Scotland Elects First Muslim Leader
The Scottish National Party elected Humza Yousaf as its new leader Monday. This comes after what analysts describe as a bruising five-week campaign that exposed deep cracks in Scotland’s pro-independence movement.
The 37-year-old Yousaf, who is currently Scotland’s health minister, will be Scotland’s first Muslim and first person of color to serve as First Minister. He will succeed Nicola Sturgeon, who unexpectedly stepped down from her position last month after eight years.
Yousaf is widely seen as a ‘continuity of Sturgeon,’ as they share similar social liberal views. Yousaf said his main goals are to concentrate on tackling the cost-of-living crisis, end divisions in the ruling SNP party, and make a renewed push for independence.
Yousaf narrowly beat two other Scottish lawmakers, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes and member of Parliament Ash Regan with 52% of the vote. All three candidates share the mission of independence but differ in their economic and social visions for Scotland.
“The people of Scotland need independence now, more than ever before and we will be the generation that delivers independence,” Yousaf said in a speech in Edinburgh after the results were announced.
Both Forbes and Regan opposed a controversial bill championed by Sturgeon to make it easier for people in Scotland to legally change their gender, while Yousaf supported it. The bill is hailed as a landmark piece of legislation by transgender rights activists but has faced opposition from some SNP members who said it did not consider the need to protect single-sex spaces for women, such as domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers.
Scottish voters backed remaining in the United Kingdom with 55% of the vote in a 2014 referendum. The SNP wants a new vote, but the central government in London has refused to authorize one, and the U.K. Supreme Court has ruled that Scotland can’t hold one without London’s consent.
The SNP is the largest of the country’s political parties with 72,000 members. The unity of the party has been its greatest strength but recently that has weakened due to disagreements over how to achieve independence and the best way to introduce social reforms such as transgender rights. Other prominent parties include the Scottish Conservative Party, the Scottish Labour Party, and the Scottish Greens.
Some information from this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.
Без виведення сил РФ із ЗАЕС ініціативи щодо ядерної безпеки будуть безуспішні – Зеленський на зустрічі з Ґроссі
Зустріч відбулася на території Дніпровської гідроелектростанції
Окремих хвиль мобілізації немає, все відбувається у плановому порядку – Маляр
Потреби у мобілізації залежать від розвитку ситуації на фронті, каже представниця Міноборони
У 6 областях опалювальний сезон завершать раніше, ніж планувалося – Чернишов
«Україна успішно завершує найважчий опалювальний сезон. Погодні умови дозволяють це зробити раніше, ніж було заплановано»
Guard Killed in Gun Attack on Albanian TV Channel
A security guard was killed in a gun attack on Albania’s largest broadcaster early Monday, with the country’s prime minister calling the assault on the media outlet “worrying”.
The 60-year-old guard was in a booth outside the Top Channel headquarters in Tirana when he was hit by a burst of gunfire from a passing SUV.
The police gave no possible motive for the attack, saying “the investigation is ongoing”. But they said the attackers used a Kalashnikov rifle.
The SUV was found hours later on the side of the road approximately 40 kilometers away from the scene of the attack, where it had been set on fire.
Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama offered condolences to the victim’s family and the staff at Top Channel, and called for “everyone’s solidarity at this very worrying moment”.
The U.S. embassy in Tirana condemned the shooting.
“We urge law enforcement to carry out a comprehensive investigation that will bring perpetrators to justice,” the embassy said.
Albania was once infamous for illegal arms trafficking. More than a million Kalashnikov rifles were stolen from military depots during an uprising in the 1990s.
However, mass shootings and violent attacks on journalists are rare in the poor Balkan nation.
New Russian Campaign Tries to Entice Men to Fight in Ukraine
Advertisements promise cash bonuses and enticing benefits. Recruiters are making cold calls to eligible men. Enlistment offices are working with universities and social service agencies to lure students and the unemployed.
A new campaign is underway this spring across Russia, seeking recruits to replenish its troops for the war in Ukraine.
As fighting grinds on in Ukrainian battlegrounds like Bakhmut and both sides prepare for counteroffensives that could cost even more lives, the Kremlin’s war machine badly needs new recruits.
A mobilization in September of 300,000 reservists — billed as a “partial” call-up — sent panic throughout the country, since most men under 65 are formally part of the reserve. Tens of thousands fled Russia rather than report to recruiting stations.
The Kremlin denies that another call-up is planned for what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine, now more than a year old.
But amid widespread uncertainty of whether such a move will eventually happen, the government is enticing men to volunteer, either at makeshift recruiting centers popping up in various regions, or with phone calls from enlistment officials. That way, it can “avoid declaring a formal second mobilization wave” after the first one proved so unpopular, according to a recent report by the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War.
One Muscovite told The Associated Press that his employer, a state-funded organization, gathered up the military registration cards of all male employees of fighting age and said it would get them deferments. But he said the move still sent a wave of fear through him.
“It makes you nervous and scared — no one wants to all of a sudden end up in a war with a rifle in their hands,” said the resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared reprisal. “The special operation is somewhat dragging on, so any surprises from the Russian authorities can be expected.”
It’s been more than a week since he handed in his card, he said, and exemptions usually get resolved in a day or two, heightening his anxiety.
Russian media report that men across the country are receiving summonses from enlistment offices. In most of those cases, men were simply asked to update their records; in others, they were ordered to take part in military training.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last week that serving summonses to update records in enlistment offices is “usual practice” and a “continued undertaking.”
Other unconfirmed media reports say authorities have told regional governments to recruit a certain number of volunteers. Some officials announced setting up recruitment centers with the goal of getting men to sign contracts that enable them to be sent into combat as professional soldiers.
Ads have appeared on government websites and on the social media accounts of state institutions and organizations, including libraries and high schools.
One of them, posted by a municipal administration in the western Yaroslavl region, promised a one-time bonus of about $3,800 to sign up, and if sent to Ukraine, a monthly salary of up to $2,500, plus about $100 a day for “involvement in active offensive operations,” and $650 “for each kilometer of advancement within assault teams.”
The ad said the soldier would also get tax and loan repayment breaks, preferential university admission status for his children, generous compensation for his family if he is wounded or killed in action, and the status of a war veteran, which carries even more perks.
In the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, officials asked universities, colleges and vocational schools to advertise for recruits on their websites, said Sergei Chernyshov, founder of a private vocational school there.
Chernyshov posted the ad on his social media account “so that everyone knows what our city hall is up to,” but he told the AP that he doesn’t plan to put it on the school website. “It’s weird” to target vocational school students, he said.
Other efforts include enlistment officials meeting with college students and unemployed men, or phoning men to volunteer.
A Muscovite who spoke on condition of anonymity for his own safety said that he received such a call and was surprised at how polite it was: “After my ‘No,’ there were no threats or (attempts to) convince me -– (just) ‘Thanks, goodbye.'”
There have only been isolated cases of enlistment officials really pressuring men to sign up, said Grigory Sverdlin, founder of a group called Go by the Forest that helps men avoid mobilization.
The group gets up to 100 messages a day from men seeking advice on dealing with summonses or enlistment officials, he said, compared with dozens per day in recent months. In most cases, the officials wanted to update their records with addresses and phone numbers, and they might try to recruit men during that process.
But Sverdlin said some cases stand out.
In the Vologda region, about 400 kilometers north of Moscow, the group received messages saying that almost everyone going to the enlistment office after receiving a summons “is forced to sign a paper barring them from leaving the region,” he said.
Lawyer Alexei Tabalov, who runs the Conscript’s School legal aid group, believes there’s nothing unusual in authorities handing out summonses now. Some of the notices are traditionally served before Russia’s spring conscription draft, scheduled to begin April 1 for those eligible for mandatory service.
All Russian men from age 18 to 27 must serve one year in the military, but a large share avoid the draft for health reasons or get student deferments. The share of men who avoid the draft is particularly big in Moscow and other major cities, and many simply evade enlistment officials bearing conscription summonses.
Tabalov said that men have reported going to enlistment offices to update their records but have officials there who “beat around the bush and promote the idea of signing the contract, talk about how one should love their motherland and defend it.”
He doubted anything could make volunteering attractive after 13 months of a war that has killed and wounded tens of thousands.
“People already understand what it means to sign a contract,” he said. “Those who got burned once are unlikely to fall into the same trap.”
Tabalov said that his group continues to get messages from soldiers who want to terminate their contracts, but that isn’t legally possible until President Vladimir Putin ends the partial mobilization, which began in September, with a new decree.
“Getting out of the war automatically means criminal prosecution,” Tabalov said, adding there has been a flurry of criminal cases since December, with prosecutions of soldiers who desert or go AWOL.
The news outlet Mediazona counted 247 verdicts in 536 criminal cases on these and similar charges, adding that over a third of those convicted got suspended sentences, which allows authorities to send them back to the front line.
The current recruitment campaign is similar to one enacted last summer, before the September call-up, said Kateryna Stepanenko, a Russia analyst with the Institute for the Study of War.
Back then, authorities also used financial incentives, and various volunteer battalions were formed, but the effort clearly wasn’t successful, because Putin eventually turned to the partial mobilization.
Whether this one will succeed or not is not clear.
“They’ve already recruited a significant portion of people that were financially incentivized last summer. And they struggled to do so last year,” Stepanenko said.
The current recruitment effort shows the military’s awareness of manpower needs in Ukraine.
“What the mobilization campaign of 300,000 servicemen told us is that it’s not enough to form a sufficient strike group for Russia to push forward with its offensive operations,” she said.
У Польщі заарештували іноземця за підозрою у шпигунстві на користь Росії
З початку повномасштабного вторгнення Росії в Україну в Польщі затримали 20 осіб, підозрюваних у співпраці з російською чи білоруською розвідкою
«Путін розміщує ядерну зброю в Білорусі через контрнаступ ЗСУ» – керівник білоруської ініціативи ByPol
Причиною розташування ядерної зброї у Білорусі є майбутній український контрнаступ, а саме звільнення анексованого Криму. Про це в ефірі «Свобода.Ранок» (проєкт Радіо Свобода) повідомив Олександр Азаров, керівник ініціативи ByPol (створена колишніми силовиками, які не підтримують режим Олександра Лукашенка – ред.).
При цьому білоруські партизани можуть чинити спротив навіть в такому питанні, як розміщення ядерної зброї на території Білорусі, каже він.
За даними Азарова, в Білорусь вже поставлений один комплекс «Іскандер», який зараховано до ракетної частини під Осиповичем. Це місто розташоване за 130 кілометрів від Мінська.
«Де він саме розташований, поки невідомо. Можливо, і біля кордону з Україною. Обслуговування цього комплексу російське, він не прийнятий на озброєння білоруською армією. Це говорить про те, що він належить Росії. І якщо буде поставлена ядерна зброя, вона не буде належати Лукашенку, вона буде належати росіянам», – каже Азаров.
Також він додав, що президент Білорусі Олександр Лукашенко підписав таємну згоду, за якою російська війська можуть перебувати на території Білорусь скільки завгодно та у будь-якій кількості. Тому, якщо Путін і передасть ядерну зброю, тільки він буде ухвалювати рішення, чи використовувати його чи ні.
Азаров зазначив, що у разі завдання ядерного удару по Україні, Володимир Путін буде це робити якраз з території Білорусі, оскільки це вигідно. Удар у відповідь буде нанесений саме по території Білорусі, а не Росії.
Російський президент Володимир Путін 25 березня заявив, що Росія розмістить тактичну ядерну зброю у Білорусі. Україна оголосила, що скликає термінове засідання Радбезу ООН.
German Transportation Unions Strike for Higher Wages
Germany’s public transportation workers are striking Monday as unions demand higher wages for their members.
The schedules of trains, buses and planes are being disrupted by the 24-hour work stoppage.
The strike is intended to pressure employers as a new round of negotiations begins this week.
German news outlet Deutsche-Welle reports that Frank Werneke, head of Verdi, one of the unions involved in the strike, said, “What employees right up into the middle-income groups find to be a burden, above all, are the enormous price increases for electricity, gas, and groceries.”
Some German airports began canceling flights Sunday in anticipation of Monday’s strike.
Продовження наступу РФ на Донбасі свідчить, що Путін все ще хоче перемогти в затяжній війні – ISW
«Впертість Путіна в цих наступальних операціях, втім, може мати сенс у затяжному конфлікті, протягом якого західна підтримка України ослабне або закінчиться»
Spain Tells ‘Fire Tourists’ to Stay Away From Forest Blaze
Officials told “fire tourists” to keep away from blazes raging in eastern Spain on Sunday, saying onlookers were putting themselves at risk and disrupting efforts to quell the flames.
More than 500 firefighters backed by 20 planes and helicopters were battling the fire four days after it broke out near the village of Villanueva de Viver in Valencia region, emergency services said.
Police had spotted 14 cyclists near the scene trying to get a closer look, Gabriela Bravo, the regional head of interior affairs in the Valencia region, told reporters.
“We ask once again and above all tourists not to engage in fire tourism, not to approach the perimeter area,” she said.
Spain’s first major wildfire of the year has destroyed more than 4,000 hectares of forest and forced 1,700 villagers to leave their homes in the Valencia and Aragon regions, officials said.
One firefighter slightly injured his hand as he battled the blaze, emergency services said.
Around 200 residents from the Teruel area of Aragon were allowed to return home on Sunday, authorities said.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was due to visit the area on Monday, his office said.
Residents said the fire could have a devastating impact on the local economy which depended on tourism.
“The people here live from cycling, hiking, and the few bars,” said Jorge Grausell, 72.
“You see this and it is a disaster for anyone who likes nature.”
An unusually dry winter across parts of southern Europe has raised fears there could be a repeat of last year’s devastating wildfires.
Last year, about 785,000 hectares were destroyed in Europe, more than double the annual average for the past 16 years, based on European Commission statistics.
In Spain, 493 fires destroyed a record 307,000 hectares of land last year, according to the Commission’s European Forest Fire Information System.
North Sea Shell Survey Brings Out Volunteers
Hundreds of volunteers descended on the beaches of the North Sea coast this weekend to collect sea shells as a measure of the sea’s biological diversity.
While there is a serious scientific purpose to the exercise, it is also a fun day out on the coast for Belgian, French and Dutch families with kids.
On Saturday, Natascha Perales and her children marked a wide spiral pattern on the sand in Middelkerke, in Flanders, and filled their plastic buckets with shells.
The harvests were taken to a sorting center run by volunteers, to be counted and divided up by species.
“We found mussels, oysters, cockles, at least six different species,” 40-year-old Perales told AFP. “It’s a great activity, despite the weather.”
Braving stiff gusts of wind, the dozen participants kept the Middelkerke collection point busy.
Laurence Virolee, 41, came with her three children.
“We learned a lot of things,” she said. “Last year we took part in a clean-up day on the beach. It’s important for the kids to see the evolution in biodiversity and make them aware of the climate.”
The collections took place along 400 kilometers of coastline and around 800 people took part in three countries, with France joining the sixth annual event for the first time.
In total, around 38,000 shells were brought in, roughly as many as in last year’s event.
“Shells are a good indicator of the state of biodiversity in the North Sea, ” explained Jan Seys, who organizes the survey for the Flanders Marine Institute.
“Last year, 15% of the shells found belonged to exotic species,” he said, amid fears that foreign shellfish species might become an invasive danger to native organisms. “We have seen, for example the Atlantic Jackknife Clam appearing on our coasts.”
The volunteers were also on the lookout for shells with holes in them, trying to measure the spread of predatory sea snails preying on shellfish.
Near the beach, retired biologist Joris Hooze, 75, taught volunteers how to examine mollusks under his microscope and distinguish their differences.
“We’ve seen organisms that normally live in warm waters turning up more and more,” he said. “It’s a sign of climate change.”
The European Union wants to clean up the seas around its coasts and restore the natural ecosystem by 2030. To do that, it has assigned 800 million euros ($861,600,000) in funding to the task.
“If we’re going to hit that target, we’ll need the general public,” said Seys. As well as its scientific value, the shell hunt served to raise awareness, he added.
Russia’s Putin to Deploy Tactical Nukes in Belarus
As the United States prepares to co-host the second Summit for Democracy in Washington, Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. VOA’s Veronica Balderas Iglesias reports on how the weapons that Russia has used so far in its war on Ukraine have already taken a heavy toll not only on the civilian population in Ukraine, but also on that country’s environment. Video editor: Marcus Harton.
Berlin Votes on Tighter Climate Goals in Test of Germans Commitment to Change
Berlin votes on Sunday on making the city climate neutral by 2030, in a binding referendum that will force the new conservative local government to invest heavily in renewable energy, building efficiency and public transportation.
Climate campaigners gathered over 260,000 signatures in support of the referendum, which will make Berlin one of few major European cities with a legally binding goal to become carbon neutral in seven years.
The European Union last year started a scheme to help 100 cities inside and outside of the bloc become climate neutral by 2030, but the scheme and the financial support it offers are not legally binding.
The referendum’s results would show whether Germans, or at least Berliners, want Germany’s climate policy, which now aims to make Europe’s biggest economy carbon-neutral by 2045, to be more ambitious.
Climate activists who initiated the vote say the government’s target is too far in the future to prevent global warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“At the moment, climate policy is simply not sufficient to ensure a future worth living in our city,” Jessamine Davis, a spokesperson for Climate New Start Berlin, told Reuters.
Unlike Berlin’s previous referendums, including one calling for expropriation of large landlords or on keeping the former Tempelhof airport free from development, Sunday’s climate referendum will be legally binding for the government in Berlin.
“The new version will automatically apply if Berlin population votes if favor,” Davis said.
The initiative, if approved, will only oblige the local government to achieve climate-neutrality in seven years, but the group says various scientific studies offer a wide range of specific measures to reach that goal.
They include a mandate to install solar panels on all suitable roofs in the city to generate around 25% of the city’s electricity, in addition to expanding wind power turbines in the neighboring Brandenburg state to supply the capital.
Installing a large heat pump on the Spree river and renovating buildings across the city to replace oil and gas heaters with efficient heat pumps are also among the measures that will be needed if Berliners back the new 2030 goal.
Germany’s capital would also have to expand electric vehicles usage and add bike lanes while making public transport more attractive, the group suggested on its website.
The referendum comes as Germany’s conservative CDU party is negotiating a possible coalition with the Social Democrats in the city after its clear victory in a repeat election, driving the environmentalist Greens into opposition.
Stefan Taschner, a Greens Berlin lawmaker, said a positive referendum result would force the new ruling coalition in the city-state to conduct a more active climate policy.
According to the initiative organizers, around 455,000 Berliners have requested to cast their votes via mail so far. In addition to a majority of positive votes, the initiative needs at least 608,000 “Yes” votes to make the results binding.
Danny Freymark, a CDU Berlin lawmaker, said the initiative had a high chance of winning approval, but he would vote against it, saying a new binding target would deprive the new government of any leeway and would lead to disappointment.
“Because even if we do everything we can, we wouldn’t make it in 2030,” Freymark told Reuters.
As a city of four million, with few renewable energy sources nearby or geothermal heating, Berlin lacks what is necessary to make that target more achievable, said Bernd Hirschl from Berlin’s Institute for Ecological Economy Research.
Still, the referendum is a way to revive the debate over climate policy and the changes people must accept to reach climate neutrality regardless of the deadlines, Hirschl told Reuters.
“Because it’s not about 2030. It’s about the question of whether we want to send a signal to politicians or not,” he added.
Подоляк щодо розміщення ядерної зброї у Білорусі: «Путін зізнається, що програє»
У Зеленського звернули увагу, що президент Росії «порушує договір про нерозповсюдження ядерної зброї»
Данілов відреагував на заяву Путіна щодо розміщення ядерної зброї в Білорусі
На думку секретаря РНБО Олексій Данілова, Кремль взяв Білорусь у «ядерні заручники»
Poland’s Ruling Nationalists Push John Paul II’s Legacy to Election Center Stage
A controversy over John Paul II’s legacy looks set to spur some undecided voters in Polish elections due by November, political analysts say, as allegations that the late pope concealed child abuse deepen rifts in the predominantly Catholic country.
Claims in a new book and TV documentary that the late pope, born Karol Wojtyla, knowingly hid clerical pedophilia scandals as archbishop of Krakow have led some Poles to demand that his legacy be reassessed.
This has provoked a furious response from religious conservatives, with politicians from the ruling nationalists Law and Justice (PiS) defending John Paul II in the face of what they say is a left-wing plot to discredit the nation’s biggest moral authority.
“Defending the pope’s stance, even against documents and facts, may be crucial for those that in normal circumstances would not have voted, but in this case they might go to defend John Paul II’s legacy,” Olgierd Annusewicz, a political scientist at Warsaw University, told Reuters.
Support for PiS has risen by 3 points to 31%, a March 14-16 Kantar opinion poll for private broadcaster TVN24 showed, while liberal opposition party Civic Platform (PO) has fallen 3 points to 26%.
While political analysts say it is too early to attribute this to the papal controversy, a PiS’ vocal stance backed by a resolution passed in the lower house of parliament on March 9 to defend his name has pushed the issue onto the election agenda.
“I’m not a ruling party supporter, but others that were not backing it till now may change their minds because our pope is being insulted,” pensioner Elzbieta Molag, 67, told Reuters in Krakow.
The opposition PO abstained from voting on the resolution. Its leader, Donald Tusk, said on March 19 that pedophilia in church cannot be excused but should not be a reason to question the pope’s role in Polish political history.
The Polish Catholic church urged Poles to respect the late pope’s memory, saying that a review of its archives did not confirm the accusations against the church hierarchy, adding that some files could be opened in future. The Vatican has not responded to requests for comment about the allegations in the book, called “Maxima Culpa.”
“Opening the files that contain sensitive personal data requires care and consent from a local bishop, and possibly also the Vatican. It won’t be a quick process,” priest Lukasz Michalczewski, spokesman for the archbishop of Krakow, told Reuters.
The account of Slawomir Mastek, a 56-old photographer from the late pope’s hometown Wadowice, opens the book by a Dutch investigative journalist published on March 8. Mastek said he was molested by two priests when he was a 13-year-old altar boy.
While one of the priests acknowledged his guilt, when Mastek confronted the church about the other case in 2011, he says local priests banned him from filming religious ceremonies and he lost up to 80% of his business.
Michalczewski said he was not familiar with Mastek’s case, adding that the church has apologized to those that feel hurt by its actions and is ready to apologize again.
Mastek’s studio on John Paul II central square Wadowice remains open but he now makes his living renovating houses. With elections due in autumn, he worries the politicization of the issue will delay justice for other victims.
“If politicians want to help they should speak to the church so that it finally starts dialogue and opens its archives,” Mastek told Reuters.
In the 1980s, the Catholic Church was a voice of freedom in Poland, inspiring people to stand up against communist rule.
However, it is slowly losing ground partly due to clerical sex abuse scandals, and accusations of cover-ups that have rocked the Church in recent years not only in Poland but in many countries, and involved John Paul II’s successors. As many as 70% of Poles support abortion rights, up 17 points since 2019, and children’s attendance at religion classes has been falling since 2010, polls show.
Filip Kaczynski, a PiS lawmaker from Wadowice, said he has not seen the documentary but is convinced it aims to smear the late pope.
“Given that it was aired by a TV station that is openly supporting the opposition it’s not an accident, it’s an attack on the church that may be part of a political infighting,” he said.
In Wadowice, the Museum of the Family Home of John Paul II has no plans to include the controversy, Deputy Director Katarzyna Coufal-Lenczowska said.
“You can’t redefine the most important values and that’s what this exhibit is about,” she told Reuters.
However, despite around three dozen people in Wadowice refusing to comment on camera, some residents voiced criticism of the town’s relationship with the church.
“In Wadowice everybody knows each other and PiS rule here, so if somebody works in a school or a public institution and talks loudly about their views they could face consequences,” a 46-year-old woman working as a freelance tutor told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Azerbaijan Violated Cease-Fire Agreement with Armenia, Russia Says
Russia on Saturday accused Azerbaijan of violating the Moscow-brokered cease-fire that ended a 2020 war with Armenia by letting its troops cross over the demarcation line.
Arch foes Baku and Yerevan have been locked for decades in a territorial conflict over Azerbaijan’s Armenian-majority region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The fragile Russian-mediated truce, which ended six weeks of fighting in autumn 2020, has stood despite occasional shootouts along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and in Karabakh.
“On March 25 … a unit of the armed forces of Azerbaijan crossed a line of contact in the district of Shusha, in violation” of the agreement of November 9, 2020, the Russian defense ministry said in a statement.
It said Russian peacekeepers “are taking measures aimed at preventing escalation … and mutual provocations.”
‘Necessary control measures’
Earlier on Saturday, Azerbaijan’s defense ministry said it had taken control of some auxiliary roads in Karabakh.
The ministry said “necessary control measures were implemented by the units of the Azerbaijan army in order to prevent the use of the dirt roads north of Lachin” for arms supplies from Armenia.
The sole road linking Karabakh to Armenia, the Lachin corridor, has for months been under Azerbaijani blockade, which Yerevan says has led to a humanitarian crisis in the enclave and is aimed at driving Armenians from Karabakh.
Baku has denied the claims.
Last week, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan warned against a “very high risk of escalation” in Karabakh.
Armenia has also accused Russian peacekeepers of failing to protect ethnic Armenians living in the restive region.
Yerevan has said it would appeal to the international community to help prevent genocide in Nagorno-Karabakh.
On Thursday, Armenia accused Azerbaijani troops of killing an Armenian soldier along the countries’ volatile frontier.
Last week, Azerbaijan accused Armenia of opening fire on its army positions along the border and in Karabakh.
Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev have held several rounds of peace talks mediated by the European Union and the United States.
Last week, Pashinyan noted some progress in the peace process, but said “fundamental problems” remain because “Azerbaijan is trying to put forward territorial claims, which is a red line to Armenia.”
Yerevan has accused Baku forces of occupying about 150 square kilometers in Armenia, along the countries’ shared border, after the 2020 war.
The European Union last month deployed an expanded monitoring mission to the Armenian side of the border as Western engagement grows in a region that is traditionally the Kremlin’s sphere of influence.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, ethnic Armenian separatists in Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan. The ensuing conflict claimed some 30,000 lives.
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Love, Pain And Loss at Ukraine’s Lychakiv Cemetery
At a historic military cemetery in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, Valeriy Pushko lights up two cigarettes. One is for himself, the other for his son whose portrait is fixed to a cross planted in the ground.
“I smoke with my son,” the gray-haired man said.
“We used to take cigarette breaks together. It’s a bad habit but it makes things easier. I talk to him, think about him and that makes me feel better.”
Pushko said many others come here to smoke with their fallen husbands or sons.
In southeastern Lviv, the Lychakiv cemetery is one of the oldest in Europe and is often compared to the historic Pere Lachaise in Paris, where dozens of celebrities are buried.
It is the resting place of prominent figures including the poet Ivan Franko and thousands of soldiers who perished in World War I and II.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine over a year ago, rows of new graves have appeared. A sea of blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flags and red-and-black nationalist banners mark them.
Some mourners leave stuffed animals, cigarettes, and cups of coffee at the graves of their loved ones.
More unusual symbols of love and sorrow included children’s drawings, vinyl records, a golf ball, and a bottle of beer.
A funeral nearly every day
Shortly after the Russian invasion in February 2022, authorities began burying soldiers killed in the fighting at the Lychakiv cemetery.
But the area initially designated for military burials quickly filled up, said city official Oleg Pidpysetsky.
The authorities then began laying Ukrainian servicemen to rest at a new site bordering Lychakiv.
Funerals are held nearly every day in the new burial ground. Called the Field of Mars, it now contains about 350 graves.
“No one knew how critical the situation was,” Pidpysetsky told AFP.
“Someone thought it would end in a month, two, three, six months. But, unfortunately, the war has only gotten bigger.”
Oleg, one of the mourners who came to visit a friend’s grave, called the losses irreparable.
“We will have our victory, of course, but this is the price we pay. And that is not the end,” said the 55-year-old. “These people gave their lives for us.”
Oleg mourns the loss of his 45-year-old friend also called Oleg.
He said the father of two volunteered to go to the front.
“Unfortunately, nothing can be done now. Thousands of Russians will not replace my Oleg,” he said, bitterly.
‘The only connection with their heroes’
Kyiv does not reveal the number of its military casualties, but Western officials say more than 100,000 Ukrainians have been killed or wounded.
Olga, who came to visit her brother-in-law’s grave, says the mementos people leave “is all that’s left, the only connection with their heroes.”
Her sister comes to the cemetery every day, she added.
“That’s her second home now,” Olga said.
Vyacheslav Sabelnikov, who served in the infantry before receiving a serious injury, says several men he fought with are now buried at the cemetery.
“I came to visit a friend whose birthday is today,” said Sabelnikov, placing a candle in front of his portrait.
Sabelnikov said he lights candles to remember his friends, saying it was important to honor their memory.
Anna Mikheyeva, a 44-year-old social worker, came to visit her son Mykhailo’s grave. He served in the 80th Parachute Brigade and was killed last year at the age of 25.
Mikheyeva said she often brings her son things he liked including Coca-Cola, sweets, and cigarettes.
“If I come in the morning, I buy a coffee for myself and also for him,” added the dark-haired woman.
She said she felt calm at the Field of Mars.
“There are only young people here. They are like sons and brothers to me,” she said. “When I come I always say ‘Hi guys.’ And I always, always thank them.”