Marked by the State: Russia Ramps Up ‘Foreign Agent’ Law Ahead of Election

Dozens of Russian independent media have been labeled “foreign agents” in the run-up to parliamentary elections, which are now only three weeks away.As of August 31, the Ministry of Justice website lists 43 media outlets and journalists and 76 civil society groups as “foreign agents.” Another 46 groups have been given the label of “undesirable organization.”Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during an annual nationwide televised phone-in show in Moscow, June 30, 2021.The list includes large news outlets and prominent Russian journalists who have investigated President Vladimir Putin and his allies. The U.S. Congress-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty are among those named.Russian journalists who spoke with VOA saw the labeling as an attempt by the Kremlin to destroy independent media and prevent any protests about September’s parliamentary …

Deportation Centers in Turkey Packed With Afghan Refugees

Deportation centers in Turkey are filled to capacity as refugees from Afghanistan continue to cross the border from Iran by night, hoping to evade police and resettle. As VOA tours a deportation center in Van, officials say they are not sending people back to Afghanistan, but they also have no plans to release detainees. VOA’s Heather Murdock has this report from Van, on the Turkish border with Iran.Camera: Yan BoechatMohammad Mahdi Sultani contributed to this story. …

EU Chief Says 70% of Bloc’s Adult Population Now Vaccinated

European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen said Tuesday 70% of all adults in the European Union are now fully vaccinated — more than 250 million people.In a video message from EU headquarters in Brussels, Von der Leyen called the milestone a “great achievement, which really shows what we can do when we work together.”But she also cautioned the pandemic is not over and many more Europeans need to get vaccinated a soon as possible to prevent new infections and the possible emergence of new variants.On Monday, World Health Organization European Regional Director Hans Kluge warned about the slowing vaccination rate on the continent over the past six weeks. He said those stagnating numbers have been caused by a lack of access to vaccine in some lower income nations and …

EU to Meet to Discuss Preventing Uncontrolled Migration From Afghanistan

European Union ministers will hold an emergency meeting Tuesday to discuss preventing uncontrolled migration from Afghanistan after the Taliban’s seizure of the country, according to a statement drafted for the meeting.EU member states hope to prevent a refugee crisis like the one fueled by Syria’s civil war in 2015. The EU was unprepared for the influx of more than a million refugees and migrants that created splits among members, while also energizing far-right parties, as camps in Greece, Italy and other countries became filled.A wave of migrants from Afghanistan is likely to escalate tensions among EU members. The draft says the member nations likely will fund the housing for refugees in countries bordering Afghanistan to prevent them from coming to Europe.In a letter sent to EU Commissioner for Home Affairs …

BBC Reporter Leaves Russia After Credentials Withdrawn in Row With Britain

BBC journalist Sarah Rainsford left Russia Tuesday after Moscow abruptly refused to extend her permission to work in a tit-for-tat disagreement with Britain over the treatment of foreign media.Russian authorities earlier this month told Rainsford, one of the British broadcaster’s two English-language Moscow correspondents, to leave the country in retaliation for what it called London’s discrimination against Russian journalists working in Britain.Russian authorities accused London of mistreating a Russian journalist working for the state TASS news agency in London, who they said was forced to leave in 2019 after his visa was not extended without explanation.They said they had tried and failed to get Britain to remedy the situation before deciding to retaliate in kind.The BBC has called the expulsion of Rainsford a “direct assault on media freedom,” and the …

Putin Gives Cash to Police, Soldiers Ahead of Polls

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday ordered law enforcement officers and army staff receive $200, as he seeks support for his unpopular United Russia party ahead of parliamentary elections next month.The cash handouts follow earlier one-time payments for pensioners of $135 ahead of lower house State Duma polls in September, with United Russia’s ratings hit by rising prices coupled with falling wages.Russia’s legal information portal showed Putin had signed decrees ordering one-time cash payments of 15,000 rubles ($200) for members of the military and law enforcement bodies to be handed out in September for their “social protection.”While Russia has not announced how many people will receive the payments, the country has some 42 million pensioners and 1.7 million members of the military, police and national guard, according to official statistics.The …

Ukraine, US Leaders May Address Sensitive Issues at Next Meeting

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is scheduled to visit the White House on Wednesday, a trip that has been in the works for two years and delayed one day by events in Afghanistan. During the administration of former President Donald Trump, surrogates for the U.S. president pressed Ukraine to open an investigation into activities involving the son of then-candidate Joe Biden. The incidents led to President Trump’s first impeachment by the House of Representatives, and the political furor sidelined relations with Kyiv. Analysts say there are both challenges and opportunities in the meeting between President Biden and Zelenskiy in Washington.Ukraine Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova is optimistic about the visit, saying it sends an important message about the U.S.-Ukraine relationship.     Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you …

EU Recommends Return of COVID Travel Restrictions on US Tourists

The European Union removed the United States from a safe travel list Monday and recommended the reinstatement of COVID-19 restrictions on visitors from the U.S., where new cases and hospitalizations have risen sharply in recent weeks. The non-binding recommendation regarding non-essential travel comes two months after the EU lifted most of the restrictions for U.S. tourists, even though the U.S. has remained closed to European travelers.  The threshold for being on the EU “safe list” is an infection rate of no higher than 75 new cases per 100,000 residents over the previous 14 days. The latest figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a rate of more than 300 new cases per 100,000 people.  Last week, new cases per day averaged more than 150,000, a number reminiscent …

Milan Mayor Says Cladding Melted in Tower Block Blaze, as in London’s Grenfell Tower

The mayor of Italy’s financial capital Milan demanded answers on Monday over why a fire was able to rip through an apartment block and melt its cladding, comparing it to the Grenfell Tower fire in London that killed 71 people four years ago. Firefighters said everyone managed to escape the 18 story building in the south of Milan, which was gutted by the blaze that broke out on Sunday afternoon. Among the residents in the high rise building was rapper Mahmood, winner of the 2019 San Remo music festival with his international hit “Soldi.” Witnesses have said the fire, which started on the 15th floor, quickly surged through the outside cladding of the building. Video of the blaze showed panels melting off the building in liquefied clumps. “The tower was built just over 10 …

EU to Recommend Return of COVID Travel Restrictions on US Tourists

European Union officials say the bloc is expected to recommend its member nations reinstate COVID-19 travel restrictions on travelers from the United States, where new cases and hospitalizations have risen sharply in recent weeks.The officials, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity as the EU travel policy is still being reviewed, say that as early as this week, the U.S. could be removed from a “safe list” of countries whose residents can travel to the 27-nation bloc without additional restrictions, such as quarantine and testing requirements. The recommendation would come from the European Council, which reviews the EU’s travel list every two weeks. The suggested restrictions, however, would not be binding for member countries, as there is no unified travel policy and member nations are free to set their own …

EU Says Afghanistan Shows Need for Rapid-Reaction Force

EU governments must push ahead with a European rapid reaction force to be better prepared for future crises such as in Afghanistan, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.In an interview published on Monday, Borrell told Italian paper Il Corriere della Sera the short-notice deployment of U.S. troops to Afghanistan as security deteriorated showed the EU needed to accelerate efforts to build a common defense policy.”We need to draw lessons from this experience … as Europeans we have not been able to send 6,000 soldiers around the Kabul airport to secure the area. The US has been, we haven’t,” he said.Borrell said the 27-member EU should have an “initial entry force” of 5,000 soldiers. “We need to be able to act quickly.”In May, 14 EU countries including Germany and …

France’s Macron Visits Iraq’s Mosul  Destroyed by IS War 

French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday visited Iraq’s northern city of Mosul, which suffered widespread destruction during the war to defeat the Islamic State group in 2017. He vowed to fight alongside regional governments against terrorism. Macron said IS carried out deadly attacks throughout the world from its self-declared caliphate in parts of Syria and Iraq. He said IS did not differentiate between people’s religion and nationality when it came to killing, noting that the extremists killed many Muslims. “We will do whatever we can, shoulder to shoulder, with the governments of the region and with the Iraqi government to fight against this terrorism,” Macron said in English following a visit to an iconic mosque that was destroyed by the extremists. “We will be present alongside with sovereign governments to restore peace.” Macron …

Arc De Triomphe to be Wrapped for Posthumous Work by Christo

The Arc de Triomphe has seen parades, protests and tourists galore, but never before has the war monument in Paris been wrapped in silver and blue recyclable polypropylene fabric. That’s about to happen next month in a posthumous art installation designed by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude.”Christo has wrapped museums, parliaments as in Germany, but a monument like this? Not really. This is the first time. This is the first monument of this importance and scale that he has done,” Vladimir Yavachev, the late collaborating couple’s nephew, told The Associated Press.Preparations have already started on the Napoleon-era arch, where workers are covering statues to protect them from the wrapping.The idea for L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped was formed in 1961, when Christo and Jeanne-Claude lived in Paris. Jeanne-Claude died in 2009, and in …

France, Britain to Call for Kabul ‘Safe Zone,’ Macron Says 

France and Britain on Monday will urge the United Nations to work for the creation of a “safe zone” in the Afghan capital, Kabul, to protect humanitarian operations, French President Emmanuel Macron said. “This is very important. This would provide a framework for the United Nations to act in an emergency,” Macron said in comments published in the weekly Journal du Dimanche. Above all, such a safe zone would allow the international community “to maintain pressure on the Taliban,” who are now in power in Afghanistan, the French leader added. The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — France, Britain, the U.S., Russia and China — will meet on Monday to discuss the Afghanistan situation.  Paris and London will take the opportunity to present a draft resolution that “aims to define, under …

Macron to Attend Baghdad Summit Amid Fears Over IS

French President Emmanuel Macron is among the leaders set to attend a regional summit Saturday in Iraq, with the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan and a deadly jihadist attack in Kabul overshadowing the meeting.Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah II also are to attend the Baghdad summit, while the foreign ministers of arch-foes Iran and Saudi Arabia will also be present.Organizers have been tight-lipped on the agenda, but the meeting comes as Iraq, long a casualty of jihadist militancy, tries to establish itself as a mediator between Arab countries and Iran.Iraq seeks to play a “unifying role” to tackle crises shaking the region, sources close to Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi have said.Oil-rich Iraq has been caught for years in a delicate balancing act between its two main …

First Group of Afghan Evacuees Arrives in Albania

​A first group of 121 evacuees from Afghanistan arrived early Friday in Albania, after the country agreed to temporarily house at-risk Afghan nationals at the request of the United States.More are expected to go to the Western Balkan country, but the timing is uncertain because of the chaos and evolving situation at the Kabul airport, as the United States and other countries race to get Americans and others out of the country ahead of an Tuesday deadline for complete withdrawal, amid the threat of more terror attacks.Officials in Albania said the first group of 121 was made up of civil society activists and others, including children and 11 babies. The flight made one stop in Tbilisi, Georgia, then departed for Albania, arriving at the country’s main airport in Tirana at 3 a.m. local …

Soccer Legend Cristiano Ronaldo to Return to Manchester United

Soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo is heading back to England to play for the team where he became a legend.Manchester United said Friday that it had reached an agreement to bring the 36-year-old Portuguese forward back to Old Trafford, where the storied club plays.”Manchester United is delighted to confirm that the club has reached agreement with Juventus for the transfer of Cristiano Ronaldo, subject to agreement of personal terms, visa and medical,” a statement from the team read.”Cristiano, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, has so far won over 30 major trophies during his career, including five Champions League titles, four FIFA Club World Cups, seven league titles in England, Spain and Italy, and the European Championship for his native Portugal.”In his first spell for Manchester United, he scored 118 goals in …

Nigeria, Russia Sign Military Agreement

Abuja and Moscow have signed an agreement for the former to buy nearly $1 billion in military equipment and services, Nigeria’s ambassador to Russia, Abdullahi Shehu, told VOA.The Nigerian Embassy released a statement that said the agreement “provides a legal framework for the supply of military equipment, provision of after sales services, training of personnel in respective educational establishments and technology transfer, among others.”Reuters reported in July that U.S. lawmakers had put a hold on a proposal to sell almost $1 billion worth of weapons to Nigeria over concerns about possible human rights abuses by the government.When asked if the agreement reached with Russia was influenced by the failure to secure such a deal with the U.S. government, Shehu said no.”As I stated after opening, after the signing ceremony, I …