Ukraine, Poland Want Continued Sanctions on Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Saturday that he and Poland’s president had agreed that sanctions ought to continue against Russia until Ukraine regained the territory it lost in Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. 
 
Zelenskiy, accompanied by some members of his Cabinet, was on his first visit to Poland as president for political talks and to attend ceremonies planned for Sunday to mark the 80th anniversary of the start of World War II. 
 
He said he and Polish President Andrzej Duda had discussed the next steps needed to end the war in eastern Ukraine and to return the Crimean Peninsula to Ukraine. 
 
“We have agreed on our next steps to stop the war in eastern Ukraine and to bring back occupied Crimea,” Zelenskiy said.

Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 in a move that Ukraine and almost all the world views as illegal. The European Union and the U.S. imposed sanctions. 
 
In eastern Ukraine, a deadly conflict between government forces and Russia-backed separatists has gone on for five years.    

A member of the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service gives a sign to people to stop as they approach a checkpoint at the contact line between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian troops in Mayorsk, Ukraine July 3, 2019.

Zelenskiy said his and Duda’s “joint and principal position” is that the EU “sanctions should be reviewed only to be increased — not otherwise,” unless existing peace agreements are fully implemented and “the territorial unity of Ukraine according to its internationally agreed borders” is restored. 
 
Duda said he assured Zelenskiy of his support for continuing sanctions on Russia and protecting “Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.”  
  
Duda said especially in the context of Sunday’s World War II anniversary, “we must stress how very important it is that no one, in Europe or in the world, is allowed to change borders by force.” 
 
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and dozens of world leaders also will take part in the anniversary ceremonies in Warsaw.  The invasion of Poland by Nazi German troops on Sept. 1, 1939, marked the outbreak of World War II. 
 
Poland remained under Nazi German occupation for more than five years and lost some 6 million citizens. 

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Is Russia Using Patriotism as a Political Tool?

In Russia, countrywide celebrations have been held to mark the 350th anniversary of the national flag. Yet, only 50 percent of respondents polled in a recent survey could correctly name the sequence of the colors on the flag. Russia recently saw a surge of patriotic celebrations orchestrated by local and federal authorities. Yulia Savchenko has more from Moscow on the state-promoted events.
 

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Teenage Climate Star Greta Thunberg Takes Her Friday School Strike to UN

Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg took her Friday school strikes to the gates of the United Nations, surrounded by hundreds of other young activists, calling on adults to take action on climate change. Thunberg will speak at a climate change summit of world leaders next month at the U.N. General Assembly. VOA’s Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine has more from Washington.
 

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Residents of Kashmir Border Town Urge Modi to End Lockdown

While millions of people continue to live under a prolonged security lockdown in Indian-controlled Kashmir, villagers near the border on the Pakistani side of the disputed territory complain intensified military skirmishes between the two countries are also impacting their routine life. Ayaz Gul reports from the border town of Chakothi.
 

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Syrian Troops to Start Unilateral Cease-Fire in Idlib

The Russian military says Syrian government forces will begin a unilateral cease-fire in the northwestern province of Idlib in the coming hours.

The Russian military reconciliation center says the cease-fire will go into effect Saturday morning at 6 a.m. (0300 GMT).
 
 Friday’s report comes as government forces have intensified their offensive over the past weeks capturing rebel-held areas in Hama province and nearby Idlib, the last major rebel stronghold in the country.

 The Russian military called on the opposition to end “provocations” and engage in peaceful settlement.

Russia is a main backer of Syrian government forces.

The announcement came as hundreds of protesters in Idlib marched toward a border crossing with Turkey demanding that Ankara either open the border or demand an end to the government attack.

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China Denies Visa, Expelling Wall Street Journal Reporter

Chinese authorities have declined to renew the press credentials of a Beijing-based Wall Street Journal reporter, effectively expelling a journalist who extensively covered President Xi Jinping and Communist Party politics.

The foreign ministry said Friday in response to a faxed question about Singaporean reporter Chun Han Wong’s visa that some foreign journalists with the “evil intention to smear and attack China” are “not welcome.”

The action comes one month after Wong co-wrote a story detailing an Australian investigation into alleged links between Xi’s cousin and money laundering and suspected organized crime.

A spokesperson for Dow Jones, the WSJ’s parent company, said in a statement that authorities declined to renew Wong’s press credentials. The spokesperson said the company is looking into the matter but did not elaborate.

Wong declined to comment.

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Uganda: Traveling Girl from Congo Dies of Ebola

A 9-year-old Congolese girl who tested positive for Ebola in neighboring Uganda has died, officials said Friday, as the World Health Organization said that the outbreak has neared 3,000 cases.

The young girl’s body will be repatriated with her mother back to Congo for a funeral, according to Dr. Eddy Kasenda, Ebola representative in the Congolese border town of Kasindi.

“We are finalizing the administrative formalities so that the body is repatriated and buried here in Congo, her native country,” Kasenda said. “We are collaborating with the health services of neighboring Uganda and we will strengthen the sanitary measures here in Kasindi.”

A Ugandan official at the hospital where the girl had been in isolation confirmed her death overnight. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

The girl, who was traveling with her mother, was identified at a border screening Wednesday as a possible Ebola patient and isolated.

Porous borders
 
Although cases of cross-border contamination have been rare, this case highlights the risk of Ebola spreading across the border into neighboring Uganda and Rwanda. Borders in the region are often porous, and many people traveling at night use bush paths to cross over.  

FILE – School-going pupils from the Democratic Republic of Congo cross the Mpondwe border point separating Uganda and the DRC, Aug. 14, 2019.

In June, a family of Congolese with some sick family members crossed into Uganda via a bush path. Two of them later died of Ebola, and the others were transferred back to Congo.

Uganda has had multiple outbreaks of Ebola and hemorrhagic fevers since 2000.

Because the 9-year-old Ebola victim passed through an official entry point this week, Ugandan health authorities believe she had no contact with any Ugandan.

Ebola has killed nearly 2,000 people in eastern Congo since August 2018. The disease is spread through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person.

WHO said Friday that cases have reached 3,000 in Congo, with 1,893 confirmed deaths and some 900 survivors. An average of 80 people per week are sickened by the virus, which has infected most people in Congo’s North Kivu province. 
 
The Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo hasn’t shown signs of slowing down despite new treatments and vaccines given to more than 200,000 people in the region and the use of two therapeutic treatments being used as part of a clinical trial. 

Obstacles
 
Insecurity has been one factor in a region where rebel groups have fought for control of mineral-rich lands for decades. Ebola also has spread because of mistrust by communities who have also staged attacks against health workers. Many people in eastern Congo don’t trust doctors and other medics.

“Many people are afraid to seek treatment for illnesses, worried they will be sent to an Ebola Treatment Center where they fear they could contract the disease. As an actor within the response, we must assume our own responsibility,” said Bob Kitchen, Vice President of Emergencies at the International Rescue Committee. “One year into the response, the lack of community acceptance remains the single greatest obstacle to containing the outbreak. Building trust with the community doesn’t just mean dialogue with the affected population. It means working with the community to adapt the response and address the overall needs they are facing inside and outside of the Ebola outbreak.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will travel this weekend to Congo with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and senior officials, including Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

On Friday, he called on partners to increase their presence in the field. 
 
“Our commitment to the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is that we will work alongside them to stop the Ebola outbreak,” Ghebreyesus said. “Our commitment also means strengthening the health systems to give them all the other things they need. Building strong systems is what will protect people, communities and the world.”

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Outgoing Italian PM Accepts Fresh Mandate to Form New Government

Outgoing prime minister Giuseppe Conte has accepted a fresh mandate from Italy’s head of state to form a new coalition government backed by the populist Five Star Movement and the center-left Democrats party. Markets reacted positively the end to the 3-week political crisis, which could have triggered a snap election. But many in Italy are wondering how long such an alliance will last.

Conte appears determined and convinced he will be capable of establishing a government backed by a new coalition made up of the Five Star Movement and the Democratic Left party. Although the two political groups have been past enemies, they have agreed to unite and work together.

The political crisis was caused by the League leader, Matteo Salvini, who announced three weeks ago he was no longer prepared to work with the Five Star Movement. 

League leader Matteo Salvini gestures as he speaks to the media after consultations with Italian President Sergio Mattarella in Rome, Italy, Aug. 28, 2019.

The decision by the Left Democrats to work with the 5SM stems not only from the desire to enter parliament but also from wanting to avoid a snap general election, which at this time would likely be won by Salvini’s League party.

Coming out of his talks with the Italian president, Conte made clear the new government would not be one “against,” but “for the good of citizens.” 

He added that he would create a government that will represent a “novelty.”

Conte also said Italy is undergoing a very delicate phase and must emerge from this political crisis as quickly as possible.

He sais “we must get down to work immediately, to draw up a budget to avert the VAT hike that will protect savers and offer solid prospects for economic growth and social development.”

The prime minister already has began to hold meetings to reach an agreement on policies and about how to divide the ministerial positions between the two parties, which will make up the new coalition government.

Conte said he expects to go back to the Italian president with a full list in approximately a week. Once the new government is sworn in, it has 10 days to win a no-confidence vote in parliament.

The new alliance and Conte’s good intentions in the name of political stability seem to have averted snap elections, for the time being, and markets reacted positively to the news. But Italians in the streets and political observers see it as an unlikely alliance and fear it is unlikely to last.

For the time being, League leader Salvini’s plans for an early poll may have been thwarted and his move certainly backfired as he now will be relegated to the opposition. But it remains to be seen whether the move will, in fact, further increase his already soaring popularity.

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Venezuela’s Maduro Says Settlement Talks Could Soon Resume

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro says his representatives could return to negotiations with the opposition in talks he abruptly halted earlier this month.

Maduro said in an interview released Thursday that “good news” could come in the next few days about settlement talks hosted by Norway. He’s under pressure to leave power from opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who has backing from the United States and more than 50 other nations.

“Contacts with Venezuelan opposition delegates have resumed,” Maduro said in an interview with the Chinese state-run Xinhua News Agency. “The next few days will bring good news about the dialogue.”

Maduro ended the talks this month when the Trump administration hit his government with a new round of punishing economic sanctions. The measures froze all Venezuela’s U.S. assets and blocks companies and individuals from doing business with Maduro’s government.

The socialist Maduro said in the interview that his representatives are in contact with the opposition as well as Norwegian officials who have overseen the talks held on the Caribbean island of Barbados.

Maduro, who often calls Guaidó a puppet of the U.S. capitalist empire, remains in power with backing from the Venezuelan military and international allies including Cuba, Russia, China and Turkey.

Venezuela’s opposition hasn’t commented, but Guaidó has said that he expected Maduro’s representatives to return to the talks because they have no other options.

The possibility of resumed dialogue comes amid a historic economic and political crisis in Venezuela that has driven more than 4 million people to flee the country in recent years.

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Sanders Brings Climate Discussion to South Carolina Coast

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders returns to South Carolina Thursday for a conversation on climate change in a popular tourist destination along the coast of the critical early-voting state.

The gathering is being held in Myrtle Beach, a focal point of South Carolina’s $20 billion tourism industry. It comes on the heels of the Vermont senator’s release last week of a $16.3 trillion climate change plan that calls for the United States to move to renewable energy across the economy by 2050 and declare climate change a national emergency.

How climate changes affect coastal communities is a major concern along the 190 miles of Atlantic coastline in South Carolina, which holds the first 2020 voting in the South. In the historic city of Charleston, even a moderate amount of rainfall has become enough to flood streets and make parts of the urban peninsula impassable.

According to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, by 2045, chronic flooding could inundate more than 16,000 homes along the state’s coast and low-lying areas, with about 15,000 of those in the areas surrounding Myrtle Beach. The region’s subtropical climate and extensive beaches attract more than 19 million visitors each year.

Earlier this week, Sanders told voters in coal-producing Kentucky that it’s possible to be a friend of coal miners and a believer in climate change as he pushed for cleaner energy sources to combat global warming. Sanders also vowed to help communities tied to coal and other fossil fuel industries in the transition toward renewable energy production such as solar and wind power.

Sanders says his 10-year “nationwide mobilization” would create 20 million jobs. His proposals include sourcing 100% of the country’s electricity from renewable and zero-carbon emission power and committing more than $2 trillion in grants for low- and middle-income families to weatherize and retrofit their homes and businesses, with the goal of reducing residential energy consumption.

Sanders has teamed up with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York on climate legislation and endorsed the Green New Deal, a sweeping proposal that’s becoming a rallying point both for Democratic presidential hopefuls and liberals in the party’s base. Republicans have argued that the plan is too radical and would drive the economy off a cliff and lead to a huge tax increase.

The climate change discussion kicks off two days of campaign events for Sanders in South Carolina. On Friday, he has scheduled a town hall meeting in Florence on “Medicare for All,” the government-run single-payer approach to health care.

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