Chinese President Xi swears in new Hong Kong leader

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Chinese President Xi Jinping swore in Hong Kong’s new leader on Friday in a ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the former British colony’s return to China.

Chinese President Xi swears in new Hong Kong leader

Former Hong Kong security chief John Lee was sworn in as Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Friday morning, as Hong Kong marks the 25th anniversary of its return to China.

Lee took his oath before Chinese President Xi Jinping, who oversaw the swearing-in ceremony.

“I, John Lee, swear that, in the office of Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, will uphold the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, bear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China and serve the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region conscientiously, dutifully, in full accordance with the law, honestly and with integrity, and be held accountable to the Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region,” said Lee.

The president congratulated Lee on his inauguration after the oath-taking.

Lee, who is sanctioned by the United States over his role in implementing the new national security law, takes charge at a time when the global financial hub is facing an exodus of people and talent amid some of the toughest COVID-19 restrictions in the world. Lee said in a speech that emphasizing that National Security law is beneficial for citizens.

Xi’s trip to Hong Kong is his first since 2017 when he swore in the city’s first female leader, Carrie Lam, who oversaw some of the territory’s most tumultuous times marked by anti-government protests in 2019 and the COVID epidemic.

Britain returned Hong Kong to Chinese rule on July 1, 1997, under a “one country, two systems” formula which guarantees wide-ranging autonomy and judicial independence not seen in mainland China.

Critics of the government, including Western nations, accuse authorities of trampling on those freedoms, which Beijing and Hong Kong reject.

Hong Kong residents speaking to Reuters on Friday said they felt little cause for celebration.

“So many major events have happened in Hong Kong and the city has changed, and we cannot go back. (We can’t regain) that sense of happiness. Even with (Chinese) President Xi coming, he cannot bring Hong Kong any happiness and bring about a proper sense of occasion,” said a local resident, Ivan Lam.

Another resident, 31-year-old cook Philip Fung, felt Xi’s arrival was creating an inconvenience, with a heavy police presence around barricaded roads near the Wan Chai Convention Centre, where Xi is attending the inauguration ceremony of the city’s new chief executive, John Lee.

Flags and commemorative banners declaring a “new era” of stability decorated main roads and walkways as part of the celebrations. 

Published : July 01, 2022

By : Reuters

Russia’s Putin meets his Indonesian counterpart Widodo in Moscow

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Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Thursday said he had urged G7 leaders to ensure that sanctions imposed on Russia did not affect the global supply of food and fertiliser.

Russia's Putin meets his Indonesian counterpart Widodo in Moscow

Widodo, who is the current G20 president, spoke at a news conference with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin after a meeting in Moscow on Thursday.

“I have asked for a guarantee that food from Ukraine by the sea is safe. Also, I asked G7 to guarantee, there are no obstacles in exporting food and fertilisers,” he said.

“I hope that Russia will not extend the ban on exports of grains including wheat and not impose quota restrictions on fertilisers,” he added.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has exacerbated a global food crisis, sending prices soaring for grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertiliser.

Russia and Ukraine account for nearly a third of global wheat supplies, while Russia is also a key global fertiliser exporter and Ukraine is a major exporter of corn and sunflower oil.

Since Russia invaded on February 24, Ukrainian grain shipments from its Black Sea ports have stalled and millions of tonnes of grain are stuck in silos. Moscow says the onus is on Kyiv to remove mines from the ports to free up shipping lanes.

Russia says Western sanctions against it are worsening the situation. The sanctions do not directly target its grain and fertilisers but have hit exports because of the difficulty of arranging shipping, insurance and finance.

The Indonesia President, better known as Jokowi, met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday (June 29) after attending the G7 summit in Germany earlier in the week. After his meeting with Zelenskiy, Jokowi had offered to deliver a message from Kyiv to Putin.

Published : July 01, 2022

By : Reuters

‘Disgusting sight’ if G7 leaders undressed – Putin fires back

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Russian President Vladimir Putin fired back at leaders of the Group of Seven for mocking his macho image, saying the image of the Western leaders undressed “would be a disgusting sight anyway” regardless if it was “from top or from the bottom.”

'Disgusting sight' if G7 leaders undressed - Putin fires back

Speaking at a news conference during a visit to Turkmenistan on Wednesday (June 29), Putin hit back at world leaders and advised them to refrain from alcohol abuse and to do exercise. 

The comments came after G7 leaders poked fun at their absent adversary at a meeting in Germany, where British Prime Minister Boris Johnson could be heard asking colleagues if they should keep their “jackets on, or jackets off? We’ve got to show them we are tougher than Putin.”

Despite the noise in the room from members of the press and officials, Canada’s Prime Minister and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, could be heard joking about bare-chested horse riding, referencing macho photo opportunities of the Russian leader.

“We are not having the best period of our relations, this is understandable. Nevertheless, they are all world leaders, it means they have character. And if they want to, they can certainly achieve the desired success. They just need to work on themselves,” Putin told journalists.

“The fact that they are talking about it, it is already good, I praise them for it.”

The Russian leader also rejected Boris Johnson’s charge that if he were a woman he would not have invaded Ukraine. Putin pointed to former British leader Margaret Thatcher’s decision to send troops into the Falklands as a rebuttal of Johnson’s theory.

Johnson on Tuesday dubbed Putin’s decision to launch what Moscow calls a “special military operation” against Ukraine a “perfect example of toxic masculinity” and mocked Putin’s macho posturing.

Hitting back, Putin told reporters: “I just want to recall the events of recent history, when Margaret Thatcher decided to launch military operations against Argentina for the Falkland Islands. So, a woman took the decision to launch military action.

Moscow repeatedly rails against Western military interventions in the likes of the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq as examples of Western imperialism and hypocrisy.

But during his two-decade rule, Putin himself has faced multiple charges of imperialism, wanting to forcefully expand Russia’s borders and influence across the former Soviet space, and has himself said he wished he could reverse the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine has destroyed numerous cities, killed thousands of civilians and forced millions from their homes across Ukraine.

Published : July 01, 2022

By : Reuters

Nato leaders upbeat about Sweden, Finland accession on final day of Madrid summit

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A key summit of Nato leaders wrapped up on Thursday after two days of talks. Vladimir Putin reacted to Tuesday’s news that Finland and Sweden would be invited to join Nato after member Turkey withdrew its opposition to the Nordic countries joining the alliance.

Nato leaders upbeat about Sweden, Finland accession on final day of Madrid summit

“We don’t have problems with Finland and Sweden that, unfortunately, we have with Ukraine,” President Putin said, claiming Russia took no issue with the two countries joining the alliance which Moscow sees as expansionist and aggressive. The Russian president did, however, say that his country would respond to Nato deployments in the countries, without specifying what any response would look like. “Now, if Nato troops and infrastructure are deployed, we will be compelled to respond.”

In Madrid, Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said that while she expected Russian retaliation for the admission of Finland and Sweden, she did not think military action was likely, instead of anticipating cyber and hybrid attacks.

Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said the country’s invitation to join Nato would be “good for the security in Sweden and for the Swedish people” but added that she wanted the country to be a “security provider” for Nato in return.

Leaders gathered for closed talks before speaking to the press in the afternoon.

U.S. President Joe Biden said the war in Ukraine had made Nato stronger and more united and had seen “democracies of the world stand up and oppose his aggression and defend the rules-based order.”

President Biden went on to describe Russia as posing and “direct threat” to Europe and called out what he called the “systemic challenges that China poses to a rules-based world order.”

The United States is changing its force posture in Europe based on threats coming from Russia after its invasion of Ukraine and other directions. Biden confirmed the U.S. will raise the number of destroyers in Spain to six from four and said Washington will send two additional F-35 squadrons to Britain and establish the 5th Army headquarters in Poland.

Nato’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters Finland and Sweden would sign an accession protocol to join Nato on Tuesday but said the political decision on membership had been made. He added that the alliance would protect the two countries during their accession process in “all eventualities.”

France’s President Emmanuel Macron said the move sent a “very clear strategic message to Russia” while Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke of the importance of investment in defence spending and said the UK’s defence budget would reach 2.5% by end of the decade.

Published : July 01, 2022

By : Reuters

Ukraine’s Zelenskiy says Black Sea outpost of Snake Island ‘free’ for now

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Ukraine’s President Zelenskiy said on Thursday that Snake Island was free, but said there was no guarantee “that the enemy will not come back” to the strategic Black Sea outpost.

Ukraine's Zelenskiy says Black Sea outpost of Snake Island 'free' for now

Ukraine’s control of Snake Island, or Zmiinyi island, could loosen the grip of Russia’s blockade on Ukrainian ports.

Snake Island captured world attention after Russia seized it on the war’s first day. A Ukrainian guard, ordered by Russia’s flagship cruiser Moskva to surrender, radioed back “Russian warship: go fuck yourself.”

Russia said it had decided to withdraw from the outcrop off Ukraine’s southwestern coast as a “gesture of goodwill” to show Moscow was not obstructing U.N. attempts to open a humanitarian corridor allowing grains to be shipped from Ukraine.

Zelenskiy described the situation in Donbas as ‘the harshest.’ Russia has focused its firepower on capturing cities and towns in the Donbas region, which comprises Donetsk and Luhansk provinces on the border with Russia.

Published : July 01, 2022

By : Reuters

Goats released in New York City park to eat invasive weeds

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Twenty goats from Green Goats farm in Rhinebeck, New York journeyed to Riverside Park in Manhattan to munch on invasive weeds on Wednesday.

Goats released in New York City park to eat invasive weeds

It’s an environmentally friendly win-win for invasive species removal at Riverside Park – the goats get to feast on overgrown brush and the Riverside Park Conservancy doesn’t dump harsh chemicals on weeds and poison ivy. The goats also do the hard work for humans.

“Have you seen this slope over here? I am told it is the steepest river bank east of the Palisades,” said John Herrold, interim president & CEO of the Riverside Park Conservancy. “Imagine trying to keep your balance while you’re pulling out invasive plants so that you can plant native species that will better hold the soil and provide better habitat for the wildlife.”

Goats are an ingenious approach to weed removal, harnessing the goat’s natural hunger for leafy greens as the primary mechanism behind the task, which traditionally involves pollutant chemicals. They even eat species dangerous to humans, like poison ivy.

“They love this stuff,” said Herrold. “They eat poison ivy, they eat the porcelain berry, they eat the multiflora rose and that’s what we’re trying to get rid of.”

Of the 20 goats, four will call Riverside Park its home through the end of summer, eating their way through two acres of the park.

Goats released in New York City park to eat invasive weeds

Published : June 30, 2022

By : Reuters

French court finds 20 guilty for 2015 Islamist attacks in Paris

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A French court on Wednesday handed down guilty verdicts for all 20 men tried for the 2015 killing of 130 people in a coordinated gun-and-bomb rampage by Islamist gunmen in Paris.

French court finds 20 guilty for 2015 Islamist attacks in Paris

The main suspect Salah Abdeslam was found guilty on terrorism and murder charges, judge Jean-Louis Peries said.

The 32-year-old Belgium-born Frenchman, the only surviving member of the group that carried out the attacks on Nov. 13, 2015, was sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of early release, a sentence handed out only four times previously in France.

“I am convinced that this most severe sentence will satisfy the expectations of a certain number of our members, a certain number of victims,” said Philippe Duperron, the father of a victim of the attack at the Bataclan concert hall.

The Bataclan hall, six bars and restaurants and the perimeter of the Stade de France sports stadium were targeted in hours-long attacks across Paris that shook France and left deep scars on the country’s psyche.

A defiant Abdeslam had said at the start of the trial that he was a “soldier” of the Islamic State, which has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

He later apologized to the victims and said during the trial that he had chosen at the last minute not to detonate his explosive vest. But, based on the investigations and hearings, the court ruled otherwise.

“The court considered that the explosive vest malfunctioned,” Peries said. Abdeslam is “guilty of being a member of a terrorist network,” he also said.

“All defendants are found guilty on all counts,” the judge added, with the exception of terrorism charges for one of the less prominent accused.

It has been a trial like no others, not only for its exceptional length of 10 months but also for the time it devoted to allowing victims to testify in detail about their ordeal and their struggles in overcoming it, while families of those killed spoke of how hard it was to move on.

Thirteen other people, ten of whom are also in custody, were also in the courtroom during the months-long hearings. During that time, some took responsibility for their role in the attacks and apologized to the victims. Others have not said a word.

The court found them guilty of crimes ranging from helping provide the attackers with weapons or cars to planning to take part in the attack. Six more, tried in absentia and believed to be dead, were also found guilty.

Arthur Denouveaux, a survivor of the Bataclan attack, said although he was content with the trial’s outcome, it’s only the first step in the victims’ healing process.

“It was justice for sure, but justice can’t do anything, justice is just, you know, applying the rule of law and it’s not healing everything. We’ll see that, it will help us heal, but we still have work to do obviously,” he said.

French politicians on Wednesday stated their support for the life sentencing of Salah Abdeslam. 

Former French Socialist President Francois Hollande, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo and far-right leader Marine Le Pen also expressed their sympathy for the families of the victims.

“Justice has been served,” Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said.

Published : June 30, 2022

By : Reuters

Putin: Russia will respond if Nato sets up infrastructure in Finland, Sweden

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President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia would respond in kind if Nato deployed troops and infrastructure in Finland and Sweden after they join the U.S.-led military alliance.

Putin: Russia will respond if Nato sets up infrastructure in Finland, Sweden

“With Sweden and Finland, we don’t have the problems that we have with Ukraine. They want to join Nato, go ahead,” Putin said after talks with regional leaders in the ex-Soviet state of Turkmenistan.

“But they must understand there was no threat before, while now, if military contingents and infrastructure are deployed there, we will have to respond in kind and create the same threats for the territories from which threats towards us are created.”

He said it was inevitable that Moscow’s relations with Helsinki and Stockholm would sour over their Nato membership.

“Everything was fine between us, but now there might be some tensions, there certainly will,” he said. “It’s inevitable if there is a threat to us.”

Putin made his comment a day after Nato member Turkey lifted its veto over the bid by Finland and Sweden to join the alliance after the three nations agreed to protect each other’s security.

The move means Helsinki and Stockholm can proceed with their application to join Nato, marking the biggest shift in European security in decades.

Putin added that the objectives of what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine remained unchanged, that its goal was to “liberate” eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region and create conditions to ensure Russia’s security.

He said Russian troops had advanced in Ukraine and that the military intervention was going as planned. There was no need, he said, to set a deadline for an end to the campaign.

Published : June 30, 2022

By : Reuters

Ukraine wins release of 144 soldiers in biggest prisoner swap of war

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Ukraine on Wednesday carried out its biggest exchange of prisoners of war since Russia invaded, securing the release of 144 of its soldiers, including 95 who defended Mariupol’s steelworkers, Ukraine’s military intelligence agency said.

Ukraine wins release of 144 soldiers in biggest prisoner swap of war

The majority of the Ukrainians were badly wounded, suffering from gunshot and shrapnel wounds, blast traumas, burns, fractured bones and amputated limbs, the agency known by the acronym GUR said in a statement on Telegram.

There was no comment from Russia about a prisoner swap.

But the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine said it had secured the release of 144 soldiers, including its fighters and those of the Russian army.

Hundreds more Ukrainians are still thought to be held by Russia and its pro-Moscow separatist proxies in eastern Ukraine, but their precise whereabouts are not known.

The prisoner swap included the handover of 43 members of the Azov regiment, a National Guard unit that Russia says is a dangerous far-right battalion, a promising sign for Ukrainians hoping for the release of other fighters from the unit.

Published : June 30, 2022

By : Reuters

H.E. Mr Varawut expresses the strong position at the Ocean Conference

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International agencies are impressed with Thailand’s achievement in ocean management

H.E. Mr Varawut expresses the strong position at the Ocean Conference

The 2022 UN Ocean Conference is officially scheduled to be held from June 27 – July 1, 2022 in Lisbon, Portugal. For Thailand, H.E. Mr Varawut Silpa-Archa, the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment as the head of the Thai delegation delivered Thailand’s statement which expressing the role and strong position of Thailand. He highlighted the progress in conservation and management of marine and coastal resources in Thailand including enhancing the efficiency of the implementation in all dimensions. His statement has drawn admiration from other countries for Thailand’s effectiveness in managing marine and coastal resources, which represents the implementation objectives of Sustainable Development Goal 14 in a tangible way.

H.E. Mr Varawut Silpa-Archa, the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment said after delivering the statement on the 2022 UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, that he, as the head of the Thai delegation, had the opportunity to express Thai attitudes towards conservation and restoration of the sea, and reiterated the advanced progress in Implementation of Thailand to all UN Member States. Although the ocean action is now flourishing around the world, but the progress made reveals that we still far from the achievement of SDG14. We still need more effort-much more, especially on the massive intensification of science-policy interface, including financial support, knowledge exchange and technology transfer.

H.E. Mr Varawut expresses the strong position at the Ocean Conference
H.E. Mr Varawut expresses the strong position at the Ocean Conference

Thailand pledged in integrated the concept of nature-based solutions to the sustainable management of marine and coastal resources plans and policies in order to reduce threats while strengthen the ecological resilience of marine and coastal ecosystems. The management focused on combating marine debris, marine plastic pollution and IUU fishing which were recognition in the international arena, both at the global and regional levels.

H.E. Mr Varawut expresses the strong position at the Ocean Conference

One of the most significant is that Thailand has recently been a located of the Decade Coordination Office for the Western Pacific, the first Regional DCO of IOC-UNESCO. This is to reaffirm other countries confidence in Thailand’s readiness to lead and coordinate the implementation of the UN Ocean Decade from 2021 – 2030. He ended his statement with a fact that oceans without human are living oceans, but human without oceans is dead human. He also emphasized that the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 must be linked and supported the implementation of other SDGs and leave no one behind. We will take concerted action to accelerate implementation to achieve Goal as soon as possible.

H.E. Mr Varawut expresses the strong position at the Ocean Conference

Additionally, the Political Declaration, which is the outcome of the Conference, will also be adopted by all UN Member States in order to accelerate the Implementation of Sustainable Development, and to take urgently concerted action in protection the ocean as it currently exists for healthy ocean and the healthy planet to our children and theirs. 

In response to Thailand’s statement of its strong position, and on the advice of H.E. Mr Varawut and Mr Jatuporn Buruspat, Permanent Secretary, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment will enhance its implementation of SDG14, in order to create mechanisms for collaboration with other agencies. To cover all aspects of sustainable development, its collaboration will be extended to the private sector and international organizations. H.E. Mr Varawut said.

H.E. Mr Varawut expresses the strong position at the Ocean Conference

Furthermore, Mr Sopon Thongdee, Director-General of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources said that Thailand has continuously accelerated the implementation to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14. At the 2022 UN Ocean Conference, Thailand has shown a strong position in its implementation and gained admiration from many countries.

H.E. Mr Varawut expresses the strong position at the Ocean Conference

In this regard, the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources has prepared for the upcoming stage, which will work closely with the relevant agencies, and will present to the Ministry’s executives. The Department has conducted regular and inclusive reviews of SDG14 progress in preparation for the voluntary national reviews (VNRs), which will take place in July 2022 at UN Headquarters in New York, USA., Mr Sopon said.

Published : June 29, 2022