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Russia-Ukraine war: List of key events, day 665

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Here is the situation on Wednesday, December 20, 2023.

Fighting

Ukraine’s military said Russia launched its fifth air attack this month on the capital, with air defence systems destroying all weapons on their approach to Kyiv. “According to preliminary information, there were no casualties or destruction in the capital,” Serhiy Popko, the head of Kyiv’s military administration, said on the Telegram messaging app.Russia’s Defence Ministry said it brought down a Ukrainian drone near the capital that led to restrictions on flights at Moscow’s main airports. No casualties were reported.Ukraine said its military was holding the line in the eastern Kharkiv region, despite being outgunned by Russian forces trying to take control of the town of Kupiansk. “The situation is complicated. We have to fight in conditions of superiority of the enemy both in weapons and in the number of personnel,” said Oleksandr Syrsky, the head of Ukraine’s ground forces. Russia’s Defence Ministry said it had repelled eight Ukrainian attacks around Kupiansk with artillery.

Politics and diplomacy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the military had asked for the mobilisation of 500,000 more people in the fight to remove Russian forces from its territory and urged the United States and Kyiv’s other Western allies to maintain their support for his country. He said he also hoped prisoner swaps, which he said had been delayed as a result of unspecified “reasons” on the Russian side, would soon resume. The last exchange took place in early August.Russian President Vladimir Putin told defence and military chiefs that Moscow had the momentum in its war in Ukraine and was well-positioned to reach its goals, claiming that attempts to defeat it had failed. Putin also said Moscow was upgrading its nuclear arsenal and maintaining the military at its highest level of readiness.Italy’s cabinet passed a decree allowing it to supply “means, materials and equipment” to Ukraine in its fight against Russia until the end of 2024. Supplies will include not only weapons but also power generators and “everything needed to support military operations in defence of unarmed civilians”, a Defence Ministry statement said.Volker Turk, the United Nations’s human rights chief, said there were indications Russia had committed war crimes in Ukraine, including 142 cases of “summary executions” of civilians as well we enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment such as sexual violence against detainees.A court in Poland convicted 14 citizens of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine for being part of a spy ring preparing acts of sabotage on behalf of Moscow. They were given jail terms ranging from 13 months to six years.A former Russian soldier sought asylum in the Netherlands and said he wanted to testify at the International Criminal Court (ICC) about Russian war crimes he witnessed while fighting in Ukraine. A Dutch legal source told the Reuters news agency the man had been a member of Russian-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine since 2014 and had also worked as an instructor for the Wagner mercenary group there.Chuck Schumer, the majority leader in the US Senate, said the upper house aimed to pass an agreement to provide additional aid to Ukraine and bolster US border security as soon as it returns to Washington, DC in January after the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Weapons

Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defence minister, said that since the country began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, it had increased production of tanks by 5.6 times, drones by 16.8 times and artillery shells by 17.5 times. Speaking during Putin’s meeting with military chiefs, Shoigu said Russian forces had also laid 7,000sq km (2,703 square miles) of minefields in Ukraine – some of them as much as 600 metres (1,969 feet) wide – along with 1.5 million anti-tank barriers and 2,000km (1,243 miles) of anti-tank ditches.Zelenskyy said Ukraine planned to manufacture some 1 million drones next year for use on the battlefield. Ukraine and Russia use drones to scope out enemy positions, drop explosives and launch attacks on the enemy.The US charged Hossein Hatefi Ardakani, an Iranian, and Gary Lam, a Chinese national, with allegedly supplying dual-use US-manufactured microelectronics to Iran’s drone programme. “These very components have been found in use by Iran’s allies in current conflicts, including in Ukraine,” special agent Michael Krol said. Both men remain at large.The US Treasury Department, meanwhile, announced that it was imposing sanctions on a network of 10 Ardakani-linked entities as well as four individuals based in Iran, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Indonesia, for circumventing export bans to procure US components for Iranian-made attack drones.

 

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies


France passes tough immigration bill amid Macron party rebellion

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The French parliament has passed by a wide margin an immigration bill backed by President Emmanuel Macron after a rebellion within his party over the toughened-up legislation that had secured the endorsement of the far right.

The bill had been significantly toughened since it was first introduced, with some on the left of Macron’s ruling Renaissance party accusing his government of caving in to Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally (RN) in an attempt to secure support.

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Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, an ambitious 41-year-old who has spearheaded the legislation, expressed relief that the votes of his coalition and conservatives were enough to get the bill through parliament.

Some 349 members voted in favour with 186 against. The upper house had passed the legislation already.

“Today, strict measures are necessary,” Darmanin said afterwards. “It’s not by holding your nose in central Paris that you can fix the problems of the French in the rest of the country.”

An earlier version of the bill was voted down without even being debated in the National Assembly, in a major blow to Macron.

Pressure from the right saw the government agree to water down regulations on residency permits while delaying migrants’ access to welfare benefits – including for children and housing – by several years.

The amendments also introduce migration quotas, make it harder for migrants’ children to become French, and say that dual nationals sentenced for serious crimes against the police could be stripped of their French nationality.

Le Pen had said the RN would endorse the amended legislation – prompting embarrassment among more left-wing members of Macron’s party who find it unpalatable to vote in unison with the far right.

In the end, 20 members of Renaissance voted against the bill, 17 abstained and 131 voted in favour.

After the vote, Le Pen claimed an “ideological victory”.

The French have long prided themselves on having one of the most generous welfare systems in the world, granting payments even to foreign residents, helping them pay rent or care for their children with means-tested monthly contributions of up to a few hundred euros.

The far right and, more recently, conservatives, have argued these should be reserved for French people only.

Macron had made the migration bill a key plank of his second mandate and might have had to shelve it without the compromise.

Dozens of NGOs condemned the legislation ahead of the vote.

It is “the most regressive bill of the past 40 years for the rights and living conditions of foreigners, including those who have long been in France”, about 50 groups, including the French Human Rights League, said in a joint statement.

“With this text directly inspired by RN pamphlets against immigration, we are facing a shift in the history of the republic and its fundamental values,” said French Communist Party leader Fabien Roussel.

Source: News Agencies


‘Remove him’: Sudan’s army chief al-Burhan faces backlash after RSF gains

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The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has captured Sudan’s second-largest city, just a day after the army and its supporters prematurely celebrated repelling an attack.

As army soldiers retreated from Wad Madani – once a hub for hundreds of thousands of displaced people – they left civilians behind. The army has released a rare statement acknowledging that its troops withdrew too quickly and promising an investigation, yet their supporters are calling for accountability.

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“On Sunday we actually celebrated with the rest of Wad Madani,” said Noon Arbab*, a young woman now searching for a way out of the city with her family. “Now I think it was all a big lie.”

“I think we should throw the army’s entire leadership away,” she added.

Countless civilians like Arbab are calling for army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan to step down in the hope that a new leader can thwart the RSF’s advances.

Al-Burhan’s subordinates are also furious with the way he is fighting the war, according to sources close to security forces. But experts warn that a change of guard could lead to a power struggle – or vacuum – fracturing the Sudanese army.

“Despite the position that al-Burhan finds himself in, I think if he leaves – however that happens – it will leave an indelible mark on the Sudanese army,” said Kholood Khair, an expert on Sudan and founding director of the think tank Confluence Advisory.

Losing legitimacy

Since the RSF captured Wad Madani, many of the army’s supporters have taken to social media to call on generals to replace al-Burhan. The sentiment is widely shared among civilians who are terrified that the RSF could attack their towns and cities next.

The RSF tends to loot homes, markets and banks in every city it conquers, as well as subject women to sexual violence.

“All of the citizens want the removal of al-Burhan. He is the reason for all of the cities and provinces falling to the RSF,” said Yousif Ibrahim*. “I still don’t understand why the army just left Wad Madani. Wad Madani is where so many displaced people from Khartoum sought refuge.”

Hamid Khalafallah, a Sudanese analyst and PhD candidate at the University of Manchester, where he researches democratic transitions in Africa, said most of the army’s traditional supporters feel betrayed.

He added that his father had fled Wad Madani on Sunday, but soldiers told him to return after claiming that they defeated the RSF. The next day, his father fled again when the RSF stormed the city.

“Military troops in [nearby towns] were advising people to go back … what the military has done has led to a feeling of betrayal,” Khalafallah told Al Jazeera. “People [in this region] won’t support the RSF, but they feel lost. They don’t know who to turn to now.”

Coup d’etat? 

One week before Wad Madani fell to the RSF, a former army officer told Al Jazeera that most generals view al-Burhan as a weak leader. But he stressed that nobody was going to topple him to preserve a strong chain of command for the duration of the war.

“As soon as the war ends, Burhan is gone,” the former officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, told Al Jazeera.

Al-Burhan may be more vulnerable after the fall of Wad Madani, according to two Sudanese journalists who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic.

“There has been some movement in the army, but nobody knows what exactly is going on,” one journalist, who has close contacts in security services, told Al Jazeera.

Another Sudanese journalist said army generals have not removed him because they cannot agree on who should replace him.

“They need someone with experience, charisma, and [who is] not tainted. Getting those three in one is hard,” the journalist told Al Jazeera.

Desperate attempt? 

Over the course of the war, al-Burhan has tried to brand himself as Sudan’s de facto head of state, with some success. As a result, experts say that any attempt to remove him could hurt the army’s political leverage over the RSF, which most Arab and Western states still widely view as an irregular militia.

“Even if [generals] managed to avoid a split in the army, any leadership change risks rocking the army’s foreign relations at a very delicate time or looking like an act of desperation,” said Alan Boswell, an expert on the Horn of Africa for International Crisis Group, a non-profit dedicated to ending and preventing conflict worldwide.

Khair, from Confluence Advisory, adds that al-Burhan remains the perfect scapegoat for an army on the cusp of losing complete control of Sudan.

“Al-Burhan has a lot of the public ire … and frankly there is a lot more public ire to come if things keep going the way they are going for the [military].”

Khair also said that generals loyal to former President Omar al-Bashir, and who are members of the Islamic movement in Sudan, may topple al-Burhan if the RSF conquers cities such as Atbara and Shendi.

Both River Nile cities are home to military and political elites who have ruled Sudan since it acquired independence in 1956.

“Al-Burhan is the perfect fall guy … but now is not the time to get rid of him,” Khair told Al Jazeera. “Army officers may wait until the RSF takes a place like Shendi and sacrifice him then.”

“My sense is that his days are numbered.”

* Some names have been changed to protect individuals from reprisal.

Source: Al Jazeera


Can Trump still run for US president after Colorado court ruling?

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The top court in the US state of Colorado has ruled that former President Donald Trump is disqualified from holding office again over his role in the January 6, 2021 assault on the United States Capitol by his supporters.

Tuesday’s verdict makes Trump the first presidential candidate in US history to be deemed ineligible for the White House under a rarely used provision of the US Constitution that bars officials who have engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” against the Constitution after taking oath to protect it.

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Trump’s campaign spokesperson dubbed the verdict “flawed” and promised to “swiftly” file an appeal in the United States Supreme Court.

Here is more to know about the ruling and what it means for Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign.

What did the Colorado court rule on Donald Trump on Tuesday?

A slim majority of the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the former president is ineligible to hold the US presidency and is to be disqualified from the state’s ballot under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, which bars anyone involved in insurrection or rebellion from running for federal office.

“We do not reach these conclusions lightly,” the Colorado Supreme Court wrote in its four-three majority decision.

“We are mindful of the magnitude and weight of the questions now before us,” the Colorado justices said. “We are likewise mindful of our solemn duty to apply the law, without fear or favor, and without being swayed by public reaction to the decisions that the law mandates we reach.”

This is the first time a court has ruled on the basis of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which was ratified in 1868 in the aftermath of the Civil War.

A lower court judge in the state previously ruled that Trump’s actions on January 6, 2021, amounted to insurrection but stopped short of disqualifying him, saying Section 3 does not apply to presidents.

The Colorado Supreme Court paused its own ruling pending review by the US Supreme Court.

The ruling was aligned with advocacy groups and activists who called for the disqualification of Trump from the presidential race following his involvement in the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack.

Multiple lawsuits have been filed across several US states in efforts to disqualify Trump from running for president in those states. Similar lawsuits have previously been dismissed by courts in Michigan, Florida and New Hampshire. The Minnesota Supreme Court has also rejected a disqualification case.

However, this ruling can influence other states to invoke similar rulings in competitive states that Trump needs to win.

What happened on January 6, 2021?

On January 6, 2021, a mob of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol to prevent the Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election victory. This was after Trump prematurely declared victory and alleged voter fraud. In a speech on the day of the riot, Trump urged his supporters to march on the Capitol. A US Congressional committee concluded that Trump was responsible for the Capitol riots.

Can Trump still run for presidency and what does it mean for the 2024 election?

Even if the ruling survives Supreme Court review, it could be inconsequential to the outcome of the November 2024 election because Trump does not need to win Colorado, which is a Democratic-leaning state.

Colorado has nine of the 270 electoral votes required to win the presidency. Biden won the state by more than 13 percentage points in the 2020 election.

But similar lawsuits could be filed in competitive states that Trump must win to prevail, and while none of those courts would be bound by the Colorado decision, judges will likely study it closely while reaching their own conclusions.

How did Trump and Republicans react to Colorado’s ruling?

Trump’s campaign called the court decision “undemocratic”. Trump and his allies have dubbed disqualification cases in Colorado and other states as part of a conspiracy by his political rivals to keep him out of office.

“The Colorado Supreme Court issued a completely flawed decision tonight and we will swiftly file an appeal to the United States Supreme Court,” a campaign spokesperson said.

Campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said the “all-Democrat appointed” panel in Colorado was doing the bidding of a “[George] Soros-funded, left-wing group’s scheme to interfere in an election on behalf of Crooked Joe Biden”.

Even after his absence from the Republican debates, Trump remains a frontrunner in the polls. “Democrat Party leaders are in a state of paranoia over the growing, dominant lead President Trump has amassed in the polls,” he added.

Despite their exasperation with Trump, US Republican leaders joined in to call the ruling undemocratic and campaign for its appeal on X. This included Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is running against Trump for the 2024 Republican nomination. DeSantis said the US Supreme Court “should reverse” the Colorado ruling.

“The Left invokes ‘democracy’ to justify its use of power, even if it means abusing judicial power to remove a candidate from the ballot based on spurious legal ground,” he wrote on X,

What’s next?

The ruling has been placed on hold by the Colorado Supreme Court until January 4, or until a review by the US Supreme Court, which Trump said he will immediately seek. Colorado officials have said the issue needs to be settled by January 5, which is when the state prints its presidential primary ballots.

It is unclear how the Supreme Court would rule, but it is dominated by a conservative majority that includes three Trump appointees, some of whom are longtime sceptics of giving courts powers that are not clearly based in legislation.

That was a top concern for the dissenting justices in the 4-3 Colorado decision, who said the majority’s ruling would strip Trump of one of his most basic rights without adequate due process.

“Even if we are convinced that a candidate committed horrible acts in the past – dare I say, engaged in insurrection – there must be procedural due process before we can declare that individual disqualified from holding public office,” Justice Carlos Samour Jr said.

They noted that Trump has not been convicted of insurrection by a jury and did not have the right to subpoena records or compel witnesses to testify in the case, among other basic rights afforded to criminal defendants.

What is the status of other cases against Trump?

The current ruling adds to the legal woes facing the former president. A US federal judge on Monday set March 4, 2024, as the date for his election subversion conspiracy trial – a move immediately decried by Trump himself as “election interference”.

That date is the eve of the so-called “Super Tuesday” – one of the biggest moments of the primaries when voters in more than a dozen states, including populous California and Texas, go to the polls. Colorado is also on that list, but will Trump be on the ballot?

Trump noted the timing, saying it was “just what our corrupt government wanted”.

Then, just three weeks later, on March 25, Trump will have another court date – this time in New York, where he is facing charges over alleged hush money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels.

On May 20, 2024, all eyes will be on Florida, where the third case against the ex-president will open: over his alleged mishandling of classified documents after leaving office.

A fourth trial could even open in 2024: Trump is also under indictment in Georgia, over an alleged conspiracy to overturn the results of the 2020 election he lost to Joe Biden.

The prosecutor in that case has asked for a 2024 trial.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies


Tentative truce shows China’s influence – and its limits – in Myanmar

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Bangkok/Taipei – China has emerged as the dominant foreign power in terms of shaping possible outcomes in Myanmar’s spiralling political crisis as Beijing seeks to exert its influence over several armed groups who have staged the biggest challenge to the generals since they seized power in the February 2021 coup.

Beijing last week pushed the three powerful ethnic armies – the Arakan Army (AA), the Mandarin-speaking Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) – to agree to a truce after fighters working with anti-coup coalitions across Myanmar pushed Senior General Min Aung Hlaing’s military out of swathes of the north, overran hundreds of military outposts and seized control of border crossings with China under Operation 1027.

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China’s ceasefire announcement followed talks in its southwestern city of Kunming between the State Administration Council (SAC), as Myanmar’s coup leaders call themselves, and the Three Brotherhood Alliance, the coalition of the AA, MNDAA and TNLA, which is driving the 1027 offensive.

“China supports the peace process of northern Myanmar and has provided support and facilitation for dialogue and contact between relevant parties in Myanmar,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said in a statement on December 14, confirming that “a temporary ceasefire” had been reached.

Beijing’s prominent involvement in the truce and its armed support for both ethnic armies and the SAC makes China by far the most influential foreign actor in the turmoil in Myanmar, a strategic location where big powers have long jostled for influence and whose generals are also deepening ties with Russia.

The SAC Foreign Minister Than Swe was in Beijing at the beginning of December.

“The truce followed the junta foreign minister’s visit to Beijing where he pleaded for China’s assistance, and a flurry of Chinese government interactions with the MNDAA and its allies,” said Jason Tower, Myanmar country director at the United States Institute of Peace.

Patronage networks

The ceasefire also came days after Beijing issued arrest warrants for 10 partners and cronies of Myanmar’s military, including members of the five powerful families who collectively ruled Kokang, bordering China’s Yunnan Province. The most notable target was Bai Suocheng, a key ally of Min Aung Hlaing, an indication of the complex layers of connections and patronage between China, Myanmar’s ethnic minorities in the borderlands and the generals.

“China is really pi**ed off with the regime for the scam centres and related crime. Myanmar became synonymous with scams in China,” a source close to the Chinese government told Al Jazeera.

“The SAC underestimated how enraged Beijing is with the waves of Chinese nationals caught in the border,” the source added.

While Operation 1027 represents the most serious challenge to military rule since Min Aung Hlaing’s coup, it has taken place amid a surge in drug and human trafficking in lawless border areas, which has been felt elsewhere in the region.

Since the coup, and with Myanmar increasingly isolated by international sanctions and excluded by many of its traditional partners in Southeast Asia, the generals have moved closer to Beijing, which has snubbed the National Unity Government (NUG) – a parallel administration established by elected lawmakers, primarily from the National League for Democracy, who were removed in the coup. The NUG established the People’s Defence Forces (PDFs), armed groups made up of civilians opposed to the coup and training and fighting alongside ethnic armed organisations.

All eyes are now on the MNDAA, the de facto leader of the 1027 offensive. It was founded by Peng Jiasheng, the strongman who ruled Kokang before being overthrown by Min Aung Hlaing and Bai Suocheng in 2009 and who died last year.

Tower said the offensive’s apparent breakthrough and the unprecedented level of cooperation across Myanmar’s resistance forces, including fighters from Myanmar’s dominant ethnic Bamar, was likely to make it “extremely problematic” for the group to agree to any kind of pact with the military leadership.

“Ethnic armies in northern Shan State, including the MNDAA, have relied heavily on people’s resistance forces across Shan and central Myanmar’s Mandalay, to achieve this battlefield success,” he said. “As such, any deal with the junta will result in major costs for the MNDAA in terms of its relationships and commitments to its partners.”

PDFs in Mandalay have taken a direct part in the offensive, holding and cutting off trade routes to deny the SAC the ability to resupply itself and provide logistical support against the MNDAA, which has trained an entire brigade of non-Chinese-speaking troops.

Beijing’s dramatic turn against members of the so-called “four families” – the Bai, Wei and two Liu families – in Kokang came after they were allowed to control the region with China’s blessings for more than a decade. The Ming family rose to prominence more recently.

Pro-China news website HK01 said the families collectively “formed industrial chains of pornography, gambling, drugs, and fraud”.

“Whether the black industries of several major families that have been entrenched in Kokang for many years can be eradicated amidst China’s vigorous crackdown on electronic fraud crimes and the war in northern Myanmar has become a major focus of attention from the outside world,” said HK01, which is owned by a China-linked investment firm.

In recent weeks China has drastically changed its narrative on the Kokang leaders. By December, the five families were being chastised publicly and placed under arrest. Ming Xue-chang, the leader of the Ming family who has been accused of leading a cybercrime syndicate, reportedly died by suicide last month while in detention.

Yangon-based Chinese-language magazine Golden Phoenix, a staunch mouthpiece of China, has echoed the change in narrative, running the headline, “Is the annihilation of the four big families imminent?”

“China is fully capable of vetoing any action taken by the MNDAA. The Tatmadaw knows this,” said a Chinese academic in Yangon who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter. The Myanmar military is sometimes known as the Tatmadaw.

“In May this year, then-Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang visited Myanmar. At that time, outside observers thought China had chosen to completely side with SAC. In fact, China was putting pressure on the SAC,” they told Al Jazeera.

The source in Beijing said that now that the scam centres and criminals were largely dealt with, China’s priority would be border stability and that Beijing had not warmed up to the NUG, despite having previously developed a solid relationship with overthrown civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Fighting continues

The question is whether Beijing – which provides arms to the ethnic armies – will be able to effectively end the hostilities when resistance forces across Myanmar continue to fight, believing they have the momentum to make further gains.

Days after the ceasefire was signed, the TNLA said it had taken control of the town of Namhsan in northern Shan state as well as the so-called 105-Mile Trade Zone, a key trading area on Shan state’s border with China.

Security expert Anthony Davis pointed out that China’s role in logistical support reaching the ethnic armies, while largely indirect, was significant.

“The most important layer of plausible deniability centres on the role of the United Wa State Army (UWSA), which is entirely equipped with modern weaponry and equipment produced in China and at the same time, operates as an ally of, and quartermaster for, several northern ethnic factions, not least the Brotherhood Alliance,” Davis told Al Jazeera.

The UWSA – a formidable Chinese-speaking micro-state – has been providing support to the MNDAA in the recent offensive, including by hosting refugees fleeing the fighting.

“Given its powerful influence over the UWSA, China could undoubtedly affect a major reduction in munitions reaching northern groups if it wanted to. Clearly, it is not interested in taking steps to do that,” Davis said.

The NUG, meanwhile, says it is time for Beijing to recognise the damage being caused by the military and support a path towards democracy.

“The longer the generals stay in power, the greater they pose a serious threat to China because the SAC has repeatedly proven itself to be the source of all crimes in Myanmar,” the NUG’s International Cooperation Minister Dr Sasa told Al Jazeera in an interview.

“It is time for China to embrace the will of Myanmar’s people and support their sole representatives – the NUG – to end these threats and build a federal democracy which will provide peace, stability and prosperity for China, Myanmar and the region.”

Source: Al Jazeera


Colorado’s top court finds Donald Trump ineligible for US presidency

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Colorado’s Supreme Court has ruled former United States President Donald Trump is ineligible to run for the White House because of his role in the 2021 assault on the Capitol by his supporters and should be removed from the state’s primary ballot.

While the ruling only applies to Colorado, it marks the first time in US history that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which bars from public office anyone who “engaged in insurrection”, has been used to disqualify a presidential candidate and comes as courts in other states consider similar legal actions.

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“A majority of the court holds that President Trump is disqualified from holding the office of President under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” the Colorado high court wrote in its four-three majority decision.

“Because he is disqualified, it would be a wrongful act under the Election Code for the Colorado Secretary of State to list him as a candidate on the presidential primary ballot.

“We do not reach these conclusions lightly,” they added.

The decision – which Trump’s campaign said it would appeal – drew immediate condemnation from Republicans.

The one-time property tycoon and reality TV star faces a raft of court cases, from criminal charges over alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election, to mishandling classified documents, hush money payments in the 2016 election and fraud in his business practices.

Trump has claimed he is the victim of political persecution.

“We are mindful of the magnitude and weight of the questions now before us,” the Colorado justices said. “We are likewise mindful of our solemn duty to apply the law, without fear or favor, and without being swayed by public reaction to the decisions that the law mandates we reach.”

A lower court earlier found that while Trump incited an insurrection, for his role in the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, he could not be barred from the ballot because it was unclear that the 14th Amendment was intended to cover the presidency.

Noah Bookbinder of the campaign group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which brought the original case along with a group of Colorado voters, welcomed Tuesday’s higher court ruling.

The court’s decision is “not only historic and justified, but is necessary to protect the future of democracy in our country”, he said in a statement.

“Our Constitution clearly states that those who violate their oath by attacking our democracy are barred from serving in government.”

Swift appeal expected

The Colorado court placed its ruling on hold until January 4 or until the US Supreme Court rules on the case. State officials say the issue must be settled by January 5, the deadline for the state to print its presidential primary ballots. The Republican primary is due to take place in March.

Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said they would “swiftly file an appeal” to the Supreme Court, which has the final say on constitutional matters.

Cheung claimed Colorado’s “all-Democrat appointed” panel was doing the bidding of a “[George] Soros-funded, left-wing group’s scheme to interfere in an election on behalf of Crooked [President] Joe Biden”.

The Supreme Court at the federal level has a six-three conservative majority and includes three judges Trump appointed when he was president.

Trump, who is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, faces dozens of lawsuits under Section 3, which was designed to keep former Confederates from returning to government after the Civil War.

It bars from office anyone who swore an oath to “support” the Constitution and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against it, and has been used only a handful of times since the decade after the Civil War.

“I think it may embolden other state courts or secretaries to act now that the bandage has been ripped off,” Derek Muller, a Notre Dame law professor who has closely followed the cases, told the Associated Press news agency after Tuesday’s ruling. “This is a major threat to Trump’s candidacy.”

The Colorado court decision brought swift rebukes from senior Republicans, including Trump’s one-time rival for the 2016 nomination, Senator Marco Rubio.

“The US has put sanctions on other countries for doing exactly what the Colorado Supreme Court has done today,” he wrote on social media.

The Colorado ruling stands in contrast with the Minnesota Supreme Court, which last month decided that the state party can put anyone it wants on its primary ballot. It dismissed a Section 3 lawsuit but said the plaintiffs could try again during the general election.

In another 14th Amendment case, a Michigan judge ruled that Congress, not the judiciary, should decide whether Trump can stay on the ballot in a ruling that is being appealed.

The liberal group behind those cases, Free Speech For People, has also filed a lawsuit in Oregon seeking to remove Trump from the ballot there.

Both groups are financed by liberal donors who also support President Biden, who is set to run for a second term in office. Trump has blamed the president for the lawsuits against him. Biden has no role in them.

Three Colorado Supreme Court justices dissented in Tuesday’s ruling.

One of the dissenting justices, Carlos Samour, said in a lengthy opinion that a lawsuit was not a fair mechanism for determining Trump’s eligibility for the ballot because it deprived him of his right to due process, noting that a jury had not convicted him of insurrection.

“Even if we are convinced that a candidate committed horrible acts in the past – dare I say, engaged in insurrection – there must be procedural due process before we can declare that individual disqualified from holding public office,” Samour said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies


Russia-Ukraine war: List of key events, day 665

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Here is the situation on Wednesday, December 20, 2023.

Fighting

Ukraine’s military said Russia launched its fifth air attack this month on the capital, with air defence systems destroying all weapons on their approach to Kyiv. “According to preliminary information, there were no casualties or destruction in the capital,” Serhiy Popko, the head of Kyiv’s military administration, said on the Telegram messaging app.Russia’s Defence Ministry said it brought down a Ukrainian drone near the capital that led to restrictions on flights at Moscow’s main airports. No casualties were reported.Ukraine said its military was holding the line in the eastern Kharkiv region, despite being outgunned by Russian forces trying to take control of the town of Kupiansk. “The situation is complicated. We have to fight in conditions of superiority of the enemy both in weapons and in the number of personnel,” said Oleksandr Syrsky, the head of Ukraine’s ground forces. Russia’s Defence Ministry said it had repelled eight Ukrainian attacks around Kupiansk with artillery.

Politics and diplomacy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the military had asked for the mobilisation of 500,000 more people in the fight to remove Russian forces from its territory and urged the United States and Kyiv’s other Western allies to maintain their support for his country. He said he also hoped prisoner swaps, which he said had been delayed as a result of unspecified “reasons” on the Russian side, would soon resume. The last exchange took place in early August.Russian President Vladimir Putin told defence and military chiefs that Moscow had the momentum in its war in Ukraine and was well-positioned to reach its goals, claiming that attempts to defeat it had failed. Putin also said Moscow was upgrading its nuclear arsenal and maintaining the military at its highest level of readiness.Italy’s cabinet passed a decree allowing it to supply “means, materials and equipment” to Ukraine in its fight against Russia until the end of 2024. Supplies will include not only weapons but also power generators and “everything needed to support military operations in defence of unarmed civilians”, a Defence Ministry statement said.Volker Turk, the United Nations’s human rights chief, said there were indications Russia had committed war crimes in Ukraine, including 142 cases of “summary executions” of civilians as well we enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment such as sexual violence against detainees.A court in Poland convicted 14 citizens of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine for being part of a spy ring preparing acts of sabotage on behalf of Moscow. They were given jail terms ranging from 13 months to six years.A former Russian soldier sought asylum in the Netherlands and said he wanted to testify at the International Criminal Court (ICC) about Russian war crimes he witnessed while fighting in Ukraine. A Dutch legal source told the Reuters news agency the man had been a member of Russian-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine since 2014 and had also worked as an instructor for the Wagner mercenary group there.Chuck Schumer, the majority leader in the US Senate, said the upper house aimed to pass an agreement to provide additional aid to Ukraine and bolster US border security as soon as it returns to Washington, DC in January after the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Weapons

Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defence minister, said that since the country began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, it had increased production of tanks by 5.6 times, drones by 16.8 times and artillery shells by 17.5 times. Speaking during Putin’s meeting with military chiefs, Shoigu said Russian forces had also laid 7,000sq km (2,703 square miles) of minefields in Ukraine – some of them as much as 600 metres (1,969 feet) wide – along with 1.5 million anti-tank barriers and 2,000km (1,243 miles) of anti-tank ditches.Zelenskyy said Ukraine planned to manufacture some 1 million drones next year for use on the battlefield. Ukraine and Russia use drones to scope out enemy positions, drop explosives and launch attacks on the enemy.The US charged Hossein Hatefi Ardakani, an Iranian, and Gary Lam, a Chinese national, with allegedly supplying dual-use US-manufactured microelectronics to Iran’s drone programme. “These very components have been found in use by Iran’s allies in current conflicts, including in Ukraine,” special agent Michael Krol said. Both men remain at large.The US Treasury Department, meanwhile, announced that it was imposing sanctions on a network of 10 Ardakani-linked entities as well as four individuals based in Iran, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Indonesia, for circumventing export bans to procure US components for Iranian-made attack drones.

 

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies


More trouble in Turkish football as club president orders players off field

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The president of a Turkish football team ordered his players to leave the field in protest of an officiating decision during a game on Tuesday, just over a week after a referee was punched in the face.

Halil Umut Meler had been attacked on the pitch last week after a 1-1 draw in a Super Lig game between Caykur Rizespor and MKE Ankaragucu. Faruk Koca, who was president of Ankaragucu, resigned and was banned by the Turkish Football Federation for punching Meler.

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Top-flight action returned on Tuesday and this time a match between Istanbulspor and Trabzonspor was in the spotlight.

Istanbulspor president Ecmel Faik Sarialioglu came to the field and ordered his players off in the 73rd minute. He was upset that the referee did not call a penalty before Nigerian striker Paul Onuachu scored to give Trabzonspor a 2-1 lead.

Egyptian midfielder Trezeguet scored the opening goal for Trabzonspor in the 11th minute at Necmi Kadıoglu Stadium.

Muammer Sarikaya levelled in the 39th minute before Onuachu made it 2-1 for Trabzon in the 68th minute.

Despite attempts by Trabzonspor’s president Ertugrul Dogan and several Istanbulspor players to convince Sarıalioglu to resume the match, Istanbulspor abandoned the field.

The game was then suspended. The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) will make a decision about the match.

History of violence against referees

Violence in football is common in Turkey despite efforts to clamp down on it although direct attacks on top-level referees are rare. TFF chief Mehmet Buyukeksi blamed last week’s attack on a culture of contempt towards referees.

“Everyone who has targeted referees and encouraged them to commit crimes is complicit in this despicable attack,” he said.

“The irresponsible statements of club presidents, managers, coaches and television commentators targeting referees have opened the way for this attack.”

Pierluigi Collina, chairman of FIFA’s referees committee, said last week’s incident was horrific.

“Neither the referee nor the man deserved to live the experience he lived yesterday in Ankara. He was doing his job when he was assaulted on the field of play at the end of a match he just officiated,” Collina said.

Referees in Turkey are often criticised by club managers and presidents for their decisions.

Source: News Agencies


Man City beat Urawa Red Diamonds to book Club World Cup final

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Manchester City have set up a Club World Cup final against Brazilian side Fluminense after cruising to a 3-0 win over Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds despite their early struggles at the King Abdullah Sports City stadium in Jeddah.

The European champions were frustrated by a well-organised Japanese side during the opening half but took the lead with an own goal by Marius Hoibraten in stoppage time on Tuesday night’s second semifinal.

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Mateo Kovacic made it 2-0 in the 52nd minute with his first goal since joining City from Chelsea and Bernardo Silva’s deflected shot a few minutes later meant City could play the rest of the game in cruise control.

Pep Guardiola’s City, who had won only three of their previous eight games in all competitions, are looking to become the fourth English club to win the title after Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea.

“The players know how important it is for the club,” Guardiola, who won the title twice with Barcelona and once with Bayern Munich, said.

“To be in this final, you have to do incredible things, like win the Champions League. This may be the only time we play this in our lifetime.

“We will try to win the title we don’t have to complete the circle.”

City have suffered some domestic wobbles of late and have slipped off the pace in the Premier League in their quest for a fourth successive title.

But even with Erling Haaland still missing and Guardiola shuffling his pack after Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace, they had far too much for the J1 League side.

Favourites for world title

They will start as heavy favourites in Friday’s final against Copa Libertadores champions Fluminense who on Monday beat Egypt’s Al Ahly 2-0.

Fluminense and Al Ahly presented a throwback look at a competition dominated for two decades by the wealthiest European clubs who have hired waves of global talent.

A team of 11 South Americans, including nine Brazilians, started against 11 Africans, including nine from Egypt, for the Cairo club.

Veteran Brazil internationals Marcelo – a five-time Champions League winner with Real Madrid – and Felipe Melo are being rewarded again for coming home from long careers in Europe to enjoy late-career blooms with the Copa Libertadores winner.

Urawa Red Diamonds will face Al Ahly in the third-place playoff on Friday.

Source: News Agencies


France passes tough immigration bill amid Macron party rebellion

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The French parliament has passed by a wide margin an immigration bill backed by President Emmanuel Macron after a rebellion within his party over the toughened-up legislation that had secured the endorsement of the far right.

The bill had been significantly toughened since it was first introduced, with some on the left of Macron’s ruling Renaissance party accusing his government of caving in to Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally (RN) in an attempt to secure support.

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Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, an ambitious 41-year-old who has spearheaded the legislation, expressed relief that the votes of his coalition and conservatives were enough to get the bill through parliament.

Some 349 members voted in favour with 186 against. The upper house had passed the legislation already.

“Today, strict measures are necessary,” Darmanin said afterwards. “It’s not by holding your nose in central Paris that you can fix the problems of the French in the rest of the country.”

An earlier version of the bill was voted down without even being debated in the National Assembly, in a major blow to Macron.

Pressure from the right saw the government agree to water down regulations on residency permits while delaying migrants’ access to welfare benefits – including for children and housing – by several years.

The amendments also introduce migration quotas, make it harder for migrants’ children to become French, and say that dual nationals sentenced for serious crimes against the police could be stripped of their French nationality.

Le Pen had said the RN would endorse the amended legislation – prompting embarrassment among more left-wing members of Macron’s party who find it unpalatable to vote in unison with the far right.

In the end, 20 members of Renaissance voted against the bill, 17 abstained and 131 voted in favour.

After the vote, Le Pen claimed an “ideological victory”.

The French have long prided themselves on having one of the most generous welfare systems in the world, granting payments even to foreign residents, helping them pay rent or care for their children with means-tested monthly contributions of up to a few hundred euros.

The far right and, more recently, conservatives, have argued these should be reserved for French people only.

Macron had made the migration bill a key plank of his second mandate and might have had to shelve it without the compromise.

Dozens of NGOs condemned the legislation ahead of the vote.

It is “the most regressive bill of the past 40 years for the rights and living conditions of foreigners, including those who have long been in France”, about 50 groups, including the French Human Rights League, said in a joint statement.

“With this text directly inspired by RN pamphlets against immigration, we are facing a shift in the history of the republic and its fundamental values,” said French Communist Party leader Fabien Roussel.

Source: News Agencies