Monday, 25 January 2021: EU and US condemn mass arrests in Russia, EU puts pressure on vaccine producers, Dutch youths set fire to Covid testing centre


EU and US condemn mass arrests in Russia: Tens of thousands of Russians protested all across the country over the weekend to demand the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny. More than 3,000 people, including a politician, were detained by police, according to the OVD-Info protest monitor. Around 90 rallies took place in over 60 cities across the country. It appeared to be the biggest day of protest across the country since at least 2017, though it was far from clear whether the show of dissent would push the Kremlin to change course. The European Union condemned the mass arrests of protesters and the actions by Russian authorities on Saturday. „I deplore widespread detentions, disproportionate use of force, cutting down internet and phone connections,“ the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said on Twitter. He added that EU foreign ministers will discuss the next steps this Monday. Poland’s President Andrzej Duda called on the EU to step up its sanctions against Russia. Duda said the only way to avoid conflict was to force international law to be observed. „The only way to do this without rifles, cannons and bombs is via sanctions.“ Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov downplayed the scale of the protests. He also accused the American embassy in Moscow of meddling in the protests in support of Navalny. Prior to the protests, the US embassy had issued an alert warning US citizens to avoid the protests and naming the venues in Russian cities where protesters planned to gather.,,,

EU puts pressure on vaccine producers: European Council President Charles Michel has threatened the pharmaceutical companies Pfizer Inc. and AstraZeneca with possible legal consequences if they do not fulfill their vaccine contracts. „We plan to make the pharmaceutical industry respect signed contracts,“ Michel told France’s Europe-1 radio, adding that EU officials „pounded our fist on the table“ with Pfizer last week to make sure the delays end by this coming week. Michel said the EU would insist on transparency about the reasons behind the holdup. Pfizer Inc last week said it was temporarily slowing supplies to Europe to make manufacturing changes that would boost output. On Friday, AstraZeneca also said that initial deliveries to the region will fall short because of a production glitch.,,

Greece and Turkey hold talks: After a five-year hiatus marked by grievances over their rival claims to Mediterranean waters, Turkey resumes talks with Greece this Monday. The talks follow Turkey’s decision to stop its search for gas in disputed waters which angered Greece and Cyprus and a cooling of rhetoric around Turkey’s wider disputes with the EU. Both sides say there is political will to improve relations, but after years of rancour over refugees, human rights, maritime claims, Turkey’s military interventions and the divided island of Cyprus, rapprochement appears a distant prospect. Expressing guarded optimism, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told Reuters he saw a window of opportunity.

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US reaffirms Taiwan support after China sends warplanes: Chinese bombers and fighter jets entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone on Saturday, prompting the US administration to reaffirm its support for Taiwan. The country’s defence ministry said China had sent eight bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons and four fighter jets into its air defende identification zone just southwest of the island. The ministry said China on Sunday sent another 16 military aircraft of various types into the same area. The ministry said Taiwan responded by scrambling fighters, broadcasting warnings by radio and deploying air defence missile systems to monitor the activity. There was no immediate Chinese comment on Sunday.,

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Unfortunately, it is no joke, the previous president spoke more with North Korea than with the Europeans.
European Council President Charles Michel said that former US president Donald Trump’s term in office had damaged the transatlantic relationship.,


Dutch youths set fire to Covid testing centre: Rioters looted stores, set fires and clashed with police in several Dutch cities on Sunday. In Amsterdam, police used a water cannon to disperse protesters taking part in a banned demonstration. It was the second Sunday in a row that police clashed with protesters in Amsterdam angry at the country’s Covid-19 lockdown. The unrest followed a night of rioting in the fishing village of Urk on the first night of a curfew imposed by the Dutch government to rein in the spread of the more transmissible variant of the coronavirus. Youths protesting the curfew torched a Covid-19 testing centre and threw fireworks at police in Urk. Mayor Cees van den Bos said he was ashamed and called in riot police.,,,

Italy’s Lombardy region demands compensation from government after accidental lockdown: Italy’s Lombardy region and the central government exchanged blame on Saturday over the release of Covid-19 data that wrongly condemned the region to stricter restrictions. Lombardy was forced to close most shops a week ago after being classed “red” under Italy’s system of tiered restrictions. Health Minister Roberto Speranza said on Saturday Lombardy had initially submitted wrong data, messing up calculations by Italy’s higher health council. He then designated Lombardy as “orange”. Lombardy’s administration said the region would press ahead with a lawsuit filed with an administrative court and seek money from the government to compensate shopkeepers who were forced to close down.

Spanish military chief quits after skipping vaccine line: Miguel Ángel Villarroya, the highest-ranking officer in the Spanish military, quit Saturday after it was revealed that he and colleagues had been vaccinated against coronavirus despite not being on the list for preferential access. According to El País, Villarroya defended the decision to get the vaccine, but resigned because of the damage being done to the military’s reputation. Nursing home residents and staff, as well as frontline health workers, are currently receiving jabs as part of the national vaccination plan. Those over the age of 80 will be next in line for the vaccine. Villarroya is 63.

Estonia to get first female prime minister: Estonia’s two biggest political parties clinched a deal on Sunday to form a new government to be led by a female prime minister for the first time in the country’s history. The party councils of the the opposition, centre-right Reform Party and the ruling. left-leaning Center Party voted in favour of joining a Cabinet headed by Reform’s prime minister-designate and chairwoman Kaja Kallas. The 43-year-old is a lawyer and served as a lawmaker in the EU Parliament from 2014 to 2018. In her time as an MEP, Kallas focused on energy and digital policies.,

Portugal President Rebelo de Sousa wins new term: Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa of the Social Democratic Party won a second term on Sunday. Rebelo de Sousa won 61% of votes, above his 52% win in 2016. Andre Ventura, a lawmaker for the far-right Chega party, narrowly lost out to left-wing candidate Ana Gomes in the fight for a distant second place, with 12% of the vote to Gomes’ 13%. The president holds a largely ceremonial role but can veto certain laws and decree states of emergency, a power Rebelo de Sousa deployed often during the pandemic, taking parliament’s lead.

Macron promises to crack down on child sex abuse: France will tighten its laws on incest, President Emmanuel Macron said in a series of tweets on Saturday, after publication of a book accusing a top French political commentator of abusing his stepson sparked outrage across the country. The French president said the statute of limitations for incest had already been increased to 30 years, and that checks on those working with children had improved – but stressed this was still not enough. He has now pledged additional sexual abuse screening prevention meetings for all children in elementary and middle schools, along with state-funded psychological treatment for victims.,

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Pilots in Switzerland grounded by Covid are redeploying as train drivers: The coronavirus pandemic has had a disastrous effect on the air industry with thousands of planes grounded worldwide. Many pilots have been forced out of work and are having to look at other options, like driving trains. In Switzerland, this idea has been on the table for months. The Swiss pilots‘ association, Aeropers, is supporting members who wish to redeploy as there is a shortage of train drivers in Switzerland, and the professions are similar. According to the organisation, this could set a precedent.


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