Weekly News 26 – 30  March 2018

Monday 26 March 2018

Egypt: Egyptians are heading to the polls, seen largely as a referendum on Sisi’s performance due to lack of opponents.The three-day election, which kicked off on Monday, is largely viewed as a referendum on el-Sisi’s performance, as he is running against one of his supporters, Moussa Mustafa Moussa, a little-known politician who had endorsed him for a second term and even organised events to help nominate the former military commander. (Al Jazeera)

Kosovo: Kosovo detains Serbian politician after ‘illegal entry’ into region. Marko Đurić, head of Belgrade’s office for Kosovo and Metohija, was seized in the town of North Mitrovica by balaclava-clad and rifle-wielding members of Pristina’s ROSU police, who fired what appeared to be stun grenades to clear a crowd of angry Serb civilians. Inside the building, people ducked for cover as the police entered the hall where Đurić was speaking and led him away. (The Guardian)

Russia: The United States and its European allies are expelling dozens of Russian diplomats in a co-ordinated response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the UK.
More than 20 countries have aligned with the UK, expelling more than 100 diplomats.
Russia vowed to retaliate to the “provocative gesture”. (BBC)

Spain: Protests broke out across the Spanish region of Catalonia on Sunday after former leader Carles Puigdemont was taken into custody in Germany.
At least 89 people were injured in clashes with police and four arrests were made.
Mr Puigdemont appeared before a German judge on Monday and was remanded in custody.
Prosecutor Georg-Friedrich Guentge said Mr Puigdemont “appeared calm and composed”. Spanish news agency Efe estimated crowds of 55,000 in the centre of Barcelona. Smaller demonstrations were held in Girona, where Mr Puigdemont once served as mayor, Tarragona and Lleida. Some protesters also formed road blocks in various locations. (BBC)

Tuesday 28 March 2018

Russia: Nato has announced it is cutting the size of its Russian mission by a third, removing accreditation from seven Russian staff and rejecting three other pending applications.
The Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said the permanent size of the Russian mission would be cut from 30 to 20 people, adding the announcement was “a clear and very strong message that that there was a cost to Russia’s reckless actions” in poisoning the Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury earlier this month. (The Guardian)

Spain: Spanish intelligence agents had been tracking the movements of the former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont using the geolocation service on his friend’s mobile phone before he was detained in Germany at the weekend, according to reports. Spain’s national court on Tuesday opened an investigation into whether the four people accompanying Puigdemont on his journey might be guilty of concealment. The Mossos d’Esquadra are also investigating the role of the two off-duty officers involved. (The Guardian)

Terrorism: The Executive Director of EU border agency Frontex, said Tuesday that the state of alert about potential terrorist attacks remains high. (AnsaMed)

Wednesday 28 March 2018

Ireland: Ireland will vote in a referendum on 25 May on liberalising its strict abortion laws, the government has confirmed, in an announcement that officially begins two months of campaigning. If Ireland votes in favour of repeal, the government has said it will introduce legislation permitting unrestricted abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Currently, terminations are only allowed when the life of the mother is at risk, and the maximum penalty for accessing an illegal abortion is 14 years in prison. The UN’s human rights committee has condemned the ban as “cruel, inhuman and degrading”. (The Guardian)

Poland: Poland has signed an agreement to buy the Patriot missile defence system from the US, in a move that is likely to anger Russia. President Andrzej Duda said the “historic” $4.75bn (£3.4bn) deal gave Poland “state-of-the-art” defences. It follows reports that Russia had permanently deployed nuclear-capable missile systems in its territory of Kaliningrad, which borders Poland. (BBC)

Skipral’s case: A Russian ex-spy and his daughter first came into contact with the nerve agent that poisoned them at their home, police have said.
The highest concentration of the agent used against Sergei and Yulia Skripal was found on their front door.
The pair were found collapsed on a bench in Salisbury on 4 March and remain in a critical condition. (BBC)

Thursday 29 March 2018

Brexit: Theresa May has pledged to keep the UK “strong and united” after Brexit as she marks a year to go until the UK’s departure from the European Union.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair said it was “more likely… than a few months ago” that Brexit could be stopped, saying it was “not too late”. (BBC)

Democratic Republic of Congo: At least 10 people are dead and 10 others are missing after a rebel attack in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It happened on the outskirts of the city of Beni, in a region beset by violence involving the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) armed group.
People living there say the government of President Joseph Kabila has abandoned them. (video) (Al Jazeera)

Egypt: Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi is set to be re-elected for a second term, partial results suggest.
The state-run al-Ahram newspaper said Mr Sisi had won almost 92% of the 25 million votes counted so far.
His sole challenger was Moussa Mustafa Moussa, a little-known party leader who had supported his re-election until his last-minute decision to enter the race.
Other potential candidates dropped out or were arrested, prompting opposition figures to call for a boycott. The final results are expected to be announced on Monday. (BBC)

Israel: The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, also known as BDS, could potentially cost Israel up to $11.5bn a year.
That’s according to a partially redacted Israeli government report from 2013, which factored in the most extreme scenario of a full-blown EU boycott of Israeli products and a halt to investments.Is BDS already having an impact on Israel? It depends on who you ask. (Al Jazeera) 

Friday 30 March 2018

Israel: At Kuwait’s request, the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting late on Friday, to issue a statement condemning Israel’s use of force against Palestinians protesting in Gaza.
The US blocked it several times, and the council failed to agree on a joint statement.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an “independent and transparent investigation” and reaffirmed “the readiness” of the world body to revitalise peace efforts. (Al Jazeera)  

Palestine: The Palestinian Authority has declared Saturday a day of national mourning after 17 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces as thousands marched near Gaza’s border with Israel in a major demonstration marking the 42nd anniversary of Land Day. Friday’s demonstration commemorated Land Day, which took place on March 30, 1976, when six unarmed Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed by Israeli forces during protests against the Israeli government’s decision to expropriate massive tracts of Palestinian-owned land. (Al Jazeera)

Palestine: Palestinians are observing a day of national mourning for at least 16 people killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers at the Gaza border on 30 March.
Thousands of people are attending the funerals. Hundreds were wounded at the start of protests demanding a right for Palestinians to return to former family homes in what is now Israel.
The UN secretary-general has called for an independent inquiry into the deaths.
Israeli officials said soldiers opened fire after rioting broke out. the 30 March was the single deadliest day in the Israel-Palestine conflict since the 2014 Gaza war. The UN Security Council condemned the violence after an emergency session. (BBC)

Russia: Some 150 Russian diplomats have been expelled by mainly Western countries as their governments have rallied behind Britain. Russia initially hit back at the UK, but then announced 60 US expulsions. On Friday it called in a string of foreign ambassadors with news that their own countries’ measures were being matched. (BBC)