Danish military spots Iranian vessels in the Baltic Sea

The Danish military said Thursday it spotted an Iranian destroyer and a large support vessel sailing through the Baltic Sea, likely heading to Russia for a military parade in the coming days. (AP)
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Updated 22 July 2021

Danish military spots Iranian vessels in the Baltic Sea

  • Danish Defense Ministry posted photographs online of Iranian destroyer Sahand and the intelligence-gathering vessel Makran passing by Bornholm
  • Navy commander Adm. Hossein Khanzadi will join the Russian naval parade at St. Petersburg

DUBAI: The Danish military said Thursday it spotted an Iranian destroyer and a large support vessel sailing through the Baltic Sea, likely heading to Russia for a military parade in the coming days.
The Danish Defense Ministry posted photographs online from the Royal Danish Air Force of the new domestically built Iranian destroyer Sahand and the intelligence-gathering vessel Makran passing by the Danish island of Bornholm.
“It is expected that they are on their way to the annual naval parade in St. Petersburg,” the Danish military wrote on Twitter.
Earlier Thursday, Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reported that the country’s navy commander, Adm. Hossein Khanzadi, will join the Russian naval parade at St. Petersburg after receiving an invitation from the Russian defense minister.
IRNA also said the Sahand will join the parade “if the Russian-planned programs are in line with the plans of the Iranian fleet.”
The naval parade is expected to take place Sunday, according to Russian state media.
The two vessels left Iran’s Bandar Abbas port in May. Images from Maxar Technologies dated April 28 appear to show seven Iranian fast-attack craft typically associated with its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard on the deck of the Makran.
The Danish military photos showed those seven vessels covered and still aboard the Makran on Thursday. The fast-attack craft aboard the Makran are the type that the Guard uses in its tense encounters with US warships in the Arabian Gulf and its narrow mouth, the Strait of Hormuz.
The website Politico first reported in late May, citing anonymous officials, that the ships’ final destination may be Venezuela. However, it appears the vessels instead went around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope and continued north on an unusually long voyage by Iran’s navy.


Malaysian doctors stage walkout amid worsening COVID-19 outbreak

Updated 31 min 39 sec ago

Malaysian doctors stage walkout amid worsening COVID-19 outbreak

  • The doctors are on contracts for a set period and say their treatment is worse than that of permanent government staff

SUNGAI BULOH, Malaysia: Hundreds of junior doctors at state-run Malaysian hospitals staged walkouts Monday demanding better conditions as the country faces its worst coronavirus outbreak yet.
Dressed in black and holding signs with slogans including “equal pay, equal rights, equal opportunity” and “we are your future specialists,” they protested at medical facilities nationwide.
The doctors are on contracts for a set period and say their treatment is worse than that of permanent government staff, even as they have found themselves on the frontline of the fight against COVID-19.
They complain of a lack of job security, poor benefits and that very few are eventually offered permanent positions.
We want “equal rights, to be a permanent doctor,” said a medic at a government hospital that treats virus patients outside Kuala Lumpur.
“We would definitely not be here if we were treated fairly... we should be appreciated for what we do,” the doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters.
The medic was among dozens who took part in the action at the hospital, which lasted around half an hour.
Local media reported that several hundred participated across the country, but some doctors complained they were threatened by police and senior hospital staff in a bid to halt the protests.
Those involved said senior doctors took over their duties before they walked out, to ensure that patient care was not jeopardized.
Malaysia is currently battling its most serious outbreak, driven by the highly contagious Delta variant. Officials have reported over one million cases and about 8,000 deaths.
There are over 23,000 doctors on these contracts in Malaysia — about 45 percent of the total medical doctors in the public health care system, according to official estimates.
Last week, the government said it would extend junior doctors’ contracts for up to four years in a bid to forestall the protests.
But they stopped short of offering permanent jobs, and the organizers of Monday’s walkout criticized the move as “short-sighted.”


Tight security around Nigeria court as separatist’s trial resumes

Updated 58 min 38 sec ago

Tight security around Nigeria court as separatist’s trial resumes

  • The case is one of two on Monday in which Nigerian authorities are seeking to prosecute citizens campaigning for autonomy

ABUJA: Nigerian security forces blocked traffic and tightly controlled access to an Abuja courthouse where the trial of a separatist leader was due to resume on Monday, Reuters witnesses said.
Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a banned organization campaigning for secession in southeast Nigeria, was due to appear at the Federal High Court to face 11 charges including treason.
The case is one of two on Monday in which Nigerian authorities are seeking to prosecute citizens campaigning for autonomy in different regions of Africa’s most populous nation.
The cases underline the government’s concern over growing discontent and insecurity in various regions of Nigeria.
In Cotonou, Benin, Nigerian authorities are seeking the extradition of Sunday Adeyemo, known locally as Sunday Igboho, a Yoruba activist it accuses of plotting a violent insurrection in the southwest of the country. Security forces raided his compound in Ibadan on July 1, claiming they found a stockpile of weapons there.
Kanu was first arrested in 2015, but disappeared while on bail in April 2017 after two years in jail fighting charges. His social media posts during his absence outraged the government, which said they sparked some attacks on security forces in southeastern Nigeria.
His whereabouts were unclear until security agents produced him in an court in Abuja on June 29, saying that he had been detained abroad, but not where. His lawyer alleged he was detained and mistreated in Kenya, though Kenya has denied involvement.
IPOB wants a swathe of the southeast, homeland of the Igbo ethnic group, to split from Nigeria. An attempt to secede in 1967 as the Republic of Biafra triggered a three-year civil war in which more than a million died, mostly from starvation.


Russia reports 23,239 new COVID-19 cases, 727 related deaths

Updated 26 July 2021

Russia reports 23,239 new COVID-19 cases, 727 related deaths

  • Russia has been in the grip of a surge in cases that authorities blame on the more contagious Delta variant
MOSCOW: Russia reported 23,239 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, including 2,629 in Moscow, taking the official national tally since the pandemic began to 6,149,780.
The government coronavirus task force said 727 people had died of coronavirus-linked causes in the past 24 hours, pushing the national death toll to 154,601.
Russia has been in the grip of a surge in cases that authorities blame on the more contagious Delta variant, though some officials have suggested in recent days that cases, at least in Moscow, have started to decline.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to deliver final speech to Congress amid crises

Updated 26 July 2021

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to deliver final speech to Congress amid crises

  • Popular president winding down his six-year term amid a raging coronavirus pandemic, a battered economy
  • Increasingly vocal opponents have pounded on Duterte’s missteps and handling of key issues

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is set to deliver his final state of the nation speech Monday before Congress, winding down his six-year term amid a raging pandemic, a battered economy and a legacy overshadowed by a bloody anti-drug crackdown that set off complaints of mass murder before the International Criminal Court.
Allies defended the 76-year-old populist leader’s record, with documentaries on state-run TV and speeches highlighting his administration’s efforts to fight criminality, poverty, corruption and decades-long communist and Muslim insurgencies, as well as build infrastructure.
They backed calls by the ruling party for Duterte, who took office in mid-2016, to run for vice president when his term ends in June next year — potentially with his daughter, now a city mayor, running to succeed him in the May 9 elections. Opposition lawyers have threatened to block the move in the Supreme Court, arguing it would breach constitutional term limits. Philippine presidents are limited to a single term.
“Six years is not enough for a very good president,” House of Representatives Speaker Lord Allan Velasco told ABS CBN News. Velasco said he would back Duterte’s possible bid for the vice presidency. The 1987 Constitution prohibits political dynasties, but the House, where powerful political clans have held sway for generations, hasn’t passed a law to enforce the ban.
“The pandemic really hurt us a lot, no one was ready for it, and because of that I can’t give the administration a perfect grade,” Velasco added.
But increasingly vocal opponents have pounded on Duterte’s missteps and handling of key issues, including his refusal to steadfastly confront China’s aggressive behavior in the disputed South China Sea, given his cozy ties with President Xi Jinping. They railed at the government’s coronavirus vaccination campaign, which has faced delays due to supply problems in a country with the second-largest numbers of infections and deaths in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia.
On the eve of Duterte’s speech, left-wing activists hung a huge banner that read “Goodbye, Duterte” on a pedestrian bridge across a highway leading to the heavily guarded Congress in suburban Quezon City. More than 300 legislators and top officials, who were required to get full coronavirus vaccinations, were expected to hear the address.
The Philippines has reported more than 1.5 million confirmed COVID-19 infections, with 27,224 deaths. Months-long lockdowns and natural disasters caused the economy to plummet by 9.5 percent last year in the country’s worst post-war recession. Businesses could not fully resume nationwide due to continuing virus surges.
Duterte and police officials have denied condoning extrajudicial killings of suspects, although he has publicly threatened to kill suspects. More than 6,000 mostly petty suspects have been killed under his crackdown, but a large number were also gunned down by motorcycle-riding assassins who human rights groups suspect were linked to law enforcement.
An ICC prosecutor said last month a preliminary examination found reason to believe crimes against humanity had been committed under Duterte’s crackdown on drugs and sought permission to open a formal investigation. Duterte said he would never cooperate in the possible investigation.
“Why would I defend or face an accusation before white people? You must be crazy,” Duterte said.


China blames US for ‘stalemate’ in relations, as talks begin

Updated 26 July 2021

China blames US for ‘stalemate’ in relations, as talks begin

  • Biden administration officials have said the goal of the talks is not to negotiate specific issues

TIANJIN, China: China blamed the US for what it called a “stalemate” in bilateral relations as high-level face-to-face talks began Monday in the Chinese city of Tianjin.
Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng urged the US “to change its highly misguided mindset and dangerous policy,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
The China-US relationship is in a stalemate because some Americans portray China as an “imagined enemy,” Xinhua quoted Xie as telling US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.
America’s No. 2 diplomat is discussing the fraught relationship between the countries in separate meetings with Xie, who is in charge of US-China relations, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a closed-off resort hotel in the city of Tianjin.
Sherman is the highest-ranking US official to visit China since President Joe Biden took office six months ago. Relations between the countries deteriorated sharply under his predecessor, Donald Trump, and the two sides remain at odds over a host of issues including technology, cybersecurity, human rights and other issues.
In an interview Saturday, Wang accused the US of adopting a superior attitude and using its strength to pressure other countries.
“China would never accept any country that claims to be superior to others,” he told China’s Phoenix Television. “If the US has not learned to treat other countries equally, China and the international community have the responsibility to help the US learn how to do this.”
Biden administration officials have said the goal of the talks is not to negotiate specific issues but to keep high-level communications channels open. The US wants to ensure that guardrails are in place to prevent competition between the countries from becoming conflict, they said.
A possible meeting between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to be on the agenda, possibly on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Rome at the end of October.
Sherman, who arrived Sunday evening from Mongolia, tweeted “heartfelt condolences (from the United States) to those who have lost loved ones” in severe storms and flooding last week that killed at least 63 people in Henan province.
Her meetings follow an initial and highly contentious meeting in March in Anchorage, Alaska, where Wang and veteran Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi flew to meet Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan.
John Kerry, the Biden administration’s special climate envoy, traveled to Shanghai for meetings with his Chinese counterpart in April.