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Russian court bans Alexey Navalny groups, labels them ‘extremist’

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Russian court bans Alexey Navalny groups, labels them ‘extremist’. A Russian court has outlawed the organizations founded by Alexey Navalny by labeling them “extremist”, a move criticized by the opposition leader’s supporters as part of a campaign to gag President Vladimir Putin’s opponents months before parliamentary elections.

The Moscow City Court’s decision on Wednesday, effective immediately, prevents people associated with Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption (FBK) and his network of regional offices across Russia from seeking public office.

The label also implies that activists who have worked with the organizations, anyone who donated to them, and even those who essentially shared the groups’ materials could be prosecuted and receive lengthy prison terms.

“It was tracked down that these organizations not only disseminated information that incited hatred and enmity against government officials, but also committed extremist actions,” Alexei Zhafyarov, a spokesman for the prosecutors who had filed the motion, said outside the court.

Russia’s list of “extremist organizations” currently consists of more than 30 entities, including the ISIS armed group, al-Qaeda and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

‘Final blow’

Navalny, Putin’s most prominent rival, was arrested in January upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin – an accusation that Russian officials reject.

In February, the 44-year-old opposition leader was given a prison term of two and a half years for violating the terms of a suspended sentence from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that he dismissed as politically motivated.

Michael Turner reported from Moscow, said the court delivered its decision after a “mammoth” session that went on for almost 13 hours and stretched into Wednesday evening.

He said the decision “effectively” dealt “the final blow for Navalny’s political organization that he spent years building up to try and counter Putin”.

In recent years, the FBK has pressured the Kremlin by publishing investigations into high-level corruption among the political elite. Such probes have thus spurred massive street demonstrations.

Smith said Putin “remains popular” in the run-up to the September 19 elections, but there were concerns his United Russia party would lose seats.

“This is another attempt to head off any threat to them and cut off vocal opposition”, he said of the decision, noting that those effectively leading the opposition to Putin were now either in jail, in exile or facing charges.

“So in every turn, people who previously have been able to speak out in Russia against Putin and the decision party have been silenced.”

US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price condemned the proceed onward Wednesday, saying it “further restricts the ability of opposition candidates to appear on the ballot in the September Duma elections”.

“Russia has effectively criminalized one of the country’s couple of remaining independent political movements,” Price said.

The court session was held behind closed entryways on the grounds that classified materials would be discussed. The judge rejected a defense appeal to allow Navalny to take part through a video connect from prison and dismissed other motions by the defense.

According to the prosecutor, pro-Navalny groups were plotting to destabilize the political situation in Russia and working to promote a popular revolution.

Yevgeny Smirnov, one of Navalny’s lawyers, said during the consultation that the prosecutors’ motion was intended to bar Navalny’s associates from running for public office.

“This case has been linked to the law that bans all those who are connected with the Foundation for Fighting Corruption from getting elected,” Smirnov said.

Navalny’s offices in many Russian regions already shut down in April after the prosecutors issued an injunction to suspend their activities pending the court’s decision, but the opposition leader’s associates have pledged to continue their work in different formats.

His foundation, started 10 years ago, has relentlessly targeted senior government officials with colorful and widely watched videos that detail corruption allegations against them.

One of its latest productions, which has received 117 million perspectives on YouTube, claimed that a rich palace on the shores of the Black Sea was built for Putin through an elaborate corruption plot. The Kremlin has denied any connects to Putin.

Navalny also has relied on his offices across Russia to organize anti-Kremlin protests and implement his Smart Voting strategy — a project to support the candidates most liable to defeat those from the Kremlin’s dominant United Russia party in various elections.

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With 9,056 fresh infections, Moscow Covid cases soar to pandemic high

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New coronavirus infections hit a pandemic high in Moscow on Monday, tripling in just weeks and forcing Russia’s capital to close its Euro fan zone and extend other curbs.

Some 9,056 new cases were recorded in the megapolis of 12 million in the past 24 hours, up from 3,000 fourteen days ago and another every day record since the Covid-19 pandemic began in mid 2020, according to official statistics.

Faced with the spike, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, who has been rolling out restrictions for almost seven days, said that the city would limit gatherings and close the Euro 2020 fan zone outside of the Luzhniki stadium.

“I didn’t want to do this, but we have to,” Sergei Sobyanin wrote on his website.

“Starting today, we will limit mass events to a maximum of 1,000 people.”

“We are temporarily stopping all mass entertainment events and we’ll also have to close ballrooms and fan zones,” he wrote.

The move came a day after he warned that the city was facing another wave of infections, likely because of new Covid variants.

“It’s tripling, there’s an enormous powerful that we have not seen during the previous waves,” he said, adding that cases jumped from 3,000 to 7,000 in just days and predicting they would pass the 9,000 mark on Friday.

Over the past week, the mayor has introduced a progression of new restrictions in an effort to contain the wave of infections, including declaring a “work-free” week, shutting settings, and ordering mandatory vaccinations of people working in the service industry in the city.

Also on Friday, Sobyanin extended until June 29 a few measures that were announced last weekend, similar to the closure of food corridors in shopping centers, zoos, playgrounds, and the closure of bars and restaurants between 11:00 pm and 6:00 am.

Curbs tightened in Euro host St Pete –

Russia’s second city of Saint Petersburg, the country’s worst Covid hotspot after Moscow, is hosting seven Euro 2020 matches – including a quarter-final – and is expected to see thousands of football fans from Europe.

On Monday, Saint Petersburg also announced a tightening of restrictions, including no food deals in its fan zones.

The increase in cases in Russia comes as the country struggles to encourage Russians to get vaccinated, despite the fact that the country launched a mass campaign of free jabs in December and has developed and approved four vaccines – Sputnik V, EpiVacCorona, CoviVac and the one-portion Sputnik Light.

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Chinese, Indian workers among 11 killed in Nepal floods; 25 missing

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Landslides and flash floods triggered by heavy downpour across Nepal this week killed 11 people including one Indian and two Chinese workers at a development project, while 25 people were missing elsewhere, officials said on Friday.

The bodies of the three workers were recovered close to the town of Melamchi in Sindhupalchowk district, northeast of Kathmandu, which was hit by flash floods on Wednesday that also forced many people from their homes, district administrators said in a statement.

“The foreign nationals were working for a Chinese organization that is building a drinking water project,” district official Baburam Khanal told Reuters.

The Home Ministry said late on Thursday that 25 people were missing in floods in Sindhupalchowk, a mountainous district bordering the Tibet region of China, and other parts of the country.

The monsoon downpours, which normally begin in June and last until September, kill hundreds of people in mostly mountainous Nepal every year.

Heavy downpour since Tuesday have damaged roads, destroyed bridges, washed away fish ranches and livestock, and wrecked homes.

Hundreds of people have been forced to move to community shelters, including schools, sheds and tents, authorities said.

Aid agencies said the crisis this year could add to the social and economic troubles of a country hard hit by COVID-19. Nepal has been reporting among the highest coronavirus test positivity rates in the world.

“Those who have lost homes are resting in community centers,” said John Jordan of the U.S.- based charity World Neighbors.

“This forced density raises risks for a community that has been recovering from COVID-19.”

Israel to send 1 million Covid vaccine dosages to Palestinians

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Courts cannot appoint PM, says Nepal PM KP Oli as he defends dissolution of House of Representatives

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Nepal Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli on Thursday defended his government’s controversial decision to dissolve the House of Representatives and told the Supreme Court that it isn’t up to the legal executive to appoint a premier as it cannot undertake the legislative and the executive functions of the state, according to a media report.

President Bidya Devi Bhandari, at the recommendation of Prime Minister KP Oli, dissolved the House for the second time in five months on May 22 and announced snap elections on November 12 and November 19.

Prime Minister Oli is heading a minority government after losing a trust vote in the House.

In his written response to the Supreme Court, Oli said that it isn’t up to the legal executive to appoint a Prime Minister as it cannot undertake the legislative and the executive functions of the state.

The Supreme Court on June 9 issued a show-cause notice to the Office of the Prime Minister and the President’s Office to outfit a written response within 15 days.

The Apex Court received Oli’s response by means of the Office of the Attorney General on Thursday, The Himalayan Times reported.

“The Court’s duty is to interpret the Constitution and the existing laws, it cannot assume the part of the legislative or the executive bodies,” Oli said.

“Appointment of a Prime Minister is absolutely a political and an executive process,” the 69-year-old embattled leader underlined.

The Prime Minister also defended the involvement of the President in this entire issue, saying that Article 76 of the Constitution grants the sole right to appoint a Prime Minister to the President only.

“According to Article 76 (5), there is no such provision of a person acquiring or losing a vote of confidence in the House being examined by the legislative or the legal executive,” he said.

Upwards of 30 writ petitions, including by the Opposition partnership, have been filed in the Supreme Court against the dissolution of the House, which they said was “unconstitutional”.

The Supreme Court has started hearing on the case. Regular hearings on the case will resume from June 23.

Nepal plunged into a political crisis on December 20 last year after President Bhandari dissolved the House and announced fresh elections on April 30 and May 10 at the recommendation of Prime Minister Oli, amidst a tussle for power within the decision Nepal Communist Party (NCP).

In February, the pinnacle court reinstated the dissolved House of Representatives, in a setback to embattled Prime Minister Oli who was preparing for snap polls.

Oli repeatedly defended his transition to dissolve the House of Representatives, saying some leaders of his party were attempting to form a “equal government”.

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