Welcome to Friday, where Ukraine keeps regaining territory, Trump gets subpoenaed as part of Capitol riots hearing, and you may want to hold onto your vintage Levi’s for a little while longer. And in Kyiv-based Livy Bereg, Alina Grytsenko looks at how, pushed by Putin’s nuclear threat, several nations have recently been looking to acquire a nuclear arsenal for national security.
[*Gamarjoba - Georgian]
Meet Ibrahim Traoré, Russia’s favorite new African strongman
While Russia is suffering bitter setbacks in the Ukraine war, it is successfully expanding its influence in Africa. With Burkina Faso, Moscow has succeeded in detaching another country from the French sphere of influence. The Kremlin was not only motivated by security policy, but also by digging into the resources available, writes Christian Putsch in German daily Die Welt.
Experience shows that the number of well-wishers after coups d'état is close to zero.
The situation is different for Burkina Faso's new military ruler, Ibrahim Traoré. Although he received the expected condemnation for his September 30 coup from the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union and the West African confederation Ecowas, he also received benevolent words — from Russia.
They came from Russian oligarch Yevgini Prigozhin, founder of the Kremlin-affiliated mercenary group Wagner.
"I congratulate and support Captain Ibrahim Traoré," the Putin loyalist announced just hours after the coup, when the whole world was still puzzling over who this soldier, who is just 34 years old and has so far been rather secondary in the army hierarchy, is.
He is "a truly worthy and courageous son of his homeland," Prigozhin explained.
The Kremlin apparently sees in Africa's youngest head of state the ally it had hoped for in the person of Traoré's predecessor earlier this year. At that time, Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, a far better-known military leader, seized power.
Unlike Traoré, he brought down a democratically elected president at the time. Unlike the military in neighboring Mali, however, he did not steer his country toward Russian spheres of influence to the extent Moscow had hoped.
That is more likely to be the case under Traoré. Russian flags could be seen in pictures of his supporters, and journalists reported pro-Russian chants. And Traoré hastily spoke of Russia as a possible new partner. Like his predecessor Damiba, he has justified his intervention by citing failure to fight terrorist groups, some of which have loose ties to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
In Burkina Faso, many citizens attribute this failure to France. The former colonial power has a base on the outskirts of the capital, Ouagadougou, and provides the country with military support.
One of Traoré's henchmen sparked attacks by protesters against the French embassy, stores and a cultural center when he claimed the former colonial power was hiding the ousted Damiba — something France promptly denied. It is now clear that Damiba has fled to Togo.
Burkina Faso has experienced the most rapid deterioration of the security situation of all the Sahel states this year. With 3,252 deaths, it is already far above last year's figure (2,359) and almost on a par with Mali. The government now controls only a good half of the country. More than two million people have had to flee. That is one in ten of the total population.
With the second coup within eight months in Burkina Faso, the "epidemic of coups d'état" that has occurred primarily in Africa over the past two years continues. "The extent to which Russia is behind the new coup is still unclear," says Ulf Laessing, the head of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung's Sahel regional program.
The Kremlin has been courting military cooperation with Burkina Faso for some time, as it has long done in Mali. "At least parts of the military government have sympathies for Russia," says Laessing, "the new government will not be able to ignore the pro-Russian sentiment."
This has been systematically built up for years. Burkina Faso is one of the most successful markets for Russian foreign broadcaster Sputnik, and Russia Today has also massively expanded its French-language propaganda offerings here. In addition, the Prigozhin troll factory "Internet Research Agency" continues to heat up the mood against the former colonial power France in social media.
This benefits Russia's geopolitical interests, which, after the Central African Republic and Mali, is trying to detach another country from France's sphere of influence in Africa. Moreover, the crisis in Burkina Faso could worsen security in neighboring Côte d'Ivoire — France's most important ally in West Africa.
But Burkina Faso is also of interest to the Kremlin economically. The structurally weak country is the fourth largest gold producer on the continent. "Several Russian mining companies are already digging for gold there," says Laessing, "so the payment of possible Wagner mercenaries could also be settled quickly."
That's because Wagner has its services paid for with mining concessions, the terms of which are handled confidentially. That's what happened in Sudan, the Central African Republic and, most recently, Mali — all of which are among the continent's more resource-rich countries.
To make this possible in the long term, Prigozhin helps autocratic regimes maintain power — and incidentally creates an existential geopolitical dependence on the Kremlin.
So far, however, the Kremlin mercenaries have not had any real successes in the fight against terrorism. In Mali, the number of attacks continued to rise after France's withdrawal. And in Mozambique, after massive losses, several hundred terrorists were already defeated in 2019. After just a few weeks.
— Christian Putsch / Die Welt
• Ukraine pushes Russia out of Kherson: In the latest sign of its weakened hold on recently occupied territories, Russia has begun evacuating pro-Moscow residents in the Kherson region after a Russian official in the partially occupied area said residents should leave for their own safety. Ukraine’s armed forces say they have retaken more than 600 localities under Russian occupation in the past month.
• Trump subpoenaed for Capitol riot hearing: The House committee investigating the January 2021 U.S. Capitol riot voted Thursday to subpoena former President Donald Trump, accusing him of being at the center of a calculated effort to overturn the 2020 election. Trump is sure to resist the summons, and it remains unlikely that he will be forced to appear.
• France sends Germany gas for first time: For the first time amid the Russia energy crisis, France has sent Germany gas in a show of “European solidarity.” This agreement comes after last month’s energy solidarity deal in which Germany pledged to provide electricity to France when needed in exchange for France helping Germany with gas supplies.
• Two Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in Jenin: Israeli soldiers have shot and killed two Palestinian men during a raid on the city of Jenin in the northern occupied West Bank, raising the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to 160 since the beginning of the year.
• Evacuations amid Australia floods: As torrential rain in Australia brings major flooding, residents of three communities have been ordered to evacuate. At least 500 homes have been flooded, one person has died and another is missing as the country received up to four times their average October rainfall in just 24 hours.
• Netflix and stream: Netflix announced on Thursday that it is launching a new ad-supported streaming option in November. The plan, aimed at giving subscribers less expensive offerings, will be available in 12 countries including the UK, U.S., Canada, Mexico and Australia.
• Queen releases rediscovered song ft. Freddie Mercury: For the first time in over eight years, UK glam rock band Queen released a new track on Thursday, a rediscovered song penned in the 1980s that features iconic powerhouse singer Freddie Mercury.
“La Russa and the anti-fascist”, Italian daily La Stampa titles after Liliana Segre, a Holocaust survivor and senator-for-life, presided over Italy’s first seating of Parliament since the general elections took place last month as Italian senators chose their president, Ignazio Benito Maria La Russa. The Brothers of Italy politician, who openly collects World War II Fascist memorabilia, will head Italy’s first far-right government since the end of World War II.
A pair of Levi's jeans dating back from the 1880s has sold for more than $87,000 during an auction sale during a vintage festival near the town of Aztec, New Mexico. The jeans had been found in an abandoned mine in the American West five years ago by Michael Harris, a "denim archaeologist" who has explored dozens of mines since, without renewed luck. "These jeans are extremely rare — especially in this fantastic worn condition and size. They definitely can be worn," co-buyer Zip Stevenson told CNN adding he could perfectly picture Johnny Depp or Jason Momoa wearing them.
South Korea to South America, Putin’s threats may push new countries to go nuclear
Beyond the already existing nuclear powers, at least eight countries could be poised to discard non-proliferation status quo and arm themselves with nuclear arsenals, writes Alina Grytsenko in Ukrainian media Livy Bereg.
🇯🇵 Japan, like South Korea, is under the U.S. nuclear umbrella, according to bilateral agreements. Now the Japanese political elite is thinking again about its nuclear potential. Some politicians openly state that it is time to leave two of the "three non-nuclear principles," officially allowing the deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons in Japan. At the same time, the state is ready to create atomic weapons, given its scientific, technical, and industrial means. Among the deterrents to the revision of the non-nuclear principles are strong anti-nuclear sentiments of the society. There is also China, and the risk of escalating the ongoing territorial conflict over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.
🇹🇷 Ankara is making considerable efforts to increase the country's international prestige, which the nuclear status can theoretically help. But so far, there is no consensus and constructive discussion within the Turkish establishment about the need for nuclear weapons. The developed research base makes Turkey among the leading countries in nuclear technology in the Middle East. If we do not take into account Israel, then only Iran has developments of comparable level. The main obstacle is the NPT and other agreements in this area, which Turkey has signed and is implementing.
🇮🇷 Iran has been gradually developing a military nuclear program over the course of several decades. If either Russia or North Korea winds up breaking the nuclear taboo, the last chance to reach a nuclear agreement between the West and Iran will be lost. Tehran may be set anyway to withdraw from the NPT, and the non-proliferation regime will be destroyed. Iran's withdrawal from the Treaty will push Saudi Arabia to similar actions. This is how nuclear dominoes could fall.
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“The monster that killed them lives to see another day.”
— Tony Montalto, president of the advocacy group Stand with Parkland and father of Gina Montalto who died in the 2018 Parkland school shooting, said after a Florida jury recommended that the gunman Nikolas Cruz should not be condemned to death but sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Many of the victims’ family members expressed their disbelief at the decision, with some saying it sent the signal that the shooter’s life “meant more than the 17 that were murdered.”
A woman stands near a destroyed office building in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv after the area was hit by Russian airstrikes — Photo: Aleksandr Gusev/SOPA Images/ZUMA
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