German Court Gives 101-year-old Ex-Nazi Guard Five Years in Jail

A German court on Tuesday handed a five-year jail sentence to a 101-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard, the oldest person to go on trial for complicity in war crimes during the Holocaust.  Josef Schuetz was found guilty of being an accessory to murder in at least 3,500 cases while working as a prison guard at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, from 1942 to 1945.  Given his age, Schuetz is highly unlikely to be put behind bars. The pensioner, who now lives in Brandenburg state, had pleaded innocent, saying he did “absolutely nothing” and had not even worked at the camp.  “I don’t know why I am here,” he said at the close of his trial Monday.  But presiding judge Udo Lechtermann said he was convinced Schuetz had worked at Sachsenhausen and had “supported” the atrocities committed there.  “For three years, you watched prisoners being tortured and killed before your eyes,” Lechtermann said.  “Due to your position on the watchtower of the concentration camp, you constantly had the smoke of the crematorium in your nose,” he said. “Anyone who tried to escape from the camp was shot. So every guard was actively involved in these murders.”  More than 200,000 people, including Jews, Roma, gays and regime opponents, were detained at the Sachsenhausen camp from 1936 to 1945.  Tens of thousands of inmates died from forced labor, murder, medical experiments, hunger or disease before the camp was liberated by Soviet troops, according to the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum.  Contradictory statements  Schuetz, who was 21 when he began working at the camp, remained blank-faced as the court announced his sentence.  “I am ready,” said Sc huetz when he, dressed in a gray shirt and striped trousers, entered the courtroom in a wheelchair. Schuetz was not detained during the trial, which began in 2021 but was postponed several times because of his health.  His lawyer, Stefan Waterkamp, told AFP he would appeal, meaning the sentence will not be enforced until 2023 at the earliest.  Thomas Walther, the lawyer who represented 11 of the 16 civil parties in the trial, said the sentencing had met their expectations and “justice has been served.”  But Antoine Grumbach, 80, whose father died in Sachsenhausen, said he could “never forgive” Schuetz as “any human being facing atrocities has a duty to oppose them.”  During the trial, Schuetz had made several inconsistent statements about his past, complaining … Continue reading “German Court Gives 101-year-old Ex-Nazi Guard Five Years in Jail”

Finland, Sweden on Path to NATO Membership as Turkey Drops Veto

NATO ally Turkey lifted its veto over Finland and Sweden’s bid to join the Western alliance on Tuesday after the three nations agreed to protect each other’s security, ending a weeks-long drama that tested allied unity against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The breakthrough came after four hours of talks just before a NATO summit began in Madrid, averting an embarrassing impasse at the gathering of 30 leaders that aims to show resolve against Russia, now seen by the U.S.-led alliance as a direct security threat rather than a possible adversary. It means Helsinki and Stockholm can proceed with their application to join the nuclear-armed alliance, cementing what is set to be the biggest shift in European security in decades, as the two, long neutral Nordic countries seek NATO protection. “Our foreign ministers signed a trilateral memorandum which confirms that Turkey will … support the invitation of Finland and Sweden to become members of NATO,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said in a statement. “The concrete steps of our accession to NATO will be agreed by the NATO allies during the next two days, but that decision is now imminent,” Niinisto said. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Turkey’s presidency confirmed the accord in separate statements, after talks between the NATO chief, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Niinisto. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted, “Fantastic news as we kick off the NATO summit. Sweden and Finland’s membership will make our brilliant alliance stronger and safer.” Stoltenberg said NATO’s 30 leaders would now invite Finland, which shares a 1,300 km border with Russia, and Sweden to join NATO, and that they would become official “invitees.” “The door is open. The joining of Finland and Sweden into NATO will take place,” Stoltenberg said. However, even with a formal invitation granted, NATO’s 30 allied parliaments must ratify the decision by leaders, a process that could take up to a year. Terms of the deal Turkey’s main demands, which came as a surprise to NATO allies in May, were for the Nordic countries to stop supporting Kurdish militant groups present on their territory and to lift their bans on some sales of arms to Turkey. Stoltenberg said the terms of the deal involved Sweden intensifying work on Turkish extradition requests of suspected militants and amending Swedish and Finnish law to toughen their approach to them. Stoltenberg said Sweden and Finland would lift … Continue reading “Finland, Sweden on Path to NATO Membership as Turkey Drops Veto”

US Accuses 5 Firms in China of Supporting Russia’s Military

President Joe Biden’s administration added five companies in China to a trade blacklist on Tuesday for allegedly supporting Russia’s military and defense industrial base, flexing its muscle to enforce sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine. The Commerce Department, which oversees the trade blacklist, said the targeted companies had supplied items to Russian “entities of concern” before the February 24 invasion, adding that they “continue to contract to supply Russian entity listed and sanctioned parties.” The agency also added an additional 31 entities to the blacklist from countries including Russia, UAE, Lithuania, Pakistan, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Uzbekistan and Vietnam, according to the Federal Register entry. However, of the 36 total companies added, 25 had China-based operations. “Today’s action sends a powerful message to entities and individuals across the globe that if they seek to support Russia, the United States will cut them off as well,” Undersecretary of Commerce for Industry and Security Alan Estevez said in a statement. The Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Three of the companies in China accused of aiding the Russian military, Connec Electronic Ltd., Hong Kong-based World Jetta, and Logistics Limited, could not be reached for comment. The other two, King Pai Technology Co., Ltd and Winninc Electronic did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Hong Kong is considered part of China for purposes of U.S. export controls since Beijing’s crackdown on the city’s autonomy. Blacklisting of firms means their U.S. suppliers need a Commerce Department license before they can ship to them. The United States has set out with allies to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for the invasion, which Moscow calls a “special operation,” by sanctioning a raft of Russian companies and oligarchs and adding others to a trade blacklist.  While U.S. officials had previously said that China was generally complying with the restrictions, Washington has vowed to closely monitor compliance and rigorously enforce the regulations. “We will not hesitate to act, regardless of where a party is located, if they are violating U.S. law,” Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration Thea Rozman Kendler said in the same statement. …

As Key French Terror Trial Ends, Europe Faces New Security Landscape 

One of France’s most high-profile trials in history wraps up this week amid a sharply changing security landscape across Europe, where the war in Ukraine and far-right violence have reshaped threat perceptions once dominated by Islamist extremism. Verdicts are expected Wednesday in Paris, where 20 men stand accused of being involved in the November 2015 Islamic State attacks around the French capital in which 130 people were killed and hundreds more wounded. Top defendant Salah Abdeslam, considered the lone surviving attacker, has captured news headlines throughout the months-long trial. He risks life without parole, France’s toughest sentence. Since opening last September, the trial has revived memories of Islamist violence that spiraled across Europe and the Middle East a few years ago, when IS controlled a swath of Iraq and Syria, and French and other fighters were recruited to join its ranks and sow chaos at home. But today, the IS caliphate has collapsed. Jihadi violence has dispersed, transformed and migrated to sub-Saharan Africa. Meanwhile, other security threats are on the rise in Europe, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine marking the newest and possibly most significant change, analysts say. “After the war on terror that has dominated the last 20 years, there is a return to the politics of great power rivalries, to the more traditional nature of international relations,” said Thomas Renard, director of the International Center for Counter-Terrorism, referring not only to a rising Russia but also China. “That doesn’t mean terrorism is going to magically disappear,” Renard added, “but it’s going to be a lesser priority, certainly at the international level.” Across Europe and other Western countries, terrorist attacks declined by more than two-thirds in 2021 from their peak in 2018, according to the Global Terrorism Index that was published in March by the Institute for Economics and Peace. Meanwhile, Africa’s Sahel has become the world’s latest terror hotspot, the index said. In Europe, politically motivated attacks — driven by far-left and far-right ideologies —have eclipsed Islamist and other religiously driven attacks that once controlled the region’s terrorism landscape, the index found. “Terrorism is becoming more centered in conflict zones, underpinned by weak governments and political instability,” IEP Executive Chairman Steve Killelea said, adding, “as [the] conflict in Ukraine dominates global attention, it is crucial that the global fight against terrorism is not sidelined.” Bodies, haunted survivors A few years ago, there was little chance that terrorism would … Continue reading “As Key French Terror Trial Ends, Europe Faces New Security Landscape “

Zelenskyy Calls for Missile Defense System Ahead of NATO Talks

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday he stressed the need for a “powerful missile defense system for Ukraine to prevent Russian terrorist attacks” in talks with NATO’s leader.  The phone call with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg came ahead of the start of a summit of NATO leaders in Madrid where Ukraine is expected to be among the major topics of discussion.  “At our NATO summit we will step up support for our close partner Ukraine, now and for the longer term,” Stoltenberg tweeted after speaking with Zelenskyy. “NATO allies stand with you.”  Stoltenberg said Monday that the Western military alliance is declaring a sevenfold increase in the number of its troops on standby alert — from 40,000 to more than 300,000.  Rescue crews in central Ukraine worked Tuesday to search for survivors at a shopping center where Russian forces carried out a missile strike on Monday, killing at least 18 people.  Zelenskyy said there were more than 1,000 civilians inside the mall in the city of Kremenchuk at the time of the attack, which he called “calculated.”  “This is not an accidental hit, this is a calculated Russian strike exactly onto this shopping center,” Zelenskyy said Monday in his nightly video address. He added that the strike “is one of the most daring terrorist attacks in European history.”  Zelenskyy had said earlier on Telegram that the number of casualties is “impossible to even imagine” and said the shopping center, in a city 300 kilometers southeast of the capital, Kyiv, was “no danger to the Russian army, no strategic value.”  U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted, “The world is horrified by Russia’s missile strike today, which hit a crowded Ukrainian shopping mall — the latest in a string of atrocities. We will continue to support our Ukrainian partners and hold Russia, including those responsible for atrocities, to account.”  U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric called the attack “deplorable” and said the U.N. Security Council would meet Tuesday at Ukraine’s request following the strike.  Group of Seven  The missile strike took place as the Group of Seven leading industrialized economies met in Germany’s Bavarian Alps and pledged continued support for Ukraine.  Leaders from the group called Monday’s missile strike “abominable” and said in a joint statement, “We stand united with Ukraine in mourning the innocent victims of this brutal attack.”  The United States and the other members of the G-7 on Monday … Continue reading “Zelenskyy Calls for Missile Defense System Ahead of NATO Talks”

G-7 Assures Aid to Ukraine, Pain to Russia, as Russia Strikes Ukrainian Targets

Giving aid to Ukraine and pain to Vladimir Putin – those are the measures leaders of the world’s wealthiest liberal democracies zeroed in on Monday as they listened to Ukraine’s president plea for more help. VOA White House correspondent Anita Powell reports from Telfs, Austria. …

Turkey Maintains Threat to Veto Sweden, Finland from Joining NATO

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan heads to this week’s NATO summit in Madrid, threatening to veto Finland’s and Sweden’s bid to join the Atlantic alliance. Ankara is warning it’s not ready to lift its veto threat of their NATO membership bid ahead of the alliance’s summit in Madrid on Tuesday.   Erdogan’s chief adviser Ibrahim Kalin, speaking on Turkish TV Sunday, said Turkish demands had not been met.  Kalin said Turkey has brought negotiations to a certain point and it is not possible for Turkish leaders to take a step back. He said Turkish diplomats told this to their counterparts and made it clear the next step is up to them.   Erdogan wants Sweden and Finland to end their support of the Syrian Kurdish fighters of the YPG, which is linked to the PKK group that has been fighting the Turkish forces for decades, and which the Turkish government considers a terrorist organization.   Finland and Sweden support the YPG, as do some NATO members, including the United States, in the war against the Islamic State group.   Ankara also accuses Stockholm of giving sanctuary to people it says were responsible for the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey. Local Turkish media reported Monday the Turkish government has submitted a list of people it wants extradited from Sweden and Finland.   Turkey’s growing list of demands is a sign that Ankara has a broader agenda, said Asli Aydintasbas, a senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.  “Turkey wanted clearly a more expanded big grand bargain with NATO. It’s not getting that,” Aydintasbas said. “Instead, it’s getting a more bilateral conversation (among) Sweden and Finland (and) Turkey, and this has been a source of frustration. Erdogan wanted President (Joe) Biden himself to come into this conversation and put some incentives on the table. This hasn’t happened.”  Aaron Stein of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia said despite Turkey’s potential veto, Sweden’s and Finland’s security will still be assured from any Russian threat.  “Turkey can hold back, but they are not going to hold back the alliance. Things will move forward,” Stein said. “And let’s be clear here: The most important NATO member country is the United States. It’s the country that guarantees the security of them all. So, If the U.S. gives security to these two countries — which Joe Biden has effectively done — well, we’ve reassured … Continue reading “Turkey Maintains Threat to Veto Sweden, Finland from Joining NATO”

Russia Edges Toward Debt Payment Default

Russia moved closer Sunday to defaulting on international debt payments for the first time in a century.  Interest payments totaling $100 million on two bonds were originally due May 27, but carried a 30-day grace period.  Russia has struggled to make such payments due to restrictions on its financial activities and sanctions imposed in response to its invasion of Ukraine in February.  Russia’s attack on Ukraine continued on Sunday, when Russian forces launched new missile attacks on Ukraine’s two biggest cities, the capital of Kyiv and Kharkiv.  Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said at least two apartment buildings in the city were hit, leaving at least one person dead, and four others injured.  Russia ramped up its use of cruise missiles, striking targets across northwestern Ukraine. Air raid sirens blared in several cities.  “It’s more of their barbarism,” U.S. President Joe Biden said of the Russian strike on Kyiv as he appeared at a G-7 welcoming ceremony with Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany.  Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a key focus of the summit. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is due to address the meeting Monday.  Biden said that the United States and the other G-7 economies will ban the import of Russian gold, the latest sanction imposed on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine, now in its fifth month.  The leaders of the G-7 nations — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States — are trying to maintain unity against Russia, even with the war’s growing toll on the global economy, including in the U.S., which is confronting a four-decade high surge in consumer prices.  The new attack on Kyiv came a day after the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk, a major victory for Russia after weeks of fierce fighting.  Russia now controls virtually all of the Luhansk province, part of the eastern Donbas region that Moscow is trying to take over, one of its major war aims.  Ukraine said Russian forces had fully occupied Lysychansk, a neighboring city of Sievierodonetsk, in the eastern Luhansk region. Moscow claimed it had encircled about 2,000 Ukrainian troops in the area.  Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters. …

WNBA Star Brittney Griner Ordered to Trial Friday in Russia

Shackled and looking wary, WNBA star Brittney Griner was ordered to stand trial Friday by a court near Moscow on cannabis possession charges, about 4 1/2 months after her arrest at an airport while returning to play for a Russian team.  The Phoenix Mercury center and two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist also was ordered to remain in custody for the duration of her criminal trial. Griner could face 10 years in prison if convicted on charges of large-scale transportation of drugs. Fewer than 1% of defendants in Russian criminal cases are acquitted, and unlike in the U.S., acquittals can be overturned.  At Monday’s closed-door preliminary hearing at the court in the Moscow suburb of Khimki, Griner’s detention was extended for another six months. Photos obtained by The Associated Press showed the 31-year-old in handcuffs and looking straight ahead, unlike a previous court appearance where she kept her head down and covered with a hood.  Her detention and trial come at an extraordinarily low point in Moscow-Washington relations. She was arrested at Sheremetyevo Airport less than a week before Russia sent troops into Ukraine, which aggravated already-high tensions with sweeping sanctions by the United States and Russia’s denunciation of U.S. weapon supplies to Ukraine.  Amid the tensions, Griner’s supporters had taken a low profile in hopes of a quiet resolution, until May, when the State Department reclassified her as wrongfully detained and shifted oversight of her case to its special presidential envoy for hostage affairs — effectively the U.S. government’s chief negotiator.  Griner’s wife, Cherelle, urged President Joe Biden in May to secure her release, calling her “a political pawn.”  Her supporters have encouraged a prisoner swap like the one in April that brought home Marine veteran Trevor Reed in exchange for a Russian pilot convicted of drug trafficking conspiracy.  Russian news media have repeatedly raised speculation that she could be swapped for Russian arms trader Viktor Bout, nicknamed “The Merchant of Death,” who is serving a 25-year sentence on conviction of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and providing aid to a terrorist organization.  Russia has agitated for Bout’s release for years. But the discrepancy between Griner’s case — she allegedly was found in possession of vape cartridges containing cannabis oil — and Bout’s global dealings in deadly weapons could make such a swap unpalatable to the U.S.  Others have suggested that she could be traded in tandem with Paul Whelan, … Continue reading “WNBA Star Brittney Griner Ordered to Trial Friday in Russia”

G-7 Heightening Russia Sanctions for Ukraine War

The United States announced Monday new sanctions it and other G-7 countries are enacting against Russia in response to its war in Ukraine, including measures to cut off Russia from materials and services needed by Russia’s industrial and technology sectors.  The White House said the United States will commit $7.5 billion as part of a G-7 effort to help Ukraine cover its short-term budget needs, and that the governments are making “an unprecedented, long-term security commitment to providing Ukraine with financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support as long as it takes.”  The announcement came as G-7 leaders met in Germany where they awaited an address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.  Additional specific U.S. sanctions include blocks on Russian state-owned defense enterprises and defense research organizations, limiting Russia’s ability to replenish equipment it has lost in the war, and prohibitions on gold imports into the United States.  Russian troops carried out shelling in the eastern city of Lysychansk on Monday, working to try to capture the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold in Luhansk province after seizing control of neighboring Sievierodonetsk.  Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said the damage to Lysychansk has be “catastrophic.”  Haidai urged the remaining civilians to evacuate the city that was home to 100,000 people before Russia launched its invasion in late February.  Russia now controls virtually all of Luhansk province, part of the eastern Donbas region that Moscow is trying to take over, one of its major war aims.  Russian forces on Sunday launched new missile attacks against Ukraine’s two biggest cities, the capital of Kyiv and Kharkiv.  Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said at least two apartment buildings in the city were hit, leaving at least one person dead, and four others injured.  Russia ramped up its use of cruise missiles, striking targets across northwestern Ukraine. Air raid sirens blared in several cities.  “It’s more of their barbarism,” U.S. President Joe Biden said of the Russian strike on Kyiv.  Default  Russia moved closer Sunday to defaulting on international debt payments for the first time in a century.  Interest payments totaling $100 million on two bonds were originally due May 27, but carried a 30-day grace period.  Russia has struggled to make such payments due to restrictions on its financial activities related to sanctions imposed in response to its invasion of Ukraine that began in late February.  Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters. …

Ukraine War Could Boost Illegal Drug Production, says UN

The war in Ukraine could allow illegal drug production to flourish, while the opium market’s future hinges on the fate of crisis-wracked Afghanistan, the United Nations warned Monday.  Previous experience from the Middle East and Southeast Asia suggests conflict zones can act as a “magnet” for making synthetic drugs, which can be manufactured anywhere, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in its annual report. “This effect may be greater when the conflict area is near large consumer markets.”  The UNODC said the number of dismantled amphetamine laboratories in Ukraine rose from 17 in 2019 to 79 in 2020, the highest number of seized laboratories reported in any country in 2020.  Ukraine’s capacity to produce synthetic drugs could grow as the war continues, it added.  “You don’t have police going around and stopping laboratories” in conflict zones, UNODC expert Angela Me told AFP.  The report also noted that conflict could shift and disrupt drug trafficking routes, with suggestions that trafficking in Ukraine has fallen since early 2022.  The situation in Afghanistan — which produced 86% of the world’s opium in 2021 — will shape the development of the opiate market, the U.N. report added.  It said the country’s humanitarian crisis could incentivize illegal opium poppy cultivation, even after the Taliban authorities banned the practice in April.  “Changes in opium production in Afghanistan will have implications for opiate markets in virtually all regions of the world,” the U.N. said.  An estimated 284 million people used a drug in 2021, or one in every 18 people worldwide aged between 15 and 64, the report found.  The figure was 26% higher than in 2010, with population growth only partially accounting for the change.  Cocaine production climbed to a new record in 2020 at 1,982 tons.  Although most drug consumers were men, Me said women heavily used amphetamine type stimulants and were under-represented in treatment.  “For them, it’s a double stigma. Going there is also to expose themselves,” she told AFP. “We have put a recommendation on safety and how to ensure that the centers have the possibility to welcome children.”  The UNODC report was based on information gathered from member states, its own sources, and analyzing institutional reports, the media and open-source material. …

Erdogan to Meet With Leaders of Sweden, Finland Before NATO Summit in 4-Way Talks

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will attend a round of talks with the leaders of Sweden and Finland, as well as NATO on Tuesday ahead of the summit in Madrid, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Sunday. Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But the bids have faced opposition from Turkey, which has been angered by what it says is Helsinki and Stockholm’s support for Kurdish militants and arms embargoes on Ankara. Speaking to broadcaster Haberturk, Kalin said he and Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal would also attend a round of talks with Swedish and Finnish delegations in Brussels on Monday. “There will be a four-way summit in Madrid at the leader level in Madrid upon the request of the NATO secretary-general with the attendance of our president,” he said. Kalin said Erdogan attending the talks with Sweden, Finland and NATO on Tuesday “does not mean we will take a step back from our position.” “We have brought negotiations to a certain point. It is not possible for us to take a step back here,” he also said of the upcoming talks. Kalin said Turkey and the Nordic countries had largely agreed on issues and would be in a better position in Madrid— if they could agree on them during talks Monday. …

Family Bids Farewell to British Journalist Murdered in the Amazon

The family of Dom Phillips on Sunday bid farewell to the British journalist, who was killed earlier this month along with Brazilian Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira in the Amazon. Phillips’ wife Alessandra Sampaio, siblings Sian and Gareth, and brother-in-law Paul Sherwood attended the 57-year-old’s funeral in Niteroi near Rio de Janeiro. “Today Dom will be cremated in the country he loved, his chosen home,” Sampaio said. “He was a very special person not only for defending what he believed in as a professional but also for having a huge heart and great love for humanity,” she said. Sian revealed that the couple were planning to adopt two Brazilian children. Phillips, a freelance reporter who had written for the Guardian and The Washington Post, was doing research for a book on the trip with Pereira, a former head of the federal Indigenous affairs agency, FUNAI, which tracks isolated and recently contacted tribes —when they vanished in the remote Javari Valley on June 5. Their remains were recovered from a grave in the jungle roughly 10 days later after a fisherman who confessed to killing them, Amarildo da Costa, led Brazil’s police there. Phillips’ memorial happened two days after Pereira’s funeral, which was attended by Indigenous peoples who paid their respects with song and dance. Outside the cemetery where Phillips’ funeral was held people protested with signs reading “Who ordered to kill Dom and Bruno?” Police said earlier this month that their investigation suggested that more individuals were involved beyond Costa but that they were likely to have acted alone, with no bosses behind the crime. That theory was challenged by the Indigenous group, UNIVAJA. Phillips’ family said they will keep following the investigation and demanding justice. “He was killed because he tried to tell the world what was happening to the rainforest and its inhabitants,” Sian said. …

Greece to Triple Length of Border Fence With Turkey

Greece is set to further seal its land frontiers with rival neighbor Turkey, tripling the length of a soaring fence built to block illegal migrants from sneaking in. The plan comes as Greece faces a sudden surge in refugees, both along its land and sea frontiers, as relations with its age-old foe deteriorate. Greece began extending the security fence along its rugged border with Turkey last year, a decade after Athens initially built a 13-kilometer fence in the region to stem the tide of illegal migration. But a sudden surge in refugee flows has authorities concerned now. “There is a clear attempt by Turkey to instrumentalize migrants in creating a crisis with Greece,” said Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi. And the numbes, he added, speak for themselves. While inflows dropped dramatically from the 1 million mainly Syrians who spilled into the country during the 2015 refugee crisis, an estimated 1,000 migrants make illegal crossings every day. That’s about 20% higher than last year. Hundreds of additional border guards have been deployed along the so-called Evros frontier in recent weeks to bolster patrols. But with fears of a bigger migratory push looming, Mitarachi said Greece is wasting no time in moving ahead with plans to add 80 additional kilometers of barbed wire and steel to the existing 40-kilometer fence. How soon the project will begin remains unclear. But until it gets under way, Greece must deal with heightened migratory flows along its sea borders too… mainly in the massive Aegean waterway that divides Greece and Turkey. Nikos Spanos, an admiral with the Greek Coast Guard, spelled out the threats posed by this latest surge. “Let’s not kid ourselves,” he said. “Turkey regulates all migratory flows into Greece and Europe… and if the floodgates open farther, it will be very difficult for us to block these inflows from inundating many Greek islands.” In June, Migration Ministry officials counted nearly three thousand migrants who tried to illegally cross into Greece from Turkey in a total of 82 attempts made. Only 72 asylum seekers managed to evade interception. With relations between Greece and longtime foe Turkey sinking to their lowest point in years, authorities here are preparing for the worst: Massive inflows like those seen in 2015 in the biggest migratory push to Europe since World War II. Although they are NATO members, Greece and Turkey have been competing over air and sea rights in … Continue reading “Greece to Triple Length of Border Fence With Turkey”

Germany to Charge Most Citizens for COVID Rapid Tests

Germany will start charging for rapid COVID-19 tests that were previously free, though vulnerable groups will be exempt from the fee. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said that starting July 1 the rapid tests widely available at centers across Germany will cost citizens 3 euros ($3.16) each, with the rest subsidized by the government. The tests will remain free for people who can prove they belong to vulnerable groups, for visitors to care homes and hospitals, and for small children. The planned end to free tests at the end of June has raised concerns that Germany might experience an undetected rise in coronavirus cases over the coming months as people unwittingly spread the virus. Lauterbach said the government has calculated that subsidies for the tests will cost some 2.6 billion euros in the second half of the year — about a third of what it paid in the same period of 2021. Germany on Friday recorded over 108,000 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in 24 hours, and 90 additional deaths. …

Italian Nun Slain in Haiti Hailed by Pope as Martyr

Pope Francis on Sunday hailed as a martyr an Italian missionary nun slain in Haiti, where she cared for poor children. The diocese of Milan says Sister Luisa Dell’Orto, 64, was slain “during an armed aggression, probably with the aim of robbery,” in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital. The Vatican’s official media said Dell’Orto, gravely wounded, was taken to a hospital, where she died soon after. Francis in remarks to the public in St. Peter’s Square expressed his closeness to the nun’s family members and noted she had lived there for some 20 years, dedicating herself above all to helping poor children who lived on the street. “I entrust her soul to God, and I pray for the Haitian people, especially the little ones, so they can have a more serene future, without misery and without violence, ” Francis said. Dell’Orto “gave her life to others, until the point of martyrdom,” the pontiff said. The nun, who was born in Lombardy, northern Italy, had run a home for children in a very poor suburb of Port-au-Prince, the Milan diocese said. Haiti, a Caribbean country, is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. …