Alexei Navalny’s poisoning confirmed
The German government confirmed on Thursday that Vladimir Putin’s main political opponent, Alexei Navalny, was poisoned using nerve agent Novichok, being currently in induced coma in a Berlin hospital. Suspicions of poisoning arose when Navalny felt ill during a flight from Siberia to Moscow, and the plane was forced to land in Omsk.
This announcement raises suspicions that, despite denying it, the Russian state was involved in the case. Novichok means “new arrival” in Russian, and its used in reference to a set of nerve agents synthetically produced and developed in the Soviet Union in Uzbekistan, before the USSR disintegrated, in 1991. Several western intelligence agencies believe that Novichok was refined to be a killer weapon that’s hard to detect, and covertly used by GRU agents, Russian military intelligence. Novichok can be used in liquid and solid form.
Following these news, NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg asked Russia to disclose its Novichok nerve agent program to international observers. Norbert Röttingen, president of the German parliament foreign relations committee, also alerted to the fact that the EU may become irrelevant in case it doesn’t take strict measures against Russia. He was referring specifically to Nord Stream 2, a controversial 1,225 km pipeline belonging to state enterprise Gazprom, which may place Germany in total dependence from Russia in terms of energy. This is not the first time that this nerve agent is used to take down opposition, having been used in 2018, allegedly by two GRU agents, to eliminate the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in British soil.
Peace agreement in Sudan
The transitional government of Sudan signed a peace agreement with several rebel groups, a significant step in solving the deep rooted conflicts since the time of deposed leader Omar al-Bashir.
This agreement covers the areas devastated by the Darfur war, the “Two Areas” (South Kordofan and Blue Nile), as well as central eastern and northern Sudan. It also inaugurates a transitional period of three years, in which signatory rebel groups will receive three new seats in the Sovereign Council, five ministries in the cabinet and a quarter of seats in the Transitional Legislative Council. The agreement also grants disputed regions some federal autonomy, returns some lost lands in the conflict and integrates rebel soldiers in government armed forces. Also this week, another rebel group which was active in the south agreed to maintain peace negotiations, sponsored by South Sudan, days after the agreement was made with the other rebel groups.
- The Indian economy suffered a 23.9% contraction from April to June, with the Indian finance minister stating that this contraction is a result of the pandemic situation.
- The first commercial flight from Israel to the United Arab Emirates took place this week, in what is seen as a crucial step to normalizing relations between these two states.
- A group of Saudi officials, including two members of the royal family, were fired, however, critics state these high level arrests serve only the purpose of removing obstacles for crown prince Mohammed bin Salman to take succession.
- The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo republished the caricatures of Mohammed which made it a target for the terrorist attack of 2015, one day before 14 people were brought on trial for providing assistance to the two Islamist attackers to undertake their assault.
- Zimbabwe signaled its intention to return lands to foreign citizens whose properties were confiscated under a controversial government program two decades ago, during which thousands of white farmers were expelled, often violently, between 2000 and 2001.
- A Taliban official told AFP news agency that 200 prisoners were released by Afghan authorities. The release of Taliban prisoners has been a pre-condition for negotiations to bring the 19 years of conflict in the country to an end.
- The conservation group World Wide fund for Nature mentions in a report that species at risk of global extinction have seen their Canadian populations shrinking more than 40% between 1970 and 2016.
- The USA will be cutting aid to Ethiopia due to the controversial dam which is being build on a Nile river tributary.
- China initiated a second investigation on Australian wine imports, having accused Australia of wine dumping, in a move seen as an escalation of tensions in the relations between these countries.