Category: Світ

Despite Americans’ Second Thoughts, Czechs Admire Woodrow Wilson 

The legacy of former U.S. president Thomas Woodrow Wilson is going through a harsh re-examination by supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, but in at least one country abroad, his place in history is undisputed. Wilson, who occupied the White House from 1913 to 1921, “is being criticized for his allegedly racist views as far as I know,” said Zdenek Beranek, the Czech Republic’s second-ranking diplomat in Washington.  The Czech people do not approve of any form of racism, Beranek said in an interview with VOA, but “we appreciate what he did for our nation. … Wilson invested his political capital to the independence of my country.”   Wilson, known internationally for his role in reshaping world affairs after World War I, has recently come under scrutiny amid a national movement to remove statues of Confederate generals and other historic leaders accused of having owned slaves or supported racial segregation.  A statue of former US President Woodrow Wilson is unveiled in Prague, Czech Republic, Oct. 5, 2011.Princeton University, one of America’s leading educational institutions, recently removed his name from its school of public policy because of his support for segregationist policies. In a sign of how problematic his legacy has become, the governor of New Jersey has decided to not sit behind a desk used by Wilson when he held that office.  Wilson, described by some as the most highly educated of all American presidents, served as a professor for many years before rising to become president of Princeton, then governor of New Jersey and then president of the United States. Until recently, he was best known for his handling of the presidency during the First World War — a period that saw the rise of the United States as a political and military power. In January 1918, as the war was drawing to a close, Wilson announced the Fourteen Points and laid the foundation for the Treaty of Versailles, which ended the war.   During the war years, he was influenced by the entreaties of Czech exile Tomas G. Masaryk, a fellow academician-turned-politician who, with Wilson’s crucial help, would go on to help establish the new country of Czechoslovakia and become its first president.  Wilson is said to have been deeply moved when he learned that a document drafted by Masaryk and other leading figures to proclaim the right of the Czech and Slovak peoples to self-governance was modeled after the American Declaration of Independence.   “You could say our very independence was declared on American soil,” Beranek said. The Czechs honored Wilson with a larger-than-life full-sized statue erected in central Prague; they also named their main railway station after him.   The statue was knocked down and the railway station renamed when the country became a Soviet satellite after World War II. But after Moscow lost its grip on the region in 1989, a new statue was erected in its place. The train station was not renamed, but it stands on Wilsonova, or Wilson Avenue. 

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Fighting Breaks Out on Azerbaijan-Armenia Border, Several Dead 

Several Azeri soldiers have been killed and Armenian soldiers and police wounded in border clashes, both countries said Monday, each accusing the other of encroaching on its territory. The two former Soviet republics have long been in conflict over Azerbaijan’s breakaway, mainly ethnic Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh, although the latest clashes occurred around the Tavush region in northeast Armenia, some 300km (190 miles) from the mountainous enclave. Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Feb. 13, 2020.The Azeri defense ministry said four of its soldiers had been killed and five wounded while Armenia’s ministry said three of its soldiers and two police officers had been wounded in the clashes. The exchanges of fire began Sunday and continued into Monday. The two sides traded accusations of cease-fire violations and shelling. Azeri President Ilham Aliyev accused the Armenian leadership of a “provocation.” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said the leadership of Azerbaijan would be responsible for “the unpredictable consequences of the regional destabilization.” The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a security watchdog that has tried to help find a solution to the conflict, urged the two countries to speak to each other to prevent any further escalation. The U.S. State Department condemned the violence, urged the two sides to stop using force immediately, and said it would “remain actively engaged in efforts” to achieve a peaceful settlement. Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous part of Azerbaijan, is run by ethnic Armenians, who declared independence during a conflict that broke out as the Soviet Union crumbled in 1991. Though a ceasefire was agreed in 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia continue to accuse each other of shooting attacks around Nagorno-Karabakh and along the separate Azeri-Armenian frontier. The frozen Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has concerned the international community in part because of its threat to stability in a region that serves as a corridor for pipelines taking oil and gas to world markets.  

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Merkel: Unclear if EU Will Approve Recovery Fund Plan This Week

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday it is not clear whether EU member states would reach an agreement on a COVID-19 recovery fund and multi-year budget at a summit this week, given that differences remain. The leaders of EU member nations are scheduled to gather in person on Friday and Saturday to work out a compromise on a multibillion-dollar stimulus package proposed by Germany and France. The debate has been linked to a discussion on the 27-country bloc’s long-term budget. Merkel spoke to reporters alongside visiting Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at Meseberg Castle — the German government’s guest house, north of Berlin, where the two held talks. She said positions are still too far apart to make any predictions about how the negotiations will proceed. Merkel said what is important is the scope of the agreement.”What we want now, the recovery fund or the next generation EU program, it has to be staggering, something special. Because the task at hand is huge, and therefore the answer has to be big as well,” she said.Italian news reports quoted Conte as saying the EU should offer “solutions, not illusions and fears.” Much of the stimulus money would go to help countries that were hardest hit by the coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, and its economic impacts, such as Italy and Spain. Some fiscally conservative EU countries oppose the French-German plan because it would entail borrowing by the bloc as a whole for the first time. 
 

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Ex-Russian Journalist Charged With High Treason

Investigators of the Federal Security Service have formally charged an aide to the chief of Russia’s Roskosmos space agency, journalist Ivan Safronov, with high treason. 
 
Safronov’s lawyer Ivan Pavlov said his client was indicted on July 13, adding that he reiterated his previous not guilty plea. 
 
Moscow police on July 13 detained about 20 supporters of Safronov near the Lefortovo detention center in the Russian capital, where Safronov is being held. 
 
Among the detained supporters of Safronov were a member of the journalists’ labor union, Sofia Rusova, and reporters Pyotr Parkhomenko, Maria Karpenko, Olga Alenova, Alla Pugachyova and Taisia Bekbulatova. Safronov, who has worked since May as an adviser to Roskosmos head Dmitry Rogozin, is a prominent journalist who covered the military-industrial complex for the newspapers Kommersant and Vedomosti. Police detain RT television channel journalist Maria Sherstyukova during a rally to support Ivan Safronov near the Lefortovo prison in Moscow, Russia, July 13, 2020. Safronov, a former military journalist, was arrested and charged with treason.He was arrested on July 7 amid allegations that he had passed secret information to the Czech Republic in 2017 about Russian arms sales in the Middle East.
 
Safronov has rejected the accusations and many of his supporters have held pickets in Moscow and other cities, demanding his release. 
Human rights organizations have issued statements demanding Safronov’s release and expressing concerns over the intensifying crackdown on dissent in Russia. 
 
The chairman of the Union of Journalists of Russia, Vladimir Solovyov, said on July 13 that his organization will “continue to closely monitor Safronov’s case.” 
 

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North Macedonia: Ballot Boxes Carried to Quarantined Homes

Election officials in North Macedonia carried ballot boxes to the homes of voters suffering from COVID-19 or in quarantine Monday, at the start of three days of voting in a general election that was delayed for months by the pandemic. Wearing white coveralls and other protective gear, the officials were visiting the homes of some 700 people who registered to vote in the pandemic but were unable to travel to polling stations. It is the first time elections have been held on a weekday, with the date set after the original April 12 vote was postponed due to the pandemic.After the delays, special provisions were made for those quarantined due to the virus. Of the roughly 5,000 people quarantined, just over 700 have registered to vote. Prison inmates, the elderly and the ill vote on Tuesday before the polls open Wednesday.  North Macedonia is holding its first parliamentary election under its new country name, with voters heading to the polls during an alarming spike of coronavirus cases in this small Balkan nation.The country has been run by a caretaker government since January following the resignation of Prime Minister Zoran Zaev after the European Union failed to set a date for North Macedonia to begin accession talks. Parliament elected a temporary government consisting of members of both main parties, with the sole aim of organizing the election.  Opinion polls in the run-up to Wednesday’s vote indicate a close race between coalitions led by the former governing Social Democrats and the center-right opposition VMRO-DPMNE party. The opposition is eager to return to power after losing the last election in 2016 following a decade running the country.Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Social Democrat-led coalition “Mozeme” (We Can) and the VMRO-led coalition “Obnova” (Renewal) are campaigning mostly through small gatherings and video messages.The caretaker government handled the coronavirus outbreak relatively well until May, imposing a lockdown that kept the number of infections and deaths low. But after authorities eased restrictions and opened the borders, North Macedonia saw an increase in new cases and deaths that have placed it among the most badly affected European nations in terms of the number of deaths and confirmed cases per capita.With more than 8,000 infected people and about 380 deaths in this country of around 2 million people by Sunday, the pandemic and its devastating economic consequences have become the main election issue. The opposition accuses Zaev’s party of being unable to deal with the outbreak or pull the country out of recession.North Macedonia is one of the poorest countries in Europe with a per-capita GDP of about $6,100. About a half of its 2 million people live on the brink of poverty.Polls suggest neither party will win the 61 seats needed in the 120-member parliament to be able to govern alone, meaning a coalition government with a smaller ethnic Albanian party is likely. A total of 15 parties and coalitions are running.Zaev, the Social Democrat leader, has touted his success in securing the country’s NATO membership after sealing a historic 2017 deal with neighboring Greece over the country’s name. Greece had been blocking the country’s NATO accession for three decades, objecting to the use of the name “Macedonia” which it said harbored expansionist claims on its own province of the same name.Zaev also signed a friendship deal with Bulgaria, part of a push to resolve issues with neighboring countries and prepare for EU membership.  The Social Democrats beat the populist conservative VMRO-DPMNE party in 2016 after a decade of autocratic rule by its then-leader Nikola Gruevski, who fled to Hungary to avoid serving a two-year jail sentence for abuse of power and corruption. Hungary granted him political asylum and North Macedonia is seeking his extradition.Gruevski’s successor, Hristijan Mickoski, moved VMRO-DPMNE toward the center-right and is appealing to voters disappointed with the country’s name change and the deal with Bulgaria. He also accuses the Social Democrats of corruption, influencing the judiciary, nepotism and destroying the economy.”These are elections when we decide on the future of our families, elections in which we need to make our ancestors proud,” Mickoski said during a recent television debate with Zaev. “The choice now on July 15 is between injustice, humiliation, and on the other hand justice and dignity.”The Social Democrats point to their success in achieving NATO membership and promise EU accession and a revival of the economy with billions in foreign investments.  “We have proved that North Macedonia could be a friend with everybody, made smart deals that brought the country into NATO and enabled a green light for the start of accession talks with the EU after 15 years,” Zaev said.If neither party wins enough seats to form a government, the largest ethnic Albanian party, the Democratic Union for Integration, or DUI, is the most likely coalition partner.  DUI has been in coalition governments for the past 18 years, and now says it is “high time” for an ethnic Albanian to head the government.Its slogan “Pse Jo?” (Why not?) was chosen to challenge the last “remaining ethnic taboo” of an ethnic Albanian being named prime minister. DUI has already chosen a long-retired politician for the post.Ethnic Albanians make up about a quarter of North Macedonia’s population. They took up arms against government forces in 2001, and the six-month conflict ended with a Western-brokered deal granting them greater minority rights, including making Albanian the country’s second official language.  Both main parties have rejected DUI’s idea.Over 1.8 million people are eligible to vote at nearly 3,500 polling stations. About 2,000 domestic and 130 international observers will monitor the process.Masks are compulsory during voting, and a two-meter distance must be kept from election officials. Authorities are assuring voters the process will not endanger their health. 

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Poland Presidential Election Likely Heading to Courts

Poland’s incumbent President Andrzej Duda, a social conservative aligned with the ruling populist Law and Justice Party (PiS), secured a second term in office Sunday with a narrow margin of victory after an ill-tempered, mudslinging presidential race.
 
His challenger’s supporters said they plan to contest the election result in Poland’s courts, a legal tussle likely to worsen the bitter polarization of the country.
 
After a tight runoff race, Duda won 51.21% of the vote, while his opponent, Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski of the liberal Civic Platform Party, took 48.79%. The preliminary result was declared with 99.97% of polling stations reporting. The electoral commission said the votes yet to be counted will not materially affect Duda’s overall win.
 
The incumbent’s secured reelection was the slimmest victory margin for any presidential victor since the end of communism in 1989.
 
“I think there will certainly be electoral protests, and I think the whole issue will end up in the Supreme Court,” political scientist Anna Materska-Sosnowska told the Agence France-Presse news agency.
 
Duda’s political opponents claimed voting “irregularities” in polling stations and said many Poles living overseas did not receive ballots in time to vote.Polish President and presidential candidate of the Law and Justice (PiS) party Andrzej Duda holds up a bouquet after the announcement of the first exit poll results on the second round of the presidential election in Pultusk, Poland, July 12, 2020.Despite the closeness of the race, Duda’s supporters said he won a clear mandate since the turnout was high — just under 70%. They said his win opens the path for the PiS to continue with contentious reforms of the judiciary and media regulations, which have raised the ire of the European Union. If Trzaskowski had won, he would have been able to block some legislation by using a presidential veto.
 
“Winning the presidential election with 70% of turnout is excellent news,” Duda said at an event in Pultusk on Sunday. “I’m very moved.”  
 
Trzaskowski said, “We’ve already won, regardless of the final result. We have managed to wake up. We have managed to create new hope.”
 
Pollsters had said the race was too close to call in the days leading up to voting. The election campaign centered on Duda’s promise to ban LGBTQ education in schools and his refusal to endorse same-sex marriage or gay adoption.
 
The incumbent president enjoyed a commanding lead in opinion polls before the coronavirus pandemic impacted Poland. Pollsters say Duda would have likely won more votes if the election, which was delayed because of the pandemic, had taken place in May as scheduled.  
 
Oxford University-educated Trzaskowski, the candidate of the Civic Coalition (KO) alliance, the country’s main centrist opposition bloc, proved to be an energetic campaigner and hoped to pull off a win by uniting all opposition parties behind his challenge.
The race became so toxic that neither candidate would agree to debate each other in person on the eve of the vote, choosing instead to hold one-man “debates” on separate television channels at the same time.
 
Poles were not the only ones watching the election closely. This is the first nationwide poll in Europe, aside from France’s recent municipal elections, since the coronavirus arrived in Europe, and is being seen by some as a possible bellwether on the strength of social conservatism in Europe.Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, presidential candidate of the main opposition Civic Platform (PO) party, reacts after the announcement of the first exit poll results on the second round of the presidential election in Warsaw, Poland, July 12, 2020.Duda’s campaign matched the style of electioneering and political agenda pursued by Hungary’s firebrand anti-migrant populist Viktor Orbаn, one combining social conservatism emphasizing “family values” and criticism of the European Union.
 
Like Orbаn, Duda and the PiS claim national sovereignty is being undermined by globalization, and nation states and their traditional cultures and lifestyles are being weakened by bankers and urban elites.  
 
His victory will hearten fellow populists in neighboring European countries where there is a strong electorate for social conservatism and generous state handouts.
 
Like Orbаn, Duda and the PiS have been accused by domestic critics and Brussels of eroding democratic checks and balances, of seeking to curb judicial independence and of expanding state control over the media and civil society.
 
But as in Hungary, generous welfare schemes have been credited with recent election wins by conservative nationalists. Analysts deem social spending as a big factor in Duda’s reelection.  
 
The campaign exposed clear political and cultural fault-lines in Poland. The country’s weekly Polityka magazine said the contest came down to the “young against old, cities against countryside.” Duda’s voters are older and concentrated in rural areas in the strongly Catholic east of the country. Younger voters in the west and in larger towns and cities voted largely for his challenger.
 
Some commentators expect the win will trigger moves by the PiS to limit foreign ownership of Poland’s private media outlets. During the campaign, Duda and his backers chafed at criticism of the PiS by foreign-owned media companies, especially German ones. Railing against “foreign interference” at one rally, he accused Germany of trying to choose Poland’s president.
 
Duda focused his attacks on Fakt, a Polish tabloid partly owned by the German Axel Springer publishing group. His critics say foreign-owned media is a needed counterweight to state-owned Polish television, which they say acts as a mouthpiece for the PiS.
 

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Global Markets Begin Week in Positive Territory  

European markets picked up where Asia left off Monday, with its benchmark indexes making big gains thanks to  investors’ continued optimism over a post-pandemic recovery.    Britain’s FTSE index is up one percent in midday trading, France’s CAC-40 index is 0.8% higher, and the DAX index in Frankfurt, Germany has gained 0.9%.   Hours earlier, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei index closed 2.2% higher.  Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index ended the day 0.1% higher, while the Shanghai Composite was up 1.7%.   A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus looks at an electronic stock board showing Japan’s Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm in Tokyo, July 13, 2020.In Australia, the S&P/ASX index was 0.8% higher.  The KOSPI index in South Korea finished up 1.6%, and Taiwan’s TSEC index rose 1.1%.  Mumbai’s Sensex index is up 0.2% in late afternoon trading.   In oil trading, U.S. crude oil is selling at $39.90 per barrel, down 1.6%, and Brent crude, the international standard, is selling at $42.64 per barrel, down 1.3%.    All three major U.S. indexes are trending upward in futures trading, indicating strong earnings on Wall Street after its opening bell.   

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Incumbent Duda Wins Polish Presidential Election

Incumbent Polish President Andrej Duda has won the presidential election. With 99 percent of the ballots counted from Sunday’s runoff election, Duda won 51.2 percent of the vote. The narrow victory was announced early Monday.The right-wing Duda and liberal Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski both had about 50 percent of the votes late Sunday night with one exit poll by a state-run Polish TV station giving Duda a very slight lead.The president claimed victory Sunday night. “Thank you to all my fellow Poles who voted for me and cast their votes. I want to thank you with all my heart,” he told a rally in Pultusk.Duda’s Law and Justice Party wants to extend its majority in parliament and implement conservative social, judicial and immigration policies that many in the European Union have criticized as anti-democratic.Those policies include Duda’s pledge to ban gay rights classes in schools. He has called homosexuality worse than communism.Trzaskowski, of the Civic Platform party, campaigned on promises to preserve the ruling party’s popular welfare programs but said he would block any legislation he says would be unconstitutional. He also wanted to restore good relations with the European Union.The coronavirus outbreak forced a nearly two-month delay in the first round of voting.Observers say the postponement hurt Duda, who had looked as if he would cruise to a first-round victory. But his popularity in the polls slipped after the Civic Platform party replaced a much less popular candidate with Trzaskowski and other candidates were allowed to get out and campaign more when COVID-19 restrictions were eased. 

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