Daily: 22/09/2022

Звільнені з російського полону британці повернулися на батьківщину – правозахисники

Двох із них так званий «суд» угруповання «ДНР» раніше засудив до страти

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«Ваших дітей навіть не ховають»: Зеленський звернувся до громадян РФ через мобілізацію

«Люди в Дагестані, в Бурятії, в інших національних республіках і областях Росії розуміють, що їх просто кинули. Кинули на смерть»

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Italy Poised to Elect First Female Leader Amid Concerns Over Neo-Fascist Roots

Italians head to the polls this Sunday to choose a new government, after the collapse of the ruling coalition led by Mario Draghi.

A right-wing party with past links to fascism looks set to win the most votes, raising concerns among allies.

Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party is leading the polls with around 25% of the vote. The 45-year-old is on course to become Italy’s first female prime minister. She has a simple campaign message.

“My greatest desire is to lift up, to lift our nation up again from decline,” Meloni told Reuters in a recent interview.


Brothers of Italy traces its roots to neo-fascism after 1945. In her teenage years, Meloni was a far-right activist who praised fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. She says she has changed.

“When the election campaign opens, the fascist alarm goes off. As you can understand, it’s quite ridiculous to retrieve videos of what I thought when I was 15, 16 or 17,” Meloni said.

Meloni has overseen a sixfold increase in support for her party since the last election.

“In part it’s about her policy platform, her socially conservative views, her economic views — which are also quite social in a way in terms of, for example, raising people’s pensions or benefits,” said analyst Luigi Scazzieri of the Centre for European Reform.

“But it’s also in large part due to her own personal appeal. And I would single out here, for example, her way of talking, which is very down to earth. It’s very effective in connecting with ordinary voters,” Scazzieri added. “Finally, she also benefits from not having been anywhere near government for the past 10 years, and so she can credibly say that she represents something new.”

That’s not true of her likely coalition partners.

Salvini, Berlusconi

Among the coalition partners is Matteo Salvini, the outspoken populist former interior minister and leader of the League Party. While in government, he oversaw a crackdown on migrants arriving on Italy’s southern shores from North Africa.

He is currently on trial on kidnapping charges stemming from an incident in 2019 in which he is accused of preventing more than 100 migrants who were rescued by a charity vessel from landing in Italian ports, which he denies. Salvini has pledged further tougher border controls if his party enters government again.

Political veteran Silvio Berlusconi, who turns 86 four days after the election, will also likely be part of the right-wing coalition as leader of the Forza Italia party. He was thrown out of office 10 years ago after a sex scandal and was stripped of his Senate seat in 2013 over a tax fraud case. He has survived major heart surgery and prostate cancer. In 2021, he nearly died from COVID-19.

On the campaign trail, all three members of the likely right-wing coalition have launched attacks on the European Union and pledged to stand up for Italy’s national interests in Brussels.

The European Union fears Italy could become a political headache, Scazzieri said. The fears are partly due to “the state of Italy’s economy — the fact that its public debt is over 150% of GDP,” he said. “There’s also concerns because of Meloni’s past in the post-fascist Italian social movement, of whether she might have a very authoritarian streak — for example, whether Italy might become more like Hungary and Poland.”

However, Scazzieri said, the EU fears may be unfounded.

“If you read the coalition program, it’s quite clear that they tried to present a very moderate face. They make very clear that this is a government that will stick to its obligations in the EU, in the euro and in NATO,” he told VOA. “The reality is that Italy can ill afford confrontation with the EU because of the relative weak state of its economy.”


In the past, the Italian far right has had close links to Moscow. However, Meloni has repeatedly stated her support for Ukraine.

“Our standing in the Western field is crystal clear, as we have demonstrated once again by condemning — without ifs and buts — Russia’s brutal aggression against Ukraine and by helping, from the opposition, to strengthen Italy’s position in European and international forums,” Meloni said in a campaign video on August 10.

For many Italians, the economy, jobs and the rising cost of living are the biggest concerns. Food banks report a sharp rise in the number of people needing help just to survive.

In Italy’s south, economic prospects have long lagged behind the richer north. Antonio Mela, a retired barman from the city of Salerno in Campania, started visiting the local soup kitchen run by the Catholic charity Caritas after the price of food increased sharply in recent months.

“I have a very small pension. I pay the rent, the electricity bill, and then I’ve got nothing left over for food. That’s the situation,” Mela told Agence France-Presse.

The centrist coalition led by former Prime Minister Enrico Letta is trailing in the polls by around 15%. The bloc insists it can still win.

The government that emerges from Sunday’s vote will be Italy’s 70th administration since 1945. Many observers say the coalition led by Meloni is already showing signs of political instability — and Italy could soon face another election.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.

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Барбра Стрейзанд долучилася до амбасадорів платформи UNITED24

«Оскільки я маю єврейське походження з українським корінням, я особливо зворушена боротьбою українців за свободу», заявила співачка

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Possible Sanction Risk Forces Turkish Banks to Act on Russian Payment System

Two private banks in Turkey suspended their use of Russian payment system Mir earlier this week following warning signals from the United States. 

The system, a rival to the Belgium-based SWIFT network, is not directly targeted by sanctions. But U.S. officials say there is a worry that Russia is expanding its use of Mir to try to evade sanctions. Experts say banks that allow the expanded use of Mir could trigger secondary sanctions. 

Reuters news agency reports the issue is expected to be discussed Friday at a meeting of top officials including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

Turkey’s largest private lender, Is Bankasi, said on Monday that it halted the use of the Russian payment system while it assessed the new guidance from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. 

Denizbank, another private lender in Turkey, said on the same day that it was no longer able to provide service for the Russian payment system Mir. Denizbank, currently owned by Emirates NBD, was controlled by Russian Sberbank until 2019.  

‘Heightened risk’ 

The decision by two banks announced within hours of each other follows additional sanctions and further guidance by the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, known as OFAC. 

Responsible for enforcing economic sanctions designated by the U.S., OFAC said in a statement earlier this month that Russia is trying to find new ways to process payments in response to crippling western financial sanctions. 

“Directly and indirectly, Russia’s financial technocrats have supported the Kremlin’s unprovoked war. Today’s designations target those efforts,” the statement said. 

Although the two Russian financial systems themselves are not currently blocked entities under the Russian Harmful Foreign Activities Sanctions Regulations, Treasury has warned banks that expanded agreements with them risk supporting Russia’s efforts to evade U.S. sanctions. 

Sanctions evasion concern 

The Mir payment system was developed by Russia in 2014 as an alternative to the rival SWIFT payments messaging service that supports payments in more than 200 countries. Mir further expanded after two credit card giants, Mastercard and Visa, blocked services to Russian financial institutions in compliance with Western sanctions. 

When asked about their reaction to the Turkish bank’s suspension, a senior administration official said in a statement to VOA that the steps these Turkish banks took “make a lot of sense.” 

“Cutting off Mir is one of the best ways to protect a bank from the sanctions risk that comes from doing business with Russia,” the senior official said Tuesday. 

U.S. officials say they expect more banks to cut off Mir, “because they don’t want to risk being on the wrong side of the coalition’s sanctions.” 

Experts speaking to VOA say the OFAC guidance aims to prevent the systems from being used to evade U.S. sanctions. 

They say the recent move by Turkey’s two banks to suspend Mir reflects their effort to avoid any possible sanctions risk as the West ramps up economic measures against Russia. 

State Department’s former coordinator for sanctions policy, Daniel Fried, who crafted U.S. sanctions against Russia following its aggression in Ukraine in 2014, told VOA that the two Turkish banks were “acting rationally in an abundance of caution.” 

Fried, who is also the former U.S. Ambassador to Poland and currently a senior fellow with the Washington-based Atlantic Council, said the OFAC guidance indicates “there is a degree of risk” for dealing with Mir. 

Timothy Ash, an emerging market analyst with London-based Bluebay Asset Management, thinks that the two banks have realized that the business might not be worth the risk of getting caught in possible secondary sanctions. 

Three other lenders in Turkey — Halkbank, Vakıf Bank and Ziraat Bank, which are all state owned — are also using Mir. 

Halkbank is already tied up in a case where U.S. prosecutors accuse the bank of evading sanctions against Iran. The case has been one of the issues straining U.S.-Turkish relations. 

“The state-owned banks will take the lead from the government,” Ash said in the comments he sent to VOA on Wednesday. “Maybe the Turkish government will just limit Mir transactions through that institution to limit broader risks and damage to the Turkish banking system.” 

Steve Hanke, professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University, who served on former President Ronald Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisors, said it’s hard to predict whether the three Turkish state banks will also drop the system. 

He told VOA that cutting off Mir completely might indirectly impede Russian visitors at a time when Turkey needs the revenue. 

System popular with Russian visitors 

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order to call-up 300,000 reservists on Wednesday has sparked an exodus of thousands from the country. 

According to Russia’s popular flight booking platform, Aviasales, direct flights from Moscow to Turkey’s Istanbul and Armenian capital Yerevan were sold out on Wednesday.

Russian payment system Mir is frequently used by Russian tourists in Turkey. 

The Moscow Times reported earlier this week that the Russian association of tour operators, ATOR, recommended Russians travel to Turkey with cash in hand due to “shrinking card payment options.” 

Pressure expected to grow 

According to a Financial Times report last week, Brussels is also preparing to express its concerns about Russian-sanctions evasion risks for Turkish officials. 

EU’s financial services commissioner, Mairead McGuinnes, is expected to visit Turkey next month. 

Former U.S. sanctions coordinator Fried predicts the United States is going to devote a lot of sources to “drying up the channels of Russians.” 

“I think the pressure from the U.S. to go after sanctions evaders will grow. The countries in Central Asia and South Caucuses will start to pay more attention to what their banks are doing to avoid falling afoul of sanctions,” he told VOA. 

This story originated in VOA’s Turkish Service. 

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У розвідці пояснили, кому в Росії був вигідний обмін Медведчука

«Це особа, через яку напряму йшло фінансування багатьох агентурних мереж»

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Казахстан готовий надавати росіянам посвідки на проживання, але на певних умовах – спікер сенату

«Якщо держава не дає дозволу залишити країну, то Казахстан не може дати посвідку на проживання»

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Лубінець про питання до МКЧХ: жоден із звільнених вчора військовополонених не бачив представника організації

«Жоден із військовополонених, яких ми вчора звільнили, не бачив представника МКЧХ. Це порушення», – вважає Дмитро Лубінець

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Women in Turkey Protest Iranian Woman’s Death

A group of Iranians living in Istanbul and Turkish citizens gathered Wednesday in front of the Iranian Consulate in Istanbul to protest the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody in Tehran.

Istanbul police, who on Tuesday repeatedly dispersed groups that gathered in Taksim Square, watched the action from afar.

During the demonstration, at least three women cut their hair to protest the treatment of Amini, who was detained by Iran’s morality police because she didn’t wear her headscarf correctly and therefore her hair was showing.  She later died while in custody.

Protesters shouted slogans in Persian, Turkish and Kurdish. The Turkish chants included, “We do not keep silent, we do not fear, we do not obey,” and “My body, my decision.”

The Persian and Kurdish slogans included, “Women live freely” and “We do not want a mullah regime.”

Banners carried by the group of about 300 people included harsh criticism against Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and the Iranian regime.

Mahdi Sağlar, one of the Iranians who participated in the protest, has been living and working in Turkey for 20 years.

“They beat a girl to death because her hair was showing,” Sağlar told VOA Turkish. “Their own children dress as they want in Europe and America, they behave as they want, but in Iran, they arrested her because her hair is out, and they killed her by causing a brain hemorrhage with a blow to the brain at the police station. We are here to protest this. Our citizens in Iran are protesting here on the street as well.”

Gelare Abdi, another Iranian protester, said that although she loves her homeland very much, she can’t live in her country due to heavy pressure.

“I need freedom,” she said. “But I have no freedom in Iran. I have been here in Turkey for two years out of necessity. … They killed Mahsa because her hair was showing a small forelock. She was just 22 years old. I am also a woman and I want freedom.”

This story originated with VOA’s Turkish Service.

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US City Rushes to Help Sister City in Southwestern Ukraine

Chrystia Sonevytsky of Arlington, Virginia, says she has always felt a connection with Ukraine, where her roots are. She successfully advocated for a sister city agreement between Arlington and Ivano-Frankivsk in southwestern Ukraine, and the two forged a partnership in 2011. When Russia invaded Ukraine, Arlington was quick to offer help. Maxim Moskalkov has the story. VOA footage by David Gogokhia.

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Уряди Киргизстану й Узбекистану попереджають своїх громадян про наслідки приєднання до військ РФ

Зокрема, їм може загрожувати до 10 років ув’язнення

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КНДР про постачання зброї Росії: «чутки», поширені «ворожими силами»

«Ми ніколи раніше не експортували зброю чи боєприпаси до Росії, і ми не плануємо їх експортувати»

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Зеленський на засіданні Генасамблеї ООН назвав п’ять передумов миру

«Це формула злочину і покарання, що вже добре відомо Росії. І це формула справедливості й правопорядку, що Росії ще належить вивчити»

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Генпрокурор про обмін Медведчука: розслідування щодо нього завершене, свідчення задокументовані

«Ми нікого не випускаємо на свободу, а передаємо з української тюрми у велику тюрму, яка називається Росія»

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EU Pledges Military Support for Ukraine, Considers New Russian Sanctions

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said EU foreign ministers have agreed to continue and increase their military support for Ukraine and to study a new package of sanctions targeting Russian individuals and certain sectors of the Russian economy.

Borrell told reporters late Wednesday after convening a special ministerial meeting in New York that the details of the sanctions package still need to be determined by EU representatives, but that he is sure there will be unanimous support.

He said it was important for the ministers to meet and send a “powerful message” on the same day that Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the partial mobilization of his country’s military reserves, and that Putin is “trying to destroy Ukraine.”

Borrell said that in addition to “the immense suffering brought by the Russian aggression upon the Ukrainian people, Russia has chosen to further extend the cost of war also for their own Russian population.”

He said Putin’s apparent reference to Russia’s willingness to use nuclear weapons if necessary to protect itself represented “an irresponsible and cynical attempt to undermine our steadfast support to Ukraine.”

“These threats jeopardize in an unprecedented scale international peace and security,” Borrell said.  “But they will not shake our determination.  They will not shake our resolve, our unity to stand by Ukraine and our comprehensive support to Ukraine’s ability to defend its territorial integrity and sovereignty as long as it takes.”

Putin said in a televised address Wednesday the mobilization of reserves, which followed Ukrainian gains in a counteroffensive in northeastern Ukraine, is necessary to protect Russia’s homeland and sovereignty.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the military would be calling up 300,000 reservists.

Putin said the West is trying to weaken and destroy Russia, and that his country will “use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people.”

“In its aggressive anti-Russian policy, the West has crossed every line,” he said. “This is not a bluff. And those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the weathervane can turn and point towards them.”

Putin also reiterated Russia’s goal in its now seven-month-old invasion of Ukraine is to “liberate” Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, saying the people there do not want to be part of Ukraine.

The separatist leaders of the Moscow-controlled Luhansk and Donetsk regions in the Donbas said Tuesday they are planning to hold votes starting Friday for the territories to declare themselves as part of Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dismissed what he called “Russia’s attempts to stage new sham referenda.”

“The situation on the front line clearly indicates that the initiative belongs to Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Tuesday. “Our positions do not change because of the noise or any announcements somewhere. And we enjoy the full support of our partners in this.”

Since early September, Kyiv’s forces have swiftly recaptured large swaths of land in the Kharkiv region of northeast Ukraine that Russian troops took over in the early weeks of the war. The Russian-occupied Kherson region of southern Ukraine and the partly occupied Zaporizhzhia region are also voting on becoming part of Russia.

Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters. 

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North Korea Denies Selling Weapons to Russia

North Korea on Thursday denied sending weapons to Russia, accusing the United States of spreading rumors about such a sale to tarnish Pyongyang’s image.

U.S. officials earlier this month said Russia was in the process of “purchasing millions of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea for use on the battlefield in Ukraine.”

In a statement posted in the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), a North Korean defense ministry official rejected the U.S. accusation.

“We have never exported weapons or ammunition to Russia before and we will not plan to export them,” said the vice director general of the North Korean defense ministry’s General Bureau of Equipment, according to KCNA.

“We warn the U.S. to stop making reckless remarks pulling up the DPRK and to keep its mouth shut,” he added, using an abbreviation for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Earlier this month, a senior Russian diplomat also rejected the allegation as fake.

U.S. officials did not provide any evidence of the arms sale and did not confirm whether the transaction was ever completed. However, many Western analysts said such a transaction would make sense.

Not only does Russia likely need to replenish its reserve weapons stockpiles following six months of fighting, Moscow is also searching for more international support for its invasion of Ukraine.

According to U.S. officials, Russia’s alleged weapons purchase indicates Moscow suffers from severe supply shortages because of international sanctions put in place following Russia’s invasion.

Russia is also struggling to hold territory, after Western-backed Ukrainian forces launched a counter-offensive earlier this month.

Over the past several months, Russia has touted closer ties with North Korea.

Earlier this month, Russian state media reported that Moscow-backed separatists in Ukraine are in negotiations to bring North Korean builders to the “Donetsk People’s Republic.”

Such a deal would violate United Nations Security Council resolutions related to hiring North Korean workers overseas. U.N. sanctions also prohibit the export of North Korean weapons. The sanctions were passed in response to North Korea’s development of a nuclear weapons program.

If Russia were to move ahead with either the weapons or labor deal, it would likely reflect a major shift in Moscow’s approach to North Korea sanctions, signaling an effective end to the U.N. sanctions regime against Pyongyang, analysts have warned.

In its statement Thursday, North Korea’s defense ministry reiterated that Pyongyang does not acknowledge the U.N. resolutions. Every country, it said, has the right to develop and export its own weapons.   

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П’ятеро звільнених з полону командирів «Азову» до кінця війни будуть під протекцією Ердогана – президент

В ОПУ кажуть, що процес звільнення командирів «Азову» був дуже складним. І цих п’ятьох військових було звільнено через обмін на 55 російських полонених

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Мобілізація в Росії є наслідком українських воєнних успіхів – Мілош Земан

Президент Чехії додав, що його країна мала б збільшити свою допомогу Україні у відповідь на такі заяви Путіна

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Зеленський: звільнені з полону іноземці повернуться додому за посередництва Саудівської Аравії

Ввечері 21 вересня агенція Reuters повідомила, що влада Росії звільнила десятьох полонених іноземців, щодо частини з яких уже винесли так звані вироки у псевдосудах угруповання «ДНР»

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Biden Condemns Russia’s War Before UN as Putin Escalates Threats

US President Joe Biden called out Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations as the Russian president significantly escalated war efforts and threatened nuclear retaliation. White House Correspondent Anita Powell, who is traveling with Biden, reports from New York.

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