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Turkish Philanthropist Jailed for Life After Widely Criticized Trial

A Turkish court sentenced Osman Kavala, a prominent Turkish civil rights activist and philanthropist, to life in prison without parole Monday after convicting him of trying to overthrow the government by financing protests.

Kavala, 64, has been in jail for the past 4½ years on charges that he helped finance and organize protests that began as small demonstrations in Istanbul’s Gezi Park in 2013 and morphed into mass anti-government protests.

Human rights groups say the case is politically motivated. Ten Western countries, including the United States, France and Germany, called for Kavala’s release in October on the fourth anniversary of his arrest.

The European Court of Human Rights has also demanded that Kavala be released, saying that his rights were violated. Turkey’s failure to comply with that order has led to proceedings that could see Turkey expelled from the Council of Europe.

The court in Istanbul on Monday also sentenced seven other defendants to 18 years each for aiding an attempt to overthrow of Turkey’s government. It acquitted Kavala on charges relating to a 2016 alleged coup attempt that the Turkish government blames on the network of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Kavala denies he was involved in any anti-government activity related to the protests in 2013. In defense statements Friday, Kavala said he only took food and face masks to peaceful protesters.

“The fact that I spent 4½ years of my life in prison is an irreparable loss for me. My only consolation is the possibility that my experience will contribute to a better understanding of the grave problems of the judiciary,” Kavala told the court by videoconference from Silivri Prison.

Supporters of Kavala and the other defendants sentenced Monday packed the courtroom in anticipation of the verdict and yelled out in protest after the sentences were announced.

Rights group Amnesty International called the conviction a “devastating blow.”

“Today, we have witnessed a travesty of justice of spectacular proportions. This verdict deals a devastating blow not only to Osman Kavala, his co-defendants and their families, but to everyone who believes in justice and human rights activism in Turkey and beyond,” Nils Muiznieks, Amnesty International’s Europe director, said in a statement.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Kavala of working with U.S. billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who the Turkish leader alleges has financed insurrections in many countries.

Kavala told the court Friday via video link that ties between Soros and him are “fictional.”

He said the protests in Gezi Park were “unplanned and unexpected.”

“An attempt is being made to criminalize the Gezi Park events and to discredit the will of hundreds of thousands of citizens who participated in the events,” he said.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

Posted by Ukrap on

Концерн Rheinmetall просить дозвіл в уряду Німеччини на постачання Києву 88 танків – ЗМІ

Як пише німецька газета Die Welt, посилаючись на документи, з якими змогли ознайомитися журналісти, концерн може відправити перші 22 танки вже протягом кількох тижнів, а решту – до кінця року

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UN Chief Guterres to Meet with Putin on Ukraine War

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is headed to Moscow for a meeting Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a renewed bid to try to get him to agree to a pause or end to his two-month assault on Ukraine.

Guterres’ spokesperson said the U.N. chief is later going to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Thursday to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, because Guterres feels there is a “concrete opportunity” for progress.

En route to Moscow, Guterres met Monday in Ankara with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has attempted, but failed so far, to mediate an end to the fighting between Turkey’s two maritime neighbors.

“You can see that even the willingness of the parties to meet with him, to discuss things with him, is an opening,” Guterres spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters. “We will see what we can do, whether we can get a concrete improvement in the humanitarian situation. Whether we can get the fighting to stop for any period of time.”

Guterres has made repeated calls for a humanitarian cease-fire or a brief pause in fighting but has been unsuccessful.

Haq said he didn’t want to “oversell the possibility” that either of these could happen, cautioning that diplomacy is neither quick nor a magic wand. But he said Guterres is willing to take a chance to try to improve the situation.

“Because ultimately, if we can move ahead, even in small way, it will mean a tremendous amount to tens, even hundreds of thousands of people,” Haq said.

But Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador said Monday that a humanitarian cease-fire is unnecessary.

“We don’t think that a cease-fire is a good option right now, because the only advantage it will give — it will give possibility for Ukrainian forces to regroup and to stage more provocations like Bucha,” Ambassador Dmitry Polyansky told reporters, referring to the Ukrainian town where Russian soldiers are accused of committing atrocities.

Posted by Ukrap on

ЗСУ на Донбасі відбили 6 російських атак – штаб ООС

«Зокрема, українські захисники знищили чотири танки, п’ять артилерійських систем, 13 одиниць броньованої, 15 одиниць автомобільної техніки, два паливозаправника і одну зенітну установку»

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EU, India Agree to Broaden Ties Amid Ukraine War

The European Union (EU) and India agreed on Monday to set up a trade and technology council to step up cooperation, as the bloc’s chief held talks with officials in New Delhi who have seen a flurry of top visits since the start of the Ukraine war.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is on a two-day trip to India’s capital, part of Western efforts to encourage New Delhi to reduce ties to Russia, its main weapons supplier, following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

India has refrained from explicitly condemning Russia’s invasion, while calling for an immediate end to violence. Moscow calls its actions in Ukraine a “special military operation.”

The United States is the only other country that has a technical agreement with the EU similar to the one signed on Monday with India.

“I think this relationship today is more important than ever,” von der Leyen said in her opening remarks during a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “We have a lot in common but we are also facing a challenging political landscape.”

She identified cooperation on security, climate change and trade as the main areas of focus.

“Both sides agreed that rapid changes in the geopolitical environment highlight the need for joint in-depth strategic engagement,” an EU-India joint statement said.

“The Trade and Technology Council will provide the political steer and the necessary structure to operationalize political decisions, coordinate technical work, and report to the political level to ensure implementation and follow-up in areas that are important for the sustainable progress of European and Indian economies.”

Von der Leyen’s visit comes days after British Prime Minister Boris met his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, and agreed to increase bilateral defense and business cooperation. Johnson was preceded by U.S. officials and the foreign ministers of Russia and China.

The EU chief was expected to offer to increase sales of European military equipment to India and relaunch talks on a free trade deal, a senior EU official said before the talks began.

“They reviewed progress in the vibrant India-EU strategic partnership & agreed to deepen cooperation in areas of trade, climate, digital technology and people-to-people ties,” Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi, said on Twitter.

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said after meeting Von der Leyen that they “exchanged views on the economic and political implications of the Ukraine conflict.”

Like many European countries, India has continued to buy oil from Russia despite sanctions imposed on Moscow from the United States and other developed countries.

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Russia Expels 40 German Diplomatic Staff in Tit-for-Tat Move

Russia’s foreign ministry said on Monday that it had declared 40 German diplomatic staff “personae non gratae” in a retaliatory move after Berlin expelled the same number of Russian diplomats. 

In a statement, Russia’s foreign ministry said it had taken the decision after Germany on April 4 declared a “significant number” of officials at the Russian embassy in Berlin “undesirable.”  

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the expelled Russians had never actually done any diplomacy during their time in Germany, but rather “systematically worked against our freedom and the cohesion of our society.” 

The expelled German diplomats by contrast had worked hard on bilateral relations despite difficult circumstances, she said in a statement, adding that the news had been expected. 

“Russia is therefore harming itself with today’s expulsions,” she said. 

Germany was one of several European countries to expel Russian diplomats after reports of mass graves being found and of civilian killings in the Ukrainian town of Bucha during Russian occupation. 

Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on February 24 in what it called a “special operation” to degrade its military capabilities and root out what it calls dangerous nationalists. 

Ukrainian forces have mounted stiff resistance and the West has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia in an effort to force it to withdraw its forces. 

 

Posted by Ukrap on

Росія висилає 40 німецьких дипломатів

4 квітня Німеччина оголосила персонами нон ґрата 40 російських дипломатів

Posted by Ukrap on

В ООН підтвердили загибель щонайменше 2665 цивільних через війну РФ проти України

При цьому в організації наголошують, що реальні цифри – значно вищі

Posted by Ukrap on

WSJ: влада США не вводить санкції проти Кабаєвої через побоювання, що Путін «відреагує агресивно»

З публікацій у ЗМІ можна зробити висновок, що спортсменка може бути матір’ю «щонайменше трьох дітей» Путіна

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The Forgotten People, Cham Muslims Preserve Their Culture in Seattle

The turbulent 1970s brought a wave of immigrants into America from Southeast to escape war and persecution. One such group founded a home in the (Western) state of Washington to preserve their identities and continue to welcome new refugees. VOA’s Virginia Gunawan reports.

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As Ukraine War Rages On, Some Americans Seek to Join Fight Against Russia

There appears to be no end in sight to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as the war enters its third month. Now, some Americans are trying to join the battle to defend Ukraine. Nina Vishneva has the story, narrated by Anna Rice.

Videographers: Alexander Barash, Dmitry Vershinin

Posted by Ukrap on

Джонсон у розмові з генсекретарем ООН наголосив на важливості «глобальної солідарності з Україною»

Це сталося напередодні візиту Антоніу Ґутерріша до Москви та Києва.

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US Supreme Court Weighs Policy for Migrants to Wait in Mexico

When a woman gashed her leg in mountains inhabited by snakes and scorpions, she told Joel Úbeda to take her 5-year-old daughter. Úbeda refused to let the mother die, despite the advice of their smuggler and another migrant in a group of seven and helped carry her to safety by shining a mirror in sunlight to flag a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter near San Diego. 

The motorcycle mechanic, who used his house in Nicaragua as collateral for a $6,500 smuggling fee, says the worst day of his life was yet to come. 

Arrested after the encounter with U.S. agents, Úbeda learned two days later that he could not pursue asylum in the United States while living with a cousin in Miami. Instead, he would have to wait in the Mexican border city of Tijuana for hearings in U.S. immigration court under a Trump-era policy that will be argued Tuesday before the U.S. Supreme Court. 

President Joe Biden halted the “Remain in Mexico” policy his first day in office. A judge forced him to reinstate it in December, but barely 3,000 migrants were enrolled by the end of March, making little impact during a period when authorities stopped migrants about 700,000 times at the border. 

Úbeda, like many migrants at a Tijuana shelter, had never heard of the policy, officially called “Migrant Protection Protocols.” It was widely known under President Donald Trump, who enrolled about 70,000 migrants after launching it in 2019 and making it a centerpiece of efforts to deter asylum-seekers. 

“It’s a frightening experience,” Úbeda said after a telephone call with his mother to consider whether to return to Nicaragua to reunite with her, his wife and his daughter. He was perplexed that a vast majority of Nicaraguans are released in the U.S. to pursue asylum, including the woman he saved and her daughter. 

Nearly 2,200 asylum-seekers, or 73% of those enrolled through March, are from Nicaragua, with nearly all the rest from Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela. Yet even among Nicaraguans, the policy is small in scope. U.S. authorities stopped Nicaraguans more than 56,000 times from December to March. 

Criticisms of the policy are the same under Biden and Trump: Migrants are terrified in dangerous Mexican border cities, and it is extremely difficult to find lawyers from Mexico. 

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, in an October order to end “Remain in Mexico,” reluctantly conceded that the policy caused a drop in weak asylum claims under Trump but said it did not justify the harms. 

Emil Cardenas, 27, said he bloodied his foot and drank his urine after running out of water on a three-day hike in mountains near San Diego with a smuggler who took a $10,000 installment toward his fee and stole his passport, phone and other identification. 

Cardenas hoped to live near his brother, a Catholic priest in New Jersey, while seeking asylum but waits at the Tijuana shelter for his first hearing in San Diego on May 18. He is disheartened to see others at the shelter on their third or fourth hearing. 

“One has to find a way to get across,” said Cardenas, a Colombian who had attempted twice to enter the U.S. “I’m thinking about what to do.” 

While waiting for hearings, men at the shelter are attached to smartphones — reading, watching videos and occasionally calling friends and family. A large television facing rows of tables and plastic chairs helps defeat boredom. 

Many have been robbed and assaulted in Mexico, making them too scared to leave the shelter. Some chat in small groups but most keep to themselves, lost in thought. 

Carlos Humberto Castellano, who repaired cellphones in Colombia and wants to join family in New York, cried for two days after being returned to Tijuana to wait for a court date in San Diego. It cost him about $6,500 to fly to Mexico and pay a smuggler to cross the border, leaving him in debt, he said. 

“I can’t leave (the shelter) because I don’t know what could happen,” said Castellano, 23, recalling that his smuggler took a photo of him. “Getting kidnapped is the fear.” 

The issue before the Supreme Court is whether the policy is discretionary and can be ended, as the Biden administration argues, or is the only way to comply with what Texas and Missouri say is a congressional command not to release the migrants in the United States. 

Without adequate detention facilities, the states argue the administration’s only option is to make migrants wait in Mexico for asylum hearings in the U.S. 

The two sides also disagree about whether the way the administration ended the policy complies with a federal law that compels agencies to follow certain rules and explain their actions. 

A ruling is expected shortly after the administration ends another key Trump-era border policy, lifting pandemic-related authority to expel migrants without a chance to seek asylum May 23. The decision to end Title 42 authority, named for a 1944 public health law, is being legally challenged by 22 states and faces growing division within Biden’s Democratic Party. 

Due to costs, logistics and strained diplomatic relations, Title 42 has been difficult to apply to some nationalities, including Nicaraguans, which explains why the administration has favored them for “Remain in Mexico.” 

The administration made some changes at Mexico’s behest, which may explain low enrollment. It pledged to try to resolve cases within six months and agreed to shoulder costs of shuttling migrants to and from the border in Mexico for hearings. 

As under Trump, finding a lawyer is a tall order. U.S. authorities give migrants a list of low- or no-cost attorneys but phone lines are overwhelmed. 

Judges warn migrants that immigration law is complicated and that they face longer odds without an attorney. Migrants respond that calls to attorneys go unanswered and they can’t afford typical fees. 

“I’ve seen lots of people in your situation who have found attorneys, often for free,” Judge Scott Simpson told a migrant this month in a San Diego courtroom before granting more time to hire one. 

Victor Cervera, 40, gave up on low-cost attorneys after his calls went unanswered. The Peruvian’s online search for those who take “Remain in Mexico” cases yielded one find — a Miami lawyer who charges $350 for an initial phone consultation. 

Nearly all migrants tell U.S. authorities they fear waiting in Mexico, entitling them to a phone interview with an asylum officer. About 15% are spared when the officer agrees their worries are well-founded, while others are excused for reasons deemed to make them vulnerable in Mexico, like gender or sexual orientation. 

Those sent back wonder why they were chosen when so many others are released in the U.S to pursue their claims. 

“It’s a raffle,” said Alvaro Galo, 34, a Nicaraguan man who cleans and cooks meals at the shelter to keep his mind busy. 

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Jon Stewart to Receive Mark Twain Prize for American Humor

A host of celebrities and comedy royalty will gather Sunday night at the Kennedy Center as comedian, talk show host and political influencer Jon Stewart receives the Mark Twain Prize for lifetime achievement in humor. 

Stewart, the 23rd recipient of the prize, will be honored by testimonials and skits from fellow comedians and previous Mark Twain recipients. Stewart himself spoke during Dave Chappelle’s Mark Twain ceremony in 2019. 

The 59-year-old Stewart — born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz — rose to prominence as a standup comic and host of multiple failed talk shows before taking over  Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” in 1999. His 16-year run as “Daily Show” host turned him into a cultural and political force as Stewart trained his satirical eye on both politics and an increasingly polarized national media. 

In perhaps his most iconic moment, Stewart went on CNN’s popular “Crossfire” debate show in 2004 and challenged the show’s entire premise of left-wing versus right-wing debate. Stewart told co-hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala they had a “responsibility to the public discourse” that they were cheapening with insincere political role-playing. 

Stewart’s appearance rocketed him to new levels of prominence and political relevance and may have sealed the fate of “Crossfire,” which was canceled three months later. 

Since retiring from “The Daily Show” in 2015, Stewart has become a vocal proponent of a number of social causes and one of the most prominent voices in support of health care for Sept. 11 first responders in New York City. He recently returned to television as host of “The Problem with Jon Stewart” on Apple TV+. 

When Stewart’s selection was announced in January, Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter hailed his body of work as “equal parts entertainment and truth.” 

Rutter said Stewart’s career “demonstrates that we all can make a difference in this world through humor, humanity, and patriotism.” 

This will be the first Mark Twain ceremony since Chappelle’s in 2019. The award skipped 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Aside from that two-year break, the prize has been presented annually since 1998, with Richard Pryor receiving the first honors. 

Other recipients include Carol Burnett (the oldest recipient at age 80), Tina Fey (the youngest at age 40), Eddie Murphy, Jonathan Winters, George Carlin and Lily Tomlin. 2009 recipient Bill Cosby had his prize rescinded in 2018 amid multiple allegations of sexual assault. 

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US Diplomats to Begin Returning to Ukraine

American diplomats will start returning to Ukraine this week, first to the western city of Lviv and then eventually to the capital, Kyiv.

The United States is also providing further foreign military financing to Ukraine to help the country obtain more advanced weapons and air defense systems to fend off Russian attacks, according to senior U.S. officials.

U.S. President Joe Biden will formally nominate Bridget Brink, currently U.S. ambassador to the Slovak Republic, to be U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

“This would be to underscore our commitments (to Ukraine). We will seek to have our diplomats returned to our embassy in Kyiv as soon as possible,” a senior State Department official said.

Several European Union and NATO member countries are sending their diplomats back to Kyiv, including Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Slovakia and Slovenia. The U.K. government announced Friday that it would shortly reopen the British Embassy in Kyiv.

The return of foreign diplomats is seen as a sign of some semblance of safety in Ukraine after almost two months of Russia’s shelling and bombing.

“We intend to obligate more than $713 million in foreign military financing,” the State official said. “This includes funding for Ukraine and 15 other allies and partner nations in Central and Eastern Europe, in the Balkans. … And it will provide support for capabilities Ukraine needs, especially for the fight in the Donbas.”

With the new assistance in foreign military financing, the U.S. would have committed about $3.4 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began, and more than $4.3 billion since the start of the Biden administration.

Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov in Kyiv.

Blinken and Austin’s visit to Ukraine is the highest-level visit by an American delegation since the start of Russia’s war on Ukraine on February 24.

It also came ahead of Tuesday’s consultations between the U.S. and dozens of allies at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, where Austin will discuss Ukraine’s long-term defense needs.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov will attend Tuesday’s meetings.

On Tuesday’s agenda: an update on battlefield conditions, Ukraine’s resistance amid Russia’s attacks, upcoming security assistance to Ukraine, and Ukraine’s willingness and ability to move away from Russian-made systems.

“This isn’t about (Ukraine’s appeal to) NATO membership. It’s about helping them with their long-term defense needs going forward with a potential migration away from Soviet systems,” a senior defense official said.

“One of the things we expect to talk about in Ramstein on Tuesday is additional contributions by allies and partners on the systems, weapons and ammunition that the Ukrainians need the most,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said in a briefing in Poland on Sunday.

Kirby said the U.S. has accelerated major security assistance package deliveries to Ukraine in the past 10 days, and some of them are already arriving. The U.S. is not seeing any indication that those shipments are being interdicted by Russian forces.

Sunday, Ukrainian officials said Russian forces launched a new airstrike on the Azovstal steel factory in Mariupol, where Ukrainian forces have been holed up and defiantly refusing Russian demands to surrender.

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a tight blockade of the facility that Russian forces have struggled to take over from perhaps thousands of Ukraine fighters and civilians who have remained in control of the plant with its labyrinth of tunnels and passageways.

In a lengthy Saturday night news conference in a Kyiv subway station, Zelenskyy said he was looking for the Americans to produce results, both in terms of arms and security guarantees.

“You can’t come to us empty-handed today, and we are expecting not just presents or some kind of cakes, we are expecting specific things and specific weapons,” he said.

In each of the past two weeks, President Biden has approved $800 million in shipments of more arms for Ukraine, along with $500 million in economic assistance.

With congressional approval for military assistance for Ukraine nearly exhausted, Biden said he would seek approval for more aid, part of the West’s arming of Ukraine in its fight against Russia that falls short of sending troops to fight alongside Ukrainian forces.

Zelenskyy has repeatedly pleaded for more heavy weapons, including long-range air defense systems, as well as warplanes.

Zelenskyy’s meeting with Austin and Blinken was set to take place as Ukrainians and Russians observed Orthodox Easter. Zelenskyy is Jewish, but speaking from Kyiv’s ancient St. Sophia Cathedral, he cited Ukrainians’ wishes for the holiday.

“The great holiday today gives us great hope and unwavering faith that light will overcome darkness, good will overcome evil, life will overcome death, and, therefore, Ukraine will surely win!” he said.

But the Russian bombardment remains a constant threat for Ukraine. The Russian military reported that it hit 423 Ukrainian targets overnight, mostly in the eastern Donbas industrial region, and destroyed 26 Ukrainian military sites, including an explosives factory and several artillery depots.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement Sunday that it is “deeply alarmed by the situation in Mariupol, where the population is in dire need of assistance.” The ICRC said, “Immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access is urgently required to allow for the voluntary safe passage of thousands of civilians and hundreds of wounded out of the city, including from the Azovstal plant area.”

After the Blinken-Austin visit, Zelenskyy is set to meet Thursday with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The U.N. chief is scheduled to meet with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara Monday and Putin in Moscow on Tuesday.

British officials said Saturday that Russian troops haven’t gained significant new ground despite announcing a renewed offensive along the eastern front, while Ukraine declared a nationwide curfew ahead of Orthodox Easter on Sunday.

Ukraine said Russian forces obstructed attempts to evacuate civilians from the besieged port city of Mariupol.

“The evacuation was thwarted,” Mariupol city official Petro Andryushchenko said on Telegram, adding that about 200 people gathered at the government-appointed evacuation meeting point, but that Russian forces “dispersed” them.

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

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Opposition Wins Slovenia Vote, Defeating Right-Wing Populist

An opposition liberal party convincingly won Sunday’s parliamentary election in Slovenia, according to early official results, in a major defeat for populist Prime Minister Janez Jansa, who was accused of pushing the small European Union country to the right while in office.

The Freedom Movement won nearly 34% of the votes, compared with around 24% for the governing conservative Slovenian Democratic Party, state election authorities said after counting over 97% of the ballots.

Trailing behind the top two contenders were the New Slovenia party with 7%, followed by the Social Democrats with more than 6% and the Left party with 4%.

The results mean that the Freedom Movement, a newcomer in the election, appears set to form the next government in a coalition with smaller leftist groups. The party leader addressed supporters via a video message from his home because he has COVID-19.

“Tonight people dance,” Robert Golob told the cheering crowd at the party headquarters. “Tomorrow is a new day and serious work lies ahead.”

Jansa, an ally of right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, congratulated the “relative winner” of the election in a speech.

“The results are as they are,” Jansa said, praising his government’s work. “Many challenges lie ahead for the new government, whatever it may look like, but the foundations are solid.”

A veteran politician, Jansa became prime minister a little over two years ago after the previous liberal premier resigned. An admirer of former U.S. President Donald Trump, Jansa had pushed the country toward right-wing populism since taking over at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reflecting strong interest in Sunday’s election, turnout was higher than usual — around 67% of Slovenia’s 1.7 million voters cast their ballot, compared with 52% in the previous election in 2018.

Golob, a U.S.-educated former business executive, came out as a frontrunner shortly after entering the political scene. The Freedom Movement party has advocated a green energy transition and sustainable development over Jansa’s nation-centered narrative.

Liberals had described Sunday’s election as a referendum on Slovenia’s future. They argued that Jansa, if reelected, would push the traditionally moderate nation further away from “core” EU democratic values and toward other populist regimes.

Opinion polls ahead of the vote had predicted that the leading parties would be locked in a tight race.

Jansa’s SDS won the most votes in an election four years ago but couldn’t initially find partners for a coalition government. He took over after lawmakers from centrist and left-leaning groups switched sides following the resignation in 2020 of liberal Prime Minister Marjan Sarec.

Jansa, in power, faced accusations of sliding toward authoritarian rule in the Orban style, drawing EU scrutiny amid reports that he pressured opponents and public media, and installed loyalists in key positions for control over state institutions.

The Freedom House democracy watchdog recently said that “while political rights and civil liberties are generally respected (in Slovenia), the current right-wing government has continued attempts to undermine the rule of law and democratic institutions, including the media and judiciary.

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Ukraine Marks 2 Months of War, Tries to Observe Orthodox Easter

April 24 marks two months of war in Ukraine, and Easter for Orthodox Christians, the vast majority of the country’s population. Services this year in battle-worn areas were often sparse amid growing numbers of deaths, injuries and families fleeing their homes. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Irpin in Ukraine with Yan Boechat in Kharkiv.

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Journalists Covering Ukraine War Often at Crossroads Between Story, Safety

As Russia’s war in Ukraine enters its third month with details of atrocities mounting, journalists covering the conflict are taking a more cautious approach.

Several journalists—foreign and Ukrainian—have been killed since February 24, and dozens more have been wounded, either by incoming fire or being shot at while on assignment, according to media groups including the International Press Institute, or IPI.  

The national union of journalists in Ukraine reports as many as 20 reporters could have been killed—a figure that includes those victims where the circumstances of the deaths have not been determined.

For those who experienced near misses, such as Andriy Tsaplienko, the dangers of this conflict are making them reassess their approach.

Tsaplienko, a correspondent for the Ukrainian 1+1 news channel, was hit by shrapnel March 25, when he was covering a humanitarian corridor near the northern city of Chernihiv.

Speaking to VOA from Kyiv, Tsaplienko said he has “become more cautious, because a dead journalist has little use.”

Getting the story for journalists is the most important part of the job, but to do that they must stay alive, he said.

“What I have realized is that the approach to filming the stories should be different at war conditions,” he said. “A journalist must not just be cautious, but also fast, as quick as possible while filming and move around much faster.”

Advice for the wounded

Tsaplienko said he didn’t stay at the hospital long enough for his wounds to fully heal.

“I rushed to the border with Russia to film the flight of Russian troops, I rushed back to Chernihiv, the city where I was wounded, I went to Bucha to film the search for the dead, went to Zdvyzhivka, where a large camp of Russian troops was situated. After all that, I started to have side effects and had to go to the hospital again,” he said.

And because of that, he has one piece of advice for fellow reporters wounded in Russian attacks: “Your life is more important than your story.”

“I highly recommend getting well, getting in shape, and only then returning to work in full force,” he said.

New responsibilities

The nature of reporting has also shifted.

“In the beginning, most of us were just reporting on what was happening on different front lines and the movement of Russian forces, but as Russia carried out more attacks, we became more focused on what Russian troops have done against Ukrainian civilians,” said Dima Replianchuk, a reporter with the Slidstvo, a team of independent journalists.

The investigative reporting website, along with other local and international organizations, has been collecting evidence from places such as the town of Bucha, near the capital, Kyiv, which Russian forces occupied for more than a month.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has opened an investigation into alleged war crimes committed in Ukraine. And rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are on the ground, working to collect evidence of alleged crimes.

According to Ukrainian officials, at least 400 bodies were found in Bucha following the Russian troop withdrawal.

“This is one thing that we didn’t have to work on in the early days of the invasion, because it was still unfolding and we didn’t know what was happening in those places occupied by Russia,” Replianchuk told VOA.  

But now, he said, a lot of work needs to be done.

“Take Mariupol, for example,” the 27-year-old Ukrainian journalist said, “Civilians that have fled from the city are still shocked, but we have a duty to interview them to document what they witnessed in the city.”

Others, like Rola Alkhatib, who arrived in Ukraine just over a week ago, are trying to assess the situation on the ground.

“Kyiv seems safe for now, but the problem is the situation is so fluid that we don’t know what’s safe and what is dangerous,” said Alkhatib, a Lebanese correspondent with the Saudi-funded Al-Arabiya TV channel.

“I’d like to go to eastern Ukraine and report from there, although I know it is very dangerous for journalists and everyone else to be there,” she said.

Russian forces have pulled back from some areas to focus on controlling eastern Ukraine, increasing their bombardment campaign of the besieged southern port city of Mariupol. Ukrainian officials expect more Russian attacks in the eastern part of the country.

Growing censorship

In Russia, authorities have sought total control over news coverage, issuing laws and directives to local media on how to cover the war and forcing the few remaining independent outlets to shut down or go into exile.

The Russian investigative news site Agentstvo estimates that more than 150 journalists have left Russia since the end of February. The government last week announced stringent visa rules on foreign media entering the country.

Yevgeny Ivanov, a deputy Russian foreign minister, said the decision was in response to moves by the European Union and other countries to make it harder for the Russian business to obtain visas.

“We have responded by making it harder for journalists from unfriendly countries to obtain visas,” he said. “They will now get a single-entry visa and pay a higher visa fee.”

The country’s media regulator, Roskomnadzor, has blocked access to many news networks, including VOA’s Russian Service, the BBC and others.

Moscow in March passed a law that carries a 15-year prison term for those found to have spread what it deems false news about the military. Authorities have already charged journalists and activists under the law.

Virtual Private Network, or VPN, use and other approaches including shortwave, however, are in play to try to counter those blocks. For example, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, or RSF, has given mirror sites to several blocked news sites in Russia to keep access to the information flowing. Mirror sites are copies of original websites that are used through certain VPN services to circumvent blocking and censorship.

Some information in this report came from Reuters.