Moldova police say they foiled Russia-backed unrest plot

Moldovan demonstrators put their hands in the air and hold Moldova national flags during a protest organized by a Moldovan member of parliament on behalf of the "Sor" opposition party in Chisinau on March 12, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 13 March 2023
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Moldova police say they foiled Russia-backed unrest plot

  • The demonstrators are demanding that the government fully cover the costs of winter energy bills and to “not involve the country in war.” They have repeatedly called on President Maia Sandu to step down

CHISINAU, Moldova: Police in Moldova said they foiled a plot by groups of Russia-backed actors who were trained to cause mass unrest during a Sunday protest against the country’s new pro-Western government.
The head of Moldova’s police, Viorel Cernauteanu, said in a news conference that an undercover agent had infiltrated groups of “diversionists,” some Russian citizens, who allegedly were promised $10,000 to organize “mass disorder” during the protest in the capital, Chisinau. Seven people were detained, he said.
Separately, police said they arrested 54 protesters, including 21 minors, who exhibited “questionable behavior” or were found to be carrying prohibited items, including at least one knife.
The protest Sunday is one of several held in recent weeks organized by a group calling itself Movement for the People, which is backed by Moldova’s Russia-friendly Shor Party, which holds six seats in the country’s 101-seat legislature.
The demonstrators are demanding that the government fully cover the costs of winter energy bills and to “not involve the country in war.” They have repeatedly called on President Maia Sandu to step down.
Police said that four bomb threats on Sunday, including one at the capital’s international airport, had been registered, which they called “an ongoing part of the destabilization measures” against Moldova, a former Soviet republic with a population of about 2.6 million.
Moldova’s border police also said Sunday that 182 foreign nationals in the last week have been denied entry into Moldova, including a “possible representative” of Russia’s Wagner Group, the private military company that is fighting in Ukraine, Moldova’s war-torn neighbor.
The police announcement Sunday comes just days after US intelligence officials said they have determined that actors with ties to Russian intelligence are planning to use protests in Moldova, a European Union candidate since last June, as a basis to foment an insurrection against the country’s government.
On Saturday, Moldova’s national anti-corruption agency said that it has seized more than 220,000 euros ($234,000) during searches in a case of alleged illegal party financing of the Shor Party by an organized criminal group.
The agency said that car searches of “couriers” for the Shor Party discovered the money stuffed into envelopes and bags in various currencies, and that it was earmarked to “pay for the transport and remunerate people who come to the protests organized by the party.”
The Shor Party’s leader, Ilan Shor, is a Moldovan oligarch currently in exile in Israel. Shor who is named on a US State Department sanctions list as working for Russian interests. The United Kingdom also added Shor to a sanctions list in December.
Moldova’s interior minister, Ana Revenco, said the protests “aim to shake the democracy and stability” of the country and that “the voice of the people does not mean violence and betrayal of the country.”
“I warn the traitors of our country that they will soon be brought to justice, no matter how much money and assistance they receive to destroy our country,” Revenco said in a Facebook post.
Cristian Cantir, a Moldovan associate professor of international relations at Oakland University, says that while it’s difficult to determine how the alleged plans to topple Moldova’s government would play out, “Russia has always sought to undermine pro-European governments.”
“I think the concerns are legitimate, it’s difficult to tell what the exact nature of the threat is and how dangerous some of these groups might be,” he told The Associated Press, “but it’s absolutely a realistic concern.”
The Shor Party also organized a series of anti-government protests last fall, when Moldova’s government asked the country’s Constitutional Court to declare the Shor Party illegal, in a case that is ongoing. Around the same time, anti-corruption prosecutors also alleged that the protests were partly financed with Russian money.
Last week, authorities in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria, which has close ties to Moscow and hosts Russian troops, claimed it had thwarted an assassination attempt on its president allegedly organized by Ukraine’s national security service, the SBU, but did not provide evidence.
The SBU rejected the allegation, saying it “should be considered exclusively as a provocation orchestrated by the Kremlin.”
 

 


Australian companies hit by ‘large-scale technical outage’

Updated 18 sec ago
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Australian companies hit by ‘large-scale technical outage’

  • ‘Large-scale technical outage’ caused by an issue with a ‘third-party software platform’
  • Airport operator Aena also reported a computer systems ‘incident’ at all Spanish airports
SYDNEY: A large-scale outage wrought havoc on IT systems across Australia on Friday, with the country’s national broadcaster, its largest international airport, and a major telecommunications company reporting issues.
Australia’s National Cyber Security Coordinator said the “large-scale technical outage” was caused by an issue with a “third-party software platform.”
National broadcaster ABC said its systems had been crippled by a “major” glitch.
Photos posted online showed large queues forming at Sydney Airport, which said some airline operations and terminal services had been affected.
Some self-checkout terminals at one of the country’s largest supermarket chains displayed error messages.
Telecommunications firm Telstra also said some of its systems had been disrupted.
Spanish airport operator Aena on Friday also reported a computer systems “incident” at all Spanish airports which may cause flight delays.
“We are working to solve it as soon as possible. Meanwhile, operations are continuing with manual systems,” the airport operator said in a post on X platform.
A health booking system used by doctors in England is offline, medical officials said on X on Friday.

Oil tankers on fire off Singapore, crew members rescued

Updated 32 min 58 sec ago
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Oil tankers on fire off Singapore, crew members rescued

  • Singapore is Asia’s biggest oil trading hub and the world’s largest bunkering port

SINGAPORE: Two large oil tankers were on fire in waters near Singapore, the authorities said on Friday, raising concerns about the environment as well as the impact on operations at the world’s biggest refueling port.
The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said it was alerted to a fire on Friday at 6:15 a.m. (2215 GMT) onboard both a Singapore-flagged tanker, Hafnia Nile, and a Sao Tome and Principe-flagged tanker, Ceres I.
A helicopter had evacuated two crew members to Singapore General Hospital, it said, without elaborating.
In a statement on social media, Singapore Navy said the frigate RSS Supreme had rescued the crews from the vessels and was providing medical assistance. It did not immediately give details.
The vessels were about 55km (34 miles) northeast of the Singaporean island of Pedra Branca on the eastern approach to the Singapore Straits. Photographs released by the Navy showed thick black smoke billowing from one tanker.
The cause of the fires was not immediately clear.
The 74,000 deadweight-tons capacity Panamax tanker Hafnia Nile (IMO 9766217) was carrying about 300,000 barrels of naphtha, according to ship-tracking data from Kpler and LSEG.
It was not immediately clear what fuel Ceres I (IMO 9229439) was carrying. The tanker is a very-large-crude-carrier (VLCC) of 300,000 deadweight-tons capacity and was last marked as carrying Iranian crude between March to April, ship-tracking data showed.
Singapore is Asia’s biggest oil trading hub and the world’s largest bunkering port and surrounding waters are vital trade waterways between Asia and Europe and the Middle East.


US-bound Air India plane makes emergency landing in Russia

Updated 19 July 2024
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US-bound Air India plane makes emergency landing in Russia

  • The Boeing 777 aircraft, carrying 225 passengers and 19 flight crew, made a precautionary landing safely in the Russian region of Siberia at the Krasnoyarsk International Airport

NEW DELHI: An Air India airplane flying from Delhi to San Francisco made an emergency landing in Russia after the crew detected a potential issue in the cargo hold area, the airline said on Friday, its second such incident on the route in just over a year.
Many carriers, including US and European Union airlines, avoid Russian airspace following the war in Ukraine, but Air India uses that route, giving it a flying time and cost advantage on US-bound flights.
The Boeing 777 aircraft, carrying 225 passengers and 19 flight crew, made a precautionary landing safely in the Russian region of Siberia at the Krasnoyarsk International Airport, the airline said in a statement.
It added Air India was “concerned about the passengers and staff and are making every effort possible to operate the ferry flight as soon as possible.”
The airport said the flight’s crew had been moved to hotels, and passengers were in the international departure area, which angered some of those stranded, according to social media posts.
Mayank Gupta, whose mother was on the flight, wrote on X he was “sad and angry” that her medicines and luggage remained on the airplane.
A passenger said on X that people were struggling to get food and water, posting a photo showing some passengers sleeping on the floor inside the airport area.
In another statement on Friday, Air India said representatives from the Indian consulate in Moscow traveled to Krasnoyarsk overnight and “are working with Russian authorities to allow passengers to move to hotels, which have been on standby throughout the night.”
The airport said the plane landed due to an activated smoke detector. Regulatory clearances have been obtained for a relief flight that will depart Mumbai at 11 a.m. India time (0530 GMT) on Friday and ferry the guests out of the airport, Air India said.
Shortly after the incident, Russia’s civil aviation agency, Rosaviatsiya, said the aircraft had taxied to a parking spot after landing and there had been no signs of a fire or smoke onboard.
Boeing and a spokesperson for the US State Department deferred to Air India for comment on the incident.
Russia banned many foreign carriers from its airspace in retaliation for Western sanctions over the Ukraine war, and many countries and airlines also banned their planes from crossing over all or part of Russia.
The bans have redrawn air routes and upset business models for some airlines that now need to fly around the world’s largest country. United Airlines canceled many of its non-stop US-India flights due to the issue.
In June 2023, an Air India Boeing plane on the same route was stranded for a day after reporting a technical issue. Passengers on that flight, including US citizens, were housed in makeshift accommodation at Russia’s remote Magadan airport.
Air India sent an aircraft a day later to pick up the stranded passengers.


Donald Trump vows to end wars, restore US power if elected again

Updated 11 min 9 sec ago
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Donald Trump vows to end wars, restore US power if elected again

  • The former president sought to paint a dire picture of the world under his successor Joe Biden

MILWAUKEE: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump promised Thursday to bring an end to raging international crises and restore American prestige on the world stage, saying he could “stop wars with a telephone call.”
The former president sought to paint a dire picture of the world under his successor Joe Biden, telling the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee that the planet is “teetering on the edge of World War III.”
“We will restore peace, stability and harmony all throughout the world,” Trump said, without giving any detail on how he might do that.
“Under our leadership the United States will be respected again. No nation will question our power, no enemy will doubt our might, our borders will be totally secure.”

 


Trump placed the blame for conflicts around the world squarely on Biden — even those with roots stretching back far before the Democrat took office.
“There is an international crisis the likes of which the world has seldom been part of... war is now raging in Europe, in the Middle East, a growing specter of conflict hangs over Taiwan, Korea, the Philippines and all of Asia,” he said.
He vowed to change all that if he is elected to a second term in the White House.
“I will end every single international crisis that the current administration has created, including the horrible war with Russia and Ukraine,” Trump said. But “to achieve this future, we must first rescue our nation from failed and even incompetent leadership.”
He also said he wanted Americans held abroad to be released — or else.
“The entire world, I tell you this: we want our hostages back and they better be back before I assume office or you will be paying a very big price,” said Trump — again failing to give any specifics.
He pledged to build a version of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system for the United States, ignoring the fact that the system is designed for short-range threats and would be ill-suited to defending against intercontinental missiles that are the main danger to the country.
And he suggested that Kim Jong Un — the reclusive North Korean dictator whom he met in person during his presidency, and whose country possesses a nuclear arsenal — longed to see him back in the White House.
“I get along with him, he’d like to see me back too. I think he misses me, if you want to know,” Trump said.

 


Bangladesh wakes to torched government buildings, internet blackout

Updated 19 July 2024
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Bangladesh wakes to torched government buildings, internet blackout

  • This week's unrest has killed at least 39 people including 32 on Thursday, with the toll expected to rise further
  • Protesters have called for an end to a quota system that reserves over half of civil service posts for specific groups

Dhaka: Bangladesh woke Friday to survey destruction left by the deadliest day of ongoing student protests so far, which saw government buildings torched by demonstrators and a nationwide internet blackout put into effect.

This week's unrest has killed at least 39 people including 32 on Thursday, with the toll expected to rise further after reports of clashes in nearly half of the country's 64 districts.

A police statement issued after a near-total shutdown of the nation's internet said protesters had torched, vandalised and carried out "destructive activities" on numerous police and government offices.

Among them was the Dhaka headquarters of state broadcaster Bangladesh Television, which remains offline after hundreds of incensed students stormed the premises and set fire to a building.

"About 100 policemen were injured in the clashes yesterday," Faruk Hossain, a spokesman for the capital's police force, told AFP. "Around 50 police booths were burnt".

Anti-quota protesters clash with the police in Dhaka on July 18, 2024. (AFP)

The police statement said that if the destruction continued, they would "be forced to make maximum use of law".

Police fire was the cause of at least two-thirds of deaths reported so far, based on descriptions given to AFP by hospital staff.

At least 26 districts around the country reported clashes on Thursday, broadcaster Independent Television reported.

The network said more than 700 had been wounded through the day including 104 police officers and 30 journalists.

Near-daily marches this month have called for an end to a quota system that reserves more than half of civil service posts for specific groups, including children of veterans from the country's 1971 liberation war against Pakistan.

Critics say the scheme benefits children of pro-government groups that back Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, 76, who has ruled the country since 2009 and won her fourth consecutive election in January after a vote without genuine opposition.

Hasina's government is accused by rights groups of misusing state institutions to entrench its hold on power and stamp out dissent, including by the extrajudicial killing of opposition activists.

Her administration this week ordered schools and universities to close indefinitely as police step up efforts to bring the deteriorating law and order situation under control.

Mubashar Hasan, a Bangladesh expert at the University of Oslo in Norway, told AFP Thursday that the protests had grown into a wider expression of discontent with Hasina's autocratic rule.

"They are protesting against the repressive nature of the state," he told AFP. "The students are in fact calling her a dictator."

Students have vowed to continue their campaign despite Hasina giving a national address on the now-offline state broadcaster seeking to calm the situation.

"Our first demand is that the prime minister must apologise to us," protester Bidisha Rimjhim, 18, told AFP on Thursday.

"Secondly, justice must be ensured for our killed brothers," she added.

London-based watchdog Netblocks said Friday that a "nation-scale" internet shutdown remained in effect.

"The disruption prevents families from contacting each other and stifles efforts to document human rights violations," it wrote in a social media post on X.