriate action, including the consideration of sanctions,” Blinken said in a letter to members of Bosnia’s presidency, published by the portal istraga.ba.
    Under the Dayton peace accords, the former Yugoslav republic was split into two autonomous regions – the Serb Republic and the Federation dominated by Croats and Muslim Bosniaks, linked by a weak central government.
    The country’s constitution is part of the peace deal.
    Dodik, the Serb member of the tripartite inter-ethnic presidency, has repeatedly said that the Serb Republic will pull out of Bosnia’s armed forces, its top judiciary body and tax administration because these institutions were not enshrined in the Dayton constitution but were created through amendments.
    In his letter, Blinken said steps to undermine Bosnian institutions would imperil the Balkan country’s “European perspective” – an allusion to its hoped-for accession to the European Union – and its economic recovery and foreign investment.    He called on all parties to return to the table and reach a consensus needed to move the country forward.
    His letter was delivered to rival Bosnian ethnic leaders by visiting U.S. State Department Councillor Derek Chollet.
    “I called for de-escalation, dialogue and functioning institutions at all levels of government,” Chollet tweeted after meeting presidency members on Tuesday.    “It’s time for Bosnia-Herzegovina to turn to the future.”
(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

11/17/2021 Poland Turns Water Cannon On Migrants, Crisis Stokes East-West Tension by Robin Emmott, Joanna Plucinska and Yara Abi Nader
Belarusian service members stand guard as migrants walk towards the transport and logistics centre Bruzgi on the
Belarusian-Polish border in the Grodno region, Belarus November 16, 2021. Maxim Guchek/BelTA/Handout via REUTERS
    BRUSSELS/WARSAW (Reuters) – Polish security forces fired water cannon at rock-throwing migrants on the border with Belarus on Tuesday, and NATO reiterated its support for Warsaw in a crisis that has left thousands stranded on the frontier in icy temperatures.
    Video footage released by Polish authorities showed migrants also throwing bottles and logs across a barbed-wire border fence, and using sticks to try to break through.
    Seven police were hurt in the violence, the latest in a crisis the European Union says is orchestrated by Belarus – an ally of Russia – in retaliation for EU sanctions imposed over a crackdown on political protests, a charge that Minsk denies.
    Up to 4,000 migrants, mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan, are now waiting in freezing forests on what is not only Poland’s frontier but is also the external border of the EU and NATO, the Western military alliance.
    “We are deeply concerned about the way the (Belarusian leader Alexander) Lukashenko regime is using vulnerable migrants as a hybrid tactic against other countries,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told alliance defence ministers meeting in Brussels.    “We stand in solidarity with Poland and all the allies affected.”
    Lithuania and Latvia, which like Poland are members of NATO and the EU, have also reported a sharp increase in attempts to cross from Belarus since summer.
    At least eight migrants have died at the border during the crisis.    One, a 19-year-old Syrian man, was buried on Tuesday in the northeastern Polish village of Bohoniki.
    A nine-year old Kurdish boy who has had both legs amputated was among those stuck between the lakes, swamps and forests at the frontier after Poland refused to let them in and Belarusian forces prevented them heading back.
‘ENORMOUS SUFFERING’
    “We can see enormous suffering of people who are left in limbo,” said Dunja Mijatovic, human rights commissioner for the Council of Europe, a European rights watchdog that is larger than the EU and also counts Russia among its members.
    After visiting a migrants’ aid centre in a Polish town nearby the border, she said: “We need to find a way to de-escalate, to make sure that the focus is on stopping the suffering.”
    Relations between Belarus and the EU worsened after a contested presidential election last year in which Lukashenko, who has held power since 1994, claimed victory.    That triggered mass street protests and, in turn, a police crackdown.
    The EU agreed on Monday to impose more sanctions on Belarus to target airlines, travel agencies and individuals involved in pushing migrants towards the border.
    The EU and NATO have asked Russia, Lukashenko’s most important ally, to make him end the crisis.    The West has also warned the Kremlin over what NATO says is a Russian military buildup on the border with neighbouring Ukraine.
    In Brussels, French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said Europe was keeping a close eye on both the Belarus-Polish border and Russia’s activity near Ukraine.
    “It is an unsupportable instrumentalisation (of migrants),” she said.
    Italian Defence Minister Lorenzo Guerini said the West was acting together to “firmly condemn the Belarusian regime.”
    Russian President Vladimir Putin and Lukashenko discussed the matter on Tuesday, Russian state news agency TASS quoted the Kremlin as saying.
    Belarusian state news agency BELTA said border guards had started moving migrants who gathered at a closed crossing point to a reception centre further away from the frontier.
    Moscow has dismissed a U.S. State Department comment that the crisis was meant to distract attention from Ukraine, from which Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. Russia has also backed separatists fighting government troops in eastern Ukraine.
(Additional reporting by Pawel Florkiewicz, Marko Djurica, Anita Kobylinska, Fedja Grulovic, Anna Koper, Matthias Williams, Polina Devitt, Writing by Gabriela Baczynska, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

11/17/2021 Ukraine, Britain Say They Are Not Trying To Undermine Or Encircle Russia
Britain's Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Ukraine's Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov take part in a
welcoming ceremony in Kyiv, Ukraine November 16, 2021. Ukrainian Defence Ministry/Handout via REUTERS
    KYIV (Reuters) – The defence ministers of Ukraine and Britain on Wednesday said they were not trying to encircle or undermine Russia but were committed to Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
    Ukraine and NATO countries have expressed concern about Russian troop movements near Ukraine’s borders.    Moscow in turn accused Ukraine, the United States and allies of destabilising behaviour, including in the Black Sea.
    “Our governments have no desire to be adversarial, or seek in any way to strategically encircle or undermine the Russian Federation,” a joint statement said.    “We are concerned by Russia’s military build-up and activity around the borders of Ukraine.”
(Reporting by Natalia Zinest; writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Toby Chopra)

11/17/2021 Ukrainian President Says Ties To Turkey Making Army Stronger After Speaking To Erdogan
FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attend a joint news
conference following their meeting at the Mariyinsky Palace in Kiev, Ukraine February 3, 2020. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
    KYIV (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy spoke to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday and said bilateral ties had made their armies stronger.
    Ukraine has bought and deployed Turkish drones in the war against Russian-backed forces in its eastern Donbass region, angering Russia.    Russia’s subsequent troop movements on Ukraine’s borders have sparked concern in the West.
    Zelenskiy in a tweet said the partnership with Turkey was deepening.    “It’s already strengthening the armed forces of our countries.    The expected FTA will also contribute to economic growth.”
(Reporting by Matthias Williams; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

11/17/2021 Swiss Voters Set To Back Government’s COVID-19 Response Plan – Poll
A poster reading: "Discrimination against people? No to COVID restriction tightening" is seen
before Swiss voters decide about the federal government's pandemic response plan in a binding referendum,
near Oberwil-Lieli in Switzerland, November 16, 2021. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
    ZURICH (Reuters) – Swiss voters look set to support the government’s pandemic response plan in a binding referendum this month, a poll for broadcaster SRG showed on Wednesday.
    The gfs.bern survey found 61% backed a law passed in March that expanded financial aid to people hit by the COVID-19 crisis and laid the foundation for certificates the government requires to enter bars and restaurants and attend certain events.
    That was the same support as in a poll in October.
    The survey found 38% opposed and 1% were undecided before the Nov. 28 referendum under the Swiss system of direct democracy, slightly more opposition than measured in the previous poll, whose margin of error is 2.8 percentage points.
    In two other votes that day, the Swiss would support by a two-to-one margin a labour union-backed proposal to boost the nursing profession, the poll found.
    Voters were now set to reject a proposal to select federal judges by lottery from a pool of candidates proposed by experts.    The government opposes the idea, which aims to reduce political pressure on the judiciary.
(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)

11/17/2021 EU To Send Aid To Migrants At Belarus Border by Gabriela Baczynska, Andrius Sytas and Sabine Siebold
Migrants gather in a camp near Bruzgi - Kuznica checkpoint on the Belarusian-Polish border in
the Grodno region, Belarus November 17, 2021. Leonid Scheglov/BelTA/Handout via REUTERS
    WARSAW/BRUSSELS/VILNIUS (Reuters) -The EU said on Wednesday it will send 700,000 euros worth of food, blankets and other aid to migrants at the Belarus border, after criticism it had done too little to help thousands of people trapped in frozen woods by an east-west feud.
    In a sign of European urgency to resolve what it calls an artificial border crisis created by Minsk, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke by phone on Wednesday for the second time in three days to Belarus’s President Alexander Lukashenko.
    A day after Polish border guards used water cannon against migrants hurling stones, the situation at the frontier appeared to have grown calmer.    Polish and Belarusian border guards both said some 2,000 migrants were right at the border fence.
    The head of the EU executive, Ursula von der Leyen, announced the aid, while saying it was up to Lukashenko to halt a crisis that Europe believes he created deliberately.
    “We are ready to do more.    But the Belarusian regime must stop luring people and putting their lives at risk,” she said.
    The EU says Minsk has flown in thousands of migrants from the Middle East to push them to cross illegally into the bloc, in order to put pressure on Europe in retaliation for sanctions imposed against Belarus over human rights abuses.
    Belarus denies fomenting the crisis but says it cannot help end it unless Europe lifts sanctions it imposed since Lukashenko cracked down on opponents after a disputed election last year.
    Poland’s Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak told Polish public radio on Wednesday the crisis at the border was likely to last months: “We have to be prepared that this situation on the Belarusian border won’t settle swiftly,” he said.
    Several thousand people have been camped out in the woods as winter approaches, suffering from frost and exhaustion, and barred either from entering Poland or returning into Belarus.
    At least eight have died at the Polish border since the crisis started this summer.    Neighbouring Lithuania and Latvia have also experienced a sharp spike in attempted irregular crossings from Belarus.
EAST-WEST ROW
    The EU has called on Russia to make Lukashenko end the crisis. Moscow denies any direct role but has offered to mediate, while also demonstrating support for Lukashenko by staging military exercises jointly with Belarus near the border.
    Merkel’s phone calls with Lukashenko are an unusual sign of direct outreach to a leader Europe has shunned as illegitimate since last year’s election.    In statements following the calls, Merkel’s spokesperson Steffen Seibert referred to him as Mr Lukashenko, without referrence to his title as president.
    Merkel “stressed the need, with the support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organisation for Migration and the cooperation of the European Commission, to provide humanitarian aid and repatriation facilities to the affected people,” Siebert said of Wednesday’s call.
    The EU has blacklisted Lukashenko and dozens of Belarusian state officials and introduced economic sanctions on trade since the crackdown that followed last year’s election.    It is now expanding sanctions on travel agents and airlines involved in what it calls “human trafficking” behind the border crisis.
    The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) might also halt investments in Belarus, a source told Reuters. The bank currently has 914 million euros ($1.03 billion) in projects there.
EU IN A BIND
    The bloc has so far largely supported Poland’s nationalist government in taking a hard line at the border, fearing that allowing migrants to cross would encourage more to try.
    Police in Germany – a top destination for immigrants once they reach the EU – say they have registered 9,549 illegal entries from Belarus via Poland this year.    In figures that show how suddenly the issue emerged, they reported only 26 such cases between January and July, rising to 474 arrivals in August and 5,285 in October.
    Preventing uncontrolled immigration has been a central political issue for the bloc since 2015, when more than a million people arrived from the Middle East and Africa, triggering feuds between member countries over how to share responsibility for caring for them.
    The EU was caught off guard, its welfare and security systems were strained and the ensuing chaos triggered a surge in nationalist movements, also contributing to support for Britain’s exit from the bloc.
    The EU has since tightened external borders and paid to host migrants in countries such as Turkey, and stop them along migration routes in Libya and elsewhere, often in dire conditions. Rights groups decry the EU’s restrictive tactics as aggravating human suffering.
    “The European Union doesn’t have a good common migration policy, despite obvious need for one after the previous migration crises,” said Linas Kojala, director at the Eastern European Studies Centre think-tank in Vilnius.
    “Each time it needs to look for ways to extinguish fires.    And it lacks tools to use against regimes hostile towards it, including Belarus and Russia.”
(Additional reporting by Sabine Siebold, Pawel Florkiewicz, Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, Mark Trevelyan, Matthias Williams, Writing by Gabriela Baczynska)

11/17/2021 Germans, Austrians Line Up For Shots As COVID Cases Soar Across Europe by Emma Thomasson and Francois Murphy
FILE PHOTO: A police officer checks the vaccination status of a shopper at the entrance of a store after the
Austrian government imposed a lockdown on the roughly two million people who are not fully vaccinated against the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Vienna, Austria, November 16, 2021. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/File Photo
    BERLIN/VIENNA (Reuters) - Germans and Austrians are rushing to get vaccinated against the coronavirus as infections soar across Europe and governments impose restrictions on the unvaccinated, figures showed on Wednesday.     Germany and Austria have among the lowest rates of vaccination in western Europe and are now the epicentre of a new wave of the pandemic as winter grips the continent.
    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week said he was cautious about rising cases in Europe, warning of gathering “storm clouds” of infections.
    Britain has had much higher case loads than the rest of western Europe since the summer, but those rates are coming down just as they are rising in central and eastern Europe.
    The German health ministry said 436,000 people received a shot on Tuesday, including 300,000 boosters, the highest number in about three months. Queues have been forming at vaccination centres around the country.
    “It is a sign that many citizens have recognised the need,” government spokesperson Steffen Seibert said.    But he added that the vaccination rate was still not high enough.
    About 65% of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated and about 68% of Germany’s, well behind the Netherlands and countries like Italy and Spain that were much harder hit in the early waves of the pandemic.
    The Netherlands said it was running short of COVID-19 tests as it registered more than 20,000 new coronavirus cases for the second day in a row, the highest since the pandemic began.
    Sabine Dittmar, health expert for Germany’s Social Democrats, said she hoped 1.4 million people could be vaccinated a day if shots are administered at companies, by family doctors and by mobile vaccine teams, as well as at vaccination centres.
DEMANDING PROOF
    In Austria, the number of vaccines administered daily has jumped to about 73,000 in the last week, from around 20,000 in October, official data showed, although the vast majority of those were boosters rather than first shots.
    Austria has ordered a lockdown on the roughly two million people who are not fully vaccinated.    It has one of the highest infection rates on the continent, with a seven-day incidence of 925 per 100,000 people, compared with 320 in Germany.    Its total death toll from the pandemic stands at 11,848.
    Neighbouring Switzerland, which has not imposed restrictions on the unvaccinated, has had less success with a new vaccination drive – it only persuaded 35,000 to get their first shot in the last week.
    Parts of Germany – including the capital Berlin – are demanding proof of vaccination or recent recovery from COVID-19 for all indoor leisure activities, a restriction that could be extended nationally at a meeting of officials on Thursday.
    Germany also plans to force people using public transport or attending workplaces to provide a negative COVID-19 test, or proof of recovery or vaccination.
    Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday described Germany’s coronavirus situation as dramatic.
    Germany reported 52,826 new infections on Wednesday – a jump of a third compared with a week ago and another daily record, while 294 people died, bringing the total death toll to 98,274.
    “It is not too late to opt for a first vaccine shot,” Merkel told a congress of German city mayors.    “Everyone who gets vaccinated protects himself and others.    And if enough people get vaccinated that is the way out of the pandemic.”
    The Czech Republic will ban people who have not been vaccinated from access to public events and services from Monday, Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Wednesday, and negative tests will no longer be recognised.br>     The restrictions, to be approved by cabinet on Thursday, come after a spike in new infections to a record 22,479 on Tuesday.
    Slovakia reported a record number of cases on Wednesday, and Hungary and Poland had the highest numbers in more than six months.    Sweden plans to introduce COVID-19 vaccine passes at indoor events where more than 100 people attend.
(Additional reporting by Michael Shields in Vienna and Toby Sterling in Amsterdam;Writing by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Riham Alkousaa and Nick Macfie)

11/17/2021 Russia To Deploy New Paratroop Regiment On Annexed Crimea
FILE PHOTO: Armed servicemen wait in Russian army vehicles outside a Ukranian border guard
post in the Crimean town of Balaclava March 1, 2014. REUTERS/Baz Ratner/File Photo
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia said on Wednesday it would deploy a new paratroop regiment on annexed Crimea by the beginning of December and complained about a British deal to boost Ukraine’s navy which it said showed British military activities were expanding near its borders.
    Russia’s military said it would establish the new regiment on the peninsula Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, completing a reshuffle of forces touted by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in March, the Interfax news agency reported.
    At the same time, Moscow voiced its objections to a framework agreement under which Ukraine will use British financing to enhance its naval capabilities, allowing it to buy missiles and build missile ships and a navy base on the Sea of Azov.
    “We see this fact as the latest practical evidence of increasing British military activity in the states bordering Russia, in particular Ukraine,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a weekly briefing.
    Her comments added to a pattern of statements in recent weeks in which Russia has voiced increasingly vehement opposition to Western military support of any kind for Ukraine, let alone the possibility of it joining NATO.
    Ukraine and NATO countries have expressed concern about Russian troop movements near Ukraine’s borders, while Moscow in turn has accused Ukraine, the United States and their allies of destabilising behaviour, including in the Black Sea.
    Ukraine’s defence ministry said on Wednesday its armed forces had conducted drills near the borders of Crimea.
    Commenting on the British-Ukrainian deal, the defence ministers of the two countries said on Wednesday: “Our governments have no desire to be adversarial, or seek in any way to strategically encircle or undermine the Russian Federation.
    “We are concerned by Russia’s military build-up and activity around the borders of Ukraine.”
    Russia has responded to such concerns by denying that it is threatening anyone, criticising “alarmist” news reports and affirming its right to deploy its troops as it likes on its own territory.
(Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Natalia Zinets; editing by Mark Trevelyan)

11/17/2021 Russian, U.S. Security Chiefs Speak Ahead Of High-Level Talks – RIA
FILE PHOTO: Russia's Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev attends the Victory
Day Parade in Red Square in Moscow, Russia June 24, 2020. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Nikolay Patrushev, the secretary of the Russian Security Council, and the U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Wednesday agreed to work on improving mutual relations between the two countries, RIA state news agency reported.
    The Russian security council said the phone talks were constructive and became a part of preparations for future high-level contacts between Russia and the United States, RIA reported.
(Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Toby Chopra)
[THERES THAT JAKE SULLIVAN AGAIN WHO MAY SOON BE UNDER INVESTIGATION BY JOHN DURHAM OVER HIS PART OF THE FAKE HILLARY CLINTON RUSSIAN COLLUSION CRIME AND HERE HE IS DOING SOMETHING WITH IMPROVING RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA.].

11/17/2021 Ukraine Marines Hold Drill Near Russia-Annexed Crimea
A tank of the Ukrainian Armed Forces fires during military drills at a training ground near the border with Russian-annexed Crimea
in Kherson region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine
press service November 17, 2021. Press Service of General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS
    KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine’s armed forces have conducted drills near the borders of Russian-annexed Crimea, the defence ministry said in a statement on Wednesday, amid growing tensions on the country’s frontiers.
    The drills simulated Ukrainian marines, tanks and aircraft repelling an enemy attack, the defence ministry said.    It also released footage showing marines manoeuvring with large-calibre machine guns, grenade launchers, tanks and helicopters.
    Earlier this month Ukrainian border guards, police and the national guard also held drills on the border with Belarus aiming to protect the country from possible attempts by migrants to breach the frontier.
    Ukrainian authorities have said Russia has left military units near the Ukrainian border after exercises, with the number of troops in the area now totalling at least 90,000 and the forces holding a series of large-scale drills.
    U.S. officials said they were worried about the build-up of Russian military power near Ukraine and the migrant stand-off between Belarus, a close ally of Russia, and the European Union.
    But Russia has complained about what it has called a dangerous increase in military activity by the United States and its allies in the Black Sea region, with greater Western spy plane activity, more strategic bombers flights and the presence of two U.S. warships.
    Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula, was annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014.
    This spring, Moscow alarmed Kyiv and Western capitals by building up more than 100,000 of troops along the border with Ukraine, though it later ordered them back to base.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Alex Richardson)

11/17/2021 Ex-U.S. Marine Trevor Reed Says He Ends Hunger Strike In Russian Jail by Tom Balmforth
FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, who was detained in 2019 and accused of assaulting police officers, stands
inside a defendants' cage during a court hearing in Moscow, Russia July 30, 2020. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo
    MOSCOW (Reuters) - A former U.S. Marine serving a nine-year jail sentence in Russia has ended a hunger strike after nearly a week, lost a lot of weight and is ill, according to a message he sent his family.
    Trevor Reed, a university student from Texas, was convicted last year of endangering the lives of two policemen in Moscow while drunk on a visit in 2019. He denies the charges and the United States called his trial a “theatre of the absurd.”
    His family said last week he had begun a hunger strike in protest at his incarceration and alleged violations of his rights. The prison service denied he was refusing food or that his rights were being abused.
    In Nov. 15 comments shared by his family, Reed said he ended the strike on the morning of Nov. 9, having refused food and drunk only water since the evening of Nov. 3.
    “They (prison staff) were ALL aware of my hunger strike.    They asked me on video every day if I wanted food and I refused.    They did not weigh me or give me a medical inspection,” he said.
    In a statement to Reuters, the prison service in Mordovia region where Reed is in jail again denied he had stopped eating or that he had told them he had started a hunger strike.
    Reed said he had a cough, headache, congestion, mucus in his lungs and back pain, and that a doctor had given him vitamins.
    He said he was due to be moved from his cell to a punishment cell but did not say why.
    A family spokesman said: “Trevor’s new complaints about his health are alarming and it’s quite clear Russian authorities aren’t taking them seriously.    The Reeds continue to urge the (U.S.) Administration to make a deal to bring their son home.”
    Reed and Paul Whelan, an American jailed in Russia on spying charges he denied, have been touted as possible candidates for a prisoner swap.
(Reporting by Tom Balmforth, Editing by Peter Graff and Timothy Heritage)

11/18/2021 Russian, U.S. Security Chiefs Speak Ahead Of High-Level Talks - RIA
FILE PHOTO: Russia's Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev attends the Victory Day
Parade in Red Square in Moscow, Russia June 24, 2020. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
    MOSCOW (Reuters) -Nikolay Patrushev, the secretary of the Russian Security Council, and U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Wednesday agreed to work on improving mutual relations between the two countries, RIA state news agency reported.
    The Russian Security Council said the phone talks were constructive and became a part of preparations for future high-level contacts between Russia and the United States, RIA reported.
    In a brief statement, the White House National Security Council said Sullivan and Patrushev “discussed several issues in the bilateral agenda and regional and global matters of concern.    The talks were held in a frank and constructive manner.”
(Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Toby Chopra and Leslie Adler)
[I WONDER IF JAKE SULLIVAN IS TRYING TO GET PATRUSHEV TO CREATE ANOTHER FAKE RUSSIAN COLLUSION TO COVER HIS ASS WHEN JOHN DURHAM KNOCKS ON HIS DOOR WITH SUPOENAS.].

11/18/2021 Belarus Clears Migrant Camps At EU Border, But Crisis Not Yet Over by Kacper Pempel and Joanna Plucinska
FILE PHOTO: A view from a migrants' camp shows Polish law enforcement officers, who stand guard behind a fence on the
Belarusian-Polish border in the Grodno region, Belarus November 17, 2021. Maxim Guchek/BelTA/Handout via REUTERS
    BRUZGI, Belarus (Reuters) - Belarus authorities on Thursday cleared the main camps where migrants had huddled at the border with Poland, in a change of tack that could help calm a crisis that has spiralled in recent weeks into a major East-West confrontation.
    In another potential sign of the crisis easing, hundreds of Iraqis checked in at a Minsk airport to fly back to Iraq, the first repatriation flight since August.
    However, the European Commission and Germany rejected a Belarus proposal that EU countries take in 2,000 of the migrants currently on its territory, and the United States accused Minsk of making migrants “pawns in its efforts to be disruptive,” signalling tensions with the West were far from over.
    In any case, Belarus’ step to move the migrants to a giant warehouse where hundreds, including young children, could be seen resting on mattresses, meant they were no longer outdoors in freezing temperatures.
    One Iraqi, Zain Shad, said they were being moved further, to another holding centre.
    “We are moving to there because the weather’s pretty damn cold.    The people are all sick because of the rain yesterday and they are all freezing, and we’re now moving on to the camps,” he said.
    European countries have for months accused Belarus of engineering the crisis by flying in migrants from the Middle East and pushing them to attempt to illegally cross its borders into Poland and Lithuania.
    Minsk, backed by Moscow, rejects those accusations, but Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nauseda said the tough stance taken by the EU was paying off.
    “We are seeing the first results – the flights organised by the regime from the Middle East are being stopped, and migrants in Belarus are returning home,” he said after speaking with his Polish counterpart.
‘UNCONSCIONABLE’
    A spokesperson for the Polish border guard said the camps on the frontier in western Belarus were completely empty on Thursday, which a Belarusian press officer confirmed.
    The Polish spokesperson added a word of caution, saying “there were groups appearing in other places trying to cross the border.    We’ll see what happens in the next hours.”
    In recent weeks, migrants have tried, mostly at night, to cross the frontier, sometimes clashing with Polish troops.
    In a cruel illustration of the harsh conditions for those camped out, a couple, both injured, told the Polish Centre for International Aid, an NGO, on Thursday morning that their one-year-old child had died in the forest.    At least eight more people are believed to have died at the border in recent months.
    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States had the authority to add to sanctions, telling reporters during a visit to Nigeria: “It is profoundly unconscionable that Lukashenko and Belarus have sought to weaponize migration.”
    The camp clearances came during a week of intensified diplomacy. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke by telephone twice to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, normally shunned by European leaders.
    Belarus said Lukashenko had proposed a plan to Merkel to resolve the crisis, under which the EU would take in 2,000 people while Minsk would send home another 5,000.
    But German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer rejected the proposal and talked of misinformation.
    “If we took in refugees, if we bowed to the pressure and said ‘we are taking refugees into European countries’, then this would mean implementing the very basis of this perfidious strategy,” Seehofer said in Warsaw.
    A government source added that Germany had not agreed to any deal, stressing that this was a European problem.
‘DANGER’
    Shortly before the plan was announced, the European Commission had said there could be no negotiation with Belarus over the plight of the migrants.
    It declined to comment on the proposal, with a spokesperson saying: “This is an artificially created, state-orchestrated crisis and it is a responsibility of Lukashenko’s regime to stop it and to solve it.”
    French President Emmanuel Macron said Europe must keep up the pressure on Lukashenko, but also ensure that those who were not eligible to asylum were flown back home.
    Around 430 would-be migrants, mostly Iraqi Kurds, touched down in Erbil in Iraq’s autonomous northern Kurdistan region on Thursday on the first such flight since the summer.
    “I would have stayed till death, but my family were in danger,” said Mohsen Addi, a Yazidi from Sinjar in northwestern Iraq, who spent one month in the cold in Belarus.
    Belarusian state airline Belavia has meanwhile stoppedallowing citizens from Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Syriaand Yemen to board flights from Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent toMinsk, Belta reported.
    The EU has put diplomatic pressure on regional countries not to allow migrants to board flights for Belarus.
(Reporting by Kacper Pempel in Belarus, Pawel Florkiewicz, Alan Charlish, Anna Koper, Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk and Joanna Plucinska in Poland, Charlotte Bruneau in Iraq, Andrius Sytas in Lithuania, Matthias Williams in Ukraine, Vladimir Soldatkin and Tom Balmfort in Moscow; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Timothy Heritage, Peter Graff, Alex Richardson and Catherine Evans)

11/18/2021 Romania’s Liberals, Rival Leftists Pledge To Have New Cabinet By Nov. 25
FILE PHOTO: Romanian prime minister-designate Nicolae Ciuca delivers a press statement in
Bucharest, Romania, October 21, 2021. George Calin/Inquam Photos via REUTERS/File Photo
    BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Romania’s ruling Liberals and their former rivals, the leftist Social Democrats, will have a coalition government installed within a week, party leaders said on Thursday, even though they have yet to agree on key appointments.
    The European Union state has been in policy paralysis since a centrist coalition splintered in September after less than a year in power, threatening economic recovery during the deadliest COVID-19 wave since the start of the pandemic.
    Earlier this week, the two parties agreed to rotate prime ministers every six months until a 2024 general election.    But on Thursday they had yet to decide which party would go first.
    Earlier in the day, the Liberals decided to support interim defence minister and retired army general Nicolae Ciuca as their proposed prime minister instead of party leader Florin Citu, eliminating a stumbling block in the negotiations.
    The Social Democrats (PSD) repeatedly said they would not back a government led by Citu, whose cabinet failed a no-confidence vote in parliament on Oct. 5.
    Ciuca said the two parties and their junior partner ethnic Hungarian party UDMR will decide on Friday who gets the first rotation.    PSD leader Marcel Ciolacu said a new cabinet will be approved by Nov. 25.
    Ciolacu also said the party with the first prime minister cannot also hold the finance portfolio.    The number of ministries allotted to each party will be determined by parliament seats, which favours PSD, the biggest party in the legislature.
    But the parties, which were bitter foes in a 2020 general election, had yet to agree on key policy items including taxation, judicial reforms and the scope of wage, pension and child benefit hikes.
(Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

11/18/2021 Putin Says West Taking Russia’s ‘Red Lines’ Too Lightly by Tom Balmforth and Vladimir Soldatkin
FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a ceremony launching the Amur gas processing plant managed
by Gazprom company via video link outside Moscow, Russia June 9, 2021. Sputnik/Sergei Ilyin/Kremlin via REUTERS
    MOSCOW (Reuters) -President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that the West was taking Russia’s warnings not to cross its “red lines” too lightly and that Moscow needed serious security guarantees from the West.
    In a wide-ranging foreign policy speech, the Kremlin leader also described relations with the United States as “unsatisfactory” but said Russia remained open to dialogue with Washington.
    The Kremlin said in September that NATO would overstep a Russian red line if it expanded its military infrastructure in Ukraine, and Moscow has since accused Ukraine and NATO of destabilising behaviour, including in the Black Sea.
    In the televised speech, Putin complained that Western strategic bombers carrying “very serious weapons” were flying within 20 km (12.5 miles) of Russia’s borders.
    “We’re constantly voicing our concerns about this, talking about red lines, but we understand our partners – how shall I put it mildly – have a very superficial attitude to all our warnings and talk of red lines,” Putin said.
    NATO – with which Moscow severed ties last month – had destroyed all mechanisms for dialogue, Putin said.
    He told foreign ministry officials that Russia needed to seek long-term guarantees of its security from the West, though he said this would be difficult and did not spell out what form the assurances should take.
    Russia-West ties have been at post-Cold War lows for years, but the tone has sharpened in recent weeks as Ukraine and NATO countries have raised fears over Russian troop movements near Ukraine’s borders and tried to guess Moscow’s real intentions.
    But despite a growing list of disputes, the Kremlin has maintained high-level contacts with Washington and spoken repeatedly of a possible summit between Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden to follow up their initial meeting in Geneva in June, which Putin said had opened up room for an improvement in ties.
    Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan discussed cybersecurity, Ukraine and the migrant crisis on the Belarus border in a phone call on Wednesday, the Kremlin said.
    “This was all in the framework of preparation for … high-level contact,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Tom Balmforth and Darya Korsunskaya; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

11/18/2021 Monkey-Brain Study With Link To China’s Military Roils Top European University by Kirsty Needham and Stine Jacobsen
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Chinese gene firm BGI Group is seen at its building in Beijing,
China March 25, 2021. Picture taken March 25, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
    SYDNEY/COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - A Chinese professor at the University of Copenhagen conducted genetic research with the Chinese military without disclosing the connection, the university told Reuters, in the latest example of how China’s pursuit of military-civilian technology is tapping into Western academia in the strategically sensitive area of biotechnology.
    The professor, Guojie Zhang, is also employed by Shenzhen-based genomics giant BGI Group, which funds dozens of researchers at the university and has its European headquarters on the university’s campus.
    Zhang and a student he was supervising worked with a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) laboratory on research exposing monkeys to extreme altitude to study their brains and develop new drugs to prevent brain damage – a priority the PLA has identified for Chinese troops operating on high plateau http://eng.mod.gov.cn/news/2021-02/09/content_4878887.htm borders.
    Zhang co-published that paper https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6956719 with a PLA major general in January 2020.    At the time the study was published, the university was “not familiar with the fact that the paper also included authors from Chinese military research institutions,” Niels Kroer, head of its biology department, told Reuters in an email.
    Zhang confirmed that he did not inform the university of the link because the university didn’t require researchers to report co-authors on scientific papers to it, which the university confirmed.    BGI said the study with the PLA lab “was not carried out for military purposes” and brain research is a critical area for understanding human diseases. China’s government science academy said http://www.kiz.ac.cn/gre/gre7/gre73/201912/t20191223_5467586.html the study had national defence and civilian benefits on the Tibetan plateau.
    Concerns about China’s fusion of military and civilian technology, and about universities transferring sensitive technology to China that could help its military, have grown in the United States in recent years.    Washington agreed https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/09/29/u-s-eu-trade-and-technology-council-inaugural-joint-statement last month to work with the European Union on the issue under a new joint technology and trade council.    A U.S. Department of Defense report on China’s military power this month flagged concern over Beijing using biotechnology to enhance its soldiers’ performance.
    The Danish incident, reported here for the first time, shows how China’s pursuit of biotechnology with a military use has also become an issue for universities in Europe.
    The European Commission says it is developing guidelines on “tackling foreign interference” at higher education institutions; a 2020 report https://leidenasiacentre.nl/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Towards-Sustainable-Europe-China-Collaboration-in-Higher-Education-and-Research.pdf from the Leiden Asia Centre, an independent group affiliated with Leiden University in the Netherlands, found at least five countries in Europe had concerns about the risks of research collaboration with China.    Some universities, including Copenhagen, have long had close science ties to China.
    Copenhagen university and two large Danish foundations who funded some of Zhang’s work said they discovered China’s military was involved only after one of the foundations saw it had been credited, incorrectly, with financing the monkey study.    The work was funded by the Chinese government and military, the paper said.
    The discovery came as Denmark’s intelligence agency, PET, warned https://ufm.dk/en/publications/2021/files/er-din-forskning-i-fare-en.pdf Danish universities in May of the national security risks of being unwittingly involved in foreign military research, citing “a number of espionage activities and other foreign interference,” and a student who co-authored research into 5G technology with an engineer from a Chinese military university.    It declined to comment on specific cases.
    The Chinese Academy of Science, where Zhang also has a genetics lab, said http://www.kiz.ac.cn/gre/gre7/gre73/201912/t20191223_5467586.html of the study at the time that brain damage and death caused by high altitude on the Tibetan plateau had severely hindered “national defence construction.”
    Denmark’s Ministry of Higher Education and Science declined to comment on the altitude study, but said export control rules apply to some technology that can be used for both civilian and military purposes.    The Danish Business Authority said most types of gene technology are not on its export control list.
    The ministry said it had launched a broad review of the risks of international research cooperation, led by top university heads, to conclude at the start of next year.
    The University of Copenhagen expects the review of “ethical and security policy limits” for collaboration will result in new rules for universities – and greater focus on the risks, its deputy director for research and innovation Kim Brinckmann told Reuters in an email.
    “We are very proud to have Prof. Zhang … as one of our very highly performing researchers,” he said.    The university did not respond to a question about how much funding BGI provides it.
    China’s foreign ministry said it urged Danish institutions to “abandon ideological prejudice and end groundless accusations and smears,” and treat their research cooperation rationally “to accrue positive energy in the development of bilateral relations and practical cooperation.”
ALTITUDE
    Zhang and the head of the PLA laboratory for high-altitude research, Major General Yuqi Gao, designed the study, which also lists BGI founders Wang Jian and Yang Huanming as co-authors. BGI’s other joint research with Gao has involved soldiers in Tibet and Xinjiang, Reuters reported in January.     That report was cited by two U.S. senators who called in September for BGI to be sanctioned by the United States as a military-linked company.    Gao’s research has directly improved the ability of China’s rapid-advance plateau troops to carry out training and combat missions, according to the Chinese military’s official news service http://www.81.cn/zghjy/2015-12/11/content_6811003.htm.     China’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences launched a four-year plan in 2012 for troops to acclimatise and adapt to the low-oxygen Tibetan plateau.    That plan said BGI was working with Gao’s lab to test soldiers arriving in Tibet and identify genes linked to altitude sickness, which does not affect Tibetans.     It said preventing altitude sickness helped to “manage border areas where ethnic minorities gather,” and had far-reaching economic and political significance.     BGI told Reuters the research with the military university aimed to understand the health risk for all people travelling to and working at high altitude.
    “The project using BGI’s technology studied the changes of the pathophysiology and genomics of the human body at very high altitudes,” a BGI spokesman said.    “In China, many military institutions … carry out both civilian and military research,” he added.
    Gao wrote https://mmrjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40779-018-0150-0#author-information in 2018 that high altitude disease “is the main reason for reduced combat effectiveness and health damage of soldiers at high altitudes and influences the results of war on the highland plateau,” and noted that drugs could be used in an emergency for the rapid deployment of soldiers.
    China’s military has recently increased http://www.mod.gov.cn/v/2021-11/01/content_4898183.htm live fire drills in Tibet after border clashes with India.
DEEP TIES
    The University of Copenhagen has one of Europe’s oldest genetics institutes, and it is BGI’s biggest international research partner by count of science papers.
    The ties run deep.    Two former BGI chief executives, BGI’s chairman, and the founder of its animal cloning programme previously studied or worked at Copenhagen.    The university hosts more than two dozen BGI-funded researchers undertaking science and health doctorates.
    Biology head Kroer told Reuters the university had been unaware of “claims that BGI has connections with the PLA.”    The university said that other than Zhang’s salary as a professor, no Danish money was spent on the study, which animal rights activists have argued https://actionforprimates.org/public/afp_take_action_2020.php subjected the animals to suffering and distress.
    The student Zhang worked with was in China and employed by BGI, the university said. Zhang’s research team was not involved in the animal experiments performed in China, but did analyse the genomic data generated from the experiments, it added.
    The Lundbeck Foundation, which primarily funds brain research and was incorrectly listed as a funder of the monkey brain study, “has not supported this area of his research, nor do we have any knowledge about it,” a spokesman said of the monkey brain project.    Lundbeck said Zhang had told them he was studying ants and genetics https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2P3WGVZgJs and how this could explain brain processes in humans.
    The foundation said it asked Zhang this year to remove its name from the study.    The Carlsberg Foundation, which controls the world’s third-largest brewer and said it gave Zhang a DKK 4 million ($623,000) fellowship in 2016, also told Reuters it had been incorrectly listed as funding the project.
    The paper was published in a Chinese journal, Zoological Research, which declined to comment.
    Zhang is on the journal’s editorial board.    He told Reuters the two Danish foundations were mentioned in the paper by mistake.    “We did not spend any funding from the grants I received from these two foundations on this project,” he added in an email.    The journal published a correction removing the foundations’ names in March 2021.
    Lundbeck declined to comment on what impact the discovery might have; Carlsberg has said animal experiments conducted overseas must comply with Danish regulations, but did not comment on the military involvement.
INTERNAL DEBATE
    In June 2020, the University of Copenhagen decided to close a think tank it had run with Shanghai’s Fudan University since 2013, saying it had adjusted its overall cooperation strategy.
    The decision prompted a debate about China inside the university, documents obtained by Reuters under freedom of information rules show.    The university held a meeting in August 2020 to discuss the closure of Fudan and review its collaboration with China.
    “China has engaged in a strategic civil-military fusion of research that often blurs the lines to the outsider,” China Studies professor Jorgen Delman said in a note to the university’s head afterwards, recommending better screening of Chinese researchers and consultations with Danish military intelligence to advise on “risks and no-go areas.”    He declined to comment further.
    Genetic cloning technology was transferred to BGI after a researcher, Yutao Du, received her doctorate in 2007 with a team from Danish universities that created the world’s first pigs using a technique called handmade cloning.    She was praised by the Chinese government for bringing the technology to China, which went on to clone genetically modified pigs for the study of human neurological illnesses.
    China’s national science programme said cloned pigs were a stepping stone to chimeras, a controversial area where China wanted to lead the world.    Chimeras are organisms composed of cells from two or more species that may be capable of growing organs for human transplantation.
    Du is now vice president at BGI Genomics Ltd, and won promotion within the Chinese Communist Party, becoming a delegate to its national congress in 2017.    She did not respond to a request for comment.
(Kirsty Needham reported from Sydney, Stine Jacobsen from Copenhagen; Edited by Sara Ledwith)

11/18/2021 Czech Republic And Slovakia Tighten COVID-19 Curbs For Unvaccinated by Jan Lopatka and Jason Hovet
FILE PHOTO: A clock showing the time at noon is pictured on a building, next to almost empty streets at Old Town Square
during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Prague, Czech Republic, March 31, 2020. REUTERS/David W Cerny
    PRAGUE (Reuters) – The Czech Republic and Slovakia tightened restrictions on people who have not had COVID-19 shots on Wednesday to try to encourage more to get vaccinated and ease the burden on hospitals.
    The measures echo steps taken against unvaccinated people in Austria and parts of Germany as Europe faces rising infections.
    The Czech government approved plans to allow only those who are vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months to enter restaurants, attend certain events and use various other services from Monday.     Slovakia took a similar step, in what Prime Minister Eduard Heger called a “lockdown for the unvaccinated
    The Czech Republic, a country of 10.7 million, reported a record 22,511 cases for one day on Tuesday and hospitals have been filling up although the number of patients – at about 4,500 – is about half the peak seen in March.
    Both governments will also require testing for COVID-19 at workplaces.
    “The main goal of these measures is motivation for vaccinations,” Czech Health Minister Adam Vojtech said.
    With 58% of the population inoculated, the Czech vaccination rate is below the European Union average.    Slovakia has the EU’s third-lowest rate, with 45% of the population inoculated, and many Slovak hospitals have filled up, especially in the east.
    Bianka Krejciova, a spokesperson for Svet Zdravia, which runs 13 hospitals, said the situation in hospitals in eastern Slovakia was worse than in the previous wave of infections.
    Many hospitals in both countries have reduced non-urgent care, and the Czech army has sent personnel to help.
    About 10,000 protesters opposed the planned restrictions in the Czech capital Prague on Wednesday and some vaccination centres have faced verbal attacks.
    “We fear that from Monday, when stricter restrictions come into place, it will get worse,” said a spokeswoman for the St Anna University Hospital in Brno, the second biggest Czech city.
(Reporting by Jan Lopatka and Jason Hovet; Writing by Jason Hovet; Editing by Hugh Lawson, Bernadette Baum and Timothy Heritage)

11/18/2021 Unnamed Migrant Buried Near Belarus Border By Polish Tatars
Members of the local Tatar Muslim community attend a funeral of the unnamed African migrant,
a victim of a migrant crisis on the country's border with Belarus, in the village of Bohoniki
near Sokolka, Poland, November 18, 2021. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
    BOHONIKI, Poland (Reuters) – In a grave decorated with branches and surrounded by stones, an unnamed migrant was laid to rest in a Muslim cemetery in north east Poland on Thursday, a recent victim of a migrant crisis on the country’s border with Belarus but not the last.
    The funeral in the village of Bohoniki of a man thought to have travelled from Africa was the second such ceremony organised this week by the local Tatar Muslim community.
    On Monday they buried a 19-year-old Syrian, drowned in a river last month while trying to cross to the European Union from Belarus.
    “It is hard,” said Maciej Szczesnowicz, a leader of the local Tatar Muslim community.    “It pains me that people went to another country… and met such a fate in here Poland.”
    The European Union says Minsk flew in thousands of migrants from transit hubs in the Middle East and pushed them to cross illegally into the bloc in order to put pressure on Europe in retaliation for sanctions imposed against Belarus over human rights abuses.    Belarus denies this.
    While Polish authorities had been unable to establish the identity of the man, Szczesnowicz said he had been with a group of Muslim migrants and that a post-mortem had shown he was around 30 years old.
    The man’s grave was marked with a plaque bearing the letters NN for an anonymous person and giving the date of death as Oct. 22.
    Szczesnowicz said another migrant funeral was planned for Friday.    “There will either be one coffin or two, we will see,” he said.
    A small ethnic and religious minority in overwhelmingly homogenous and Catholic modern Poland, the Tatars descend from warriors who were rewarded with land by Polish kings for protecting the country’s eastern border centuries ago.
    The community has been delivering clothes and food to both migrants and Polish troops on the border.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish, Marko Djurica and Fejda Grulovic; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

11/19/2021 Austrian Media Report Full COVID-19 Lockdown Coming As Decision Looms
FILE PHOTO: Austrian Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein attends a session of the
parliament in Vienna, Austria November 17, 2021. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
    VIENNA (Reuters) – Some Austrian media reported on Friday that a full COVID-19 lockdown would be introduced nationally as of Monday, ahead of a government announcement due later in the day on whether it would take that step amid record infection levels.
    Roughly 66% of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in western Europe. Its infections are among the highest on the continent, with a seven-day incidence of 971.5 per 100,000 people, and daily cases keep setting records.
    Austria’s two worst-hit provinces, Salzburg and Upper Austria, have already said they will introduce their own lockdowns on Monday and are pressing the national government to do the same nationally.
    The governors of Austria’s nine provinces are meeting Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg and Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein on Friday and due to announce whether a national lockdown will be imposed at a news conference at 12:30 p.m. (1130 GMT).
    Austria introduced a lockdown for the unvaccinated on Monday but infections have continued to rise far above the previous peak a year ago, when the country went into a national lockdown.
    Several newspapers including the Kleine Zeitung and influential tabloid Kronen Zeitung said officials agreed overnight that a lockdown would be imposed as of Monday, initially for 10 days.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Mark Potter)

11/19/2021 Russia’s Daily COVID-19 Deaths Reach New Record High
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia on Friday reported 1,254 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours, a record daily high that follows a surge in cases.
    The government coronavirus task force also reported 37,156 nationwide infections, including 3,371 in Moscow, down from a peak of 41,335 recorded on Nov. 6.
(Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov; Writing by Alexander Marrow; editing by Tom Balmforth)

11/19/2021 Poland Says Small Groups Of Migrants Still Trying To Enter From Belarus
Migrants gather in a camp near Bruzgi-Kuznica checkpoint on the Belarusian-Polish border
in the Grodno region, Belarus, November 18, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    WARSAW (Reuters) – Migrants still tried crossing overnight from Belarus, but in smaller numbers and mostly in smaller groups, Polish authorities said on Friday, a day after Belarus cleared the main camps where migrants were based and brought them to warehouses.
    Thursday’s clearing of the camp, and the first repatriation flight to Iraq in months, was a change of tack that could help calm, but not in itself end, a crisis that has spiralled in recent weeks into a major East-West confrontation.
    “There were attempts to cross the border, but other methods were adopted,” Poland’s Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak told private broadcaster Polsat, mentioning smaller groups.
(Reporting by Joanna Plucinska, Pawel Florkiewicz and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Editing by Ingrid Melander)
THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS A CONTINUATION OF THE ONE ABOVE
11/19/2021 Poland Says Belarus Ferries Migrants Back To Border After Clearing Camps by Yara Abi Nader and Kacper Pempel
    BIELSK PODLASKI, Poland/BRUZGI, Belarus (Reuters) - Poland accused Belarus on Friday of trucking hundreds of migrants back to the border and pushing them to attempt to cross illegally, only hours after clearing camps at a frontier that has become the focus of an escalating East-West crisis.
    The accusation by Poland suggests the crisis has not been resolved by an apparent change of tack by Minsk, which on Thursday had cleared the main camps by the border and allowed the first repatriation flight to Iraq in months.
    European governments accuse Belarus of flying in thousands of people from the Middle East and pushing them to attempt to illegally cross the EU border, where several people have died in the freezing woods.    Belarus denies fomenting the crisis.
    Polish Border Guard spokesperson Anna Michalska said that by Thursday evening, just hours after clearing the camps, Belarus authorities were already trucking hundreds back and forcing them to try to cross in darkness.
    “(The Belarusians) were bringing more migrants to the place where there was a forced attempt to cross,” Michalska said.    “At the beginning there were 100 people, but then the Belarusian side brought more people in trucks.    Then there were 500 people.”
    When the migrants tried to cross the border, Belarusian troops blinded Polish guards with lasers, she told a news conference.    Some migrants had thrown logs and four guards sustained minor injuries.
    Access to the border on the Polish side is restricted by a state of emergency, making it difficult to verify her account.
‘NIGHTMARE’
    In an interview with the BBC, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko repeated denials that he had orchestrated the crisis but, asked if Belarus was helping migrants try and cross into Poland, he said: “I think that’s absolutely possible.    We’re Slavs.    We have hearts.    Our troops know the migrants are going to Germany.    Maybe someone helped them.    I won’t even look into this.”
    The migrants from the camp on the Belarus side were taken on Thursday to a huge, crowded warehouse and journalists were permitted to film them.    Children ran about on Friday morning, and men played cards while one dangled a toddler on his lap.
    “This is not a life but this is not permanent, this should be just temporary until they decide our destiny: to take us to Europe or bring us back to our countries,” said 23-year-old electrician Mohammed Noor.
    “What I wish for myself, I wish it for others too – to go to Europe and live a stable life.”
    Meanwhile in a hospital in Bielsk Podlaski, on the Polish side, two migrants who had been caught after crossing were given treatment before being taken away by Polish border guards.
    Before he was taken away, Mansour Nassar, 42, a father-of-six from Aleppo, in Syria, who had travelled to Belarus from Lebanon, described his ordeal during five days in the forest.
    “The Belarusian army told us: ‘If you come back, we will kill you’,” he said, in tears in his hospital bed.    “We drank from ponds… Our people are always oppressed.”
    Kassam Shahadah, a Syrian refugee doctor living in Poland who helps out in another hospital, said patients were terrified of being forcibly returned to Belarus.
    “What they have seen, what they have lived through on that side is a nightmare for them,” he said.
EXTREME SUFFERING
    Human rights groups say Poland has exacerbated the suffering by sending back those who try to cross. Poland says this is necessary to stop more people from coming.
    “I have personally listened to the appalling accounts of extreme suffering from desperate people – among whom many families, children and elderly – who spent weeks or even months in squalid and extreme conditions in the cold and wet woods due to these pushbacks,” Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic said after a four-day mission to Poland.
    “I have witnessed clear signs of their painful ordeal: wounds, frostbite, exposure to extreme cold, exhaustion and stress,” she said.    “I have no doubt that returning any of these people to the border will lead to more extreme human suffering and more deaths.”
    The Polish border guards have recorded seven deaths at the border.    Rights groups say more than 10 people have died.
‘CYNICAL AND INHUMANE’
    Europeans have shunned Lukashenko since a disputed election last year, but reached out cautiously this week, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking to Lukashenko twice by phone.
    However, on Thursday the European Commission and Germany rejected a proposal that Minsk said Lukashenko had made to Merkel, under which EU countries would take in 2,000 migrants, while 5,000 others would be sent back home.
    NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday that the situation on the borders remained deeply concerning.
    “Lukashenko’s regime’s use of vulnerable people as a means to put pressure on other countries is cynical and inhumane,” he said.    “NATO stands in full solidarity with all affected allies.”
(Reporting by Joanna Plucinska, Pawel Florkiewicz, Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, Leon Malherbe, Yara Abi Nader, Kacper Pempel, Stephan Schepers, Andrius Sytas; Writing by Joanna Plucinska and Ingrid Melander; Editing by Peter Graff and Alex Richardson)

11/19/2021 Austria Infuriates Many With Full Lockdown As Germany Warns It May Follow Suit by Francois Murphy and Paul Carrel
People wait in front of a vaccination bus during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak as Austria's government has imposed
a lockdown on people who are not fully vaccinated, in Vienna, Austria, November 18, 2021. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
    VIENNA/BERLIN (Reuters) – Austria will become the first country in western Europe to reimpose a full COVID-19 lockdown, it said on Friday as neighbouring Germany warned it may follow suit, sending shivers through financial markets worried about the economic fallout.
    Europe has again become the epicentre of the pandemic, accounting for half of global cases and deaths.    A fourth wave of infections has plunged Germany, Europe’s largest economy, into a national emergency, Health Minister Jens Spahn said, warning that vaccinations alone will not cut case numbers.
    Austria said it in addition to lockdown it would require the whole population to be vaccinated from Feb. 1.    Both decisions infuriated many in a country where scepticism about state mandates affecting individual freedoms runs high, encouraged by the far-right Freedom Party, the third biggest in parliament.
    Party leader Herbert Kickl posted a picture on Facebook with the inscription: “As of today Austria is a dictatorship.”    The party is planning a protest on Saturday, but Kickl cannot attend because he has tested positive for COVID-19.
    Roughly two-thirds of those eligible in Austria are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, one of the lowest rates in western Europe.    Its infections are among the highest in Europe, with a seven-day incidence of 991 per 100,000 people.
    “We have not succeeded in convincing enough people to get vaccinated,” Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg told a news conference, saying the lockdown would start on Monday and the requirement to be vaccinated on Feb. 1.
    “It hurts that such measures still have to be taken.”
    Asked if Germany could rule out an Austrian-style full lockdown, Spahn said: “We are now in a situation – even if this produces a news alert – where we can’t rule anything out.
    “We are in a national emergency,” he told a news conference.
    The threat of fresh lockdowns comes as optimism grows about experimental drugs developed by Pfizer and Merck that cut the chance of hospitalisation and severe illness, more weapons in the world’s fight against the virus.
    On Friday, the EU drug regulator said it was reviewing data on Pfizer’s COVID-19 pill to help member states decide on quick adoption ahead of any formal EU-wide approval.
    Looming lockdowns weighed on a range of financial market sectors on Friday, pushing stocks and oil down and boosting the dollar.
    “We expect targeted measures (against COVID-19) across some countries mainly according to the health situation, but other factors, such as domestic political situations, will be relevant,” Oxford Economics analysts said in a note.
    “And while it might take a while before a political consensus can be reached in other countries, it is clear that the tide has turned.”
(For Reuters interactive COVID tracker, click https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/vaccination-rollout-and-access in external browser window)
CHRISTMAS CONUNDRUM
    As cases rise again, a number of European governments have started to reimpose limits on activity, ranging from Austria’s full lockdown to a partial lockdown in the Netherlands and restrictions on the unvaccinated in parts of Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
    Niels Van Regenmortel, the intensive care units coordinator at the ZNA Stuivenberg hospital in Antwerp, said there was an increasing risk hospitals in Belgium will have to resort to triage as ICUs fill up amid soaring COVID-19 numbers, calling on the government to restrict night life.
    Whether or not countries opt to lock down again depends on a wide range of factors, including vaccination rates, mask mandates and the extent to which booster shots are being made available.
    Germany has said further measures will be decided based on when hospitalisation rates hit certain thresholds.    In France, President Emmanuel Macron has made it clear he thinks high levels of vaccinations should be enough to avoid future lockdowns.
    Britain, with higher numbers of infections than most countries in Europe, is rolling out third shots – or boosters – to offset waning protection from the first two and help keep the economy open.
    While the new measures across Europe are not seen hitting the economy as much as the all-out lockdowns of last year, analysts say they could weigh on the recovery in the last quarter, especially if they hurt the retail and hospitality sectors over Christmas.
    A full lockdown in Germany would be more serious, however.
    “With Germany … imposing new restrictions, any thoughts that the vaccines would offer a way to a more normal Christmas period appear to have gone up in smoke for now, in Europe at least,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK.
    “Although there is a nagging fear this could ripple out across the region.”
    The pressure on intensive care units in Germany has not yet reached its peak, Spahn said, urging people to reduce contacts to help break the wave.    “How Christmas will turn out, I dare not say.    I can only say it’s up to us,” he added.
    Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday Germany will limit large parts of public life in areas where hospitals are becoming dangerously full of COVID-19 patients to those who have either been vaccinated or have recovered from the illness.
    “It’s clear from our experience in England and from what’s happening across Europe that while vaccines do a lot of the heavy lifting … other interventions are required to prevent case numbers rising,” said Lawrence Young, virologist and professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick.
    “Less mask wearing, more mixing indoors due to colder weather and waning immunity are also contributing to the high case levels across Europe.”
(Additional reporting by Dhara Ranasinghe, Josephine Mason and Mark John in London, Zuzanna Szymanska in Berlin and Bart Biesemans in Antwerp; Writing by Paul Carrel and Nick Macfie; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

11/20/2021 Two Wounded As Dutch Police Fire Shots At Protest Over New COVID-19 Restrictions by Stephanie van den Berg
Protesters are seen during demonstrations against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) measures which turned violent in Rotterdam, Netherlands,
November 19, 2021, in this still image obtained from video provided on social media. OBTAINED BY REUTERS/via REUTERS
    AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -Crowds of rioters in the port city of Rotterdam torched cars and threw rocks at police who responded with shots and water canon, as protests against COVID-19 measures turned violent on Friday night.
    “We fired warning shots and there were also direct shots fired because the situation was life-threatening,” police spokesperson Patricia Wessels told Reuters.
    “We know that at least two people were wounded, probably as a result of the warning shots, but we need to investigate the exact causes further,” she said.
    Some people on social media circulated images of someone they said had been shot by police, but the police said that while they had seen the footage they did not yet know how the man was wounded.
    Several hundred people had gathered to voice opposition to government plans to restrict access to indoor venues to people who have a “corona pass” https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/dutch-debate-dropping-corona-pass-indoor-venues-unvaccinated-2021-11-16, showing they have been vaccinated or have already recovered from an infection.
    The pass is also available to people who have not been vaccinated, but have proof of a negative test.
    Police issued an emergency ordinance in Rotterdam, shutting down public transportation and ordering people to go home. Water canons were deployed and police on horseback carried out charges to disperse the crowds, police said.
    The authorities also called on bystanders and people who recorded images of the riots to send the footage to police for further investigation.
    The Netherlands re-imposed some lockdown measures last weekend for an initial three weeks in an effort to slow a resurgence of coronavirus contagion, but daily infections have remained at their highest levels since the start of the pandemic.
    Video posted on social media showed burnt out police cars and rioters throwing fireworks and rocks at police.
(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg and Bart Meijer in Amsterdam; Writing by Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Sandra Maler and Grant McCool)

11/20/2021 Poland Reports Fewer Attempts To Cross Its Border With Belarus
Migrants gather outside the transport and logistics centre Bruzgi on the Belarusian-Polish
border in the Grodno region, Belarus November 20, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    WARSAW/BIALYSTOK, Poland (Reuters) - The number of migrants trying to force their way into Poland from Belarus fell again on Friday after an apparent change in tack by Minsk that could help calm a crisis that has escalated into a major East-West confrontation.
    The Polish Border Guard said on Twitter that there were 195 attempts to cross the frontier on Friday, down from 250 on Thursday and 501 the day before, though Warsaw warned that the migrant crisis was far from over.
    Europe accuses Belarus of flying in thousands of people from the Middle East and pushing them to cross into the EU, which has been at odds with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko since a disputed election last year.
    Belarus, which denies fomenting the crisis, cleared a migrant camp near the border on Thursday and started to repatriate some people to Iraq, but Poland said on Friday that Minsk was still trucking https://reut.rs/3CujCCI hundreds of migrants to the frontier.
    “Yesterday … there were several attempts to forcefully cross the border.    The largest group consisted of about 200 foreigners, the others of tens of people.    The foreigners were aggressive – they threw stones, firecrackers and used teargas,” the Border Guard said on Twitter on Saturday.
    Polish police said that during one crossing attempt on Friday near the village of Starzyna, Belarusian servicemen threw stones towards Polish border guards, policemen and soldiers, resulting in police cars being damaged.
HUMANITARIAN CRISIS
    Rights groups have criticised Poland’s nationalist government over its treatment of migrants, with accusations of multiple pushbacks and failure to provide medical support as well as adequate food and shelter.
    About 10 migrants are believed to have died in woods along the border with frigid winter setting in, according to local authorities, and many more have sustained injuries or suffered without food or water for days.
    Poland has imposed a state of emergency close to the border and does not let journalists or NGOs operate in the area.    It says its uniformed services provide adequate care to migrants who make it into Poland when necessary.
    Hundreds of Poles took part in two separate protests in Warsaw and the town of Hajnowka close to the Belarusian border on Saturday to express their support for migrants and demand help for them.
    “We are here to strongly oppose this, because we want no one in our country to die in the forest, no one to be starving in the forest, and no one to be detained in the forest,” said Adrianna Klimaszewska, a social activist from Wroclaw who took part in the “Mothers to the border” protest in Hajnowka.
    “We demand this of our country.    We demand access for medics to the border area, we demand access for humanitarian organizations.”
‘GO TO POLAND’
    Despite the fall in the number of attempts to cross the border, Polish officials said they expected further tensions.
    “No, this political crisis is not coming to an end. Belarus is still interested in escalating and continuing operations against Poland,” Stanislaw Zaryn, spokesman for Poland’s security services, wrote on Twitter.
    Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki will visit Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia on Sunday to discuss the crisis, a government spokesman said on Saturday.
    Migrants in a so-called ‘safe place’ run by locals on the Polish side of the border told Reuters that even after the camp was dismantled, Belarusian security forces kept pushing them to cross the border.    One of them succeeded on Thursday night.
    “We came through the forests, they (Belarusian forces) were telling us every day ‘Go to Poland’ and we could not cross, so they tried making us cross by force,” a Syrian migrant said.
    “It was very tiring, cold, with no food, no water, no warmth or anything.    I came looking for a peaceful country, I just want to live,” he added.
(Reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, Sergiy Karazy, Anna Koper, Yara Abi Nader, Fedja Grulovic, Stephan Schepers; Writing by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk and Anna Koper; Editing by David Clarke, Ros Russell and Christina Fincher)

11/20/2021 U.S. Patrol Boats Sent To Beef Up Ukrainian Navy Near Black Sea
U.S. flagged general cargo ship Ocean Grand, carrying two U.S. Coast Guard cutters, sails in the
Dardanelles, on its way to the Black Sea, in Canakkale,Turkey November 20, 2021. REUTERS/Yoruk Isik
    KYIV (Reuters) – A ship carrying two refitted former U.S. Coast Guard patrol boats designed to beef up the Ukrainian Navy transited the Dardanelles strait on Saturday days after Ukraine said it feared Russia might be preparing an attack on it.
    The ship carrying the two Island-class patrol boats departed Baltimore for the Ukrainian port of Odessa on Nov. 8.    Ukrainian sailors have already undergone extensive training on the vessels in the United States.     Ukraine got two similar vessels in 2019.
    The two new boats are part of a security package to Ukraine worth over $2.5 billion since 2014, the year when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula and Russian-backed separatists seized a swath of eastern Ukraine, the U.S. embassy in Kyiv says.
    The United States, Ukraine and NATO have accused Russia of threatening behaviour towards Kyiv in recent weeks alleging that it has built up its forces in proximity to Ukraine in an unusual way.
    Russia says it has the right to move its troops anywhere it wants on its own territory and is not planning to attack anyone.
    The Kremlin said in September that NATO would cross a Russian red line if it expanded its military infrastructure in Ukraine, and Moscow has since accused Ukraine and NATO of destabilising behaviour, including in the Black Sea.
    Kyiv lost most of its Black Sea naval power after the annexation of Crimea when Russia seized much of its navy.    It has since been trying to rebuild its navy with the help of NATO countries.
    The U.S. State Department this summer approved the potential sale to Ukraine of up to 16 Mark VI patrol boats and equipment for an estimated $600 million.
    Ukraine, which strives to become a NATO member, received a large consignment of U.S. ammunition earlier this year and Javelin anti-tank missiles, prompting criticism from Moscow which has said it has serious security concerns about the prospect of Ukraine joining NATO one day.
(Writing by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

11/20/2021 Tens Of Thousands March In Vienna Against COVID Measures Before Lockdown
Police officers stand guard as demonstrators gather to protest against the coronavirus
disease (COVID-19) measures in Vienna, Austria, November 20, 2021. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
    VIENNA (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of people, many of them far-right supporters, protested in Vienna on Saturday against coronavirus restrictions a day after Austria’s government announced a new lockdown and said vaccines would be made compulsory next year.
    Whistling, blowing horns and banging drums, crowds streamed into Heroes’ Square in front of the Hofburg, the former imperial palace in central Vienna, in the early afternoon, one of several protest locations.
    Many demonstrators waved Austrian flags and carried signs with slogans such as “no to vaccination,” “enough is enough” or “down with the fascist dictatorship.”
    By mid-afternoon the crowds had swelled to roughly 35,000 people, according to the police, and were marching down Vienna’s inner ring road before heading back towards the Hofburg.
    A police spokesman said there had been fewer than 10 arrests, for breaches of coronavirus restrictions and the ban on Nazi symbols.
    Roughly 66% of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, one of the lowest rates in western Europe.    Many Austrians are sceptical about vaccines, a view encouraged by the far-right Freedom Party, the third-biggest in parliament.
    With daily infections still setting records even after a lockdown was imposed on the unvaccinated this week, the government said on Friday it would reintroduce a lockdown https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/austria-reimposes-full-lockdown-makes-vaccination-compulsory-2021-11-19 on Monday and make it compulsory to get vaccinated as of Feb. 1.
    The Freedom Party (FPO) and other vaccine-critical groups had already been planning a show of force in Vienna on Saturday before Friday’s announcement, which prompted FPO leader Herbert Kickl to respond that “As of today, Austria is a dictatorship.”
    Kickl could not attend because he has caught COVID-19.
    “We are not in favour of our government’s measures,” said one protester, who was part of a group wearing tin foil on their heads and brandishing toilet brushes.    Like most protesters who spoke to the media, they declined to give their names, though the mood was festive.
(Reporting by Leonhard Foeger and Francois Murphy, Editing by William Maclean)

11/20/2021 Three In Hospital After Police Fire On Dutch COVID-19 Protesters
People protest during demonstrations against coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
measures in Amsterdam, Netherlands, November 20, 2021. REUTERS/Eva Plevier
    THE HAGUE (Reuters) – Three people were being treated in hospital in Rotterdam on Saturday after they were seriously injured when Dutch police fired shots during a violent protest against COVID-19 measures, authorities said.
    Crowds of several hundred rioters torched cars, set off fireworks and threw rocks at police during the protests on Friday evening. Police responded with warning shots and water canons.
    Rotterdam police posted on Twitter on Saturday that 51 people had been arrested, half of whom were under 18.
    “Three rioters where wounded when they were hit by bullets, they remain in hospital,” police added, in an update after earlier reporting two wounded.
    Authorities are investigating the shootings including looking at the question if the injured people where hit with police bullets, they added.
    The city’s mayor, Ahmed Aboutaleb, said the protest had turned into “an orgy of violence.”
    “Police were forced to draw their weapons and even fire direct shots,” he told a press conference early on Saturday.
    Dutch justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus said in a statement the “extreme violence” against police and fire fighters in Rotterdam was “repulsive.”
    “The right to protest is very important in our society but what we saw last night was simply criminal behaviour,” Grapperhaus said.
    Protesters had gathered to voice opposition to government plans to restrict access to indoor venues to people who have a “corona pass,” showing they have been vaccinated or have already recovered from an infection.
    The pass is also available to people who have not been vaccinated, but have proof of a negative test.
    Organisers of a planned protest Saturday in Amsterdam against the coronavirus measures said they had canceled the event after Friday’s violence.
    Even so, several thousand protesters showed up for a march around the city’s central Dam square.    The march remained peaceful, monitored by a heavy police presence.
    Later on Saturday several hundred protesters who stayed behind gathered at the Museumplein, a tourism hotspot, also closely watched by riot police present.
    In the southern city of Breda, a musical protest called by local DJs against current COVID-19 measures, which include the 8 p.m. closure of bars, restaurants and clubs, attracted a few hundred people.
    The Netherlands re-imposed some lockdown measures last weekend for an initial three weeks in an effort to slow a resurgence of coronavirus contagion, but daily infections have remained at their highest levels since the start of the pandemic.
(This story was corrected to reflect that police corrected number to three from four)
(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg and Anthony Deutsch; editing by Jane Wardell, Ros Russell, William Maclean and Jonathan Oatis)

11/20/2021 EU Executive Probes Whether Poland, Hungary Should Get EU Money by Jan Strupczewski
FILE PHOTO: EU flags flutter in front of the European Commission headquarters
in Brussels, Belgium October 2, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission has started a long-awaited probe into whether Poland and Hungary should continue to receive billions of euros from the EU budget because of problems with corruption and the rule of law.
    Commission documents on Saturday showed letters were sent to Warsaw and Budapest on Friday asking governments for clarifications under a recent EU law allowing the suspension of EU cash if it may be misspent.
    The law was adopted last December but the Commission, the guardian of EU laws, has been slow to apply it, despite pressure from the European Parliament which even sued the Commission last month for inaction.
    Under a different legal process, the Commission has already suspended billions in grants to Poland and Hungary from the EU’s recovery fund, citing the same concerns over the rule of law and corruption.
    The letters sent on Friday are just the first step in a lengthy process, but may put at risk tens of billions of euros in EU cash to the countries over the next seven years.
    Both countries have two months to answer the letters.
    If the Commission were to conclude EU money was not safe in Poland and Hungary, it would still need a ruling from the EU’s top court before it could take action.
    Both countries challenged the law in March and while a non-binding view from the EU court’s advocate general is expected in early December, a full ruling might not come until the first quarter of 2022.
    Poland and Hungary have for years been under formal EU investigation for undermining the independence of the courts, non-governmental organisations and the media.
SPECIFIC CONCERNS
    Warsaw’s relations with the EU have worsened after Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal, dominated by the ruling nationalist and euro-sceptic party, ruled in October that elements of EU law were incompatible with the Polish constitution.
    The Polish tribunal also said in July that Poland did not need to observe interim measures imposed by the EU’s top court in matters of Polish judiciary.
    “These two judgements of the Constitutional Tribunal could give rise to breaches of the principles of the rule of law … insofar as the correct application of Union law in Poland is concerned, and thereby put at risk the application of Union primary law and secondary legislation relevant to the protection of the financial interests of the European Union,” the Commission letter to Poland, seen by Reuters, said.
    The letter also lists concerns about the impartiality of Poland’s prosecutors, because the service is run by an active politician from the ruling party, who is justice minister and prosecutor general at the same time.
    Another concern listed is the independence of judges appointed by a council dominated by nominees of the ruling party as well as a new disciplinary system for judges which breaks EU treaties, according to ruling by the EU top court.
    Such issues “could affect the effectiveness and impartiality of the judicial proceedings on cases related to the irregularities in the management of the Union funds,” the letter to Poland said.
    The letter to Hungary, while mentioning concerns over the independence of judges, focused mainly on irregularities in spending EU money through public procurement.
    The concerns follow reports from the EU’s anti-fraud office OLAF showing nearly half of all public tenders in Hungary result in a single-bid procedure.
    During a decade in power, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been accused of using billions of euros of state and EU funds to prop up a loyal business elite which includes family members and close friends.
    In a report on the rule of law in Hungary in July, the Commission cited persistent shortcomings in Hungarian political party financing and risks of clientelism and nepotism in high-level public administration.
    “The identified deficiencies and weaknesses may… present a serious risk that the sound financial management of the Union budget or the protection of the Union financial interests will continue to be affected in the future,” the letter to Hungary said.
(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Christina Fincher)

11/21/2021 Tired Of Rampant Graft, Bulgarians Vote In Presidential Election by Tsvetelia Tsolova
A combination picture shows incumbent President Rumen Radev and presidential candidate Anastas Gerdzhikov
as they arrive at the Bulgarian National Television for an election debate ahead of the second round
of the presidential election, in Sofia, Bulgaria, November 18, 2021. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov
    SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgarians are voting on Sunday to choose the country’s next president in a run-off election, weary of widespread corruption in the European Union’s poorest member state amid rising energy costs and high death toll from the coronavirus.
    Incumbent President Rumen Radev, 58, an advocate of change aimed at cleaning Bulgaria’s image as the EU’s most corrupt member state, appears poised for a new 5-year term after winning 49.5% of the votes in the first round on Nov. 14.
    He competes with Sofia University Rector, Anastas Gerdzhikov, 58, who won 22.8% of the vote last week and is backed by the country’s towering politician of the past decade, ex-premier Boyko Borissov who was ousted from power in April.
    The presidential post is largely ceremonial, but comes to prominence in times of political crisis, when the head of the state can appoint interim cabinets.    The presidency also gives a high tribune to influence the public opinion.
    Radev, a former air-force commander, has gained popularity for his open support of massive anti-graft protests against Borissov in 2020 and for appointing interim cabinets that brought to light murky public procurement deals of his last centre-right cabinet.    Borissov has denied any wrongdoing.
    A new anti-graft party, We Continue The Change (PP), set up by two Harvard-educated entrepreneurs who Radev appointed as interim ministers in May, won the parliamentary election last week.
    Radev is supported by Borissov’s political opponents — PP, the Socialists and the anti-elite ITN party which, along with another anti-graft faction, are holding talks to form a government.
    “Radev is a front-runner, but much will depend on whether his supporters will actually go to cast a ballot,” said political analyst Daniel Smilov with Sofia-based Centre for Liberal Strategies.
    Gerdzhikov, a respected Professor in Ancient and Medieval Literature, has accused Radev of pitting Bulgarians against one another and pledged to unite the nation, hit by COVID-related death rates that are among the highest in the EU and soaring energy costs.
    Gerdzhikov is a strong supporter of NATO-member Bulgaria’s Western alliances, and has campaigned to improve business opportunities and support judicial reforms to improve rule of law in the country of 7 million people.
    Radev, who campaigned in 2016 for the lifting of Western sanctions against Russia, said Bulgaria must keep pragmatic ties with Moscow and should not view it as an enemy, not least because of close historical and cultural links.
    His comments that the Crimean Peninsula, annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014, was “currently Russian,” prompted protests from Kiyv.
    Voting starts at 7 a.m (0500 GMT) and ends at 8 p.m. (1800 GMT).    The elected president takes office in January next year.
(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; editing by Clelia Oziel)

11/21/2021 Poland Reports Fewer Attempts To Cross Its Border With Belarus
Migrants gather outside the transport and logistics centre Bruzgi on the Belarusian-Polish
border in the Grodno region, Belarus November 20, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    WARSAW/BIALYSTOK, Poland (Reuters) - The number of migrants trying to force their way into Poland from Belarus fell again on Friday after an apparent change in tack by Minsk that could help calm a crisis that has escalated into a major East-West confrontation.
    The Polish Border Guard said on Twitter that there were 195 attempts to cross the frontier on Friday, down from 250 on Thursday and 501 the day before, though Warsaw warned that the migrant crisis was far from over.
    Europe accuses Belarus of flying in thousands of people from the Middle East and pushing them to cross into the EU, which has been at odds with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko since a disputed election last year.
    Belarus, which denies fomenting the crisis, cleared a migrant camp near the border on Thursday and started to repatriate some people to Iraq, but Poland said on Friday that Minsk was still trucking https://reut.rs/3CujCCI hundreds of migrants to the frontier.
    “Yesterday … there were several attempts to forcefully cross the border.    The largest group consisted of about 200 foreigners, the others of tens of people. The foreigners were aggressive – they threw stones, firecrackers and used teargas,” the Border Guard said on Twitter on Saturday.
    Polish police said that during one crossing attempt on Friday near the village of Starzyna, Belarusian servicemen threw stones towards Polish border guards, policemen and soldiers, resulting in police cars being damaged.
HUMANITARIAN CRISIS
    Rights groups have criticised Poland’s nationalist government over its treatment of migrants, with accusations of multiple pushbacks and failure to provide medical support as well as adequate food and shelter.
    About 10 migrants are believed to have died in woods along the border with frigid winter setting in, according to local authorities, and many more have sustained injuries or suffered without food or water for days.
    Poland has imposed a state of emergency close to the border and does not let journalists or NGOs operate in the area.    It says its uniformed services provide adequate care to migrants who make it into Poland when necessary.
    Hundreds of Poles took part in two separate protests in Warsaw and the town of Hajnowka close to the Belarusian border on Saturday to express their support for migrants and demand help for them.
    “We are here to strongly oppose this, because we want no one in our country to die in the forest, no one to be starving in the forest, and no one to be detained in the forest,” said Adrianna Klimaszewska, a social activist from Wroclaw who took part in the “Mothers to the border” protest in Hajnowka.
    “We demand this of our country. We demand access for medics to the border area, we demand access for humanitarian organizations.”
‘GO TO POLAND’
    Despite the fall in the number of attempts to cross the border, Polish officials said they expected further tensions.
    “No, this political crisis is not coming to an end. Belarus is still interested in escalating and continuing operations against Poland,” Stanislaw Zaryn, spokesman for Poland’s security services, wrote on Twitter.
    Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki will visit Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia on Sunday to discuss the crisis, a government spokesman said on Saturday.
    Migrants in a so-called ‘safe place’ run by locals on the Polish side of the border told Reuters that even after the camp was dismantled, Belarusian security forces kept pushing them to cross the border. One of them succeeded on Thursday night.
    “We came through the forests, they (Belarusian forces) were telling us every day ‘Go to Poland’ and we could not cross, so they tried making us cross by force,” a Syrian migrant said.
    “It was very tiring, cold, with no food, no water, no warmth or anything.    I came looking for a peaceful country, I just want to live,” he added.
(Reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, Sergiy Karazy, Anna Koper, Yara Abi Nader, Fedja Grulovic, Stephan Schepers; Writing by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk and Anna Koper; Editing by David Clarke, Ros Russell and Christina Fincher)

11/21/2021 Three In Hospital After Police Fire On Dutch COVID-19 Protesters
People protest during demonstrations against coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
measures in Amsterdam, Netherlands, November 20, 2021. REUTERS/Eva Plevier
    THE HAGUE (Reuters) – Three people were being treated in hospital in Rotterdam on Saturday after they were seriously injured when Dutch police fired shots during a violent protest against COVID-19 measures, authorities said.
    Crowds of several hundred rioters torched cars, set off fireworks and threw rocks at police during the protests on Friday evening. Police responded with warning shots and water canons.
    Rotterdam police posted on Twitter on Saturday that 51 people had been arrested, half of whom were under 18.
    “Three rioters were wounded when they were hit by bullets, they remain in hospital,” police added, in an update after earlier reporting two wounded.
    Authorities are investigating the shootings including whether the wounded people where hit by police bullets, they added.
    The city’s mayor, Ahmed Aboutaleb, said the protest had turned into “an orgy of violence.”
    “Police were forced to draw their weapons and even fire direct shots,” he told a news conference early on Saturday.
    Dutch Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus said in a statement the “extreme violence” against police and firefighters in Rotterdam was “repulsive.”
    “The right to protest is very important in our society but what we saw last night was simply criminal behaviour,” Grapperhaus said.
    Protesters had gathered to voice opposition to government plans to restrict access to indoor venues to people who have a “corona pass,” showing they have been vaccinated or have already recovered from an infection.
    The pass is also available to people who have not been vaccinated, but have proof of a negative test.
    In several towns in the Netherlands on Saturday evening there were small pockets of unrest as youths clashed with police.
    In The Hague, riot police used water canons to clear part of the central Schilderswijk area after rioters threw fireworks at police and damaged traffic lights, local police said on Twitter.
    There was a heavy police presence in several other major towns after social media calls to riot followed the Rotterdam clashes, but any further violence was largely contained, with only a handful of arrests, Dutch media reported.
    Organisers of a protest that had been planned in Amsterdam on Saturday against the coronavirus measures said they had canceled the event after Friday’s violence.
    Even so, several thousand protesters showed up for a march around the city’s central Dam square.    The march remained peaceful, monitored by a heavy police presence.
    The Netherlands reimposed some lockdown measures last weekend for an initial three weeks in an effort to slow a resurgence of coronavirus contagion, but daily infections have remained at their highest levels since the start of the pandemic.
(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg in The Hague and Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Matthew Lewis)

11/21/2021 Poland Says Belarus Border Crisis May Be Prelude To “Something Worse” by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk and Andrius Sytas
Belarusian servicemen stand next to a barrier as migrants jostle to receive food outside the transport and logistics
centre near the Belarusian-Polish border in the Grodno region, Belarus November 21, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    WARSAW/VILNIUS (Reuters) - Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki warned on Sunday that the migrant crisis on the Belarus border may be a prelude to “something much worse,” and Poland’s border guard said Belarusian forces were still ferrying migrants to the frontier.
    The European Union accuses Belarus of flying in thousands of people from the Middle East and pushing them to cross into EU and NATO members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, in response to European sanctions.
    Minsk, which denies fomenting the crisis, cleared a migrant camp near the border on Thursday and started to repatriate some people to Iraq, while Poland and Lithuania reported lower numbers of attempts to cross their borders in recent days.
    But Morawiecki warned the crisis was far from over as he toured Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia on Sunday to discuss the situation.
    A poll published by Poland’s Rzeczpospolita daily on Sunday said 55% of Poles are worried the crisis on the border could escalate into an armed conflict.
    “I think that the things that unfold before our eyes, these dramatic events, may only be a prelude to something much worse,” Morawiecki said in Vilnius.
    He pointed to increased Russian military presence close to Ukraine, as well as in Belarus and Russia’s Kaliningrad enclave which borders Poland and Lithuania, as “an instrument which could be used directly for a direct attack.”
    The situation in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover “may be used as the next stage of the migration crisis,” said Morawiecki.
CALLS FOR SUPPORT
    Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte warned European partners to not ignore Belarus’ neighbours, after German Chancellor Angela Merkel twice called Lukashenko looking for solution of the humanitarian crisis.
    “For us, it is very important that any talks (with Belarus) are coordinated with Lithuania, Poland and Latvia, which are at the forefront of the hybrid attack, and no decisions are taken which do not solve the situation fundamentally,” she said after meeting with Morawiecki on Sunday.
    France’s foreign minister said on Sunday that Russia had to exert pressure on its ally, Belarus, to end the migrant crisis.
FORCIBLY BROUGHT TO BORDER
    Poland says Minsk continues to truck hundreds of foreigners to the frontier, where about 10 migrants are believed to have died with a frigid winter setting in.
    “On Saturday … a group of about 100 very aggressive foreigners, brought to the border by Belarusian servicemen, tried to enter Poland by force,” the border guard said on Twitter on Sunday.
    A dozen migrants from Iraq, speaking with Lithuanian news portal DELFI over the border with Belarus on Saturday, said they were forcibly brought there in military trucks by Belarus officials, who ignored their wish to go back to Iraq.
    Hundreds of Poles took part in protests on Saturday to demand help for the migrants.    The Catholic church organised a fundraiser on Sunday to collect money for those in need at the border and support the integration of refugees who will stay in Poland.
(Reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk in Warsaw and Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Raissa Kasolowsky)

11/21/2021 Bulgarian President Radev Seen Winning Second Term – Exit Polls
    SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s incumbent President Rumen Radev is seen winning the decisive round of Sunday’s presidential election by a large margin after voters backed his strong anti-corruption message, exit polls by Alpha Research and Gallup International showed.
    Radev, supported by several anti-graft parties and the Socialists, won 64-66% of the vote, compared with 32-33% for Anastas Gerdzhikov, backed by the centre-right GERB party of former premier Boyko Borissov, according to the exit polls.
(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova, Editing by William Maclean)

11/21/2021 Dutch Police Detain Dozens In A Second Night Of COVID-19 Rioting by Anthony Deutsch
Protestors gather at Cafe del Mondo during demonstrations against coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) measures in Amsterdam, Netherlands, November 20, 2021. REUTERS/Eva Plevier
    AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -Five police officers were injured in the Netherlands and at least 40 people detained across three provinces as violent protests against COVID-19 restrictions continued for a second night into Sunday.
    Dutch authorities used water canon, dogs and mounted police to stop rioting youths who set fires and threw fireworks in the worst disturbances since a full lockdown led to widespread disorder and more than 500 arrests in January.
    The latest unrest began on Friday night in Rotterdam, where police opened fire on a crowd that had swelled to hundreds during a protest the city’s mayor said had turned into “an orgy of violence.”
    Three people believed to be hit by police bullets remained in hospital on Sunday, a statement by the authorities said.
    The protests were sparked by opposition to government plans to restrict use of a national corona pass to people who have either recovered from COVID-19 or have been vaccinated, excluding those with a negative test result.
    The Netherlands reimposed some lockdown measures on its 17.5 million population last weekend for an initial three weeks in an effort to slow a resurgence of the virus, but daily infections have remained at their highest levels since the start of the pandemic.
    Youths were also angered by a New Year’s Eve firework ban to avoid added pressure on hospitals that have already been forced to scale back care due to a surge in COVID-19 patients.
    Some of the most serious confrontations on Saturday night were in The Hague, where five officers were hurt, one of them seriously, a police statement said. Police carried out charges on horseback and arrested 19 people, one of them for throwing a rock through the window of a passing ambulance.
    Two Eredivisie league soccer matches, which have been closed to the public under the tougher COVID-19 restrictions, were briefly disrupted on Saturday night as small groups of fans forced their way into the stadiums and threw fireworks.
    Another 13 arrests were reported by police in two towns in the southern province of Limburg, while disturbances were also reported in the northern province of Flevoland.    Eight people were detained in the town of Urk, where a COVID-19 testing station was torched earlier this year.
(Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; Additional reporting by Stephanie van den Berg and Bart Meijer; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

11/21/2021 Kremlin Accuses West Of Artificially Whipping Up Ukraine Tensions
FILE PHOTO: Armed servicemen wait near Russian army vehicles outside a Ukrainian border
guard post in the Crimean town of Balaclava March 1, 2014. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Kremlin on Sunday accused the West of artificially whipping up tensions around Ukraine with repeated statements suggesting Russia was poised to launch an attack on its neighbour and told Washington and its allies to stop a military build-up nearby.
    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Saturday his country has real concerns, widely shared with partners in Europe, over Russian activities at the Ukrainian border, after Ukraine said it feared Russia might be preparing an attack.
    U.S., NATO and Ukrainian officials have been making similar statements for nearly two weeks, referring to what they say are unusual Russian troop movements in the proximity of Ukraine.
    Moscow has dismissed such suggestions as inflammatory and complained about what it says is increasing activity in the region by the NATO alliance.
    In comments due to be broadcast later on Sunday on state TV, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “a provocation” in the area could not be ruled out given all the U.S. rhetoric.
    “This hysteria is being artificially whipped up.    We are being accused of some kind of unusual military activity on our territory by those who have brought in their armed forces from across the ocean.    That is, the United States of America,” Peskov said.
    “It’s not really logical or polite.”
    Peskov suggested Ukraine was probably looking for a way to solve its own problems by force.
    Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 and Russian-backed separatists seized a swath of eastern Ukraine that same year.
    Peskov said Russia wanted NATO to stop “concentrating a military fist” near Russia’s own borders and to stop arming Ukraine with modern weapons.
    The Kremlin said in September that NATO would cross a Russian red line if it expanded its military infrastructure in Ukraine.
    A ship carrying two refitted former U.S. Coast Guard patrol boats designed to beef up the Ukrainian Navy transited the Dardanelles strait on Saturday.
    Ukraine, which strives to become a NATO member, received a large consignment of U.S. ammunition earlier this year and Javelin anti-tank missiles, prompting criticism from Moscow.
(Reporting by Maxim Rodionov; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

11/21/2021 Putin Discusses Nagorno-Karabakh With Armenia’s Pashinyan, Kremlin Says
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government via a video link
at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia November 10, 2021. Sputnik/Mikhail
Metzel/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan discussed Nagorno-Karabakh and measures to stabilise the situation there during a phone call on Sunday, the Kremlin said in a statement without elaborating.
    On Tuesday, Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to a ceasefire at their border after Russia urged them to step back from confrontation following the deadliest clash since a war last year over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave that killed at least 6,500 people.
(Reporting by Darya Korsunskaya; Writing by Maxim Rodionov; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

11/22/2021 Poland Says Belarus Border Crisis May Be Prelude To “Something Worse” by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk and Andrius Sytas
Belarusian servicemen stand next to a barrier as migrants jostle to receive food outside the transport and logistics
centre near the Belarusian-Polish border in the Grodno region, Belarus November 21, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    WARSAW/VILNIUS (Reuters) - Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki warned on Sunday that the migrant crisis on the Belarus border may be a prelude to “something much worse,” and Poland’s border guard said Belarusian forces were still ferrying migrants to the frontier.
    The European Union accuses Belarus of flying in thousands of people from the Middle East and pushing them to cross into EU and NATO members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, in response to European sanctions.
    Minsk, which denies fomenting the crisis, cleared a migrant camp near the border on Thursday and started to repatriate some people to Iraq, while Poland and Lithuania reported lower numbers of attempts to cross their borders in recent days.
    But Morawiecki warned the crisis was far from over as he toured Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia on Sunday to discuss the situation.
    A poll published by Poland’s Rzeczpospolita daily on Sunday said 55% of Poles are worried the crisis on the border could escalate into an armed conflict.
    “I think that the things that unfold before our eyes, these dramatic events, may only be a prelude to something much worse,” Morawiecki said in Vilnius.
    He pointed to increased Russian military presence close to Ukraine, as well as in Belarus and Russia’s Kaliningrad enclave which borders Poland and Lithuania, as “an instrument which could be used directly for a direct attack.”
    The situation in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover “may be used as the next stage of the migration crisis,” said Morawiecki.
CALLS FOR SUPPORT
    Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte warned European partners to not ignore Belarus’ neighbours, after German Chancellor Angela Merkel twice called Lukashenko looking for solution of the humanitarian crisis.
    “For us, it is very important that any talks (with Belarus) are coordinated with Lithuania, Poland and Latvia, which are at the forefront of the hybrid attack, and no decisions are taken which do not solve the situation fundamentally,” she said after meeting with Morawiecki on Sunday.
    France’s foreign minister said on Sunday that Russia had to exert pressure on its ally, Belarus, to end the migrant crisis.
FORCIBLY BROUGHT TO BORDER
    Poland says Minsk continues to truck hundreds of foreigners to the frontier, where about 10 migrants are believed to have died with a frigid winter setting in.
    “On Saturday … a group of about 100 very aggressive foreigners, brought to the border by Belarusian servicemen, tried to enter Poland by force,” the border guard said on Twitter on Sunday.
    A dozen migrants from Iraq, speaking with Lithuanian news portal DELFI over the border with Belarus on Saturday, said they were forcibly brought there in military trucks by Belarus officials, who ignored their wish to go back to Iraq.
    Hundreds of Poles took part in protests on Saturday to demand help for the migrants.    The Catholic church organised a fundraiser on Sunday to collect money for those in need at the border and support the integration of refugees who will stay in Poland.
(Reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk in Warsaw and Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Raissa Kasolowsky)

11/22/2021 Third Night Of Rioting Erupts Over Dutch COVID-19 Rules by Anthony Deutsch
Protestors gather at Cafe del Mondo during demonstrations against coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) measures in Amsterdam, Netherlands, November 20, 2021. REUTERS/Eva Plevier
    AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -Riots broke out in cities across the Netherlands on Sunday, the third night in a row that police clashed with mobs of angry youths who set fires and threw rocks to protest COVID-19 restrictions.
    Unrest was reported in locations including Leeuwarden and Groningen in the north, the eastern town of Enschede and Tilburg in the south.    In Enschede, where an emergency ordinance was issued, police used batons to try to disperse a crowd, according to video on social media.    In Leeuwarden, police vans were pelted with rocks and black-clad groups chanted and set off flares.
    Responding to the worst disturbances since a full lockdown led to widespread disorder and more than 500 arrests in January, police said five officers had been injured overnight Saturday and at least 64 people detained in three provinces, including dozens who threw fireworks and fences during a soccer match at Feyenoord Rotterdam’s stadium.
    The latest unrest began on Friday night in Rotterdam, where police opened fire on a crowd that had swelled to hundreds during a protest that the city’s mayor said had turned into “an orgy of violence.”
Four people believed to have been hit by police bullets remained in hospital on Sunday, a statement by the authorities said.
    The protests were sparked by opposition to government plans to restrict use of a national corona pass to people who have either recovered from COVID-19 or have been vaccinated, excluding those with a negative test result.
    The Netherlands reimposed some lockdown measures on its 17.5 million population last weekend for an initial three weeks in an effort to slow a resurgence of the virus, but daily infections have remained at their highest levels since the start of the pandemic.
    Some youths were also angered by a New Year’s Eve firework ban to avoid added pressure on hospitals that have already been forced to scale back care due to a surge in COVID-19 patients.
    Among the most serious confrontations on Saturday night were those in The Hague, where the five officers were hurt, one of them seriously, a police statement said.    Police carried out charges on horseback and arrested 19 people, one of them for throwing a rock through the window of a passing ambulance.
(Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; Additional reporting by Stephanie van den Berg and Bart Meijer; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Daniel Wallis)

11/22/2021 Austria Powers Down Public Life As Fourth COVID-19 Lockdown Begins
FILE PHOTO: Police officers check the vaccination status of shoppers against the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) at the entrance of a store in Vienna, Austria, November 16, 2021. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner
    VIENNA (Reuters) – Austria powered down public life on Monday as its fourth national COVID-19 lockdown began, making it the first western European country to reimpose the drastic and unpopular measure this autumn in the face of surging coronavirus infections.
    This lockdown is similar to previous ones but is the first introduced since vaccines became widely available.    Most places people gather, like restaurants, cafes, bars, theatres, non-essential shops and hairdressers cannot open their doors for 10 days initially and maybe as many as 20, the government says.
    Christmas markets, a big draw for tourists that had only just begun to open, must also shut but, in a last-minute change, ski lifts can remain open to the vaccinated.    Hotels will, however, close to tourists not already staying there when the lockdown began.
    “It is a situation where we have to react now,” Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein told ORF TV on Sunday night.
    “A lockdown, a relatively tough method, a sledgehammer, is the only option to reduce the numbers (of infections) here.”
    The conservative-led government imposed a lockdown on the unvaccinated last week but daily infections kept extending far above the previous peak reached a year ago and intensive care beds are running short.
    On Friday, the government announced it was reimposing a full lockdown as of Monday and would make it compulsory to get vaccinated as of Feb. 1, a step few countries have taken.
    People can leave their homes for a limited number of reasons like going to work or buying essentials.    Going for a walk is allowed with no limit on time or distance. Only one person from another household can be met at a time.
Workplaces and schools will stay open, but the government has asked parents to keep their children at home if possible. (Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Karishma Singh)

11/22/2021 Hungarian Consumer Confidence Plunges As Inflation Surges
Hungarian forint and Euro notes are seen in this photo illustration
taken in Budapest February 6, 2014. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
    BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungarian consumer confidence plunged to its lowest level since April, a survey by think tank GKI showed on Monday, as households turned gloomier about their employment and financial prospects amid a surge in inflation.
    Hungarian inflation surged to an annual 6.5% in October, above expectations and driven in part by a 30.7% increase in fuel prices, which prompted Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government to impose a three-month price cap.
    Hungary’s central bank, which expects inflation to exceed 7% in November, was forced to ramp up the pace of its monetary tightening campaign to rein in inflation and shore up the forint, which skirted its April 2020 all-time lows last week.
    “All participants of the economy expect price rises,” GKI said in its monthly survey, which showed business confidence rising to a 2-1/2-year-high, driven by stronger optimism in most branches of the economy except for services.
    “However, consumer (confidence) fell to an extent rarely seen over the course of a single month, sending it to levels last seen in the spring,” GKI said.
    It said worries about unemployment increased significantly, even as the share of companies planning to boost hiring exceeded those of planning layoffs in all branches of the economy.
    Companies were planning price rises, while consumer inflation expectations also jumped, the survey said.    It said households as well as industrial and service sector businesses turned gloomier about prospects for the economy.
    Customers were also more pessimistic about their financial and savings prospects in November, breaking a six-month period of improvement, the survey said.
    Facing a closely fought election next year, Orban’s government has showered the electorate with handouts, including a $2 billion income tax rebate for families and an extra month’s worth of pensions.
(Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Giles Elgood)

11/22/2021 Belarus Says It Does Not Want Confrontation, Wants EU To Take Migrants
FILE PHOTO: A migrant woman carries a child as they exit a tent outside the transport and logistics centre
near the Belarusian-Polish border in the Grodno region, Belarus November 21, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
    MOSCOW (Reuters) -Belarus does not want confrontation with Poland but it does want an answer from the European Union on whether the bloc will accept 2,000 stranded migrants, President Alexander Lukashenko was quoted as saying by the Belta news agency on Monday.
    The EU accuses Belarus of flying in thousands of people from the Middle East and pushing them to cross into the EU via Poland, Lithuania and Latvia in response to European sanctions. Minsk denies fomenting the crisis.
    Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki warned on Sunday that the migrant crisis on the Belarus border may be a prelude to “something much worse,” and Poland’s border guard said Belarusian forces were still ferrying migrants to the frontier.
    Lukashenko, as quoted by state-owned Belta, said he did not want things to escalate.
    “We need to get through to the Poles, to every Pole, and show them that we’re not barbarians, that we don’t want confrontation.    We don’t need it.    Because we understand that if we go too far, war is unavoidable,” he said.
    “And that will be a catastrophe.    We understand this perfectly well.    We don’t want any kind of flare-up.”
    Lukashenko also said he insisted Germany take in some migrants and complained that the EU was not making contact with Minsk on the issue.
(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova, Matthias Williams, Alan Charlish, Pawel Florkiewicz Editing by Ingrid Melander, Andrew Osborn and Philippa Fletcher)

11/22/2021 Austria Locks Down, Merkel Says New Steps Needed As Europe Faces COVID Freeze by Francois Murphy and Maria Sheahan
Pedestrians walk at the city centre during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, as Austria's
government imposed a general lockdown from Monday, in Salzburg, Austria, November 22, 2021. REUTERS/Lukas Barth
    VIENNA/BERLIN (Reuters) – Austria became on Monday the first country in western Europe to reimpose lockdown since vaccines were rolled out, shutting non-essential shops, bars and cafes as surging caseloads raised the spectre of a second straight winter in deep freeze for the continent.
    Germany will also need tighter restrictions to control a record-setting wave of infections, outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel was quoted as saying, remarks that erased gains on European stock markets and sent bond yields down.
    With Europe once again the epicentre of the global pandemic that first prompted lockdowns in March 2020, new restrictions and vaccine mandates are expected to spread nearly two years after the first COVID-19 case was identified in China.
    “We are in a highly dramatic situation.    What is in place now is not sufficient,” Merkel told leaders of her conservative CDU party in a meeting, according to two participants, confirming comments first reported by Bloomberg.
    German Health Minister Jens Spahn, urgently calling on people to get vaccinated, said he was certain that by the end of the winter everyone in Germany would be “vaccinated, recovered or dead.”
    Austria told people to work from home if they can, and shut cafes, restaurants, bars, theatres and non-essential shops for 10 days.    People may leave home for a limited number of reasons, such as going to workplaces, buying essentials or taking a walk.
    The Austrian government has also announced it will make it compulsory to get inoculated as of Feb. 1.    Many Austrians are sceptical about vaccinations, a view encouraged by the far-right Freedom Party, the third biggest in parliament.
    “It’s like a luxury prison.    It’s definitely limited freedom and for me it’s not great psychologically,” said Sascha Iamkovyi, a 43-year-old entrepreneur in the food sector, describing his return to lockdown on a chilly, overcast day in an unusually quiet Vienna.
    “People were promised that if they got vaccinated they would be able to lead a normal life, but now that’s not true.”
    The return of severe government restrictions in Austria had already brought about 40,000 protesters to Vienna’s streets on Saturday, and protests turned to violence in Brussels and across the Netherlands over the weekend.
    The Czech Republic and Slovaki