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Sudan’s army chief appoints new ruling council, led by himself

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November 11, 2021

By Khalid Abdelaziz

CAIRO (Reuters) – Sudan’s army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan was sworn in on Thursday as head of a new transitional council he appointed to lead the country following the military takeover late last month, shrugging off domestic and international pressure to reverse the coup.

The new 14-member Sovereign Council, for which one member is yet to be confirmed, includes civilians representing Sudan’s regions but none from the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) political coalition that had been sharing power with the military in a democratic transition since 2019.

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Burhan’s deputy will remain Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commander of the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), with both men keeping roles they held before the coup.

The move is likely to harden opposition among civilian groups who have pledged to resist the takeover through a campaign of civil disobedience, strikes and mass rallies, the next of which is planned for Saturday.

Late on Thursday, protesters closed roads and burned tires in Burri, a neighbourhood in the east of the capital Khartoum, witnesses said. Unverified pictures posted on social media appeared to show similar protests in other parts of the capital.

Sudan’s ousted Information Minister Hamza Balloul said the announcement was an extension of the coup and that he was confident the Sudanese people could defeat it.

The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), a leading protest movement, said: “Burhan and his council’s decisions apply only to themselves, they have no legitimacy and will be met only with contempt and resistance.”

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The new council also includes representatives of rebel groups that reached a peace deal with the government last year but had rejected the takeover in a statement this week.

The Oct. 25 takeover ended a power-sharing arrangement between the military and civilians set up after the overthrow of former president Omar al-Bashir in 2019 that was meant to lead to elections in late 2023.

Some senior civilians have been detained and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been under house arrest.

The previous council had served as Sudan’s collective head of state, alongside Hamdok’s government which ran Sudan’s day-to-day affairs. Burhan and Dagalo had been due to hand over its leadership to a civilian in the coming months.

Mediation aimed at securing the release of detainees and a return to power sharing has stalled since the coup as the military moved to consolidate control https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/sudans-military-rulers-draw-bashir-era-veterans-tighten-grip-2021-11-11. Political sources told Reuters on Thursday that there had been no progress in indirect contacts between Hamdok and the army.

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Aboulgasim Mohamed Burtum, a newly appointed council member and former member of parliament, told Sky News he hoped the new government would be well-received. “We are civilians, the civilians are not only Hamdok,” he said.

Prior to Thursday’s announcement, Burhan told Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni that he was committed to dialogue with all political forces and the quick formation of a technocratic government, Burhan’s office said. Burhan has denied carrying out a coup and promised elections in 2023.

MEDIC ARRESTED

Sudanese medic Mohamed Nagi Al-Assam, who was prominent in the uprising against Bashir and was a vocal critic of the coup, was arrested earlier on Thursday and taken to an unknown location, a doctors union said.

In a statement on Assam’s arrest, the union said resistance would continue “until the coup is brought down and its leaders are put on trial.”

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Much of the international community has called on Burhan to reverse the takeover, with Western powers and the World Bank suspending economic assistance and saying a deal to forgive tens of billions of dollars of foreign debt is at risk.

The United Nations called Thursday’s developments “very concerning.” In a closed-door briefing to the U.N. Security Council, U.N. Sudan envoy Volker Perthes had been “very frank in his assessment that the window now is closing for dialogue and for peaceful resolution,” Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward told reporters.

The civil disobedience movement has been hampered by a blackout of mobile internet access across Sudan since Oct. 25.

A judge on Thursday issued a second instruction to telecoms firms Zain and MTN and local providers Sudatel and Canar to restore connections, pending the announcement of any damages to be paid to subscribers.

In a statement to Reuters, Zain said the original order only applied to some accounts which the company reconnected immediately. It said it was working on Thursday’s order to restore all lines. Other companies could not be reached or did not respond to requests for comment.

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Alongside Burhan and Dagalo, three other military members of the previous ruling council were retained in the new council, as well as one civilian representative jointly selected by the military and the FFC.

Four new members representing Sudan’s regions were appointed, though the representative for eastern Sudan was yet to be confirmed, state media reported.

(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, Nafisa Eltahir, Ahmed Hagagy, Mahmoud Mourad and Michelle Nichols; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Peter Graff, Bill Berkrot and Cynthia Osterman)

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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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