Russia Registers Vaccine to Protect Animals from COVID-19

Russia says it registered the world’s first vaccine for animals against the COVID-19 virus on Wednesday — with government officials hailing an inoculation labeled ‘Carnivac-Cov’ as a victory in the global race to protect both animals and humans from further mutations of the coronavirus.“The clinical trials of Carnivac-Cov, which started last October, involved dogs, cats, Arctic foxes, minks, foxes and other animals,” said  Konstantin Savenkov, Deputy Head of Rosselkhoznadzor, Russia’s agricultural watchdog agency, in a statement announcing the vaccine.“The results allow us to conclude that the vaccine is harmless and provides high immunity, in such as the animals who were tested developed antibodies to the coronavirus in 100% of cases,” added Savenkov.Savenkov added that the shot currently provided immunity of up to 6 months — and could be in production …

Italy Expels Two Russian Diplomats Accused of Espionage

Italy says it expelled two Russian diplomats and arrested an Italian navy captain Tuesday for their alleged involvement in espionage. The diplomats were expelled Wednesday, according to news reports. Italian police say the captain and a Russian Embassy official were arrested in a parking lot in Rome and were accused of “serious crimes tied to spying and state security.” Reuters reported that an Italian police official told them the captain was named Walter Biot and that he was accused of passing information in exchange for $5,900.  Italian news agency Ansa reported that some of the documents seized were NATO documents. Italian police said the arrests were the result of a lengthy investigation by national security and military officials. The Russian Embassy in Rome, March 31, 2021.After the arrests, Italy summoned the Russian ambassador, and two …

‘Falling Like Flies’: Hungary’s Roma Community Pleads for COVID-19 Help

Coronavirus infections are ravaging Hungary’s 700,000-strong Roma community, according to personal accounts that suggest multiple deaths in single families are common in an unchecked outbreak fueled by deep distrust of authorities.Data on infections in the community is unavailable but interviews with about a dozen Roma, who often live in cramped and unsanitary conditions, reveal harrowing stories of suffering and death and of huge health care challenges.”Our people are falling like flies,” said Aladar Horvath, a Roma rights advocate who travels widely among the community.When asked by phone to describe the overall situation, he broke down sobbing and said he had learned an hour before that his 35-year-old nephew had died of COVID.Another Roma, Zsanett Bito-Balogh, likened the outbreak in her town of Nagykallo in eastern Hungary to an explosion.”It’s like a bomb …

Kremlin Critic Navalny Threatens Hunger Strike Over Lack of Medical Care

A week after his lawyers claimed he was in poor health, jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny says he will go on a hunger strike until he is given proper medical care, according to a post on his Instagram account.   “I have declared a hunger strike demanding that the law be upheld and a doctor of my choice allowed to visit me,” Navalny wrote.   He also posted his intentions on Twitter.   In another Instagram post earlier this week, Navalny said he could be placed in solitary confinement for minor infractions of prison rules such as getting out of bed a few minutes early.   “You get two reprimands, and you go to punitive isolation confinement, which is an unpleasant place, conditions there are close to torture,” Navalny wrote. …

EU Commission Refers Poland to Europe’s Top Court Regarding Judiciary Independence

The European Commission announced Wednesday it is referring the Polish government to the European Court of Justice — Europe’s top court — for undermining the independence of that country’s judiciary through a reform law passed in 2019. The commission, the European Union’s executive arm, further asked the European court to impose interim measures to prevent the law from being enforced while the issue is considered. The Polish law in question, which went into effect in February 2020, prevents judges from referring questions of law to the European Court of Justice and creates a body — the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court — that rules over judges without regard to EU law. FILE – EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders speaks during a press conference at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, March 17, …

Italian Naval Officer, Russian Detained on Spying Charges

Italian authorities said Wednesday they have arrested an Italian Navy captain on spying charges after he was allegedly caught giving classified documents to a Russian embassy official in exchange for money. The Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian ambassador, Sergey Razov, after the sting operation late Tuesday caught the two in what police said was a “clandestine operation” to exchange the goods. Italy’s Carabinieri paramilitary police said in a statement that the Italian official, who is a frigate captain, had been arrested. The Russian, a member of the Russian armed forces stationed at Moscow’s embassy to Italy, has been detained but his status is “under consideration” given his diplomatic position, the statement said. Italy’s special operations forces in Rome staged the operation “during a clandestine operation between the two, surprising them red-handed immediately after the …

Germany Limits Use of Oxford-AstraZeneca Vaccine Because of Fears of Blood Clots 

Germany has limited the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to people 60 years of age and older due to concerns that it may be causing blood clots.   Federal and state health authorities cited nearly three-dozen cases of blood clots known as cerebral sinus vein thrombosis in its decision Tuesday, including nine deaths.  The country’s medical regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, says all but two of the cases involved women between the ages of 20 and 63.    The nationwide order was made after several local governments, including Berlin, Munich and the states of Brandenburg and North Rhine-Westphalia, had already decided to limit the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to older residents.   Health authorities say younger people who belong to a high-risk category for serious illness from COVID-19 can still get the vaccine, while people 60 and younger who have received the first dose of …

Germany Extends COVID-19 Border Restrictions with Czech Republic

German officials said Wednesday the country will extend COVID-19-related border restrictions with the Czech Republic for another two weeks as they try to bring the third wave of coronavirus outbreaks under control.At a Berlin news conference, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said the COVID-19 situation is still “not stable” in the Czech Republic and will ask border patrols to check anyone wishing to enter Germany from the nation to provide a negative test and then go into quarantine for 14 days.Seehofer said the situation in Austria’s Tyrol region has “improved considerably,” so he will be allowing border controls for that region to expire.  But he told reporters he has asked German border patrols to conduct random spot checks along all of Germany’s borders, including France, Denmark and Poland, over the …

US, 13 Other Nations Concerned About WHO COVID Origins Report

The United States and 13 other nations issued a statement Tuesday raising “shared concerns” about the newly released World Health Organization report on the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19. The statement, released on the U.S. State Department website, as well as the other signatories, said it was essential to express concerns that the international expert study on the source of the virus was significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples. The WHO formally released its report earlier Tuesday, saying while the report presents a comprehensive review of available data, “we have not yet found the source of the virus.”  The team reported difficulties in accessing raw data, among other issues, during its visit to the city of Wuhan, China, earlier this year. The researchers …

Pandemic Apologies and Defiance: Europe’s Leaders Increasingly Rattled

European leaders are handling rising public frustration, economic distress and mounting coronavirus case numbers in different ways, with most showing the strain of dealing with a yearlong pandemic, say analysts and commentators, who add that the leaders seem to be rattled by a third wave of infections sweeping the continent.A defiant French President Emmanuel Macron defended his decision to avoid a lockdown as the infection rate climbed in January, telling reporters last week he had “no remorse” and would not acknowledge any failure for the deepening coronavirus crisis engulfing France.“There won’t be a mea culpa from me,” said Macron.In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel last week apologized to Germans for her initial decision — now rescinded — to lock the country down tight for Easter. She called the idea a mistake …

Vatican Banishes Retired Polish Archbishop Over Sex Allegations

The Vatican banished the former archbishop of Gdansk in Poland on Monday following an investigation into negligence over sex abuse allegations. The announcement came from the Vatican’s embassy in Warsaw. The investigation into Archbishop Leszek Slawoj Glodz, who retired last August, began in November of last year. “Acting on the basis of the provisions of the Code of Canon Law … the Holy See, as a result of formal notifications, conducted proceedings concerning the reported negligence of Archbishop Slawoj Leszek Glodz in cases of sexual abuse committed by some clergy towards minors and other issues related to the management of the archdiocese,” said the apostolic nunciature. A statement from the apostolic nunciature said Glodz may not live in the territory of the archdiocese of Gdansk, nor may he attend religious celebrations or secular meetings …

Massive Ship Blocking Suez Canal Freed

Officials with the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said Monday the massive container ship that had been blocking the canal has been freed and is making its way down the waterway.Video from the scene shows the 400-meter ship, the Ever Given, moving down the canal, with tugboats on its side and at its stern. Numerous ship horns could be heard blowing, signaling the end of the crisis.  The ship became jammed diagonally across a southern section of the canal in high winds on March 23, halting shipping traffic on the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia.Suez CanalEgypt was eager to resume traffic along the Suez Canal, which brings in between $5 billion and $6 billion in revenue each year. According to a study by German insurer Allianz, each day of …

Trial Opens in 2004 Bombing of French Base in Ivory Coast

A trial opened in Paris Monday over the 2004 bombing of a French military base in then war-torn Ivory Coast that killed an American soil scientist and nine French soldiers. The defendants are being tried in absentia. Nearly two decades later, the attack—and the French government’s response—raises many questions.Two Ivorian soldiers and a mercenary from Belarus stand accused of the 2004 bombing of the French army base near Bouake—Ivory Coast’s second largest city held by rebels at a time, when the country was in the middle of a civil war. The whereabouts of the three men are unknown—one of the many mysteries surrounding this trial. Relations between Ivory Coast and its former colonial power France were at a low point when the bombing took place. Anti-French sentiment — especially against its …

Czech Billionaire Kellner Among Alaska Crash Victims

A helicopter headed to the U.S. state of Alaska for a skiing trip crashed on Saturday killing the pilot and four others, according to authorities. Among the five people who died in the late Saturday helicopter crash is 56-year-old Czech Republic’s richest man, billionaire Petr Kellner.  Kellner’s company, financial and telecommunications firm PPF Group, confirmed his death Monday. “We announce with the deepest grief that, in a helicopter accident in Alaska mountains on Saturday, March 27, the founder and majority owner of the PPF group, Mr Petr Kellner, died tragically,” PPF said in a statement. Alaska police said Benjamin Larochaix, also of the Czech Republic, and Alaskans Sean McMannany and Zachary Russel were killed in the crash. One other person was hospitalized. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, which happened near Knik Glacier in Alaska’s backcountry. A spokeswoman for Tordrillo Mountain Lodge said that three of the passengers were guests and two were guides. The lodge advertises itself as a …

Spain Looks at Human Trafficking Side of Prostitution 

Adebi works in the shadows on La Rambla, Barcelona’s famous boulevard. In normal times, she tries to attract tourists or locals who are out for a night out on the city. The 36-year-old has lived in Spain for 10 years but when she arrived in her adopted home from Nigeria, prostitution was hardly what she had in mind. “I wanted to come here and do domestic work, you know, send money back home. It has not been like that,” she told VOA. Adebi, who did not want to use her real name, is like many other women who have been tricked into prostitution by well-organized sex trafficking gangs, who demand that the women pay off a debt by selling themselves for sex. Prostitution has boomed in Spain since decriminalizing the practice in 1995. The country became known as the brothel of …

Aladdin’s Cave of Goods Stranded in Suez Logjam

An Aladdin’s cave of goods, from IKEA furnishings to tens of thousands of livestock, is stuck in a maritime traffic jam caused by the Suez Canal blockage.  More than 360 vessels have been stranded in the Mediterranean to the north and in the Red Sea to the south as well as in holding zones since giant container ship MV Ever Given was wedged diagonally Tuesday across the Suez, a lifeline for world trade.Industry experts have estimated the total value of goods marooned at sea at between $3 billion and $9.6 billion. Suez Blockage Sets Shipping Rates Racing, Oil And Gas Tankers Diverted Suspension of traffic through narrow channel linking Europe and Asia has deepened problems for shipping lines About 1.74 million barrels of oil a day is normally shipped through the …

US Vows ‘Consequences’ for Russian Actions

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says there will be “costs and consequences” for Russia for its allegedly malign activities against the United States.“We will take the steps necessary to defend our interests” at the time of the U.S.’s choosing, Blinken said in a CNN interview that aired Sunday but was taped last week as he completed talks with other NATO diplomats in Brussels.He said there was “a shared commitment” among Western allies to be “clear-eyed” about Moscow’s actions and hold the Kremlin accountable.The top U.S. diplomat said officials “are in the process” of considering what sanctions or actions Washington plans to take against Moscow, and in consultation with other NATO countries.“We are stronger when we can do it in a coordinated way,” he said.While the U.S. and Russia agreed …

Pope Leads Scaled-down Palm Sunday Service

Pope Francis led Palm Sunday services in an almost empty St. Peter’s Basilica because of coronavirus restrictions for the second consecutive year and he urged people to be close to the poor and suffering.   In pre-COVID times, Palm Sunday, which marks the start of Holy Week and leads to Easter, tens of thousands of people would pack St. Peter’s Square holding olive branches and intricately weaved palm fronds in an outdoor ceremony.  Instead, only about 120 members of the faithful participated in Sunday’s Mass, joining the pope and about 30 cardinals in a secondary wing of the huge basilica.  Italy is in the midst of another national lockdown, which is due to end after Easter. The Vatican, a sovereign city-state surrounded by Rome, has applied similar measures.  Nearly everyone who took …

Britain’s Johnson Criticizes ‘Disgraceful’ Attacks on Police at Protest

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday criticized what he called “disgraceful attacks” on police officers after protests over a new policing bill in the city of Bristol turned violent, resulting in 10 arrests.Local police said a demonstration involving more than 1,000 people Friday afternoon had been largely peaceful, but a minority had shown hostility to police later in the evening.”Last night saw disgraceful attacks against police officers in Bristol. Our officers should not have to face having bricks, bottles and fireworks being thrown at them by a mob intent on violence and causing damage to property,” Johnson tweeted.”The police and the city have my full support.”Police in riot gear had beaten back crowds of protesters with shields and batons.Large demonstrations are not allowed because of coronavirus restrictions, and police …