Finland Closes Russian Border Over Migrant Influx, Estonia Could Follow
Finland closed its entire 1,340-kilometer-long border with Russia this week, accusing Moscow of sending asylum-seekers across the frontier in a hybrid attack in retaliation for its decision to join NATO. Russia denies the accusation. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell has more.
Pentagon’s New High-Tech Deal with Australia, Britain, Aims to Counter China
From underwater drones to electronic warfare, the U.S. is expanding its high-tech military cooperation with Australia and the United Kingdom as part of a broader effort to counter China’s rapidly growing influence in the Indo-Pacific.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with defense chiefs from Australia and the United Kingdom at the U.S. military’s defense technology hub in Silicon Valley on Friday to forge a new agreement to increase technology cooperation and information sharing. The goal, according to a joint statement, is to be able to better address global security challenges, ensure each can defend against rapidly evolving threats and to “contribute to stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.”
Austin met with Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles and Grant Shapps, the British secretary of state for defense, at the Defense Innovation Unit headquarters.
Speaking at a news conference after the meeting, Austin said the effort will, for example, rapidly accelerate the sophistication of the drone systems, and prove that “we are stronger together.”
The new technology agreement is the next step in a widening military cooperation with Australia that was first announced in 2021. The three nations have laid out plans for the so-called AUKUS partnership to help equip Australia with a fleet of eight nuclear-powered submarines. AUKUS is an acronym for Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Under the deal, Australia will buy three Virginia-class submarines from the United States and build five of a new AUKUS-class submarine in cooperation with Britain. The subs, powered by U.S. nuclear technology, would not carry nuclear weapons and would be built in Adelaide, Australia with the first one finished around 2040.
Marles said there has been an enormous amount of progress in the submarine program. He added that as an island nation, Australia has a need for improved maritime drones and precision strike capabilities.
And Shapps said that with China “undermining the freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific, we’ve never had a greater need for more innovation.” He said that open navigation of the seas, including in the Pacific and the South China Sea is critical.
According to officials, Australian Navy officers have already started to go through nuclear power training at U.S. military schools.
Also, earlier this year the U.S. announced it would expand its military industrial base by helping Australia manufacture guided missiles and rockets for both countries within two years. Under that agreement, they would cooperate on Australia’s production of Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems by 2025.
The enhanced cooperation between the nations has been driven by growing concerns about China’s burgeoning defense spending and rapidly expanding military presence in the region. Last year Beijing signed a security pact with Solomon Islands and raised the prospect of a Chinese naval base being established there.
The U.S. has increased U.S. troop presence, military exercises and other activities in the region. U.S. relations with China have been strained in recent years, over trade, U.S. support for self-governing Taiwan, Beijing’s military buildup on a series of manmade islands, and a numbers of aggressive aircraft and ship encounters.
High-tech demonstrations were set up across a large parking area at DIU and inside the headquarters, allowing Austin to take a few minutes before the start of the meeting to see a number of projects being developed, including a virtual training device that will help Ukrainian pilots learn to fly F-16 fighter jets and swarming drones being developed for warfighters. The projects aren’t tied to the Australian agreement, but reflect the ongoing effort by the three nations to improve technology — an area where China often has the lead.
As Austin walked through the exhibits, he was able to watch a swarm of five drones lift off from the pavement and hover over the onlookers — all controlled by a single worker with a small handheld module. The short range reconnaissance drones — called the Skydio X2D — are already in use in combat, but the swarming technology and ability to control them all from a single device is still in development, said Skydio CEO Adam Bry.
Inside the DIU offices, Air Force Maj. Alex Horn demonstrated a new portable, pilot training module that will allow instructors in the United States to remotely coach trainees overseas using a virtual reality headset. Four of the so-called “Immersive Training Devices” will be delivered to Morris Air National Guard Base in Arizona next month and will be used to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s.
Horn said the devices, which are cheaper than other systems, will help accelerate the training for Ukrainian pilots who are used to flying Soviet aircraft and need schooling on F-16 basics before moving to cockpit training.
В Офісі президента розповіли, який аеропорт планують відкрити першим
Керівник ОП Андрій Єрмак висловив упевненість, що «Бориспіль» незабаром прийматиме та відправлятиме повітряні судна
Finland Closes Russian Border Over Migrant Influx; Estonia May Follow
Finland has closed its entire 1,340 kilometer-long border with Russia after accusing Moscow of “instrumentalizing” asylum-seekers by sending them across the frontier in a hybrid attack, in retaliation for Finland’s joining of NATO. Russia denied the accusation and warned that the deployment of any military units at the border would be seen as a threat by Moscow.
The Finnish Border Guard said more than 900 asylum-seekers from countries including Kenya, Morocco, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen entered Finland from Russia in the month of November. Previously, the rate was less than one per day.
The Finnish government responded by closing all but one of the official border crossings in mid-November. On Thursday, Finland closed the last remaining crossing, at Raja-Jooseppi, inside the Arctic Circle, sealing off the entire frontier for at least the next two weeks.
Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said his country would not accept Russian interference.
“Instrumentalized migration from Russia has continued. I would like to stress that it is not just the number of arrivals that is at issue, but the phenomenon itself,” Orpo said at a news conference Thursday.
“In recent days, there has been a growing understanding that this is an organized activity, not a genuine emergency. … We don’t accept any attempt to undermine our national security.”
Russia is clearly trying to weaponize migration, said analyst Charly Salonius-Pasternak of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.
“There are interviews [with migrants] saying that some of these people have been given an option: Either go to the front in Ukraine, or then jump in a bus or military truck, be driven up to the Arctic Circle or further north, and then be forced to buy a bicycle and try to get across,” he told VOA. “So, it’s very structured how the Russian authorities have done this.”
Russia’s actions are seen as retaliation for Finland’s joining of NATO in April following Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Its membership of the alliance ended decades of nonalignment.
“Finland is considered by Russia to be a hostile state,” Salonius-Pasternak said. “And as we’re seeing through this weaponization of people and flows, it is actively trying to destabilize Finland and maybe cause other kinds of havoc. It hasn’t succeeded yet, but clearly there’s some intent here.”
The head of the Polish National Security Bureau, Jacek Siewiera, wrote on the social media site X on Tuesday that his country would send military advisers to Finland in response to “an official request for allied support in the face of a hybrid attack on the Finnish border.” Finland said it had no knowledge of the offer.
Poland accused Belarus of sending tens of thousands of asylum-seekers to their shared border in 2021, creating a humanitarian crisis. Belarus is a close ally of Moscow.
Russia denies accusations that it is driving the migrant flows to the Finnish border.
“There is no threat there, in reality there is no tension,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told Reuters Thursday. “Tension may actually arise during the concentration of additional units on our border, because the Finns must be clearly aware that this will pose a threat to us.”
There are concerns in Finland that some migrants may try to cross the border illegally, risking their lives. Dozens of migrants died on the Belarus-Poland border in 2021, prompting accusations that Europe was turning a blind eye to human rights abuses.
“It’s been down to minus-25 [degrees Celsius]. It will go there again. It’s supremely inhospitable to anyone seeking to cross the border,” said analyst Salonius-Pasternak. “So there is this fear — will we start seeing video or pictures of people just having frozen in the wilderness?”
Estonia said Thursday it was also ready to close its border with Russia if there is a big influx of migrants. The government warned its citizens against traveling to Russia in case they are unable to return.
Spanish Police Arrest Man Wanted by US in North Korean Crypto Case
Spanish police said Friday that they had arrested a Spaniard wanted by U.S. officials for working with an American to provide cryptocurrency and blockchain technology services to North Korea in violation of U.S. sanctions against the rogue state.
In a statement, Spanish police said they had arrested Alejandro Cao de Benos, 48, in Madrid on Thursday as he got off a train from Barcelona. He appeared before a judge Friday and was then released, pending the formal extradition process.
The U.S. Justice Department, in April of last year, indicted Cao de Benos along with British citizen Christopher Emms, then 30, accusing them of conspiring with a third man, U.S. cryptocurrency expert Virgil Griffith, to provide North Korea with training in the technology — in violation of U.S. sanctions.
Griffith was arrested and pleaded guilty to the charges. He was sentenced to 63 months in prison in April 2022. Emms remains at large.
According to a Justice Department statement following the indictments, Emms allegedly told North Korean officials the cryptocurrency technology they were offering to advise them on would have “made it ‘possible to transfer money across any country in the world, regardless of what sanctions or any penalties’ ” might be in place. In effect, they could evade U.S. sanctions.
If tried and convicted, Cao de Benos could face 20 years in prison. The extradition process, which the Justice Department must initiate and Spanish courts and officials must approve, could take months to complete.
Some information for this report came from Reuters and Agence France-Presse.
Зустріч щодо імплементації формули миру: Єрмак розповів про результати
«До обговорення долучилися 86 учасників: представники 83 іноземних держав і трьох міжнародних організацій»
Chad’s Opposition, Civil Society Ask French Troops to Leave
Chad’s opposition and civil society groups are asking France to immediately withdraw troops who arrived in Chad after being ordered to depart neighboring Niger by that country’s military junta.
Ordjei Abderahim Chaha, president of the opposition party Rally for Justice and Equality, said Thursday that military ruler Mahamat Idriss Deby has failed to heed calls to ask French troops to leave.
Speaking at a news conference in the capital, N’Djamena, Chaha said he believes Deby wants French troops to keep Chad’s military junta in power by intimidating or cracking down on civilians who are ready to protest should Deby fail to hand power to civilian rule by November 2024 as agreed.
Opposition and civil society groups have asked Deby to ensure some 1,000 French troops already stationed in Chad — plus those who have arrived from Niger — leave the central African state no later than December 28, Chaha said.
All colonial-era agreements and newly negotiated deals between France and Chad should be canceled, he said, adding that citizens are fed up with France’s overbearing influence in many African nations.
Deby, a general in Chad’s army, was proclaimed head of an 18-month transitional council on April 21 to replace his late father, Idriss Deby Itno, who had run Chad as a dictator for 30 years.
Opposition and civil society groups say Deby cannot be trusted because he failed to hand power to a civilian government in October 2022 as agreed and instead extended the transition period by two years.
Deby insists he will hand power to civilian rule.
The Chadian government says there have been at least six protests against French military presence in Chad this year. In February, there were widespread protests against French troops after civilians accused the foreign military of brutality against civilians.
In early September, a French military medic opened fire and killed a Chadian soldier who reportedly attacked him with a scalpel as he received care in a military base. Anti-French protests then erupted in Faya-Largeau, a northern town, and Chad’s military used live ammunition and injured several people as it struggled to disperse protesters, according to civil society groups.
Koursami Albert, an international affairs lecturer in Chad’s University of N’Djamena, told VOA via a messaging app that civilians are unhappy because French troops restrict or arrest people who come close to their bases — an indication, he said, that the French do not want anyone to know their activities.
He said even Chadian troops are restricted from going near French military bases.
France has always claimed that its troops are in Africa to ensure peace and stability in friendly countries, especially where it was the former colonial power, but people struggle to see what services their troops render, Koursami said.
French troops have not intervened in the communal violence and armed conflicts Chad faces, observers say.
On October 19, Colonel Pierre Gaudillière, spokesperson for the French military, announced that the first convoy of French troops that left Niger by land had arrived in N’Djamena.
France did not disclose the final destination of their forces leaving Niger. Chad said the troops were to leave for Paris via N’Djamena International airport, while their equipment was to transit through the Douala Seaport in neighboring Cameroon.
French President Emmanuel Macron in September promised to pull all 1,500 French troops from Niger and end military cooperation with the landlocked western African country.
Nigerien military leader General Abdourahamane Omar Tchiani and junta supporters accused France of failing to resolve the security crisis that has killed thousands and displaced millions across Niger.
Source: Ukraine Conducts New Attack on Russian Railway Deep in Siberia
Ukraine’s domestic spy agency has detonated explosives on a Russian railway line deep in Siberia, the second attack this week on military supply routes in the area, a Ukrainian source told Reuters on Friday.
The incidents appear to show Kyiv’s readiness and ability to conduct sabotage attacks deep inside Russia and disrupt Russian logistics far from the front lines of Moscow’s 21-month-old war in Ukraine.
The source, who declined to be identified, said the explosives were detonated as a freight train crossed the Chertov Bridge in Siberia’s Buryatia region, which borders Mongolia and is thousands of kilometers from Ukraine.
The train had been using a backup railway line after an attack on a nearby tunnel a day earlier caused trains to be diverted, the source said.
Baza, a Russian media outlet with security sources, said diesel fuel tanks had ignited on a train using the backup route and that six goods wagons had caught fire. It reported no casualties and said the cause of the explosions was unknown.
The Ukrainian source, who said both operations were conducted by the Security Service of Ukraine, or SBU, gave a similar assessment of the damage, citing Russian Telegram channels.
Reuters could not independently verify the accounts or assess whether the route is used for military supplies. Russian Railways declined to comment on the latest incident. The regional branch of Russia’s Investigative Committee did not immediately respond to a written request for comment.
The Ukrainian source said Thursday the SBU had detonated explosives in the earlier attack as a cargo train moved through the Severomuysky tunnel in Buryatia.
Russian investigators have concluded that train was blown up in a “terrorist act” by unidentified individuals, the Moscow-based Kommersant newspaper cited unnamed sources as saying.
Russian Railways, the state company that operates the vast rail network, said traffic had been diverted along a new route after the first attack, slightly increasing journey times but not interrupting transport.
The Ukrainian source said the second attack had anticipated the diversion of rail traffic and targeted the backup route at Chertov Bridge, which is on Russia’s Baikal-Amur Mainline traversing Eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East.
Russia’s Trans-Siberian Railway is widely seen as more important for Russian freight transport than the Baikal-Amur Mainline.
A Russian industry source who declined to be identified said the backup route was functioning and being used by trains carrying freight on Friday afternoon.
«Чекаю на комплексні рішення» – Зеленський про питання мобілізації, які обговорювали на Ставці
Володимир Зеленський сказав, що йдеться про комплексні речі, які мають опрацьовувати військове керівництво та Міноборони і які мають бути представлені Ставці для затвердження.
Мінінфраструктури: Україна і Польща обговорили розблокування кордону, про скасування «транспортного безвізу» не йшлося
З 6 листопада польські перевізники блокують рух вантажівок на кількох пунктах пропуску на польсько-українському кордоні
Перший заступник голови Верховної Ради пояснив, чому відрядження Порошенка скасували
За словами Олександра Корнієнка, відрядження Порошенка скасували після отримання листа з грифом «Для службового користування»
Міноборони: уряд цифровізує обмін документами для проходження пораненими військовими ВЛК
За даними Міноборони, систему електронного документообігу розгорнули в більшості військових частин, ТЦК та військових госпіталях
Світовий банк затвердив пакет допомоги на 1,2 мільярда доларів для соцвиплат в Україні
«Проєкт забезпечить фінансування 29 видів соціальних виплат найбільш вразливим верствам населення України»
ISW: «воєнкори» в РФ скаржаться на бюрократію, що заважає використанню дронів на Херсонщині
Інститут раніше повідомляв про скарги «воєнкорів» на проблеми на східному березі Херсонщини, але зазначає: вони не конче призводять до значних наслідків на полі бою
США співпрацюють з Україною, щоб підготуватися до очікуваних атак Росії взимку – Кірбі
«Ми можемо і повинні зробити більше, щоб Україна була в найкращому становищі для захисту себе та своєї енергетичної інфраструктури протягом зими» – Джон Кірбі
British Documentary Alleges China Influences Universities, Spies on Hong Kongers in UK
A BBC Channel 4 documentary, “Secrets and Power: China in the UK,” claims the Chinese government is interfering with academic freedom and spying on Hong Kong activists in the United Kingdom.
The 49-minute film released Wednesday alleges that the University of Nottingham used a Beijing-approved curriculum in classes taught on a satellite campus in Ningbo and closed its School of Contemporary Chinese Studies under pressure from Beijing.
The program also claims a professor at the Imperial College London collaborated with researchers at a Chinese university on the use of artificial intelligence weaponry that could be used to benefit the Chinese military. Both institutions deny the allegations.
The film also alleges that Chinese government agents pretending to be journalists used fake profiles and avatars to target Hong Kong activists now living in the U.K.
VOA Mandarin sent an email to the Chinese Embassy in the United Kingdom seeking comments on the claims in the documentary but has not received a response.
Nations track China’s influence
The documentary comes as other nations, including the U.S., are monitoring China’s influence on campuses (( https://www.voanews.com/a/us-officials-warn-of-chinese-influence-in-american-higher-education/4600204.html )) and its so-called “overseas police centers,” purportedly intended to help Chinese diaspora and tourists with everyday problems.
VOA has previously quoted human rights groups saying the outposts are in fact part of a complex global surveillance and control web that gives Beijing reach far beyond China’s borders.
The University of Nottingham was approved by the Chinese Ministry of Education to open a campus in Ningbo, China, in 2004. On the China campus, all courses are taught in English and students are awarded the same degrees as on the U.K. campus.
Professor Stephen Morgan, the former vice provost for planning at the Ningbo campus, said in the documentary that books and articles on campus are censored by local Communist Party officials.
According to Morgan, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) also encouraged students to spy on their teachers. He said he was forced to resign from his management position after writing a blog criticizing constitutional changes that enabled President Xi Jinping to serve a third term. The CCP secretary at the Ningbo campus deemed the blog “totally unacceptable,” he said.
Steve Tsang is director of the China Institute at SOAS London and a former director of the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham, which closed in 2016.
Tsang, an outspoken critic of the CCP, said in the documentary that University of Nottingham administrators told him not to speak with media when Xi visited the U.K. in 2015. Tsang also said the university did not allow him to host a senior Taiwanese politician who planned to deliver a speech in 2014.
School denies taking political action
The University of Nottingham has denied that the closure of its Institute of Contemporary China was for political reasons and denied Channel 4’s allegations about Nottingham’s Ningbo campus.
“We do not recognize the description of the University of Nottingham’s Ningbo campus. Any U.K. organization operating overseas … must comply with the laws and customs of the host country.”
The documentary alleges that Imperial College London’s collaboration with researchers from Shanghai University included the publication of several papers on the military applications of artificial intelligence. The work was overseen by Guo Yike, director of Imperial College’s Institute of Data Science.
According to a report in the English newspaper The Telegraph, Imperial College said staff have a “clear code of research” and insisted that due diligence and regular reviews of partners have been done.
The Chinese Embassy in London also denied to The Telegraph in the same article that it had interfered in the running of British universities, saying the allegation was “aimed at discrediting and smearing China.”
Film alleges China targets activists
A study prepared by the British think tank Civitas and released this month in parliament found that a number of British universities have received significant funding from organizations linked to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) over the past five years.
The documentary alleges Hong Kong activists who have taken refuge in Britain appear to be the targets of sophisticated Chinese government espionage.
It follows the case of Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Finn Lau, who said he had been repeatedly approached by fake journalists and feared being followed. In July, Hong Kong offered a bounty equal to $128,000 for Lau’s arrest. Seven others were also targeted.
According to the documentary, an American man who taught English in Shanghai pretended to be a journalist working for a Canadian media outlet and used a false avatar and profile to ask Lau for information about pro-democracy activities. When the American was asked by a Channel 4 reporter for his real name and those of his superiors, he hung up the video call.
Hungary Says It Opposes EU Membership Talks With Ukraine
Hungary will not support any European Union proposal to begin talks on making Ukraine a member of the bloc, a government minister said Thursday.
Gergely Gulyas, the chief of staff to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, said at a news conference in Budapest that it was premature to begin formal talks with Kyiv on the war-ravaged country joining the EU, and that Hungary would not consent to opening the discussions when EU leaders meet in mid-December.
“We are dealing with a completely premature proposal,” Gulyas said, adding that Hungary “cannot contribute to a common decision” on inviting Ukraine to begin the process of joining the bloc.
Earlier this month, the EU’s executive arm recommended allowing Ukraine to open membership talks once it addresses governance issues that include corruption, lobbying concerns, and restrictions that might prevent national minorities from studying and reading in their own languages.
But unanimity among all EU member nations is required on matters involving admission of a new country, giving the nationalist Orban a powerful veto.
His government has long taken an antagonistic approach to Ukraine, arguing vehemently against EU sanctions on Russia over its invasion and holding up financial aid packages to Kyiv.
Orban, widely considered one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies in Europe, has argued that accession negotiations should not begin with a country that is at war, and that Ukraine’s membership would reorient the system the 27-nation European Union uses to distribute funds to member countries.
Earlier this month, Orban said that Ukraine is “light years” from joining the bloc, further signaling that his government would be a major obstacle to Kyiv’s ambitions at next month’s meeting of EU heads of state and government in Brussels.
On Thursday, Gulyas also said Hungary would not support proposed amendments to the EU’s budget, part of which would provide 50 billion euros ($54.5 billion) in long-term aid to Kyiv.
He said the EU was “illegally” withholding funds from Hungary, and that the government would consequently decline to support any budget amendment.
The EU froze billions in funding to Budapest over the alleged failures of Orban’s government to adhere to EU rule-of-law and corruption standards.
Hungary insists it doesn’t link the frozen EU funds to other issues, but many in Brussels see its veto threats regarding aid and Ukraine’s membership as an attempt to blackmail the bloc into releasing the withheld funds.
As Closings Continue, Britain’s Church Buildings Find New Purpose
More than 2,000 of Britain’s churches of several denominations have closed in the last decade. Many have been demolished, but as Umberto Aguiar reports from London, some are finding new life and are being used for purposes other than religion. Marcus Harton narrates. Camera: Umberto Aguiar.
Bloomberg: ЄС представить план щодо прибутків від заморожених російських активів 12 грудня
За даними агентства, у проєкті плану буде роз’яснено, що пропозиція ЄС не передбачає втручання в національні податки чи інші заходи
Shane MacGowan, Lead Singer of The Pogues, Dies at 65
Shane MacGowan, the boozy, rabble-rousing singer and chief songwriter of The Pogues, who infused traditional Irish music with the energy and spirit of punk, died Thursday, his family said. He was 65.
MacGowan’s songwriting and persona made him an iconic figure in contemporary Irish culture, and some of his compositions have become classics — most notably the bittersweet Christmas ballad “Fairytale of New York,” which Irish President Michael D. Higgins said “will be listened to every Christmas for the next century or more.”
“It is with the deepest sorrow and heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our most beautiful, darling and dearly beloved Shane MacGowan,” his wife Victoria Clarke, his sister Siobhan and father Maurice said in a statement.
The singer died peacefully with his family by his side, the statement added.
The musician had been hospitalized in Dublin for several months after being diagnosed with viral encephalitis in late 2022. He was discharged last week, ahead of his upcoming birthday on Christmas Day.
The Pogues melded Irish folk and rock ‘n’ roll into a unique, intoxicating blend, though MacGowan became as famous for his sozzled, slurred performances as for his powerful songwriting.
His songs blended the scabrous and the sentimental, ranging from carousing anthems to snapshots of life in the gutter to unexpectedly tender love songs. The Pogues’ most famous song, “Fairytale of New York” is a tale of down-on-their-luck immigrant lovers that opens with the decidedly unfestive words: “It was Christmas Eve, babe, in the drunk tank.” The duet between the raspy-voiced MacGowan and the velvet tones of the late Kirsty MacColl is by far the most beloved Pogues song in both Ireland and the U.K.
Singer-songwriter Nick Cave called Shane MacGowan “a true friend and the greatest songwriter of his generation.”
Higgins, the Irish president, said “his songs capture within them, as Shane would put it, the measure of our dreams.”
“His words have connected Irish people all over the globe to their culture and history, encompassing so many human emotions in the most poetic of ways,” Higgins said.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said MacGowan’s songs “beautifully captured the Irish experience, especially the experience of being Irish abroad.”
Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald said: “Nobody told the Irish story like Shane — stories of emigration, heartache, dislocation, redemption, love and joy.”
Born on Christmas Day 1957 in England to Irish parents, MacGowan spent his early years in rural Ireland before the family moved back to London. Ireland remained the lifelong center of his imagination and his yearning. He grew up steeped in Irish music absorbed from family and neighbors, along with the sounds of rock, Motown, reggae and jazz.
He attended the elite Westminster School in London, from which he was expelled, and spent time in a psychiatric hospital after a breakdown in his teens.
MacGowan embraced the punk scene that exploded in Britain in the mid-1970s. He joined a band called the Nipple Erectors, performing under the name Shane O’Hooligan, before forming The Pogues alongside musicians including Jem Finer and Spider Stacey.
The Pogues — shortened from the original name Pogue Mahone, a rude Irish phrase — fused punk’s furious energy with traditional Irish melodies and instruments including banjo, tin whistle and accordion.
“It never occurred to me that you could play Irish music to a rock audience,” MacGowan recalled in “A Drink with Shane MacGowan,” a 2001 memoir co-authored with Clarke. “Then it finally clicked. Start a London Irish band playing Irish music with a rock and roll beat. The original idea was just to rock up old ones but then I started writing.”
The band’s first album, “Red Roses for Me,” was released in 1984 and featured raucous versions of Irish folk songs alongside originals including “Boys from the County Hell,” “Dark Streets of London” and “Streams of Whisky.”
Playing pubs and clubs in London and beyond, the band earned a loyal following and praise from music critics and fellow musicians from Bono to Bob Dylan.
MacGowan wrote many of the songs on the next two albums, “Rum, Sodomy and the Lash” (1985) and “If I Should Fall from Grace with God” (1988), ranging from rollicking rousers like the latter album’s title track to ballads like “A Pair of Brown Eyes” and “The Broad Majestic Shannon.”
The band also released a 1986 EP, “Poguetry in Motion,” which contained two of MacGowan’s finest songs, “A Rainy Night in Soho” and “The Body of an American.” The latter featured prominently in early-2000s TV series “The Wire,” sung at the wakes of Baltimore police officers.
“I wanted to make pure music that could be from any time, to make time irrelevant, to make generations and decades irrelevant,” he recalled in his memoir.
The Pogues were briefly on top of the world, with sold-out tours and appearances on U.S. television, but the band’s output and appearances grew more erratic, due in part to MacGowan’s struggles with alcohol and drugs. He was fired by the other band members in 1991 after they became fed up with a string of no-shows, including when The Pogues were opening for Dylan. The band briefly replaced MacGowan with Clash frontman Joe Strummer before breaking up.
MacGowan performed with a new band, Shane MacGowan and the Popes, with whom he put out two albums: “The Snake” in 1995 and “The Crock Of Gold” in 1997. He reunited with The Pogues in 2001 for a series of concerts and tours, despite his well-documented problems with drinking and performances that regularly included slurred lyrics and at least one fall on stage.
MacGowan had years of health problems and used a wheelchair after breaking his pelvis a decade ago. He was long famous for his broken, rotten teeth until receiving a full set of implants in 2015 from a dental surgeon who described the procedure as “the Everest of dentistry.”
MacGowan received a lifetime achievement award from the Irish president on his 60th birthday. The occasion was marked with a celebratory concert at the National Concert Hall in Dublin with performers including Bono, Nick Cave, Sinead O’Connor and Johnny Depp.
Clarke wrote on Instagram that “there’s no way to describe the loss that I am feeling and the longing for just one more of his smiles that lit up my world.”
“I am blessed beyond words to have met him and to have loved him and to have been so endlessly and unconditionally loved by him and to have had so many years of life and love and joy and fun and laughter and so many adventures,” she wrote.
Russia’s Supreme Court Effectively Outlaws LGBTQ+ Activism in Landmark Ruling
Russia’s Supreme Court on Thursday effectively outlawed LGBTQ+ activism, in the most drastic step against advocates of gay, lesbian and transgender rights in the increasingly conservative country.
In a statement announcing a lawsuit filed to the court earlier this month, the Justice Ministry argued that authorities had identified “signs and manifestations of an extremist nature” by an LGBTQ+ “movement” operating in Russia, including “incitement of social and religious discord,” although it offered no details or evidence. In its ruling, the court declared the “movement” to be extremist and banned it in Russia.
The hearing took place behind closed doors and with no defendant. Multiple rights activists have pointed out that the lawsuit targeted the “international civic LGBT movement,” which is not an entity but rather a broad and vague definition that would allow Russian authorities to crack down on any individuals or groups deemed to be part of the “movement.”
“Despite the fact that the Justice Ministry demands to label a nonexistent organization — ‘the international civic LGBT movement’ — extremist, in practice it could happen that the Russian authorities, with this court ruling at hand, will enforce it against LGBTQ+ initiatives that work in Russia, considering them a part of this civic movement,” Max Olenichev, a human rights lawyer who works with the Russian LGBTQ+ community, told The Associated Press ahead of the hearing.
Some LGBTQ+ activists have said they sought to become a party to the lawsuit, arguing that it concerns their rights, but were rejected by the court. The Justice Ministry has not responded to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
The Supreme Court ruling is the latest step in a decadelong crackdown on LGBTQ+ rights in Russia begun under President Vladimir Putin, who has put “traditional family values” at the cornerstone of his rule.
In 2013, the Kremlin adopted the first legislation restricting LGBTQ+ rights, known as the “gay propaganda” law, banning any public endorsement of “nontraditional sexual relations” among minors. In 2020, constitutional reforms pushed through by Putin to extend his rule by two more terms also included a provision to outlaw same-sex marriage.
After sending troops into Ukraine in 2022, the Kremlin ramped up its comments about protecting “traditional values” from what it called the West’s “degrading” influence, in what rights advocates saw as an attempt to legitimize the war. That same year, the authorities adopted a law banning propaganda of “nontraditional sexual relations” among adults, also, effectively outlawing any public endorsement of LGBTQ+ people.
Another law passed earlier this year prohibited gender transitioning procedures and gender-affirming care for transgender people. The legislation prohibited any “medical interventions aimed at changing the sex of a person,” as well as changing one’s gender in official documents and public records. It also amended Russia’s Family Code by listing gender change as a reason to annul a marriage and adding those “who had changed gender” to a list of people who can’t become foster or adoptive parents.
“Do we really want to have here, in our country, in Russia, ‘Parent No. 1, No. 2, No. 3’ instead of ‘mom’ and ‘dad?'” Putin said in September 2022. “Do we really want perversions that lead to degradation and extinction to be imposed in our schools from the primary grades?”
Authorities have rejected accusations of discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. Earlier this month, Russian media quoted Andrei Loginov, a deputy justice minister, as saying that “the rights of LGBT people in Russia are protected” legally. Loginov spoke in Geneva, while presenting a report on human rights in Russia to the U.N. Human Rights Council, and argued that “restraining public demonstration of non-traditional sexual relationships or preferences is not a form of censure for them.”
Зеленський обговорив оборонні питання з головами урядів Німеччини та Британії
Президент України Володимир Зеленський провів у четвер телефонні розмови з канцлером Німеччини Олафом Шольцем та прем’єр-міністром Великої Британії Ріші Сунаком, інформує сайт Офісу президента.
«Глава держави подякував співрозмовнику за потужний «зимовий» оборонний пакет від Німеччини, який містить чотири системи IRIS-T. Сторони обговорили подальшу оборонну співпрацю. Президент також висловив подяку за багаторічну програму фінансової допомоги від Німеччини», – йдеться в повідомленні.
Повідомляється, що йшлося і про ситуацію на полі бою, ситуацію в Чорному морі, функціонування «зернового коридору» тощо.
Крім того, Зеленський у розмові з Ріші Сунаком обговорив пріоритетні потреби для посилення оборонних спроможностей ЗСУ і зміцнення повітряного щита.
«Володимир Зеленський і Ріші Сунак відзначили важливість проведеної в жовтні зустрічі радників із питань національної безпеки та зовнішньої політики на Мальті та обговорили подальші кроки з імплементації української формули миру», – йдеться в повідомленні ОПУ.
Публічних деталей про бесіди від німецької і британської сторін наразі немає.
Останніми днями Зеленський здійснює виїзди у регіони, сьогодні побував на Куп’янському напрямку в Харківській області, вчора був на Одещині.
В уряді Угорщини заявили, що не погодяться на початок переговорів про членство України в ЄС
За словами Ґерґея Ґуяша, міністра-керівника апарату прем’єра, Угорщина не погодиться розпочати дискусії під час зустрічі лідерів ЄС у середині грудня
German Court Sentences Gambian Death Squad Member to Life in Prison
A German court on Thursday sentenced a Gambian man to life in prison over his participation in a death squad that assassinated opponents of former dictator Yahya Jammeh, including an AFP journalist.
Bai Lowe was convicted of crimes against humanity, murder and attempted murder for his role as a driver for the hit squad known as the Junglers.
Prosecutors had asked judges at the court in the northern town of Celle to hand a life sentence to Lowe, who denies the charges against him.
The Junglers unit was “used by the then-president of The Gambia to carry out illegal killing orders, among other things” with the aim of “intimidating the Gambian population and suppressing the opposition”, according to federal prosecutors.
The list of alleged crimes includes the 2004 killing of AFP correspondent Deyda Hydara, who was gunned down in his car on the outskirts of the Gambian capital Banjul on December 16, 2004.
Lowe was found to have helped to stop Hydara’s car and drove one of the killers in his own vehicle.
The trial, which began last year, is “the first to tackle human rights violations committed in The Gambia during the Jammeh era on the basis of universal jurisdiction,” according to Human Rights Watch.
The legal principle allows a foreign country to prosecute crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, regardless of where they were committed.
Hydara was an editor and co-founder of the independent daily The Point and a correspondent for AFP for more than 30 years.
The father-of-four also worked as a Gambia correspondent for the NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and was considered a doyen among journalists in the tiny West African state.
In The Point, he wrote a widely read column, “Good morning, Mr President,” in which he expressed his views on Gambian politics.
According to investigations by RSF, Hydara was being spied on by Gambian intelligence services just before his death.
As well as having a role in Hydara’s killing, prosecutors accuse Lowe of involvement in the attempted assassination of lawyer Ousman Sillah, and the murder of Dawda Nyassi, a suspected opponent of the president.
Lowe arrived in Europe via Senegal in December 2012, saying he was seeking asylum as a political refugee who feared for his life under Jammeh.
He was detained on the charges in Germany in March 2021.
‘Long arm of the law’
The evidence against Lowe includes a telephone interview he gave in 2013 to a US-based Gambian radio station, in which he described his participation in the attacks, according to police.
In a statement read out to the court, however, Lowe said he had merely repeated what other people had told him about the facts of the case to illustrate the cruelty of Jammeh’s government.
Jammeh ruled Gambia with an iron fist for 22 years but fled the country in January 2017 after losing a presidential election to relative unknown Adama Barrow.
He refused to acknowledge the results but was forced out by a popular uprising and fled to Equatorial Guinea.
“The long arm of the law has caught up to Bai Lowe in Germany… as it will hopefully soon catch up to Jammeh himself,” said Reed Brody, a lawyer with the International Commission of Jurists who works with Jammeh’s victims.
Lowe is one of three alleged accomplices of Jammeh to be detained abroad, alongside former interior minister Ousman Sonko, under investigation in Switzerland since 2017, and another alleged former Jungler, Michael Sang Correa, indicted in June 2020 in the United States.
The Gambian government itself said earlier this year it was working with the regional ECOWAS bloc to set up a tribunal to try crimes committed under Jammeh.
Russia Pounds Ukraine’s Donetsk Region, Wounding 10
Russian missiles pounded Ukraine’s Donetsk region overnight, as concerns grew about more intense attacks from Russia as weather conditions improve.
Ten people were wounded in the missile attacks, including four children. Five other people were trapped in rubble, Ukrainian interior minister Ihor Klymenko said Thursday.
In Pokrovsk, Klymenko said a 6-month-old baby was wounded alongside boys aged 13 and 16.
“One of the shells exploded in the yard of a house where a family with two children lived. As a result of the shelling, the roof and walls of the house were destroyed, and the family was buried under the rubble,” he added.
An apartment block, nine private houses, a police station, cars and garages were also damaged.
The Donetsk industrial region, which Russia claims to have annexed last year, has seen some of the fiercest fighting in the two-year conflict.
Russia’s defense ministry said Wednesday its forces had taken control the village of Khromove, which Russia calls Artyomovskoe.
Wednesday, a day after addressing the intense fighting in the Donetsk region, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he had met with military commanders and government officials in the southern part of the country after a recent storm.
He said he instructed government officials “to increase the number of repair crews and equipment to promptly restore electricity supply to people. If necessary, the State Emergency Service personnel and power engineers from other regions that have not experienced such problems with the weather will be brought in.”
Repairs are being made to Odesa’s boiler facility, which was damaged by severe weather.
Weather conditions are improving in the country this week, which is allowing Russia to ramp up its assaults, according to Ukrainian army spokesperson Oleksandr Shtupun.
“The enemy has doubled its artillery fire and airstrikes. It has also intensified ground infantry attacks, and is using armored vehicles,” he said.
Oleksandr Tarnavsky, a Ukrainian commander, said Russia had “significantly increased” its activity around Avdiivka.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.
У Єврокомісії підтвердили ймовірність санкцій проти Польщі через ситуацію на кордоні з Україною
Радіо Свобода скерувало запит до Мінінфраструктури Польщі з проханням прокоментувати, чи готові вони до можливих судових скарг із боку Єврокомісії. Відповіді наразі немає