Categories
World News

Belarus election: Women form ‘solidarity chains’ to condemn crackdown – BBC News

Women rally in support of detained and injured protesters in Belarus Image copyright EPA
Image caption Many women have been wearing white as they protest against the disputed election result and police violence

Women have formed human chains in Belarus to condemn a crackdown on protests as demonstrations over the disputed election entered a fifth day.

Many dressed in white and carried flowers as they called for an end to police brutality.

Unrest erupted after long-time leader Alexander Lukashenko was declared winner in a vote condemned by the EU and US as neither free nor fair.

Thousands of people have been arrested and at least two have died.

In the latest official figures, the interior ministry said police had detained 700 people during protests on Wednesday, bringing the total number to 6,700.

Some detainees were released on Thursday. Tearful relatives gathered outside a jail north of the capital Minsk, hoping to be reunited with their loved ones or for information on their whereabouts.

Several strikes have been reported at state-owned factories, where workers object to the violent treatment of protesters. Hundreds of employees were seen walking out at truck-maker Belaz, in Zhodino to the north-east of the capital.

Women in their thousands formed “solidarity chains” in Minsk and other cities as protests went into a fifth day. Participants told reporters they wanted a peaceful resolution, as they called for all detained protesters to be freed.

During the afternoon, women marched in big numbers down the main thoroughfare in Minsk, Independence Avenue, accompanied by a chorus of hooting cars.

Video footage shared on social media showed opposition figure Maria Kolesnikova joining the female protesters in Minsk, holding a bunch of flowers.

Image copyright EPA

She was one of three women who pooled their resources to spearhead the opposition. The other two have left the country.

Veronika Tsepkalo fled Belarus on the day of the vote while the main opposition candidate in the election, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, was briefly detained on Monday before being forced to leave for Lithuania.

Ms Tikhanovskaya, 37, released a video saying she made the “very difficult decision” to leave because of her children.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionSvetlana Tikhanovskaya: “Not one life is worth what is happening now”

The opposition candidate was a stay-at-home mother until she entered the race after her husband was arrested and blocked from registering for the vote.

She became Mr Lukashenko’s toughest opposition challenge in years, leading large rallies in the lead up to the vote.

But Mr Lukashenko dismissed her bid, saying a woman could not lead Belarus.

“Our constitution is not for women,” he said earlier this year. “Our society has not matured enough to vote for a woman. This is because by constitution the president handles a lot of power.”

Nobel literature laureate Svetlana Alexievich accused the authorities of declaring war on their own people and urged Mr Lukashenko to stand down.

Aged 65, he has ruled the former Soviet country since 1994 and has described opposition supporters as “sheep” controlled from abroad.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption These medics held up notices saying “doctors against violence” and “medics with the people”

As protests continued on Thursday, some workers organised strikes and walkouts in Minsk, Grodno in the west and Zhodino.

Medics walked out of hospitals for a second day to join the demonstrations and performers from the Belarusian State Philharmonic held up a message saying “Philharmonia prays for the people”.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Some of the performers covered their mouths with crosses to say their voices had been stolen

Russian internet giant Yandex said armed individuals had entered two of its offices in Minsk and barred employees inside from leaving. They left some hours later.

Shock at police brutality as testimonies mount

By Olga Ivshina, BBC Russian

The body of evidence of police brutality, both in the streets and inside remand prisons, is mounting. Detainees include not only opposition activists, but also many journalists and accidental passers-by.

One of the released journalists, Nikita Telizhenko of the Russian Znak.com news website, published a harrowing account of three days inside prison. Now back in Russia, he describes people lying on the floor of a detention centre, piled on top of each other, in a pool of blood and excrement. Not allowed to use the toilet for hours on end or even change position.

He says he saw seriously injured people, with broken limbs and severe bruising, not only left without medical help, but kicked and beaten by the guards more.

Telizhenko’s testimony is confirmed by countless posts on social media – photos, videos, stories. I spoke to an American woman who was visiting her Belarusian boyfriend in Minsk – he got detained for no apparent reason. Not only had he not been protesting, but he was asleep in bed when the police came to his flat, kicked down the door and took him away.

What else has been happening?

Election officials said Mr Lukashenko won 80% of the vote on Sunday, but protests erupted amid widespread allegations of vote rigging.

Hundreds of people have been injured in a police crackdown on protests, some seriously. A BBC crew was attacked by police on Tuesday evening.

Officials have confirmed the deaths of two people.

One demonstrator died during a protest in the capital Minsk on Monday. The Belarusian interior ministry alleged an explosive device had gone off in his hand.

Ambassadors from European countries laid flowers on Thursday where he died, a day before EU foreign ministers were due to consider imposing sanctions on Belarus.

Image copyright EPA

A 25-year-old man also died in the south-eastern city of Gomel.

His mother told Radio Free Europe that her son had not taken part in any protests and was arrested as he was going to see his girlfriend. She said he had heart problems and was kept for hours in a police van.

People have been shouting the words “get out” from their balconies, the same slogan used by protesters on the ground. Police responded by firing rubber bullets.

The United Nations has condemned the use of violence by authorities.

Video footage shared on social media has shown ex-special forces officers throwing their uniforms into bins in disgust at the actions of their former colleagues.

“I was proud of the unit I served [in]. Now I am ashamed. Shame on everyone who follows such orders,” one former officer said.

Categories
World News

US military helicopter struck by bullet over Virginia – BBC News

A US Air Force photo of UH-1N helicopters Image copyright US Air Force
Image caption The helicopter was a UH-1N Huey model

The FBI has launched an investigation after a US military helicopter was struck by a bullet while conducting a routine training exercise over the state of Virginia.

One crew member was injured in the shooting on Monday and the helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing.

Officials said the aircraft was flying about 1,000ft (300m) above the ground when it was hit.

They are appealing for witnesses.

The incident took place early Monday afternoon, some 16km (10 miles) from Manassas Regional Airport, in north Virginia.

The helicopter made an emergency landing at the airport after being hit.

The injured crew member was taken to hospital following the incident but has since been discharged. The Air Force said the UH-1N Huey helicopter had sustained some damage.

The squadron the helicopter was assigned to is responsible for transporting senior military and civilian leaders and dignitaries, as well as performing medical evacuations.

The FBI said it was working alongside other agencies, including the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, to determine what happened.

Officials said the bullet was fired by someone on the ground, but it is not yet clear if the aircraft was deliberately shot at or if it was an accident caused by someone randomly shooting into the air.

You might also be interested in:

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionA fire broke out on the USS Bonhomme Richard in San Diego, California, in July
Categories
World News

France sends jets and ships to tense east Mediterranean – BBC News

French Rafale fighter, 2011 file pic Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Two French Rafale fighters are being based temporarily in Crete

France is deploying two Rafale fighter jets and a naval frigate in the eastern Mediterranean because of tensions between Greece and Turkey.

French President Emmanuel Macron has urged Turkey to halt oil and gas exploration in disputed waters in the area. A Turkish survey ship began such a mission on Monday, angering Greece.

Mr Macron told Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis that the French military would monitor the situation.

The area is rich in untapped energy.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the only solution in the Mediterranean was dialogue and that his country was not chasing adventure.

“If we act with common sense and reason, we can find a win-win solution that meets everyone’s interests,” he said.

There are also tensions around Cyprus over rival exploration rights. The Republic of Cyprus and Greece do not accept any such rights for Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus in the region.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Oruc Reis seismic research ship is on a two-week mission, Turkey says

France is also at odds with Turkey over the crisis in Libya. Turkey has sent military support to the UN-recognised government in Tripoli, while France, Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates support the forces of Gen Khalifa Haftar. Russia and the UAE are Gen Haftar’s main arms suppliers.

France already has a helicopter-carrier, Tonnerre, heading to Beirut with aid to ease the city’s suffering after the devastating 4 August port explosion.

The French frigate La Fayette has been on exercises with the Greek navy and is staying in the area. The Rafale jets were in Cyprus for an exercise and are now relocating to Souda, on the Greek island of Crete.

Mr Macron tweeted: “I have decided to strengthen the French military presence temporarily in the Mediterranean, in co-operation with Greece and other European partners.

“The eastern Mediterranean situation is worrying. Turkey’s unilateral decisions concerning oil exploration are provoking tensions. Those tensions must end, to enable calm dialogue between countries which are neighbours and allies in Nato.”

Categories
World News

Israel and UAE strike historic deal to normalise relations – BBC News

Composite image of Benjamin Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan Image copyright Reuters/Getty Images
Image caption Benjamin Netanyahu and Prince Mohammed Al Nahyan brokered the agreement with US help

Israel and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to normalise relations, US President Donald Trump has announced.

A joint statement by Mr Trump, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed Al Nahyan said they hoped the “historic breakthrough will advance peace in the Middle East”.

As a result, they added, Israel would suspend its plans to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank.

Until now Israel has had no diplomatic relations with Gulf Arab countries

However, shared concerns over Iran’s regional influence have led to unofficial contacts between them.

In response to President Trump’s announcement, Mr Netanyahu tweeted in Hebrew: “Historic day.”

The UAE’s ambassador to the US, Yousef Al Otaiba, said in a statement that it was “a win for diplomacy and for the region”.

“It is a significant advance in Arab-Israeli relations that lowers tensions and creates new energy for positive change,” he added.

The agreement marks only the third Israel-Arab peace deal since Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948. Egypt signed one in 1979, and Jordan in 1994.

In the coming weeks delegations from Israel and the UAE will meet to sign bilateral agreements regarding investment, tourism, direct flights, security, telecommunications, technology, energy, healthcare, culture, the environment, the establishment of reciprocal embassies.

The countries will also join the US in launching a “Strategic Agenda for the Middle East”, according to the joint statement.

The leaders said they had “a similar outlook regarding the threats and opportunities in the region, as well as a shared commitment to promoting stability through diplomatic engagement, increased economic integration, and closer security”.

Categories
World News

Italy’s pandemic plan ‘old and inadequate’, Covid report finds – The Guardian

A severely outdated pandemic plan could have contributed to thousands of Covid-19 deaths in Italy, according to a report set to be presented to prosecutors investigating alleged errors by Italian authorities.

Italy had only “an old and inadequate plan” that “makes no mention of scenarios and planning assumptions”, according to the 65-page report compiled by the retired army general Pier Paolo Lunelli, and seen by the Guardian.

Lunelli estimated that as many as 10,000 of Italy’s over 35,000 deaths may have been attributed to the lack of sufficient anti-pandemic protocols.

Italian authorities allegedly failed to update the country’s pandemic plan in 2017, when the World Health Organization (WHO) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) established new guidelines.

A “Flu pandemic plan” published on the Italian health ministry’s website shows it was last updated on 15 December 2016. However, the document’s properties on Abode Acrobat Reader show it was created in January 2006.

“When you change a document, you should also change the title,” Lunelli, a specialist in NBC warfare and planning operations, told the Guardian. “It could be correct that Italy may not have updated its plan since 2006.”

Italy graphic

In his report, Lunelli compared Italy’s plan with those of other European countries.

“We’re not the only ones with an old plan,” he said. “The difference was that we were the first European country to be hit by the virus, whereas others had time to plan.”

The UK had an “exemplary” anti-pandemic plan and should have been able to contain the virus even better than Germany. The UK was considered to be one of the world’s leaders in pandemic planning, rated last year as second in the world after the US by the Global Health Security Index for its biological security strategy, published in 2018. But as with the US, it has been criticised for the gap between theory and action.

Britain found itself at the back of the global queue for essential pandemic-fighting equipment, including masks and other protective equipment for health staff and carers and vital chemicals for tests. The House of Commons public accounts committee also expressed astonishment last month that there was no planning for the impact on the economy.

“I have to say that the UK was in the best situation, but performed the worst,” Lunelli said.

Italy was the first European country to be hit by the coronavirus pandemic in late February, when the country scrambled to quarantine 10 towns in the Lombardy region and one in Veneto after the first local transmission was confirmed.

A national quarantine was enforced on 9 March as the death and infection toll climbed rapidly and hospitals became overwhelmed. The majority of Italy’s Covid-19 deaths have been in Lombardy, where an investigation driven by NOI Denunceremo, a group set up by relatives of the dead, is under way into possible criminal negligence by authorities.

As a result of Lunelli’s report, the group, which has already submitted over 150 legal complaints to prosecutors, will also file a complaint against all of Italy’s prime ministers and health ministers since 2013 for failing to update the pandemic plan.

Lunelli, who said he would be willing to face a prosecutor, wrote in his report that the lack of an effective plan had serious consequences on the number of victims and the economy.

“Coping with a pandemic without good plans, with insufficient intensive care skills and a scarce stock of health protection devices, is like finding yourself driving a bus on a mountain road in the middle of a sudden and heavy snowfall without snow chains,” he wrote.

“Unfortunately, the Italian bus ended up off the road with serious consequences in terms of direct and indirect victims as well as the economic downfall of some regions that mostly contribute to the national GDP.”

On 13 May, the WHO published an independent narrative report, examining what happened at the beginning of the pandemic in Italy. The objective was to help other countries avoid the sort of disaster that occurred in Lombardy. It was called: “An unprecedented challenge; Italy’s first response to Covid-19”.

But the following day, the report was taken down from the WHO website and references to it were deleted, at the request, the Guardian understands, of Dr Ranieri Guerra, WHO’s assistant director-general for strategic initiatives.

The report, prepared by the Covid-19 Emergency Team at the WHO European Office for Investment for Health and Development in Venice, stated that Italy’s pandemic plan dated to 2006, in the aftermath of Sars, and was later “reconfirmed”.

Dr Guerra has been the director general for preventive health at the Italian ministry of health and chief medical officer of Italy since 2014 – in charge of the office that was responsible for any updating.

“Italy was not totally unprepared for an epidemic when the first news bulletins came from China,” said the deleted report. “In 2006, after the first severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) epidemic, the Italian ministry of health and regions approved a national pandemic influenza preparedness and response plan, reconfirmed in 2017, with guidelines for regional plans.”

Guerra declined to speak to the Guardian when contacted on Wednesday.

Categories
World News

US calls for shower rules to be eased after Trump hair complaints – BBC News

US President Donald Trump boards Air Force One on a windy day in Maryland in 2018 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Trump said his hair had to be “perfect”

The US government has proposed changing the definition of a showerhead to allow increased water flow, following complaints from President Donald Trump about his hair routine.

Under a 1992 law, showerheads in the US are not allowed to produce more than 2.5 gallons (9.5l) of water per minute.

The Trump administration wants this limit to apply to each nozzle, rather than the overall fixture.

Consumer and conservation groups argue that it is wasteful and unnecessary.

The changes were proposed by the Department of Energy on Wednesday following complaints by Mr Trump at the White House last month.

“So showerheads – you take a shower, the water doesn’t come out. You want to wash your hands, the water doesn’t come out. So what do you do? You just stand there longer or you take a shower longer? Because my hair – I don’t know about you, but it has to be perfect. Perfect,” he said.

Andrew deLaski, executive director of the energy conservation group Appliance Standards Awareness Project, said the proposal was “silly”.

With four or five or more nozzles, “you could have 10, 15 gallons per minute powering out of the showerhead, literally probably washing you out of the bathroom,” he told the Associated Press news agency.

“If the president needs help finding a good shower, we can point him to some great consumer websites that help you identify a good showerhead that provides a dense soak and a good shower,” he added.

David Friedman, vice president of advocacy at the organisation Consumer Reports, said showerheads in the US already “achieve high levels of customer satisfaction”, while saving people money.

The proposal could face court battles if it advances, Reuters news agency reports.

You might also be interested in:

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionThe day reporter Keith Naughton checked out Donald Trump’s hair
Categories
World News

China launches ‘Clean Plate’ campaign against food waste – BBC News

Asian steamed buns Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Chinese President Xi stressed the need to maintain a sense of ‘crisis’ around food

China has stepped up measures to reduce food waste, after President Xi Jinping called the amount wasted “shocking and distressing”.

The “Clean Plate Campaign” comes after Mr Xi highlighted that Covid-19 had “sounded the alarm” on food waste.

He added that China had to “maintain a sense of crisis about food security”.

It also comes after weeks of mass flooding across southern China which left farms wrecked and ruined tons of produce.

Chinese state news agency the Global Times sought to downplay what it called “media hype” that China was headed for a food crisis, made worse by the epidemic.

State TV also criticised livestreamers who filmed themselves eating large amounts of food.

Following Mr Xi’s message, the Wuhan Catering Industry Association urged restaurants in the city to limit the number of dishes served to diners – implementing a system where groups must order one dish less than the number of diners.

So under this system dubbed “N-1”, a group of 10 people can only order 9 dishes.

But it’s likely the system will take time to get adjusting to, in a country where it is seen as polite to order more than the amount needed.

In a group setting, empty plates are sometimes seen as a sign of a bad host – signifying that an insufficient amount of food was ordered for guests.

The “N-1” idea faced some criticism online, with some pointing out that it was “too rigid”.

“What if one person goes to a restaurant alone? How many dishes can he order? Zero?” asked one person on microblogging site Weibo.

Others said that most restaurant diners did not normally waste much food, pointing instead to extravagant banquets thrown by officials.

Chinese state agency CCTV also called out livestreamers who typically film themselves eating large amounts of food.

Known commonly as “Mukbang” – such livestreams are popular in many parts of Asia including China.

According to CCTV, some of these livestreamers throw up afterwards as they are unable to digest the large amounts of food eaten.

It’s not the first time China has launched an anti food waste campaign. In 2013, the “Operation Empty Plate” campaign was launched – though that targeted extravagant feasts and reception held by officials, rather than putting the onus on the public.

According to WWF China, around 17 to 18 million tonnes of food went to waste in China in 2015.

Years of effort to reduce waste

Kerry Allen, China media analyst

President Xi is portraying the “clean waste campaign” as a move to help the international community during the pandemic, but in reality China has for years had ambitions to cut the waste generated by its 1.4bn citizens.

The amount of food China wastes is enough to feed 30 to 50 million people annually. So aggressive tactics have been necessary to reshape the way people think about their consumption habits.

In July 2019, the city of Shanghai – the largest and most populous in the world – introduced strict regulations forcing individuals and companies correctly recycle their food waste. Citizens faced fines as punishment for not complying, or penalties to their social credit rating – a controversial system affecting economic and social prospects.

The Shanghai model has since been rolled out to other cities.

China is also facing a growing obesity problem. In 2016, the country overtook the US to have the greatest number of obese people in the world. And as China’s labour market has shrunk – one of many negative impacts of the now-abolished one child policy – longer studying and working hours, as well as bad eating habits, have fueled weight gains.

Categories
World News

Belarus election: Second Belarus protester dies as UN sounds alarm – BBC News

Police detain a man in Minsk, Belarus. Photo: 12 August 2020 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Belarusian police have been accused of using violence against protesters

A protester has died in Belarus in police custody, the second death since clashes with police erupted on Sunday over a disputed presidential election.

Officials say the cause of death of the 25-year-old man in Gomel is unclear. His mother says he had heart problems and was kept for hours in a police van.

In Brest, police said they used live bullets when they came under attack.

The UN has condemned the use of violence by authorities, as protests continued for a fourth night.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said police officers were reported to have used excessive force, firing rubber bullets and water cannons, and also throwing stun grenades.

“Reports suggest that more [than] approximately 6,000 people have been detained in the last three days, including bystanders, as well as minors, suggesting a trend of massive arrests in clear violation of international human rights standards,” Ms Bachelet said in a statement.

“Even more disturbing are the reports of ill-treatment during and after detention”, she added, calling for the release of all those unlawfully detained.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionA BBC team in Minsk encountered violent scenes on Monday night

At least 200 protesters have been wounded, some seriously. A BBC crew was also attacked by police on Tuesday evening.

The Belarusian interior ministry had previously said one demonstrator died when an explosive device went off in his hand in the capital Minsk on Monday.

On Wednesday evening, more clashes were reported as protesters were again rallying in Minsk and other Belarusian cities. The numbers on the streets appear to be smaller that during previous nights.

The protests erupted hours after Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, in power since 1994, was declared the winner of Sunday’s vote, which has been condemned by the EU as “neither free nor fair”.

The main opposition contender, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, was then briefly held before fleeing to neighbouring Lithuania.

What is known about the protester’s death in Gomel?

The 25-year-old man died on Wednesday in the south-eastern city, the Belarusian Investigative Committee was quoted as saying by Belta’s news agency.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Women in Minsk rallied on Wednesday in support of detained protesters

The committee said the man had been arrested on Sunday and later sentenced to 10 days in prison for taking part in an illegal protest.

He was taken to hospital when he started feeling unwell – but later died, the committee said. The incident is being investigated.

The protester’s mother told by Radio Free Europe that her son had not taken part in any protests and was arrested as he was going to see his girlfriend.

How has the world reacted?

Mr Lukashenko won 80% of Sunday’s vote, according to election officials, but there were widespread allegations of vote rigging.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Belarusians had shown “the desire for democratic change” in the election campaign.

Sweden’s foreign minister said EU foreign ministers would meet on Friday to discuss imposing sanctions on Belarus.

Lithuania, Poland and Latvia said they were prepared to mediate, provided Belarusian authorities stopped violence against protesters, release detained demonstrators and form a national council with members of civil society. They warned that the alternative was sanctions.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Alexander Lukashenko has been in power since 1994

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo agreed the vote “was not free and fair”, adding that the people “should be given the freedoms that they are demanding”.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier congratulated Mr Lukashenko on his victory, despite friction over accusations of a Russian plot which Mr Lukashenko has tried to link to the opposition.

The leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Moldova and Azerbaijan have sent messages of support.

What has happened to the opposition?

When Ms Tikhanovskaya, 37, went to the electoral committee on Monday evening to complain about the results that gave her just 10% of the vote, she was detained for seven hours. By Tuesday morning she had arrived in Lithuania.

She was a stay-at-home mother until she entered the race after her husband was arrested and blocked from registering for the vote.

She was one of three women who pooled their resources to spearhead the opposition. Veronika Tsepkalo fled Belarus on the day of the vote and Maria Kolesnikova remains in Belarus.

According to an associate, Ms Tikhanovskaya had been escorted from the country by the authorities as part of a deal to allow the release of her campaign manager.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionSvetlana Tikhanovskaya: “Not one life is worth what is happening now”

A second video later emerged that appeared to have been made during her detention. The images show her, head lowered, reading nervously from a script as she urges her supporters to “obey the law” and stay away from street protests.

Ahead of Sunday’s election, crowds flocked to opposition rallies, with Belarusians angered in part by the Lukashenko government’s response to coronavirus.

The president has downplayed the outbreak, advising citizens to drink vodka and use saunas to fight the disease.

Categories
World News

Belarus election: Second protester dies as UN sounds alarm – BBC News

Police detain a man in Minsk, Belarus. Photo: 12 August 2020 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Belarusian police have been accused of using violence against protesters

A protester has died in Belarus in police custody, the second death since clashes with police erupted on Sunday over a disputed presidential election.

Officials say the cause of death of the 25-year-old man in Gomel is unclear. His mother says he had heart problems and was kept for hours in a police van.

In Brest, police said they used live bullets when they came under attack.

The UN has condemned the use of violence by authorities, as protests continued for a fourth night.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said police officers were reported to have used excessive force, firing rubber bullets and water cannons, and also throwing stun grenades.

“Reports suggest that more [than] approximately 6,000 people have been detained in the last three days, including bystanders, as well as minors, suggesting a trend of massive arrests in clear violation of international human rights standards,” Ms Bachelet said in a statement.

“Even more disturbing are the reports of ill-treatment during and after detention”, she added, calling for the release of all those unlawfully detained. State TV has shown some bruised detainees lined up and being asked if they intend to continue “making revolution”.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionA BBC team in Minsk encountered violent scenes on Monday night

At least 200 protesters have been wounded, some seriously. A BBC crew was also attacked by police on Tuesday evening.

A demonstrator died during a protest in the capital Minsk on Monday. The Belarusian interior ministry alleged an explosive device had gone off in his hand.

On Wednesday evening, more clashes were reported as protesters rallied again in Minsk and other Belarusian cities. The numbers on the streets appeared to be smaller that during previous nights.

The protests erupted hours after Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, in power since 1994, was declared the winner of Sunday’s vote, which has been condemned by the EU as “neither free nor fair”.

The main opposition contender, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, was then briefly held before fleeing to neighbouring Lithuania.

What is known about the protester’s death in Gomel?

The 25-year-old man died on Wednesday in the south-eastern city, the Belarusian Investigative Committee was quoted as saying by Belta news agency.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Women in Minsk rallied on Wednesday in support of detained protesters

The committee said the man had been arrested on Sunday and later sentenced to 10 days in prison for taking part in an illegal protest.

He was taken to hospital when he started feeling unwell – but later died, the committee said. The incident is being investigated.

The protester’s mother told Radio Free Europe that her son had not taken part in any protests and was arrested as he was going to see his girlfriend.

How has the world reacted?

Mr Lukashenko won 80% of Sunday’s vote, according to election officials, but there were widespread allegations of vote rigging.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Belarusians had shown “the desire for democratic change” in the election campaign.

Sweden’s foreign minister said EU foreign ministers would meet on Friday to discuss imposing sanctions on Belarus.

Lithuania, Poland and Latvia said they were prepared to mediate, provided Belarusian authorities stopped violence against protesters, release detained demonstrators and form a national council with members of civil society. They warned that the alternative was sanctions.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Alexander Lukashenko has been in power since 1994

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo agreed the vote “was not free and fair”, adding that the people “should be given the freedoms that they are demanding”.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier congratulated Mr Lukashenko on his victory, despite friction over accusations of a Russian plot which Mr Lukashenko has tried to link to the opposition.

The leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Moldova and Azerbaijan have sent messages of support.

What has happened to the opposition?

When Ms Tikhanovskaya, 37, went to the electoral committee on Monday evening to complain about the results that gave her just 10% of the vote, she was detained for seven hours. By Tuesday morning she had arrived in Lithuania.

She was a stay-at-home mother until she entered the race after her husband was arrested and blocked from registering for the vote.

She was one of three women who pooled their resources to spearhead the opposition. Veronika Tsepkalo fled Belarus on the day of the vote and Maria Kolesnikova remains in Belarus.

According to an associate, Ms Tikhanovskaya had been escorted from the country by the authorities as part of a deal to allow the release of her campaign manager.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionSvetlana Tikhanovskaya: “Not one life is worth what is happening now”

A second video later emerged that appeared to have been made during her detention. The images show her, head lowered, reading nervously from a script as she urges her supporters to “obey the law” and stay away from street protests.

Ahead of Sunday’s election, crowds flocked to opposition rallies, with Belarusians angered in part by the Lukashenko government’s response to coronavirus.

The president has downplayed the outbreak, advising citizens to drink vodka and use saunas to fight the disease.

Categories
World News

Why the Mauritius oil spill is so serious – BBC News

Why did the ship run aground towards a lagoon is not clear yet Image copyright Greenpeace

The amount of oil spilled from the Japanese-owned ship nearby the lagoons and coastal areas of south-east Mauritius is relatively low compared to the big oil spills the world has seen in the past, but the damage it will do is going to be huge, experts say.

Unlike most previous offshore spills, this has taken place near two environmentally protected marine ecosystems and the Blue Bay Marine Park reserve, which is a wetland of international importance.

So, it’s the location rather than the size of the spill which is causing greatest concern about its potentially serious environmental impact.

The stunning turquoise waters of the blue lagoon outside the coastal village of Mahébourg in Mauritius, the backdrop for numerous Bollywood movies, are now stained black and brown.

The ship, MV Wakashio, ran aground at Pointe d’Esny in late July, and oil began leaking from it last Thursday. Satellite images show the oil spill stretched out between the mainland at Pointe D’Esny and the island of Ile-aux-Aigrettes.

Image copyright EUROPEAN UNION, COPERNICUS

It is thought that more than 1,000 tonnes of fuel have leaked out of the ship and into the lagoon. A huge clean-up operation has been launched from the shore with many local people volunteering to help.

On 7 August, nearly two weeks after the shipwreck, the Mauritian government declared the incident a national emergency.

Biodiversity hotspot

Mauritius is a biodiversity hotspot with a high concentration of plants and animals unique to the region.

“The wind and the water currents are not helping, they are taking the oil towards the areas that have vital marine ecosystems,” Sunil Mokshananda, a former Greenpeace strategist, who is on an island near the oil-spill site, told the BBC.

The Mauritian marine environment is home to 1,700 species including around 800 types of fish, 17 kinds of marine mammals and two species of turtles, according to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

Coral reefs, seagrasses and mangroves make Mauritian waters extraordinarily rich in biodiversity.

“There are very few such marine areas with such rich biodiversity left on the planet. An oil spill like this will impact almost everything there,” said Dr Corina Ciocan, a senior lecturer in marine biology at the UK’s University of Brighton.

“It is not just about the light oil slick you see on the surface of the water caused by the spill.

“There will also be soluble compounds from the oil that will dissolve in the water, a mousse-like layer underneath the surface of the water, and then very heavy residues on the bed – so the entire marine ecosystem will be affected.”

Image copyright Greenpeace
Image caption Some of the coral reefs have already been contaminated by the oil spill

The ship, MV Wakashio, is believed to have been carrying around 4,000 tonnes of fuel, of which nearly 1,200 tonnes have already spilled, according to the operator Mitsui OSK Lines.

Despite bad weather, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth said all the oil has now been removed from the ship’s fuel reservoirs, although a small amount remains on board elsewhere. There had been fears that the ship could break up, spilling even more oil into the sea.

Fuel has been transferred to shore by helicopter and to another ship owned by the same Japanese firm, Nagashiki Shipping.

Why the ship came so close to the lagoon is not clear and is being investigated by police.

At a news conference, Akihiko Ono, executive vice-president of Mitsui OSK Lines “profusely” apologised for the spill and for “the great trouble we have caused”.

Coral-bleaching

One of the major concerns has been for coral reefs in the lagoon – which are sometimes called the rainforests of the sea – because of the diversity of life found in them.

Around 25% of fish in the ocean depend on healthy coral reefs, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the US.

They protect coastlines from storms and erosion. Coral reefs and the marine ecosystems are the major pillars of Mauritian tourism which is a big part of the country’s economy.

Image copyright Sunil Mokshanand
Image caption Local communities have been helping to clean up the oil spill

“The toxic hydrocarbons released from spilled oil will bleach the coral reefs and they will eventually die,” said Professor Richard Steiner, an international oil spill adviser and a marine biologist in Alaska, US.

Last year Professor Steiner helped the government of the Solomon Islands when a ship spilled oil on the coral reef off its coast:

“Although the oil spill wasn’t large – just a few hundred tonnes of oil – the damage to the coral reefs there have been massive.”

Impact of past oil spills

Although previous oil spills around the world have not been in as environmentally sensitive areas, they have still significantly affected marine animals and plants.

In 2010, the Deep Water Horizon incident off the Gulf of Mexico saw nearly 400,000 tonnes of oil spill, resulting in the death of thousands of species ranging from plankton to dolphins.

There were also other longer-term impacts on marine life including impaired reproduction, reduced growth, lesions and disease.

“Researchers found skin lesions on red snapper from the northern Gulf in the months after the spill, but the lesions became less frequent and severe by 2012,” wrote Dr Steven Murawski, marine ecologist at the University of South Florida, and Sherry Gilbert, assistant director of the university’s C-IMAGE Consortium in the journal The Conversation.

Image copyright Sunil Mokshanand
Image caption Mangroves that are vital for marine ecosystems are also contaminated by the oil spill

“There is other evidence of ongoing and increasing exposures to hydrocarbons over time in economically and environmentally important species like golden tilefish, grouper and hake.”

In 1978, a large crude oil carrier ran aground off the coast of Brittany, France, which leaked nearly 70 million gallons of oil into the sea.

Around 200 miles of the French coast were polluted by the oil slick, and it killed millions of invertebrates, such as molluscs and crustaceans. The spill also killed an estimated 20,000 birds, and contaminated oyster beds in the region.

Experts say that despite best efforts, generally less than 10% of oil spilled in incidents like these is successfully cleaned up.

France has sent a military aircraft with pollution control equipment from its nearby island of Réunion to help with the Mauritian spill, while Japan has sent a six-member team to assist the French efforts. The Mauritius coast guard and several police units are also at the site in the south-east of the island.

“The Mauritian government should do the environmental impact assessment as soon as they can,” said Professor Steiner.

“The impact is likely to remain for years.”