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Ethiopia recalls retired military officers as anti-government alliance forms

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November 5, 2021

By Maggie Fick

NAIROBI (Reuters) -The Ethiopian army on Friday called on former personnel to rejoin the military to fight the advance of Tigrayan forces, state media said, as nine anti-government factions formed a new alliance to push out Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government.

Called the United Front of Ethiopian Federalist and Confederalist Forces, the alliance includes the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which has been fighting Abiy’s government for a year in a war that has killed thousands of people and forced more than two million more from their homes.

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Faced with a spreading conflict and threats by Tigrayan and allied forces to march on the capital Addis Ababa, the federal armed forces appealed to retired soldiers and veterans to rejoin the military, setting a Nov. 24 deadline to register.

In the past week, the government and local authorities have also told civilians in the capital to register their weapons and prepare to defend their neighburhoods.

African and Western nations have called for an immediate ceasefire https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/us-embassy-ethiopia-allows-voluntary-departure-some-staff-family-2021-11-04 in Ethiopia after Tigrayan forces from the north said they had moved closer to Addis Ababa this week.

The new anti-government alliance includes political, military and diplomatic cooperation and expands an existing agreement between the TPLF and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), one of the organisers, the TPLF’s Yohanees Abraha, told Reuters.

“We are considering establishing a transitional arrangement and we have agreed that the regime in power at this time must go as soon as possible,” he said.

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The nascent alliance was not in touch with Abiy’s government but planned to begin liaising with foreign governments and bodies, he said.

Abiy’s spokesperson, Billene Seyoum, asked for reaction to the formation of the alliance, referred Reuters to a comment she posted on Twitter in which she defended Abiy’s rule since he took office in 2018.

She said in the post the opening of political space after Abiy took office provided ample opportunity for the opposition to settle differences at the ballot box. Abiy’s party was re-elected in June. She did not refer directly to the new alliance.

Attorney General Gedion Temothewos called the alliance “a publicity stunt” and said some of the groups had a track record of “ethnic cleansing2.

TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda also did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.

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CEASEFIRE CALLS

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday called for a ceasfire, saying: “The conflict in Ethiopia must come to an end.”

The spokespeople for the Ethiopian government and the TPLF did not respond to requests for comment on Blinken’s call. On Thursday, the government’s communication department said in a statement: “This is not a Country that Crumbles under Foreign Propaganda! We are fighting an existential war!”

Prior to the new alliance, the OLA had already joined with the Tigrayan forces. The two groups told Reuters they are in the town of Kemise in Amhara state, 325 km (200 miles) from the capital.

It was not possible to independently confirms made by either side as communications in the area are down.

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On Thursday the government accused the Tigrayan forces of exaggerating their territorial gains.

The TPLF had said on Tuesday its forces were closing in on the town of Mille, which would enable them to cut off the highway linking neighbouring Djibouti to Addis Ababa.

On Friday, government spokesperson Legesse Tulu rejected the claim, saying fighting was 80 km (50 miles) from Mille. He had not responded to earlier requests for comment.

He also said there was fighting at least 100 km (60 miles) north of Shewa Robit, a town in the Amhara region that is on the A2 highway, which links the capital to Ethiopia’s north. That would put fighting about 57 km (36 miles) south of Kombulcha, one of two towns that the TPLF said it captured last weekend.

The government said on Friday that a TPLF commander, Colonel Guesh Gebrehiwot, was captured on Thursday during fighting near Dessie, in Amhara. The TPLF was unreachable for comment.

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At a market on Addis Ababa’s outskirts, traders went about their business as usual but fewer people were coming to shop.

Vegetable seller Abdisa Wili, 32, said prices were rising.

“If the war is going to continue, it will have impact on the economy,” he said. “Both sides should stop the war, no one will profit from war except death and economic downfall. They should solve the problem through discussion.”

NEW SANCTIONS BILL

Amnesty International said there has been an alarming rise in social media posts advocating violence. The rights group also said a state of emergency declared on Tuesday is overly broad and “a blueprint for escalating human rights violations”.

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The conflict started a year ago when forces loyal to the TPLF, including some soldiers, seized military bases in Tigray. In response, Abiy sent more troops to the northern region.

The TPLF had dominated national politics for nearly three decades but lost much influence when Abiy took office in 2018.

The TPLF accused him of centralising power at the expense of regional states. Abiy denies this.

(Additional reporting by George Obulutsa in Nairobi; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Angus MacSwan, William Maclean)

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Russian court remands mine director, inspectors in custody after deadly accident

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November 27, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A court in Siberia on Saturday remanded five people in custody for two months to face charges related to a mining accident that killed more than 50 people this week.

Three managers of the Listvyazhnaya mine, including its director, were ordered to remain in custody until late January for flouting industrial safety standards, a spokesperson for the regional prosecutor’s office said.

The court also ordered two safety inspectors, who had issued a certificate for the mine this month but had not actually checked the facility, to remain in custody until late January.

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The accident, which regional authorities say was likely caused by a methane explosion, claimed the lives of 51 people, including five rescuers who were sent to bring out dozens of men stuck deep underground.

The health ministry said on Saturday that 60 people were being treated in hospital for injuries sustained at the mine, TASS news agency reported.

The accident at the mine, located some 3,500 km (2,200 miles) east of Moscow in the Kemerovo region, was Russia’s worst since 2010 when explosions killed 91 people at the Raspadskaya mine in the same region.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Christina Fincher)

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Russia spy chief says Ukraine invasion plan ‘malicious’ U.S. propaganda

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November 27, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia has no plans to invade Ukraine and suggestions to the contrary are malicious U.S. propaganda, Moscow’s foreign intelligence chief said on Saturday.

U.S., NATO and Ukrainian officials have raised the alarm in recent weeks over what they say are unusual Russian troop movements near the border with Ukraine, suggesting that Moscow may be poised to launch an attack.

Russia has repeatedly said it is free to move its troops on its own territory and that such movements should not be a cause for concern.

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“I need to reassure everyone. Nothing like this is going to happen,” Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, said in an interview broadcast on state television, referring to comments on Russia’s alleged invasion plans.

“Everything that is happening around this topic right now is of course malicious propaganda by the U.S. State Department.”

Naryshkin spoke a day after the State Department’s top U.S. diplomat for European affairs said all options were on the table in how to respond to Russia’s troop buildup near Ukraine’s border and that NATO would decide on the next move after consultations next week.

While U.S. officials have voiced concerns about a possible Russian attack on Ukraine, Moscow has accused Washington, Kyiv and NATO of provocative and irresponsible behaviour near its borders.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Spanish police march in Madrid to protest against ‘Gag Law’ reform

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November 27, 2021

By Miguel Gutierrez and Marco Trujillo

MADRID (Reuters) – Thousands of Spanish police officers marched through Madrid on Saturday to protest against a proposed reform of a security law which they say will hamper their ability to do their work.

Politicians from Spain’s three main conservative parties joined police officers in the protest against proposed changes to the 2015 Citizens Security Law, which critics say violates the right to protest and limits free expression.

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Dubbed the “Gag Law” by those who oppose it, the legislation allows authorities to fine media organisations for distributing unauthorised images of police, strictly limits demonstrations and imposes heavy fines for offenders.

Spain’s leftist government has proposed reforms including no longer classifying the taking of photographs or making of recordings of police at demonstrations as a serious offence.

Under the changes, police will also have to use less harmful materials at protests after a number of people were seriously injured by rubber bullets fired by officers.

The time that suspects who are arrested at protests can be held in custody will be cut from six hours to two and fines will be proportional to how much offenders earn.

“They should either leave the current law as it is or make it better for the police and for the citizens,” Civil Guard officer Vanessa Gonzalez told Reuters.

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Ivan Espinosa de los Monteros, of the far-right Vox party, said: “There is strong opposition against (the reform) of this law. It is against our police and we will not let it happen.”

However, Isa Serra, spokeswoman for the far-left Unidas Podemos party, said at a rally in Cantabria in northern Spain that the law had done a “lot of damage to Spanish democracy”.

Organisers said 150,000 people took part in the Madrid demonstration but the government put the figure at 20,000.

(Reporting by Graham Keeley, Miguel Gutierrez and Marco Trujillo; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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