Vaccine: Frankfurt Airport prepares for logistical challenge of a lifetime

As a string of COVID-19 vaccines near approval, Frankfurt Airport staff are gearing up to handle the unprecedented logistical challenge of transporting millions of life-saving doses worldwide.

Frankfurt is Europe”s largest hub for transporting pharmaceutical goods, and will be key to the success of inoculating millions of people against the deadly coronavirus.

“The stress is increasing now that we’re entering the ‘hot’ phase,” Karin Krestan, Lufthansa Cargo’s director of operations, told AFP during a tour of the temperature-controlled “Cargo Cool Center” terminal.

Krestan, who uses her skills as a former nurse, is sure her team is ready for the task.

“The processes have been established, we’re very confident and we feel well prepared,” she said.

In fact, Max Philipp Conrady, head of freight infrastructure at Fraport, told AFP: “We’ve been ready since August”.

Frankfurt’s cargo terminal has been working around the clock since the pandemic began, delivering medicine, surgical gowns and masks and supporting global supply chains as passenger numbers collapsed and airlines grounded planes.

The vast temperature-controlled hangar, a few kilometres from the main passenger terminal, handled 120,000 tons of vaccines, drugs and other pharmaceutical products in 2019, airport operator Fraport said.

It has 12,000 square metres of temperature-controlled warehouses, essential for storing medicines, with 2,000 square metres of cold storage, ideal for vaccines.

Fraport recently boosted investment in high-tech refrigerated “dollies” that transport vaccines from cold-storage hangars to planes, and now have 20 so several freighters can be loaded at the same time.

Some vaccines, such as one produced by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, can be shipped at normal refrigerator temperatures.

But Pfizer’s, developed at the BioNTech lab in Mainz, around 20km from the Frankfurt airport, must remain at around -70 degrees C (-94 F).

That requires car-sized containers which use dry ice to keep contents at stable, ultra-low temperatures.

They can do so for up to 120 hours without a power supply, long enough to reach far-flung destinations.

The EU recently agreed to buy 300 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, presaging a huge logistical operation, much of which will involve Frankfurt in the coming months.

While the airport has the capacity to handle the extra-cold freight, Krestan noted that flight capacity will be a major factor in the pace of distribution.

Providing a single dose to the world’s nearly eight billion people would require 8,000 jumbo jets, the air transport association IATA estimated in September, adding that the cargo industry faces “its largest single transport challenge ever”.

Cargo planes can normally carry up to a million doses, unless sub-zero temperatures must be maintained.

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What is the ‘Kraken’ and what does it have to do with Trump’s election challenge

Calls to “Release the Kraken,” once reserved for tales of Scandinavian folklore and rum commercials, have become the latest rallying cry for pro-Trump groups spreading unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud in the U.S. election.

Pro-Trump groups, including QAnon conspiracy theorists, have been sharing the hashtag #ReleaseTheKraken in the weeks following President-elect Joe Biden’s declared victory in an effort to support the legal campaign to challenge the election results.

But how did the Kraken – a gigantic sea monster from Scandinavian folklore that rises up from the ocean to devour its enemies and the name of a popular rum brand – become the symbol of this campaign?

The hashtag appears to stem from comments made by Sidney Powell, a lawyer for former U.S. national security adviser Michael Flynn.

During an interview with Fox Business Network on Nov. 13, Powell claimed the president’s team had substantial evidence to prove widespread voter fraud in several key states.

“We are talking about hundreds of thousands of votes. President Trump won this election in a landslide,” she said during the interview.

Powell claimed that she had seen a growing body of evidence and testimony from voters to prove that Dominion voting machines altered ballots in key swing states, claiming the machines were developed to rig elections in countries such as Venezuela, Cuba, and China.

When asked if she believed her claims of voter fraud were the “culmination of an four-year effort to overthrow Trump’s presidency,” she alleged that voter fraud had been organized and conducted with the help of tech companies, social media companies, and the media.

“I’m going to release the Kraken,” she stated.

The hashtag has continued to gain traction on Twitter as pro-Trump supporters spread news of efforts to legally challenge the election results. Though, on Saturday, some of the tweets appeared to poke fun at the effort as users shared images of The Kraken rum bottles, and images of octopuses, which are commonly used to depict the fictional creature.

No evidence has emerged of the widespread voting fraud that Trump and his legal team have repeatedly alleged, which has been slapped down by judges and state election officials.​

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Iranian scientist killed; added challenge for President-elect Biden

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates

An Iranian scientist long suspected by the West of masterminding a secret nuclear bomb program was killed in an ambush near Tehran Friday that could provoke confrontation between Iran and its foes in the last weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency.

The death of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who Iranian state media said died in hospital after armed assassins gunned him down in his car, will also complicate any effort by U.S. President-elect Joe Biden to revive the detente of Barack Obama’s presidency.

Iran pointed the finger at Israel, with the implication that the killing would have the blessing of the departing Mr. Trump.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted of “serious indications of Israeli role” and called on Western countries to “end their shameful double standards & condemn this act of state terror.”

The military adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed to “strike as thunder at the killers of this oppressed martyr.”

“In the last days of the political life of their … ally [Mr. Trump], the Zionists seek to intensify pressure on Iran and create a full-blown war,” Hossein Dehghan tweeted.

There was silence from foreign capitals. Israel declined to comment. In the United States, the White House, Pentagon, State Department, and CIA all declined to comment. Mr. Biden’s transition team also declined to comment.

Mr. Fakhrizadeh has been described by Western and Israeli intelligence services for years as the leader of a covert atomic bomb program halted in 2003, which Israel and the United States accuse Tehran of trying to restore in secret. Iran has long denied seeking to weaponize nuclear energy.

The semi-official news agency Tasnim said “terrorists blew up another car” before firing on a vehicle carrying Mr. Fakhrizadeh and his bodyguards in an ambush outside the capital.

The nuclear deal

Regardless of who was responsible for the attack, it is certain to escalate tension between Iran and the United States in the final weeks of Mr. Trump’s presidency.

President Trump, who lost his reelection bid to Mr. Biden Nov. 3 and leaves office Jan. 20, pulled the United States from a deal reached under Mr. Obama, his predecessor, by which sanctions on Iran were lifted in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

President-elect Biden has said he will aim to restore that agreement, although many analysts say this would not happen overnight, with both sides likely to demand more reassurances.

A U.S. official confirmed this month that Mr. Trump had asked military aides for a plan for a possible strike on Iran. The president decided against it at the time because of the risk it could provoke a wider Middle East conflict.

Last January, Mr. Trump ordered a drone strike in Baghdad that killed Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s most powerful military commander. Iran retaliated by firing missiles at a U.S. base in Iraq, the closest the two foes have come to war in decades.

Mr. Fakhrizadeh is thought to have headed what the U.N. nuclear watchdog and U.S. intelligence services believe was a coordinated nuclear weapons program in Iran, shelved in 2003.

He was the only Iranian scientist named in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 2015 “final assessment” of open questions about Iran‘s nuclear program. The IAEA’s report said he oversaw activities “in support of a possible military dimension to (Iran‘s) nuclear program.”

‘Remember that name’

The scientist was a central figure in a presentation by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2018 accusing Iran of continuing to seek nuclear weapons.

“Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh,” Mr. Netanyahu said at the time.

During the final months of Mr. Trump’s presidency, Israel has been making peace with Gulf Arab states that share its hostility toward Iran.

This week, the Israeli leader traveled to Saudi Arabia and met its crown prince, an Israeli official said, in what would be the first publicly confirmed visit by an Israeli leader. Israeli media said they were joined by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

On Friday, before the news of the attack on the Iranian scientist emerged, an Israeli official said Israel was discussing with Gulf Arab states how to tackle Iran.

“The story is not Trump, nor even Israel. The story is Iran – the growing dread that a new U.S. administration will go back to the nuclear deal which threatens the very existence of the Gulf countries,” Tzachi Hanegbi, who sits in Mr. Netanyahu’s security cabinet, told Tel Aviv radio station 102 FM.

“We will know how to handle the issue of the Iranian threat, even if through our own means.”

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Furloughed workers face challenge getting mortgages – Channel 4 News

If it wasn’t already a struggle to get onto the housing ladder, things just got that much harder for people on furlough.

While the pandemic has sent the wealthy rushing to snap up desirable countryside homes, many people – including the millions currently on furlough – are finding it a challenge to get a mortgage in the first place.

Even people who have viable jobs and expect to go back to full time work next year are being turned down by lenders.

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Ice Bucket Challenge co-creator Patrick Quinn dies at 37 from motor neurone disease

One of the men behind the Ice Bucket Challenge, a worldwide phenomenon which helped raise money and awareness for motor neurone disease, has died seven years after being diagnosed with the illness.

Friends and supporters paid tribute to Patrick Quinn, 37, on social media.

“It is with great sadness that we must share the passing of Patrick early this morning,” they wrote.

Mr Quinn and Pete Frates, who died last year at 34, started the challenge in 2014 after being diagnosed with ALS, also known as motor neurone disease.

The challenge quickly went viral on social media, with people around the world posting videos and photos of themselves dumping buckets of ice water on their heads, and challenging others to do the same while urging donations for ALS research.

It didn’t take long for celebrities, politicians and athletes to jump on the bandwagon, helping to raise more than $US220 million for medical research.


Who was Patrick Quinn and why did he start this challenge?

Mr Quinn was born and grew up in Yonkers, New York.

He was diagnosed with ALS on March 8, 2013.

He and Mr Frates said in 2019 that they were determined to raise money for ALS, but didn’t expect the viral response that ensued. 

“In the summer of 2014, we challenged our friends and family to dump buckets full of ice water over their heads to raise awareness and funds for ALS,” they said.

Among Mr Quinn’s many honours for raising awareness of ALS and promoting research was a nomination, with Mr Frates, for Time magazine’s Person of the Year.

What exactly was the Ice Bucket Challenge?


Basically, it involved people videoing themselves dumping a bucket of ice water over their heads.

Or over someone else’s.

Yes, it seems an odd way to raise awareness about ALS, but it worked.

It evolved from earlier smaller cold water challenges to raise funds for various charities like the Special Olympics, hospices and sick children.

But none gained traction like this one.

The Ice Bucket Challenge went viral on social media in the northern summer of 2014.


Was it successful?


There were more than 2.4 million tagged videos circulating on Facebook. Celebrities embraced the challenge, with the likes of Justin Bieber, LeBron James, Weird Al Yankovic, Russell Brand and former US president George W Bush taking part.

Bill Gates, Barnaby Joyce, Ricky Gervais and Kermit the Frog also joined in.

Even Donald Trump got involved, electing to have ice tipped over him by then-Miss Universe and Miss USA as he sat on top of a skyscraper.


The challenge definitely hit its peak in 2014, but had smaller revivals in subsequent years.

Dr Matthew Robinson, from the Brain Institute at the University of Queensland, said the money helped researchers find three new genes involved in ALS.

“The hope is that as a result, we can better understand what these genes actually do,” he said.

Was there a backlash?

It’s the internet. Of course there was.

Some media columnists complained about it being a form of ‘armchair slacktivism’, criticising participants for not getting more meaningfully involved in raising money and awareness.

Others said celebrities were simply showing off.

And, of course, some complained about it being a waste of water, particularly as places like California and some areas in China were experiencing extreme drought at the time.

Californian authorities tried to encourage people to use buckets of dirt instead, or to fill them with other items like socks.

Singer Carole King chose to do her challenge in a creek, so the water would not be wasted.


So what is ALS?

ALS is also known as motor neurone disease, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

It’s a rare and fatal neurodegenerative disease that impacts the brain and spinal cord, causing progressive paralysis.

It affects the nerves that communicate between the brain and the muscles that allow us to move, speak, swallow and breathe.

Once a person is diagnosed, the average life expectancy is just two to three years.

It can affect adults of any age but is more common in people over 50.

The cause is unknown, and there is no cure.

There are currently more than 2,000 Australians living with ALS.


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ALS Ice Bucket Challenge co-creator Pat Quinn dies at 37

“He was a blessing to us all in so many ways,” his family said.

The co-creator of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge died Sunday following his long battle with the neurodegenerative disease.

Pat Quinn’s family posted on social media that the 37-year-old from Yonkers, New York, passed away in the morning. Quinn and Pete Frates launched the viral video campaign where people around the world poured ice-cold water over themselves and then nominated others to do the same to raise awareness and fund research into ALS.

“He was a blessing to us all in so many ways,” the family wrote on his social media page.

ALS, also called Lou Gehrig’s Disease after the Yankees legend who lost his life to it in 1941, is a neurological disease that mainly affects nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary movements, such as walking, chewing and talking, according to the National Institutes of Health. There is no known cure, and scientists have worked for decades to determine a cause.

Quinn was diagnosed with ALS in 2013, a month after his 30th birthday, according to the ALS Association. He and Frates were friends and started two online groups, Quinn for the Win and Team Frate Train, to raise awareness and funds for the fight against ALS.

Their online presence and connections led to the co-creation of the Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014. Quinn and Frates saw fellow New York ALS patient Anthony Senerchia, perform the challenge on his social media page and amplified the campaign, the ALS Association said.

Quinn and Frates recorded their own Ice Bucket videos and reached out to athletes, including Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons, to participate and raise awareness and donations.

During the summer of 2014, the Ice Bucket Challenge included several big-name supporters and donors including Lady Gaga, Oprah Winfrey and Meghan Markle. Quinn told ABC’s “Nightline” in an interview last year that he was surprised by how fast the campaign grew around the world.

“I am a huge basketball fan, so when people like Michael Jordan and Lebron James got involved, I lost it,” he told “Nightline.”

The campaign raised $220 million for ALS research and sparked a wave of studies and development into finding new treatments.

“Pat fought ALS with positivity and bravery and inspired all around him. Those of us who knew him are devastated but grateful for all he did to advance the fight against ALS,” the ALS Association said in a statement.

Frates died last year, and Senerchia died in 2017.

Quinn continued to conduct the challenge in the subsequent years, and he spoke around the country about the need for more awareness about the disease.

“The Ice Bucket Challenge connected with a sweet left hook to the jaw of ALS and shook the disease up, but by no means is this fight over. We need to knock this disease out,” he said at an event in Boston last year to mark the campaign’s fifth anniversary.

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Women Challenge Authoritarian Run Of Belarus President

Natalia Fedosenko / TASS via Getty Images

Women hold portraits of (from left) Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Veronika Tsepkalo, and Maria Kolesnikova as they take part in a rally for Tikhanovskaya, the Belarusian presidential challenger.

KYIV — Under a setting summer sun recently, 63,000 roaring Belarusians waved flags and held up homemade signs bearing the likeness of a woman who was a total unknown just over a month ago. They chanted her name as she strode in a loose-fitting pantsuit onto the stage at Minsk’s Park of Peoples’ Friendship: “Sveta! Sveta! Sveta!”

Sveta is a 37-year-old former English teacher Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. And in just a matter of weeks, she has gone from obscurity and, as she put it to demonstrators, frying cutlets for her children to a household name and the biggest political threat to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, famously dubbed by the West as “Europe’s last dictator,” since he came to power in 1994.

It is an extraordinary rise that has already earned her the label of Belarus’s “Joan of Arc.”

Just as remarkable considering the patriarchal system in place in Belarus and Lukashenko’s comments about how a woman president “would collapse, poor thing,” Tikhanovskaya is campaigning alongside two other women political novices, Maria Kolesnikova and Veronika Tsepkalo, who serve as campaign advisers and hype the crowd from the stage.

Together, the female troika has captured the imagination of frustrated Belarusians with a promise of change and three simple hand gestures that have become symbols of hope for many in the country: ✌️✊❤️.

Tanya Kapitonova / Getty Images

Tsepkalo, Tikhanovskaya, and Kolesnikova in Minsk

“The Belarusian people woke up,” Tsepkalo told BuzzFeed News by phone from Minsk on Friday. “We were sleeping for 26 years and now we are ready for changes.”

Belarus historically has been heavily dependent on Russia but has taken recent steps to normalize bilateral relations with the US after more than a decade of friction.

Lukashenko seems unlikely to lose Sunday’s election because of his control over the government and authoritarian tactics, but the US is watching with a keen eye to see how his government conducts itself in the days running up to the voting and when the ballots are counted. Tactics so far have fit a pattern of intimidation and harassment.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Minsk in February, the most senior US official to do so in more than two decades. And President Donald Trump has nominated career foreign service officer Julie Fisher to be the first US ambassador to Belarus since the last one was expelled in 2008. Fisher’s nomination moved forward on Wednesday, when she faced questioning from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“The first component to ensuring that we can continue to grow this relationship is to not see steps backward in the conduct of this presidential election,” Fisher said of the US and Belarus during the hearing.

Lukashenko, a mustachioed 65-year-old former Soviet collective farm director who loves a good publicity stunt — whether it’s playing ice hockey with Russian President Vladimir Putin, swinging scythes with French actor Gérard Depardieu, or feeding carrots and watermelon to Steven Seagal — has ruled Belarus with an iron fist for 26 years.

Natalia Fedosenko / TASS via Getty Images

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko

In that time, the man once affectionately referred to by supporters as Batka, meaning “father,” has consolidated power through widespread repression, the expansion of his authority as president, and the systematic dismantling of the country’s democratic institutions.

He has won five presidential elections, although all but the first failed to meet democratic standards and involved widespread vote-rigging, according to international election monitors.

Now Lukashenko wants a sixth term as president — and, using familiar tactics, he will almost certainly win again. His KGB security service has been busy detaining more than 1,300 people considered to be opponents of the president, including journalists, election monitors, and American citizens, according to the Viasna human rights group.

He has ordered snap military drills and visited with anti-riot police, telling them that they “must not allow” street protests. And in a desperate plea for support, he warned an audience of government officials and lawmakers on Tuesday not to “betray” him.

Sergei Gapon / Getty Images

Belarus security service agents detain a participant at a gathering of opposition supporters in Minsk.

“He’s preparing for a mass falsification of the election,” Valery Tsepkalo, a former Belarus ambassador to the US and the founder of Minsk’s High Tech Park, told BuzzFeed News in Kyiv.

He is the husband of Veronika Tsepkalo and was one of several figures who applied to challenge Lukashenko in the election. But he was banned from doing so. Fearing arrest, he fled to Moscow with his children before coming to the Ukrainian capital.

Veronika Tsepkalo said authorities had started the procedure to remove the couple’s children from their custody, even calling their school to notify it of the move. “If they see you as a threat, they go after you,” Tsepkalo said of Lukashenko’s obedient security forces.

The heavy-handed tactics are being employed by Lukashenko, her husband said, because the president is backed into a corner. “He’s really alone now,” he said.

Indeed, Lukashenko is facing an unprecedented groundswell of criticism from Belarusians over egregious human rights abuses, a stagnant economy that hasn’t improved since 2010, and his failure to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, which has ripped through the population of 9.5 million.

Many Belarusians are especially angry over the president’s mismanagement of the pandemic. Authorities have refused to implement health measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus while Lukashenko himself has dismissed it as a “psychosis” and argued that merely drinking vodka, playing ice hockey, going to the sauna, and riding tractors through fields would stave it off.

Making matters worse, he publicly berated people who became infected with the virus. And then he announced last week that he had contracted it himself but had survived it without experiencing symptoms and remained “on his feet.”

Yuri Tsarik, head of the Russia studies program at the Center for Strategic and Foreign Policy Studies in Minsk, told BuzzFeed News that Lukashenko made a huge mistake when he “positioned himself as a COVID denier” and made disrespectful comments about people who had contracted it before he did.

“I think it was him losing touch with reality,” Tsarik said.

Belarus had reported 68,503 cases of COVID-19, including 580 deaths, as of Friday.

All of this suggests that winning won’t be so easy for Lukashenko this time around and he will likely face staunch opposition long after the election.

Franak Viacorka, an independent Belarusian journalist, told BuzzFeed News that people are desperately seeking an alternative to Lukashenko, especially Belarus’s progressive, democratic-minded youth, who have lived under the ironfisted rule of him for all or most of their lives.

Nataliya Fedosenko / Nataliya Fedosenko/TASS

Tsepkalo, Tikhanovskaya, and Kolesnikova

The attraction of Tikhanovskaya, Viacorka said, is that she “is the opposite of Lukashenko.”

“She is educated, gentle, honest,” while the incumbent president is a “brutal, old school Soviet man,” he added.

Those qualities have made an impression, rousing tens of thousands of Belarusians to come out to her rallies in cities and towns across the country on an almost daily basis for weeks despite the threat of detention.

Independent journalist Hanna Liubakova told BuzzFeed News that such massive rallies taking place outside of Minsk represent a major difference from past anti-Lukashenko protests that have generally occurred in the Belarusian capital.

“Even people who voted for him before are saying, ‘We might have voted for him, but he hasn’t fulfilled his promises,’” she said.

Liubakova said the rallies themselves also feel different. Instead of the typical political demonstrations of old, with “boring political speeches” they feel more “like a rock concert.”

And in some ways they are. The unofficial anthem of Tikhanovskaya’s campaign is “Changes” — a song made popular by Russian rock star Viktor Tsoi during Perestroika. At every rally, the presidential hopeful and her two sidekicks pump up the crowd with it. They have also laid it over a slickly produced campaign video.

This sort of grassroots movement was unimaginable before Tikhanovskaya reluctantly stepped into the political arena after her husband, the popular vlogger and would-be presidential candidate Sergei Tikhonovsky, was barred from running, arrested, and jailed by authorities in May.

Liubakova observed that Svetlana Tikhanovskaya can appear awkward on stage, smiling nervously and speaking in a shaky voice, asking supporters to “forgive her mistakes.” But, Liubakova said, those traits help make her relatable.

Sergei Gapon / Getty Images

Tikhanovskaya outside the Central Electoral Commission in Minsk

Tikhanovskaya hasn’t grown this movement on her own. Major roles have been played by Kolesnikova, who ran the campaign of Viktor Babariko, a banker and presidential hopeful, before he was also arrested and jailed, and Tsepkalo.

The trio joined forces last month after hashing out a campaign platform in just 15 minutes and deciding that Tikhanovskaya would be the one to register as a candidate.

Their campaign is built on three pillars: to free all political prisoners, overturn authoritarian changes to the constitution made in 1996, and to organize new, fair presidential elections within six months.

“I am not seeking power. I want my husband and children back, and to fry my cutlets,” Tikhanovskaya told a crowd recently to uproarious applause.

It’s hard to know for sure just how popular she and Lukashenko actually are among the population, as there is no independent polling in Belarus.

But some independent Belarusian media, including leading online news sites and, published informal polls that showed the incumbent authoritarian with a measly 3% of support. That led to a meme calling the president “Sasha 3%” (Sasha is short for Alexander) that spread on social media. After that, authorities barred the media from publishing any more public surveys.

But it might be enough to simply look to the streets to see who Belarusians support. With their flashy and innovative campaign, Tikhanovskaya and her women partners have managed to organize the biggest public rallies Belarus has seen since becoming independent in 1991.

“We are all joined together in solidarity,” Tsepkalo said. “Now, we wake up every day and wonder, ‘Will we be put in jail today or not?’”

“We want to raise our kids in a free Belarus,” she added.

On Thursday, afraid that Tikhanovskaya would again assemble a rally of tens of thousands of supporters in Minsk just three days before the big vote, the government announced that the location where their last planned demonstration was set to take place had already been booked for a concert in honor of Railway Troops Day, a holiday that Tsepkalo said has never been celebrated before.

Undeterred, Tikhanovskaya, Kolesnikova, and Tsepkalo made a snap decision: They announced in a video shared on social media that they would attend the government-approved concert.

“We will be there. We will be together,” Tsepkalo said.

Within moments of their arrival and as a crowd of their supporters cheered, two DJs controlling the music for the government-approved concert defied the authorities and played “Changes,” the women’s unofficial campaign song. Blaring from the speakers came Soviet-era rocker Tsoi’s famous lines:

Our hearts are longing for changes

Our eyes are longing for changes

It’s in our laugh and in our tears

And it’s pulsing through our veins

Changes, we are longing for changes

Police dragged the two men away but not before they thrust their hands into the air, forming a fist and a V for victory.

On Friday afternoon, a Minsk court sentenced the two men to 10 days in jail. ●

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World No.1 Dustin Johnson recovers from COVID-19 to win first green jacket, staving off challenge from Australian Cameron Smith

His Masters preparation couldn’t have been more symbolic of a shambolic year, where a handful of players on the PGA Tour, including Adam Scott, have contracted COVID.

Perhaps no golfer could have handled the setback better than Johnson, who still doesn’t know why he tested positive (his family and close contacts, including fiancee Paulina Gretzky, all tested negative).

Dustin Johnson celebrates after winning his first Masters tournament in Augusta, Georgia.

Dustin Johnson celebrates after winning his first Masters tournament in Augusta, Georgia.Credit:AP

“I watched a lot of TV, but even then I ran out of stuff to watch,” Johnson said a couple of weeks ago of his stint in quarantine. “It was really boring. The most movement I made was to the shower and then I had a little outside area, so I would go sit outside for a little bit. That was it.”

Johnson, who headed into the final round of the Masters trying to dispel some demons (he was 0-4 when either leading or sharing the lead into the final round of a major), seemingly had everything to lose as Smith headed up the chasers.

He has been taking putting advice from Greg Norman, even if not taking his counsel on a Saturday night of Masters week.

Johnson had finished in the top 10 of the Masters in four of the last five years, including a runner-up to Tiger Woods in 2019.

Cameron Smith finished second with a total and performance which would have won the green jacket many times in past years.

Cameron Smith finished second with a total and performance which would have won the green jacket many times in past years.Credit:Getty

The only other time he hasn’t been at the pointy end of the leaderboard was when he missed the 2017 tournament after falling down the stairs of his rental house two days out from the opening round. He withdrew before he could make it to the first tee.

While the other Cameron Smith, also a Queenslander, prepared to launch his book on Monday morning, the golfer tried to write one of the most remarkable tales in Australian sport.

Like his rugby league namesake, Smith shares a love of fast cars and once wanted to play for the Broncos. His physique is unremarkable, too. He doesn’t hit the ball as far as Johnson or his modern contemporaries, but his finesse and touch has had him fighting for a green jacket which would have been a size or two too big anyway.

Having started the final round four shots behind Johnson, Smith halved Johnson’s buffer to two by the time they swung for the back nine. The Masters doesn’t start until the turn on Sunday, but it finished shortly after.

Johnson made birdie on the 13th and 14th holes, Smith gave up a shot on the 11th and wildly hooked a desperate hail mary approach on the par-five 15th into the only group of people seemingly allowed onto the course. From the other side of the Sarazen Bridge, he somehow made birdie, but Johnson was picking up strokes too.

The softer November conditions – the Masters is traditionally played in April – made for lower scoring.

Smith (69) left with Augusta records, and still couldn’t reel in Johnson. The Australian became the first player in Masters history to shoot four rounds in the 60s and carded the lowest overall score to have never won the tournament. He finished in a tie for second with Presidents Cup teammate Sungjae-Im (69).

Up ahead of Johnson and Smith, Woods’ title defence was up Rae’s Creek. He was already long out of contention, but Amen Corner doesn’t even spare the greats.

Woods found the water three times on the par-three 12th, from the tee, from the subsequent drop and then from the back bunker having eventually made it across the water. He finished with a septuple-bogey 10, his worst ever score on a single hole on the PGA Tour.


In the next six holes, Woods (-1) made birdie on five of them. He walked up the fairway on the 18th hole, more than a year after one of golf’s most historic moments, in complete silence. He promptly sunk his birdie putt, clapped by a handful of volunteers and officials and walked, with that wooden gait of his, burdened by lower back problems, into the Augusta evening to get Johnson’s jacket ready.

The one he had plenty of time to think about in isolation.

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