EPA-EFE/PHILIPPE LOPEZ / POOL MAXPPP OUT

A Rafale jet fighter lands on the flight deck of the French aircraft carrier 'Charles de Gaulle' at sea off the coast of the city of Hyeres, France, 23 January 2020. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Amid heightened East Med tensions, Greece to boost military purchases

By Zoe Didili
Journalist, New Europe

epa08154764 A Rafale jet fighter lands on the flight deck of the French aircraft carrier ‘Charles de Gaulle’ at sea off the coast of the city of Hyeres, France, 23 January 2020. EPA-EFE/PHILIPPE LOPEZ / POOL MAXPPP OUT

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The announcement was welcomed by Paris, with the French Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly tweeting that “This is excellent news for the French aeronautics industry and a first: a European country wants to acquire Rafale fighter jets. Greece will procure in addition to the 18 Dassault Rafale warplanes, four frigates and four navy helicopters, whilst recruiting 15,000 additional soldiers over the next five years and further financing its defence industry. “The time has come to reinforce the armed forces … these initiatives constitute a robust programme that will become a national shield,” Mitsotakis said in a speech in the northern city of Thessaloniki. The French leader has openly backed Athens and Nicosia in their dispute with Ankara over their territorial waters and maritime rights. Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Saturday announced a “robust” arms purchase program amid heightened tensions with Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean. “The program is ambitious, but within the country’s financial possibilities and holistic,” Mitsotakis said, marking Greece’s largest defence spending in two decades. The country already has 40 Mirage F1, 40 Mirage 2000 (to be replaced by the Rafale) and 15 Mirage 2000-5, with 10 more Mirage-2000 set to be upgraded to 2000-5 standard.  
 
  Six of the French-made Rafale aircraft will be new and 12 will be second-hand from the French air force, with the first ones expected to arrive in Greece in the middle of 2021. The result of an export policy that I have been pursuing with conviction since 2017.”

pic.twitter.com/zxm95g4DMr
— Florence Parly (@florence_parly) September 12, 2020

Mitsotakis’ announcement followed a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron at Corsica, during a summit with Europe’s Mediterranean leaders.

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Media report, according to the athlete’s own statements, as well as statements by his family and human rights organizations, Afkari’s confession was obtained through torture. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Iran summons German ambassador over wrestler execution tweets

By Zoe Didili
Journalist, New Europe

epa08663861 A supporter of the National Council of Resistance Iran (NWRI) and the Iranian Exile Society in Berlin holds a placard with the picture of Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari, while protesting against his execution at the Iranian embassy in Berlin, Germany, 12 September 2020. The local judicial authority confirmed the execution, it is said. EPA-EFE/ALEXANDER BECHER In Iran, the death sentence against Navid Afkari has apparently been carried out. According to the Iranian judicial authorities, Afkari was accused of killing a security officer in a demonstration in Shiraz in 2018. According to the state news agency IRNA, the 27-year-old Afkari was executed in Adel-Abad prison in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz. EPA-EFE/ALEXANDER BECHER

A supporter of the National Council of Resistance Iran (NWRI) and the Iranian Exile Society in Berlin holds a placard with the picture of Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari, while protesting against his execution at the Iranian embassy in Berlin, Germany, 12 September 2020.
Hans: 🇩🇪🇪🇺German Government Human Rights Commissioner Baerbel Kofler issued the following statement on the shocking fate of Iran's🇮🇷world class athlete Navid Afkari. We share the grief of his family, friends and the international athletic community: https://t.co/AP80ins3rb
— GermanyinIran (@GermanyinIran) September 13, 2020

  “Meddling in Iran’s laws, regulations and independent judicial procedures is by no means acceptable or tolerable,” the Iranian diplomat said, adding that “the German Embassy is expected to know the limits of its diplomatic mission and not to go beyond them.”
Iranian authorities accused Afkari of murdering a security guard during a wave of anti-government protests in 2018 and despite global outcry, Afkari was executed by hanging in the southern city of Shiraz, state news agency IRNA reported. “We were deeply shocked by the execution of Navid Afkari,” the German Embassy said in a twitter post on Sunday. Iran on Monday summoned Germany’s ambassador in Tehran, Hans-Udo Muzel, over a series of tweets “protesting against the execution of Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari. Amb. In a leaked recording released by Amnesty International, the 27-year-old wrestler said he had been tortured into making a confession, although the Iranian authorities have denied accusations. US President Donald Trump also defended Afkari, saying that his “sole act was an anti-government demonstration on the streets”. “If I am executed, I want you to know that an innocent person, even though he tried and fought with all his strength to be heard, was executed,” Afkari said in the recording. “It is not acceptable that basic legal rights be ignored in order to silence opposing voices,” the statement reads, adding that Navid’s two brothers are still in prison and “now they need our solidarity!”
According to a statement released by the Iranian Foreign Ministry, the Foreign Ministry Director-General for Europe has strongly condemned the tweets of the German embassy as “undiplomatic” and interference in Iran’s domestic judicial affairs.
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Staff and children will have their temperature taken on arrival, while those who have been in close contact with a student or teacher who tests positive for Covid-19 will be immediately quarantined. Millions of children returned to classrooms across 14 Italian regions on Monday, more than six months after schools were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, elementary students waited in spaces designated by red tape to be called to class. The move raised concerns about older teachers, as Italy has the oldest teaching workforce in the European Union. According to the safety measures, teachers and pupils over the age of 6 will have to wear face masks at all times. More than half of primary and secondary school teachers are over the age of 50, and 17% are over 60, according to a new report. Almost 15,000 of more than 35,500 coronavirus deaths in Italy were among people between the age of 50 and 79.
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Schools reopened in much of Italy on 14 September after being closed for six months amid the coronavirus pandemic. Schools reopened in much of Italy on 14 September after being closed for six months amid the coronavirus pandemic. EPA-EFE/MASSIMO PERCOSSI

Students wearing face masks attend a class inside the gym at Isacco Newton High School in Rome, Italy, 14 September 2020. EPA-EFE/MASSIMO PERCOSSI Some 5.6 million students were expected to be back to school. Some 5.6 million students were expected to be back to school. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Italian schoolchildren return to classrooms in areas that were worst-hit hotspots

By Elena Pavlovska
Journalist

epa08668134 Students wearing face masks attend a class inside the gym at Isacco Newton High School in Rome, Italy, 14 September 2020.

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The novel coronavirus emerged last year in China’s Wuhan province. A fourth COVID-19 vaccine being developed by CanSino Biologics was approved for use by the Chinese military in June. In an interview with state TV on Monday, CDC chief biosafety expert Guizhen Wu said that China has four experimental vaccines in the third and final stage of clinical trials. She added that phase 3 clinical trials were proceeding smoothly and the vaccines could be ready for the general public in November or December. A unit of state pharmaceutical giant China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) and US-listed Sinovac Biotech are developing the three vaccines under the state’s emergency use programme. COVID-19 vaccines being developed in China may be ready for use by the general public as early as November, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said. It has killed more than 925,000 people. Wu also said that she took an experimental vaccine herself in April, and that she has experienced no abnormal symptoms.
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EPA-EFE/ROMAN PILIPEY style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>China coronavirus vaccine may be ready for public in November

By Elena Pavlovska
Journalist

epa08628350 A Sinovac company logo is displayed at the company’s headquarters in Beijing, China, 26 August 2020 (issued 27 August 2020). Chinese company Sinovac Biotech is developing the COVID-19 vaccine candidate called CoronaVac. EPA-EFE/ROMAN PILIPEY

A Sinovac company logo is displayed at the company's headquarters in Beijing, China, 26 August 2020 (issued 27 August 2020). Chinese company Sinovac Biotech is developing the COVID-19 vaccine candidate called CoronaVac.

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Russia and Belarus have a union treaty envisaging close political, economic and military ties, but Lukashenko has repeatedly accused the Kremlin of pressing Belarus to abandon its independence. Belarus has been rocked by five weeks of protests after Lukashenko, who has led the country since 1994, won a landslide victory in the August 9 election. “A friend is in trouble, and I say that sincerely,” Lukashenko told Putin in televised remarks at the start of the meeting. The vote was denounced by EU officials, and forced Lukashenko to look to Moscow for support. Tikhanovskaya, who fled to Lithuania after the vote, won only about 10% to Lukashenko’s 80%, according to the election committee. Human rights activists have repeatedly accused Belarusian riot police of brutally suppressing peaceful marches in the country. “We see Belarus as our closest ally and we will undoubtedly fulfill all our obligations”, Putin told Lukashenko during the talks. The government has denied the claims. Tikhanovskaya described Monday’s loan as Russia “paying for our beatings”. The opposition says that Lukashenko’s main challenger, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, was the rightful winner and wants new elections. “There is a red line, you also know about this, more than I do, you had to make these lines clear in Chechnya when you were a young president”, he added. Russia’s president Vladimir Putin has agreed with Belarus’ president Alexander Lukashenko to a $1.5-billion loan for Minsk. Both leaders met in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi for their first face-to-face meeting since Belarus erupted in protest following a disputed election.

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The Belarusian President is on a working visit in Russia. The Belarusian President is on a working visit in Russia. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Lukashenko gets $1.5 bln loan from Putin

By Elena Pavlovska
Journalist

epa08668770 A handout still image taken from a video footage released by the Russian Presidential Press and Information Office on the official website of the Russian President shows Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) during their meeting in the Black sea resort of Sochi, Russia, 14 September 2020. EPA-EFE/KREMLIN HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

A handout still image taken from a video footage released by the Russian Presidential Press and Information Office on the official website of the Russian President shows Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) during their meeting in the Black sea resort of Sochi, Russia, 14 September 2020. EPA-EFE/KREMLIN HANDOUT
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A US government official said that Marks, who took up her post last October, had been informed and the threat was listed in the CIA’s World Intelligence Review. Iran’s ministry of foreign affairs has strongly denied the report, and called it “anti-Iran propaganda”. It said it would be the Islamic Republic’s preferred method of retaliating against US president Donald Trump’s assassination of Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani in January. Iran is weighing an assassination attempt against the United States’ ambassador to South Africa Lana Marks, US media reported on Monday. Iran later launched missile strikes on an Iraqi military base housing US troops, but American casualties were low and intelligence officials said it was likely that there would be more attacks at a later date. The report citied multiple US intelligence sources and a CIA global threats document. According to US media, the intelligence report is not clear why the South African-born Marks would be Iran’s target for revenge, except that she is a close friend of Trump’s and a member of his exclusive Mar-a-Lago resort club in Florida.

style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Iran reportedly considered killing US ambassador to South Africa

By Elena Pavlovska
Journalist

epa05556667 An Iranian man walks in front of the missiles exhibited on the 36th anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war, in Baharestan square in Teheran, Iran, 26 September 2016. EPA/STRINGER EPA/STRINGER

An Iranian man walks in front of the missiles exhibited on the 36th anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war, in Baharestan square in Teheran, Iran, 26 September 2016. Iran is marking the 36th anniversary of war with Iraq that raged between 1980 and 1988. Iran is marking the 36th anniversary of war with Iraq that raged between 1980 and 1988.

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He was first placed in an hospital in Omsk, Russia, after he felt bad on board of a plane on his way from Tomsk to Moscow. Navalny is treated at the Charite hospital in Berlin since 22 August 2020. The flight was interrupted and after landing in Omsk Navalny was delivered to hospital with a suspicion on a toxic poisoning. The German government spokesperson on 02 September 2020 said it 'the unequivocal proof' that Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent from the Novichok group was established. EPA-EFE/YURI KOCHETKOV style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Three more labs confirm Navalny was poisoned with Novichok

By Elena Pavlovska
Journalist

epa08641530 (FILE) – Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny (C) takes part in a memorial march for Boris Nemtsov marking the fifth anniversary of his assassination in Moscow, Russia, 29 February 2020 (reissued 02 September 2020). The flight was interrupted and after landing in Omsk Navalny was delivered to hospital with a suspicion on a toxic poisoning. The German government spokesperson on 02 September 2020 said it ‘the unequivocal proof’ that Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent from the Novichok group was established. EPA-EFE/YURI KOCHETKOV

Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny (C) takes part in a memorial march for Boris Nemtsov marking the fifth anniversary of his assassination in Moscow, Russia, 29 February 2020 (reissued 02 September 2020). Navalny is treated at the Charite hospital in Berlin since 22 August 2020. He was first placed in an hospital in Omsk, Russia, after he felt bad on board of a plane on his way from Tomsk to Moscow.

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Moscow has repeatedly insisted that it has seen no evidence that Navalny was poisoned and dismissed Berlin’s findings. Last week, Berlin’s Charite hospital that has been treating Navalny said his condition has improved and he is being weaned off mechanical ventilation. French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday urged Russia’s president Vladimir Putin to ensure “all light be shed, without delay” on the facts surrounding the Navalny poisoning. We are in close contact with our European partners on further steps”, the German government said in a statement. Navalny’s poisoning. “Three laboratories have now independently provided evidence of a nerve agent from the Novichok group as the cause of Mr. Navalny is a fierce critic of Russia’s president Vladimir Putin. Russia has rejected the claims. Germany says he was poisoned with a Soviet-style Novichok nerve agent in an attempt to murder him. French and Swedish labs confirmed that Russia’s opposition politician Alexei Navalny was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok, Germany said on Monday. On August 20, he fell ill on a flight from Siberia to Moscow, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing in Omsk, where he spent two days in hospital before being evacuated to Germany. On Monday, Charite hospital said that Navalny has been successfully removed from mechanical ventilation and is now able to briefly leave his bed. We renew the call for Russia to explain what has happened.
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Positive growth is expected in all basic industries. According to the forecast data of the Ministry of National Economy of Kazakhstan, the real growth of the country’s GDP in 2021 will be 2.8%, and in 2025 – 4.6%. The gross inflow of foreign direct investment in the economy of Kazakhstan amounted to $ 3.6 billion in the first quarter of this year, analytical agency Finprom said on September 14. This year, the rating agencies Moody’s and FitchRatings have confirmed the rating of Kazakhstan at the level of investment reliability, Finprom’s experts summarise. Despite this, according to the estimates of many international rating agencies, Kazakhstan retains a low level of public debt and a significant amount of fiscal reserves, sufficient to cushion external shocks,” analysts say. The authorities of the republic guarantee the stability of tax legislation for investors implementing investment projects in priority sectors. Today, a favourable investment climate has been created in Kazakhstan: a simplified tax regime is in effect, national legislation is constantly being improved, and the package of investment preferences is expanding. The introduced quarantine measures aimed at containing the spread of the pandemic dealt a serious blow to economic activity. In the context of the crisis, diversification of the economy, which is a key element of Kazakhstan’s foreign economic policy, is of particular importance and is in dire need of attracting foreign investment. The agency’s analysts also commented about the trends in the second quarter of this year. The Netherlands ($988.3 million), the United States ($744.9 million) and Russia ($379.9 million) are the top-3 largest investors in Kazakhstan. “In 2018-2019, we observed a decrease in investment activity around the world, but in Kazakhstan in 2018 the gross inflow of foreign direct investment increased by 15.8% over the year, and in 2019 it remained at the level of the previous year – $24 billion,” Finprom said. “According to the results of the second quarter of this year, the global economy retained its dynamics of decline.

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KULPASH KONYROVA

The Netherlands, US and Russia are the top-3 largest investors in Kazakhstan. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Kazakhstan attracts $3.6 billion in foreign direct investment in Q1 2020

By Kulpash Konyrova

View of Kazakhstan's capital Nur-Sultan, September 13, 2020.

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Iranian authorities have denied accusations of torture. Iran broadcast his televised confession last week. He was executed by hanging, according to state media. However, he said he had been tortured into making a confession. In a leaked recording released by human rights organisation Amnesty International, Afkari says: “If I am executed, I want you to know that an innocent person, even though he tried and fought with all his strength to be heard, was executed.”
Officials said Afkari was executed “this morning after legal procedures were carried out at the insistence of the parents and the family of the victim”. Authorities accused Afkari, 27, of stabbing the water supply company employee in the southern city of Shiraz. Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari has been executed after being convicted of stabbing to death a security guard, state media reported.

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Iran's national news agency IRNA confirmed 12 September 2020 Iran had executed Navid Afkari for a murder that he according to Iran's judicial authorities had confessed to. Many leading international organizations had protested the planned execution and asked Iran to spare Afkari’s life. EPA-EFE/NWRI HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

A undated handout photo made available 12 September 2020 by National Council of Resistance Iran (NWRI) and the Iranian Exile Society, showing Iranian champion wrestler Navid Afkari at a undisclosed location. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Iran executes champion wrestler

By Elena Pavlovska
Journalist

epa08663502 A undated handout photo made available 12 September 2020 by National Council of Resistance Iran (NWRI) and the Iranian Exile Society, showing Iranian champion wrestler Navid Afkari at a undisclosed location. Many leading international organizations had protested the planned execution and asked Iran to spare Afkari's life. EPA-EFE/NWRI Iran’s national news agency IRNA confirmed 12 September 2020 Iran had executed Navid Afkari for a murder that he according to Iran’s judicial authorities had confessed to.

Last week, the company paused large late-stage trials of the vaccine, developed with the University of Oxford, because of an unexplained illness in a study participant. The regulatory agency confirmed that it was safe to resume, AstraZeneca said. British drugmaker AstraZeneca on Saturday said that clinical trials for its experimental coronavirus vaccine have resumed in the United Kingdom after regulators concluded it was safe to do so. A person familiar with the situation was cited as saying that the participant was found to have transverse myelitis, an inflammatory syndrome that affects the spinal cord and is often sparked by viral infections. A UK committee has concluded its investigation and recommended to the UK Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency it would be safe to resume the trials.

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EPA-EFE/DAN HIMBRECHTS AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

A general view of an analytical chemist at AstraZeneca?s headquarters in Sydney, Australia, 19 August 2020. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine trials resume

By Elena Pavlovska
Journalist

epa08612064 A general view of an analytical chemist at AstraZeneca?s headquarters in Sydney, Australia, 19 August 2020. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Australians will be among the first in the world to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, if it proves successful, through an agreement between the government and UK-based drug company AstraZeneca. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Australians will be among the first in the world to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, if it proves successful, through an agreement between the government and UK-based drug company AstraZeneca. EPA-EFE/DAN HIMBRECHTS AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

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Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) gathered in Brussels for Committee meetings and Plenary Sessions debating the migrants situation’s in Bosnia as well as in Greek islands’ hotspots. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>MEPs threaten to block EU-UK trade deal if London breaches Withdrawal Agreement

By Zoe Didili
Journalist, New Europe

epaselect epa07994911 An image taken with a zoom lens effect shows a general view of the European Parliament’s hemicycle on the second day of a ‘mini-plenary’ session in Brussels, Belgium, 14 November 2019. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET

An image taken with a zoom lens effect shows a general view of the European Parliament's hemicycle on the second day of a 'mini-plenary' session in Brussels, Belgium, 14 November 2019.

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s legislation will be debated in the House of Commons on Monday, with a late vote expected to follow. A breach of the agreement could lead the EU to take legal action on several grounds against the UK, however, the British government made it “perfectly clear” it would not withdraw the bill. Europe’s lawmakers are threatening to block any trade deal with the UK unless the latter withdraws its plans to override elements of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and to breach international law in a “very specific and limited way.”
“Should the UK authorities breach – or threaten to breach – the Withdrawal Agreement, through the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill in its current form or in any other way, the European Parliament will, under no circumstances, ratify any agreement between the EU and the UK,” the leaders of the political groups of the EU Parliament along with the members of the UK Coordination Group (UKCG) said in a joint statement on Friday. While the talks are only conducted by the Commission, the EU parliament needs to give its nod for any agreement to be enacted. They added that the body “will not accept having its democratic oversight curbed by a last-minute deal beyond the end of October,” also reiterating the Commission’s Vice-President, Maros Sefcovic’ call to the UK government to withdraw these measures from the draft Bill in the shortest time possible, or risk collapse of post-Brexit talks. “Violating the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement would break international law, undermine trust and put at risk the ongoing future relationship negotiations,” the EU said in a statement after an in-person emergency meeting with UK’s Cabinet Minister, Michael Gove in London last week, adding that it is up to the UK to rebuild this trust.

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EPA-EFE/SERGEI ILNITSKY

Voters examine list of candidates at a polling station during Moscow municipal elections at the Single Voting Day in Moscow, Russia, 13 September 2020. In Moscow by-elections to the Deputies Councils of two municipal districts are held. In the year of 2020 the Single Voting Day in Russia is set on 13 September. On this day 83 constituent entities of the Russian Federation will hold election campaigns at various levels, from elections of senior officials of Russian subjects to elections to local governments of municipal districts, urban and rural settlements. In Moscow by-elections to the Deputies Councils of two municipal districts are held. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Russia’s ruling party unsurprisingly wins regional elections

By Elena Pavlovska
Journalist

epa08665800 Voters examine list of candidates at a polling station during Moscow municipal elections at the Single Voting Day in Moscow, Russia, 13 September 2020. On this day 83 constituent entities of the Russian Federation will hold election campaigns at various levels, from elections of senior officials of Russian subjects to elections to local governments of municipal districts, urban and rural settlements. EPA-EFE/SERGEI ILNITSKY In the year of 2020 the Single Voting Day in Russia is set on 13 September.

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Authorities stretched out the elections over three days. Last week, Berlin’s Charite hospital that has been treating Navalny said his condition has improved and he is being weaned off mechanical ventilation. On August 20, he fell ill on a flight from Siberia to Moscow, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing in Omsk, where he spent two days in hospital before being evacuated to Germany. Navalny is a fierce critic of Russia’s president Vladimir Putin. Russia’s main pro-Kremlin party, United Russia, on Sunday claimed a clear win in local polls that come only weeks after the suspected poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Russia has rejected the claims. In recent years, Navalny has endured multiple incarcerations, a barred attempt to run for president, and a hamstrung bid for the Moscow mayor’s post. Germany says he was poisoned with a Soviet-style Novichok nerve agent in an attempt to murder him. The move was criticised by election watchdogs who said the longer period would make it harder for monitors to catch fraud at polling stations. Navalny and his allies have been preparing for Sunday’s regional elections at the time of the suspected poisoning.

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EPA-EFE/Petros Karadjias / POOL

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades (R) touch elbows after a press conference at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus, 12 September 2020. Pompeo’s lightning visit to Cyprus aimed to de-escalate a confrontation between Greece and Turkey over energy reserves in east Mediterranean waters and to affirm Washington’s continued engagement in the tumultuous region four days after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pitched Moscow’s offer to help ease tensions during his trip to the island nation. EPA-EFE/Petros Karadjias / POOL style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Turkey says US needs to return to neutral stance on Cyprus

By Zoe Didili
Journalist, New Europe

epa08665241 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades (R) touch elbows after a press conference at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia, Cyprus, 12 September 2020.

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Turkey has called on the US to return to a neutral stance on Cyprus, and to efforts for the settlement of the Cyprus conundrum, after Nicosia and Washington signed earlier this month a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for a deeper security cooperation. Earlier this month, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo said the US had decided to partially lift a 33-year arms embargo against Cyprus. “The memorandum of understanding will not serve peace and stability in the eastern Mediterranean and will damage the solution of the Cyprus problem,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued on Sunday. However, Matthew Palmer of the US State Department said earlier in September that the move does not reflect a change in US policy on the Cyprus problem, citing that “We continue to support a comprehensive settlement that will reunite the island into a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation which will benefit all Cypriots as well as the wider region.”
  The move has faced acute criticism by Ankara, which supported that the lifting of the arms embargo and the provision of military training program (IMET) to the Greek Cypriot side, “disrupts the balance between the two peoples on the Island and increases the tension in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
It also supported that the recent developments “totally excluded” the Turkish Cypriots “who have equal rights with the Greek Cypriots on the Island,” and could further harden the Greek Cypriot “intransigence,” as well discourage a “reconciliatory position” by the Greek Cypriot side on the solution of any problem. The embargo will be lifted for one year, with the possibility of renewal, and will apply to non-lethal systems. “We urge the US to return to its impartial policy that it has traditionally maintained in the Island of Cyprus and to contribute to the efforts towards the settlement of the Cyprus issue,” the statement adds.

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Suga took 377 of a total of 534 votes against the two other contenders, former defense minister Shigeru Ishiba and former foreign minister Fumio Kishida. He is seen as promising stability and a continuation of Abe’s policies. Suga is expected to win a parliamentary vote on Wednesday. “I was born as the oldest son of a farmer in Akita,” Suga said. I will devote all of myself to work for Japan and its citizens”, he said. “Without any knowledge or blood ties, I launched into the world of politics, starting from zero – and have been able to become leader of the LDP, with all its traditions and history. Last month, Abe announced that he would step down due to health problems, ending nearly eight years in office. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, an aide to outgoing prime minister Shinzo Abe, has been elected leader of the country’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) on Monday, paving the way for him to become the next prime minister.

EPA-EFE/EUGENE HOSHIKO / POOL

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga (C) reacts as he is elected as new head of Japan's ruling party during the Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) leadership election in Tokyo, Japan, 14 September 2020. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Japan’s Suga wins party leadership race, headed for premiership

By Elena Pavlovska
Journalist

epa08667554 Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga (C) reacts as he is elected as new head of Japan’s ruling party during the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) leadership election in Tokyo, Japan, 14 September 2020. EPA-EFE/EUGENE HOSHIKO / POOL

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style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Israel announces three-week national lockdown as COVID cases skyrocket

By Zoe Didili
Journalist, New Europe

epa08667169 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu briefing on coronavirus development in Israel at his office in Jerusalem, Israel, 13 September 2020. EPA-EFE/Yoav Dudkevitch / POOL

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu briefing on coronavirus development in Israel at his office in Jerusalem, Israel, 13 September 2020. Netanyahu said that the government’s decision to impose a second lockdown during the Jewish Holidays came after medical experts raised the alarm due to the increase in seriously ill patients suffering from COVID-19. EPA-EFE/Yoav Dudkevitch / POOL

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The move, however, prompted the resignation of Israeli Housing Minister and former Health Minister, Yaakov Litzman, who supported that imposing the lockdown over the Jewish holidays “is an injustice and disregard for hundreds of thousands of citizens, ultra-Orthodox, religious and traditional.”
Netanyahu’s announcement came ahead of his visit to Washington for the signing ceremony of Israel’s normalisation agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. The new lockdown will be imposed as of Friday, the beginning of the Jewish High Holiday season and foresees that schools, restaurants, malls and hotels will shut down and citizens’ movements will be restricted to within 500 meters of home, while the public and private sectors will continue to work. “Our goal is to stop the increase and lower morbidity,” Netanyahu said in a nationally broadcast statement, adding that he acknowledges that “these steps come at a difficult price for all of us. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday announced a three-week national lockdown, starting from September 18, following a surge in COVID-19 cases across the country. This is not the holiday we are used to.”
The Israeli PM justified the government’s decision to impose a second lockdown during the Jewish Holidays by citing that medical experts had raised the alarm over the increase in seriously ill patients suffering from COVID-19.