Prominent opposition activists have been arrested at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport where they gathered to greet their leader, Alexei Navalny, who is returning to Russia from Germany after recovering from an alleged poisoning attempt.
Lyubov Sobol and Ruslan Shaveddinov from Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) were detained at one of the cafes inside the airport, along with activist Konstantin Kotov. The reason for their arrest currently remains undisclosed.
According to various media reports, around a dozen of Navalny’s supporters have so far been apprehended by police at Vnukovo.
The airport’s administration earlier warned that public gatherings have been banned on site as part of measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus. Entering the airport building is only allowed for those with plane tickets.
Navalny is returning to Russia on Sunday aboard a plane belonging to low-cost airline Pobeda. Media reports have been claiming that he could be arrested at the airport over a breach of probation terms.
The opposition activist and blogger has been in Germany since late August 2020. He was delivered to Berlin in a coma after feeling sick on a domestic flight in Russia a few days before that.
The medics at the Charite clinic in the German capital claimed that their tests showed the activist was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok, while Navalny blamed the Kremlin for being behind the attack against him.
Also on rt.com Flight scheduled to bring Russian opposition figure Navalny home to Moscow & possible arrest takes off from German capital
Russian authorities have flatly denied those accusations, pointing out that all requests for the activist’s medical data have been left unanswered by Berlin, as have offers to investigate the incident together.
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Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny is due to fly back to Russia for the first time since he was poisoned last summer, despite the authorities’ stated desire to arrest him and potentially jail him for years.
Opposition politician Mr Navalny will be met by supporters when he arrives in Moscow on Sunday
Mr Navlany blames Russian authorities for his August 2020 poisoning with the Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent
The Kremlin denies responsibility, claiming it has seen no evidence that Mr Navalny was poisoned
Mr Navalny, 44, is expected to fly from Berlin, where he was flown in August for emergency medical treatment after being poisoned with what German tests showed was a Novichok nerve agent, and to arrive in Moscow on Sunday (local time).
The opposition politician, who says he has nearly fully recovered, says Mr Putin was behind his poisoning.
The Kremlin denies involvement, says it has seen no evidence he was poisoned and that he is free to return to Russia.
Mr Navalny’s supporters plan to meet him at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport despite a forecast of bitterly cold minus-17 Celsius weather and over 4,500 new coronavirus cases a day in the Russian capital.
The Moscow prosecutor’s office, which says it has officially warned 15 pro-Navalny organisers, has said the event is illegal because it is not sanctioned by the authorities. That means that people who turn up could be detained, fined or jailed.
Pro-Kremlin activists are also expected to turn up.
Navalny hopes to run in September elections
The prison service, which has asked a Moscow court to turn Mr Navalny’s 3.5-year suspended sentence into a real one, said it was “obliged to take all the necessary action to detain Navalny pending the court’s ruling”.
The European Court for Human Rights had ruled that his conviction was unlawful.
In a parallel move at the end of 2020, Russia’s main investigative agency also opened a new criminal case against Mr Navalny on charges of large-scale fraud related to his alleged mishandling of $US5 million ($6.5 million) in private donations to his Anti-Corruption Foundation and other organisations.
Mr Navalny, who is hoping for success in parliamentary elections in September, has dismissed all accusations as crudely fabricated.
Mr Putin’s allies point to opinion polls that show the Russian leader is far more popular than Mr Navalny, whom they call a blogger rather than a politician.
A Moscow court on Saturday ordered a Navalny ally, Pavel Zelensky, to be held in pre-trial detention on extremism charges which he denies.
On the eve of his return to Russia, Mr Navalny took to Facebook to thank Germans for what he described as their stereotype-breaking friendly hospitality in the last five months.
“Thank you friends!” he wrote in German.
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Alexei Navalny says he will fly back on 17 January, months after he was sent to Germany for treatment.
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The Kuomintang wants to overturn a government decision to allow imports of U.S. meat containing traces of a controversial feed additive.
Taiwan’s main opposition party is pushing ahead with efforts to initiate a referendum that could reverse the government’s decision to lift a pork import ban, which had been seen as the main obstacle to a free trade agreement with the United States.
Taiwan began allowing pork imports containing ractopamine, a controversial feed additive banned in much of the world but used in the U.S., on January 1, months after President Tsai Ing-wen announced her government’s intention to remove an existing import ban.
The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) said Tuesday it had begun collecting signatures for the second stage of a public referendum that aims to reverse Tsai’s decision.
The KMT passed the first stage of the referendum process, but that’s not a difficult threshold to meet: The party was required to collect the signatures of 0.01 percent of eligible voters in Taiwan’s last presidential election, or 1,931 people. It reached that goal last month.
It must now collect the signatures of 1.5 percent of eligible voters – around 290,000 people – for a referendum to take place.
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If successful, the public will vote on a referendum question, which, according to the KMT, would ask: “Do you agree to a total ban on the importation of pork and related products containing leanness-enhancing additives (ractopamine and other beta-agonists)?”
Under Taiwan’s referendum laws, at least 25 percent of all eligible voters – around 5 million people – must vote in favor for the measure to pass. The number of yes votes must also outnumber the number of no votes.
Tsai said in August her government would allow imports of pork and beef containing safe levels of ractopamine starting on January 1, removing what had been the primary hurdle to negotiations on a free trade pact between Taipei and Washington. The move was a domestic political risk and faced immediate backlash from the KMT, along with pig farmers.
Health experts have been split on the issue in Taiwan and throughout the world. Ractopamine can allow an animal to grow larger and leaner with less food, especially in its last few weeks before slaughter. But many countries group it with other beta-agonist drugs, which have been shown to be harmful to human health.
The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) set standards allowing pork with traces of ractopamine it says are not harmful to human health.
KMT chairman Johnny Chiang has insisted his party’s opposition to the decision is an issue of public health, rather than politics.
But there are questions over whether Taiwan’s public referendum system allows voters to make informed decisions on complex issues that can be difficult to understand.
In 2018, Taiwan voted on a slate of 10 referendums, deciding to uphold restrictions on same-sex marriage and food imports from Japan’s Fukushima region while opposing plans by the DPP to decommission the nation’s three active nuclear power plants by 2025. (The legislature legalized same-sex unions months later by sidestepping the restrictions in that referendum decision.)
Experts criticized Taiwan’s 2018 referendums, saying they did not give the public enough time and information to make informed decisions. Referendums only required a one-month public deliberation period – far shorter than the time period required in other countries with referendum laws, such as Ireland.
The KMT may call pork imports a public health issue, but the public will see it through a political lens. Should the referendum drive be successful, Taiwan’s people will be asked to decide on an issue that even health experts have not agreed upon – and their decision could dictate the future of trade between Taiwan and the United States.
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In the summer and fall of 2020, protest marches drew tens and even hundreds of thousands of people to the main streets of cities in Belarus. The authorities responded by deliberately beating up protesters and arresting them en masse. With the onset of winter, there are no longer large-scale demonstrations, but the people of Minsk continue to attend rallies that increasingly rely on guerilla tactics. At night, street artists paint politically-charged graffiti on the walls of buildings; city residents protest in small, neighborhood groups, emerging from nowhere and disappearing just as quickly; opposition supporters deploy lookouts around their apartment complexes and alert each other when law enforcement officers are on their way; and musicians organize spontaneous, open-air concerts that end with them running from the police. In December, Meduza special correspondent Liliya Yapparova went to Minsk, to get a firsthand look at how the Belarusian opposition protests have changed and speak to the artists and activists keeping the movement alive heading into 2021.
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The South Australian Government has granted a mining company permission to “damage, disturb or interfere” with a sacred Aboriginal site in the state’s outback.
Lake Torrens does not have any native title protections but it is an important site to several Aboriginal nations.
Kelaray, a subsidiary of mining company Argonaut Resources, made an application to the State Government under Section 23 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act to conduct drilling on the Lake.
That section allows the South Australian Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Premier Steven Marshall, the ability to allow the damage and destruction of Aboriginal sites.
In a letter from Mr Marshall obtained by the ABC, the Premier said he considered Kelaray’s mitigation strategies in making his assessment.
“I have granted Kelaray … authority under Section 23 of the Act to damage, disturb or interfere with any Aboriginal sites, objects or remains,” the Premier said.
“Kelaray will be required to ensure that any Aboriginal heritage discovered during the Exploration Project is recorded appropriately.
“However, I expect Kelaray to honour its undertaking to ensure that its staff and contractors do not access areas of high cultural sensitivity.”
Mr Marshall also encouraged Kelaray to consider Aboriginal employment “wherever possible” and to “consider engaging Aboriginal heritage monitors”.
The Kokatha, Barngarla, Adnyamathanha and Kuyani Aboriginal people all have storylines connected to Lake Torrens.
Kuyani woman Regina McKenzie said the exploration approvals include Murdie Island, where her father was born.
“There was no consultation with Kuyani people, there was no assessments done on our tangible and intangible aspects of the lake,” she said.
“Money speaks louder than protection of the environment — short-term gain speaks louder.
“When they do find the ore bodies they’re looking for, they’re then going to say to us ‘for the good of the state, we’re going to do mining’.
“This is my culture; my culture is the oldest living cultures in the world and it’s disrespected in this way.”
Plans to protect lake
Argonaut released a statement to the ASX following the approvals, saying the drilling would target “iron oxide copper-gold mineralisation in the same style of Olympic Dam, Carrapateena and BHP’s recent Oak Dam discovery”.
The company said it will use “purpose-built” drill mats on the Lake’s surface to “protect the salt crust”.
“Vehicles will access the drilling rig via temporary tracks covered by ground protection mats,” it said.
The company also intends to have regular visits by Aboriginal representatives and report regularly to certain Aboriginal groups.
“The approval permits the drilling of up to 200 deep diamond drill holes into large, dense copper targets from the salt crust of Lake Torrens,” the company said.
“Authorised drilling is subject to strict environmental controls.”
Works are expected to begin in early 2021.
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NEW DELHI: India’s main opposition party pressed the government on Thursday (Dec 24) to call a special parliamentary session to withdraw new agricultural laws that farmers say will leave them at the mercy of big corporations.
Rahul Gandhi, a senior leader from the opposition Congress party, handed the president a copy of a petition that he said had attracted 20 million signatures online.
“The prime minister wants to help two, three business people” by introducing the farm laws, said Gandhi, the great-grandson of India’s founding prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
The government says the reforms passed in September are meant to overhaul antiquated procurement procedures and open up the market.
READ: Indian government appeals to farmers for talks as protests continue
Tens of thousands of farmers have camped out on national highways for weeks demanding the government withdraw the laws that they fear will eventually dismantle regulated markets and stop the government buying wheat and rice at guaranteed prices.
Six rounds of talks between government officials and farmer union leaders have failed to resolve the deadlock. Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week offered to “very humbly” hold further discussions.
On Thursday, the government again invited protesting farmers to further talks.
READ: Commentary: Even if Modi calms farmers’ protests, their anger can redefine Indian politics
Farmers union leaders have accused the government of trying to weaken and discredit them by describing protesting farmers as “anti-nationals”.
“You are dealing with protesting farmers in a manner as if they are not aggrieved citizens but political rivals,” Samyukta Kisan Morcha, or United Farmers’ Front, a coalition of farmers unions, said in a letter addressed to the farm ministry on Thursday.
“Farmers would be compelled to intensify their agitation further for their survival if the government continued to treat them in this manner,” the letter said.
The Prime Minister and Opposition Leader have used their Christmas messages to thank essential workers and acknowledge the difficulties that have faced Australians this year.
The leaders thanked workers who helped take care of Australians through the pandemic
Scott Morrison says the year showed the strength of the Australian spirit
Anthony Albanese ended his video saying 2020 could “get in the bin”
While both leaders appeared serious and sombre when talking about the scale of impact felt by people across the country and the world this year, Labor Leader Anthony Albanese’s ended on a more comical note.
It is the second year in a row where both Scott Morrison and Mr Albanese were speaking during a time of emergency — last year both thanked emergency workers as bushfires raged across the country.
As well as thanking doctors, nurses, researchers and scientists for working to protect Australians during the pandemic, Mr Morrison also gave thanks to retail workers, public servants, volunteers and carers.
“This year has not been easy for any of us,” he said.
“Some of us have faced the loss of loved ones, others the loss of jobs and livelihoods.”
Mr Morrison said the year had been a time of “stress and uncertainty” for many.
“Yet through it all, we have rallied to each other, together,” he said.
“This year the Australian spirit has shone brightly again.”
Mr Albanese also acknowledged how tough the year had been, saying Christmas this year was not just a joy “but a relief”.
“Australians have risen to the challenge, especially our essential workers,” he said.
“May the festive season bring peace to you and your loved ones.”
The Labor leader ended his message with a joke, taking a magnet of a 2020 calendar off his fridge and throwing it in the bin.
Remember that time Steven Marshall accidentally exhorted people to ‘vote Labor’ the day before an election? Sure you do.
It was considered – unfairly perhaps – one of the defining moments of a campaign that saw the subject of Marshall’s accidental enthusiasm narrowly and unexpectedly handed a four-year epilogue to its governmental tenure.
Marshall, of course, eventually became Premier, and is now more likely than not to be re-elected for another term, thanks largely to South Australia’s management of the COVID pandemic, aborted lockdowns and inflammatory rhetoric about alleged liars aside.
The year started with an inferno and has basically gone downhill from there, but it’s been a particular pisser for the Labor Opposition.
In purely political terms, the pandemic has torn up the rulebook of politics as usual, just as politics as usual was going pretty well for the ALP.
The Marshall Government had spent its second year in office flailing about the place in search of an agenda, losing months in an aimless fight with its own base on land tax that forced it to turn a budget revenue-raiser into a net spend.
Then Marshall’s deft handling of the bushfire crisis – as distinct, certainly, from his federal leader’s less statesmanlike turn – was superseded by his less deft handling of an emerging scandal about one of his backbenchers misbehaving at a parliament house Christmas party.
On March 12, Labor leader Peter Malinauskas gave a speech that was meant to set the platform on which Labor’s return to government could be built.
Reiterating his mantra that the ALP is “first and foremost an economic party”, he outlined “three overarching themes” that would underpin the party’s policy direction: “Jobs for today; Education for tomorrow; and Environment, because it’s forever.”
Sure, maybe not that catchy. That “because it’s” bit doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, and Labor hasn’t exactly been out setting the bar on environmental policy in SA.
But a succinct statement of values and priorities nonetheless.
Unfortunately for Malinauskas, that speech was delivered at a CEDA (Committee for Economic Development of Australia) function just as COVID madness was hitting the nation. A day later, the Melbourne Grand Prix was immediately axed, even as punters lined up to enter. The speech itself garnered little publicity and less interest, and Malinauskas’s three overarching themes haven’t been mentioned since.
As an Opposition Leader he’s taken an admirable – if admirably strategic – tack during the ensuing months, avoiding the divisive carping of the Victorian Liberal Opposition in favour of emphasising bipartisanship and solidarity.
That’s interspersed, of course, with the odd call for someone to resign if and when other non-COVID issues crop up, as they did this week when the state’s child protection regime once again came under an unwanted spotlight.
All of which has effectively halted any momentum Labor might have gained through 2019, while denying the chance to showcase their own credentials for government.
Mind you, COVID has provided the Opposition one moment of pure political respite.
Because of the recent Parafield cluster, hardly anyone gave a second thought to the fact Labor was having a cluster situation of its own, of one form or other.
Back in August, Labor MP for Light Tony Piccolo made a big song and dance about quitting the frontbench to selflessly seek preselection in the northern seat of Schubert, with a draft redistribution shifting his Gawler hub into the neighbouring electorate, in the process transforming it from an uber-safe Liberal seat to a moderately vulnerable one.
Given Piccolo’s campaigning prowess and local profile, he was somehow convinced to take one for the team – and he spent the ensuing months taking up the fight for the poor neglected burghers of the Barossa.
That was, until the final boundaries commission report dropped last month… to reveal Gawler was staying put in Light and that Schubert’s Liberal margin was now even safer than it was in the first place.
In the midst of the cluster drama, Piccolo quietly confirmed he’d had a bit of a rethink and that actually he’d rather leave the Barossa burghers to their own devices and retreat back to his nice safe Labor seat, thanks very much.
Which unfortunately meant resigning as a preselected candidate.
But not before he’d spent several weeks doggedly campaigning and leafleting in Schubert, explaining to all and sundry that he was Labor’s candidate for the area and that they’d been taken for granted but now Labor was there to take them seriously, but only so long as they might be able to win a seat out of it.
Sadly for him, he wasn’t offered his frontbench gig back.
The sorry episode also wrongfooted an even more significant preselection, with longtime federal MP Nick Champion understood to have been lined up to replace Piccolo in Light. He’s now more likely to contest the vacant Florey, but will be sweating on a decision by incumbent crossbencher Frances Bedford about whether she’ll recontest the seat or shift to neighbouring Newland.
It’s worth noting all this because, through successive Liberal losses during Labor’s period of early-millennial electoral dominance, the ALP rather deftly managed to cement the notion that they’re exceptionally canny operators.
True enough, the Libs didn’t do themselves many favours either: there was, for instance, that 2006 election when they were so cash-strapped they could only afford one TV commercial that ran in the last week of the campaign – and still managed to misspell ‘Labo(u)r’.
Or their campaign costings shambles released on the eve of the 2010 election. Or indeed, Marshall’s 2014 exhortation to vote Labor.
So Labor can count themselves lucky that a statewide lockdown overshadowed Piccolo’s pickle – because if that had been the Liberals in Opposition, they would have been mercilessly ridiculed. And rightly so.
Because it’s about a bad a blunder as I can recall in SA electioneering.
Tony Piccolo poses with the shuttered Barossa Wine Train – a cause close to the heart of voters in Schubert, which he is no longer contesting. Photo: Facebook
But while Labor chases its own tail, Marshall is getting on with not merely administering the state in the midst of a global pandemic but remodelling the Liberal Party itself.
That aforementioned Christmas Party incident saw Right-aligned backbencher Sam Duluk shift to the crossbench, and it’s entirely possible he won’t recontest his seat for the Liberal Party.
As it happens, Piccolo’s intended target in Schubert was former frontbencher – and Duluk’s fellow conservative – Stephan Knoll, who has since pulled the pin himself.
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His most likely successor is Barossa-born Ashton Hurn – Marshall’s communications manager and closest adviser.
Which, given this year’s split in conservative Liberal ranks, would effectively mean that the Right will have been all-but completely exorcised as a force in the Liberal Party-room.
The significance of this goes beyond mere factional politics.
Malinauskas may argue Labor is “first and foremost an economic party”, but it’s on social debates in parliament that the starkest divides are apparent.
Marshall’s fellow moderates have lately led the progressive side of the debate of numerous issues, including abortion reform and sex work decriminalisation, on which Marshall voted in favour and Malinauskas against.
At a recent media function, Marshall was effusive about the various outlets’ relatively responsible coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic this year, but he also made another point – thanking them for the sensitivity of their coverage of the midyear Black Lives Matter protests, while noting that the marches weren’t given the same treatment in other jurisdictions.
Even on matters economic, there isn’t now – if ever there was – a vast gulf between the parties. The biggest policy difference is on privatisation, with Labor arguing the Liberals went to the election promising not to privatise things but then did anyway.
Y’know, much like they used to do.
With voters heading back to the polls in March 2022, Labor will be hoping 2021 is a very different year to the one just gone.
Because Steven Marshall probably won’t be accidentally telling people to vote for a Labor Government at the next election – but it’s arguable he’s accidentally already leading one.
Tom Richardson is a senior reporter at InDaily.
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The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday advanced the nomination of Thomas L. Kirsch II for a seat on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to the floor in a party-line vote, moving the Senate one step closer to filling the vacancy created by the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
President Trump had named Kirsch as his replacement for Barrett before she was even confirmed and the Judiciary Committee took a little over a month after her confirmation to report Kirsch favorably to the Senate floor.
With the Senate still in session and multiple bills still to be passed this year, the timing of when the Senate might confirm Kirsch is unclear, but it is likely to happen before the Senate leaves town for the holidays.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on Thursday said he objected to the committee moving ahead with such consequential confirmation efforts even as Trump is a lame duck.
U.S. Attorney Thomas Kirsch is President Trump’s pick to replace Justice Amy Coney Barrett on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. (Official)
TRUMP’S LEGACY ON COURTS STILL BUILDING IN WANING DAYS OF PRESIDENCY
“Over the past four years, the Republican side has moved at breakneck speed to consider and confirm President Trump’s judicial nominees. Even when there are questions of qualifications, they have kept the nominations assembly line rolling,” Durbin said. “Now with President Trump a lame duck – even though many of my colleagues on the other side refuse to acknowledge it – the new administration starting next month, my Republican colleagues are still moving forward with Trump nominees.”
Durbin added, regarding Kirsch specifically: “I know the man. He is a qualified person. But it is such an extraordinary process that is being followed that many of us are constrained to vote against his nomination.”
The Judiciary Committee also considered a handful of other judicial nominations for lower courts Thursday.
Kirsch is an outstanding pick and will become President Trump’s 54th pick to the critically important federal courts of appeals, the last stop for more than 99% of federal appeals
— Article III Project President Mike Davis
FEINSTEIN COGNITIVE DECLINE ‘EVIDENT FOR SEVERAL YEARS’: NEW YORKER’S JANE MAYER
Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., joined Durbin, saying “given the circumstances under which these nominees are being brought up, I intend to vote no on all of them.”
Durbin also mentioned that the Judiciary Committee is moving ahead with a hearing for another circuit nominee, Raul M. Arias-Marxuach, after 1st Circuit Judge Juan R. Tourruella died earlier this year.
“It appears my colleagues are planning to push through a circuit court nominee in January in a few days before a new president takes office,” Durbin said. He continued that pushing the nominations through “is beneath the dignity of this committee” and that “Donald Trump has lost his mandate to fill these vacancies.”
Mike Davis, the president of the Article III Project, which is dedicated to boosting Trump judicial nominees, praised the Judiciary Committee and Kirsch on Thursday.
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“Senate Republicans are still hard at work and continuing to help President Trump with his near-record transformation of the federal judiciary,” Davis said. “Thomas Kirsch, who will fill Justice Barrett’s seat on the 7th Circuit, is a Harvard Law graduate and the current U.S. attorney for Northern Indiana – who previously served as a former law partner, federal prosecutor and law clerk.”
Davis added: “Kirsch is an outstanding pick and will become President Trump’s 54th pick to the critically important federal courts of appeals, the last stop for more than 99% of federal appeals.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., noted that in December 2012 and in December 2004 the Judiciary Committee held hearings for nominees during the lame-duck session. Durbin shot back that “in both instances, the president had been reelected.”
Trump at this point in his presidency has confirmed more nominees to Article III courts – federal district courts, circuit courts of appeals and the Supreme Court – than any other president besides Jimmy Carter, who benefited from a massive expansion of the federal judiciary that created new federal judgeships for him to fill.
To appeals courts specifically, Carter confirmed 56 judges to Trump’s 53 by this point in his first term. The next-closest is George H.W. Bush, who confirmed 42.