New Ukraine President Zelenskiy says dissolving parliament

Robie de Guzman   •   May 20, 2019   •   1270

Ukraine’s new President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks in Parliament after his inauguration on May 20. | Photo grabbed from Reuters footage

Ukraine’s new President Volodymyr Zelenskiy took the oath of office on Monday (May 20) and immediately announced he was dissolving parliament and calling a snap election, aiming to win seats in a legislature still dominated by loyalists of his predecessor.

Zelenskiy, a comedian with no prior political experience, won the presidency by a landslide last month but his new party has no representation in parliament, making it expedient for him to call a snap poll while his popularity remains high.

He said his first task was to achieve a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, where a five-year-old conflict with Russian-backed separatists has killed 13,000 people. He added that dialogue with Russia could only happen after the return of Ukrainian territory and prisoners of war.

“I am certain that the first step in order to start this dialogue will be the return of all Ukrainian prisoners. Our next challenge is returning of lost territories. Frankly speaking, it seems to me that this expression is not appropriate because it is impossible to lose what belongs to us by law. Both Crimea and Donbass are the Ukrainian land where we lost not only territories, but we also lost the most important which is people,” he said.

“And today, we simply must – I am sure they can hear us – return their consciousness. We lost this consciousness. During these years, authorities did not do anything for them to feel that they are Ukrainians. They are not strangers, they are our (people). They are Ukrainians,” he added.

Working with parliament will be crucial to his ability to meet the expectations of his voters and also pass reforms needed to keep foreign aid flowing.

“In order to prevent more deaths of our heroes, I am ready to do everything. I am definitely not afraid of taking difficult decisions. I am ready to lose my popularity, my rating. And if needed, I am ready, without hesitations, to lose my position so that peace will finally come,” he said.

Zelenskiy called on lawmakers to use the two months until the snap election to pass a law that would strip them of immunity from prosecution and another law that bans officials from illegally enriching themselves. (REUTERS)

Three injured in suspected attack near Israeli settlement – military

Robie de Guzman   •   August 23, 2019

Three people were injured in a Palestinian attack near an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, according to early reports by the Israeli military on Friday (August 23).

A military spokesman said the attack was carried out near Dolev, a settlement northwest of the Palestinian city of Ramallah.

“Three people appear to be injured at the scene,” the spokesman said, adding that troops were searching the area.

Israeli news reports said the wounded were Israelis, and that Palestinians had thrown an explosive charge near a water spring popular with hikers in the hilly central region of the West Bank. The first reports came shortly after 10 a.m. (0700 GMT).

Israel’s Magen David Adom ambulance service said it was treating three people in “serious condition”, including a 46-year-old man, a 21-year-old man and an 18-year-old woman. (Reuters)

(Production: Ismail Khadder, Roleen Tafakji)

Russia’s floating nuclear plant readies for Northern Sea Route

Robie de Guzman   •   August 23, 2019

Russia showcased to the media the world’s first floating nuclear power plant Akademik Lomonosov on Thursday (August 22).

Crew on the Akademik Lomonosov are expected to leave Murmansk for a long journey along the Northern Sea Route to Chukotka in Russia’s far east.

Rosenergoatom deputy director Dmitry Alekseenko said at a news conference that the main advantage of the new type of nuclear plant is its mobility that allows it to reach any point with demand for energy. He also said that it would do no harm to the environment.

Critics, however, warily recall Soviet-era nuclear accidents and Russia’s naval disasters such as the loss of the nuclear-powered submarine Kursk, which sank in the Barents Sea after explosions on board, killing all 118 crew.

In 2018 Greenpeace issued a statement calling Lomonosov a ‘nuclear Titanic’. (Reuters)

(Production: Lev Sergeev, Dmitry Turlyun)

Bolivia ramps up efforts to control wildfires

Robie de Guzman   •   August 23, 2019

Firefighters battle one sector of wildfires at night in Bolivia. (Reuters)

Bolivian firefighters continued battling on Wednesday (August 21) a series of wildfires ravaging swathes of the country from both land and air.

Using a helicopter to dump water on hot spots, firefighters also used dirt and sand to put out smaller flames in Santa Cruz. Television images showed flames dangerously close to the highway that leads to Brazil.

Bolivia’s government has reported that nearly 500,000 hectares of forest have been left charred from wildfires.

This week, authorities warned that 70% of Santa Cruz Department is under “extreme risk” from forest fires.

Environmental organisations have also warned of damage to more than 500 species of fauna, some endemic, after slash-and-burn tactics combined with dry conditions have caused dozens of forest fires in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

Speaking to the media on Wednesday (August 21), President Evo Morales said measures are being stepped up to battle the fires.

Bolivia’s wildfires come as neighbouring Brazil also battles record-breaking fires in its Amazon. (Reuters)

(Production: Monica Machicao)

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