The poisoning of a Russian opposition figure, Alexei Navalny, must be thoroughly investigated in an independent manner, UN Human Rights Chief, Michelle Bachelet, demanded on Tuesday in Geneva.
High Commissioner Bachelet urged Russia to carry out or should cooperate with such a probe, in light of the German Government’s assertion of “unequivocal” proof that a Novichok nerve agent was involved.
“It is not good enough to simply deny he was poisoned, and deny the need for a thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigation into this assassination attempt,’’ Bachelet said.
When asked whether Bachelet demands an international probe, UN Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing that, “in theory”, it was the job of Russian authorities to investigate.
The UN Human Rights Office was not equipped to carry out criminal investigations, he added.
At the same time, he and Bachelet pointed out that Russia had failed to clear up previous high-profile killings and assassination attempts involving Novichok or radioactive materials.
“This is deeply regrettable and hard to explain or justify,’’ Bachelet said.
Similar calls for an investigation have come from the EU Commission, the Western military alliance NATO and several Western powers.
Navalny, 44, was flown to Berlin for treatment on Aug. 22 after he fell ill on a domestic flight in Russia.
He had been in Siberia to support opposition candidates in local elections.
The Berlin Charite Hospital said on Monday that Navalny has been woken from his medically induced coma and that he was responding to verbal stimuli.
Edited By: Fatima Sule/Abdulfatah Babatunde
Lukashenko sworn into office; Belarusian opposition cries foul
Alexander Lukashenko was sworn in for his sixth consecutive term as president of Belarus on Wednesday, state media reported.
This came in a surprise ceremony that comes on the heels of a disputed election that sparked mass protests in the country.
“Placing his right hand on the constitution, Lukashenko took the oath in the Belarusian language,’’ state news agency BelTA reported.
It said that several hundred people had been invited to the ceremony in Minsk’s Palace of Independence.
The event’s date had not been previously announced to the public.
Electoral authorities say that Lukashenko received more than 80 per cent of the votes in the Aug. 9 election.
Opposition supporters allege that the election was rigged.
The EU has declared the election “neither free nor fair’’.
Lukashenko, 66, has been the leader of Belarus, a former Soviet republic in Eastern Europe between Russia and EU member state Poland, for more than a quarter-century, tolerating little dissent.
There have been protests in Belarus against Lukashenko’s leadership every day since the election, with such events regularly broken up by police.
Weekend rallies in the capital Minsk have repeatedly been estimated to have drawn more than 100,000 people.
Lukashenko, a former collective farm director, has presented himself as a guarantor of stability and socialist policy in the state.
Belarus is one of the poorest countries in Europe.
“The strength of the Belarusian government … lies in the fact that even in the most difficult times we have not abandoned our policy of a socially-oriented state,’’ Lukashenko said at the inauguration ceremony.
“The support of pensioners, large families, socially vulnerable strata of society will remain a tenet of Belarus’ course under any circumstances,’’ Lukashenko said, according to speech excerpts carried by state media.
The team of opposition leader, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who claims that she was the actual winner of the election in spite coming in second according to the disputed official tally, denounced Lukashenko’s inauguration as illegitimate.
Anyone can be president, Tikhanovskaya’s team said in a statement.
“Take the constitution, put your hand on it, say a couple times ‘I swear’, sign a paper saying ‘I am president’ and put it in your pocket.’’
Edited By: Fatima Sule/Abdulfatah Babatunde
Egyptian president warns forces loyal to GNA against crossing ‘Red Line’ in Libya
“Egypt is bent on supporting Libyans to rid their country of armed militias and terrorist organisations and putting an end to the blatant interference of some regional parties (in Libya).
“As we have declared before and reiterate today, any breach to the line extending between the towns of Sirte and Jufra, previously demarcated as a red line, will be furiously faced by Egypt in defense of its people and its national security,” Sisi said in his address late on Tuesday to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.
The president has renewed the call on Libya’s warring parties to find a comprehensive political solution to the fatal armed confrontation in the North African country under UN auspices.
According to the president, the settlement should be based on the 2015 Skhirat Agreement, the results of the Berlin conference, held in January of this year, and the Cairo Declaration, also known as the Cairo initiative.
The Cairo initiative was presented by Egypt in early summer of 2020 and, among other matters, includes a complete ceasefire in Libya starting on June 8, and the terms for a political solution.
The initiative was supported by Russia, the United States and several Arab countries, but rejected by Turkey and its ally, the GNA.
Sisi had previously claimed that Cairo would not stand idle if the GNA’s forces crossed the “red line” — by entering the city of Sirte — and would not allow destabilization in eastern Libya, which is under the control of the Tobruk-based parliament and the LNA.
On July 20, the Egyptian parliament unanimously approved the possible dispatch of troops to carry out military operations outside the country.
It came after Sisi stated that his country had an internationally legitimate right to intervene in Libya and come to the aid of the eastern administration.
Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim
Russia to automatically exchange tax info with Turkey, Nigeria – official
The Russian Federal Taxation Service has proposed adding Turkey and Nigeria to the list of countries that share tax information with Russia automatically, an official said.
A relevant draft order published on the official legal information portal revealed.
This brings the number of countries and territories that have indicated readiness to automatically exchange financial information with Russia to 91.
Since 2018, Russia is engaged in the international financial information exchange.
It submits to foreign taxation agencies data on their taxpayers, obtained from Russian financial organisations.
In exchange, the Federal Taxation Service receives information about Russians’ foreign accounts.
The participants of the deal exchange information under the Common Reporting Standard, formulated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The standard is designed for fighting tax evasion through concealing offshore accounts.
Edited By: Fatima Sule/Ali Baba-Inuwa
Navalny discharged from hospital, ‘complete recovery’ possible
Russian dissident Alexei Navalny has been discharged from Berlin’s Charite hospital, where he was receiving treatment for severe poisoning, doctors said on Wednesday.
The hospital said Navalny’s condition had “improved sufficiently” and that he was discharged from acute in-patient care on Tuesday.
The opposition activist, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critics, fell ill on a domestic flight on Aug. 20, before being transported to Germany for treatment two days later.
Laboratories in Germany, France and Sweden have found that Navalny was poisoned with a chemical weapon from the Soviet-developed Novichok group but the Kremlin denies any involvement.
Navalny spent 24 of his 32 days at the Charite in intensive care, a statement from the hospital said.
“Based on the patient’s progress and current condition, the physicians treating him believe that complete recovery is possible.
“However, it remains too early to gauge the potential long-term effects of his severe poisoning,” it added.
Navalny’s spokesperson, Kira Yarmysh, said last week that Navalny intended to return to Russia to continue to support political opposition efforts.
No date for his potential return has been announced.
Navalny is believed to have been poisoned in the Siberian city of Tomsk, where he was on a campaign trip to support opposition candidates preparing for local elections.
Two of those candidates, Ksenia Fadeyeva and Andrei Fateyev, were subsequently elected to the Tomsk city legislature, while the dominant United Russia political party, most closely associated with Putin, lost its majority in the assembly.
Shortly after Navalny fell ill, close allies in Tomsk went to the hotel room where he had been staying and gathered items that could serve as potential evidence of a crime, on the suspicion that local authorities would not properly investigate.
A water bottle removed from the hotel room tested positive for Novichok in a German laboratory, Navalny’s team has announced.
Novichok was also used in the near-fatal poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the southern English city of Salisbury two years ago.
Russia has not opened a criminal case into the Navalny incident, saying that domestic authorities have found no hard evidence of a crime.
Russian health officials have concluded that Navalny’s condition was caused by a metabolism problem.
The Kremlin has denied any link to Navalny’s sudden deterioration in health, amid international calls for a full and transparent investigation from the EU and others.
The European Parliament issued a resolution last week declaring that the use of a poison from the Novichok group strongly suggests that Russian authorities were behind the attack.
Edited By: Fatima Sule/Maharazu Ahmed