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Focus on freedoms in Slovenia triggers EU Twitter spat

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Oct 15 (Reuters) – A visit by EU lawmakers to assess media freedoms in Slovenia has sparked a Twitter spat between the country’s prime minister and his Dutch counterpart, fuelling tensions over eastern members’ respect for the rule of law ahead of an EU summit next week.

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa denounced the delegation of eight lawmakers as they took stock of the rule of law situation, media freedom and the fight against corruption.

“Who are you? How many times have you visited a German chancellor, a Dutch prime minister or a French president?” Jansa tweeted on Thursday.

An admirer of former U.S. President Donald Trump and an ally of Hungary’s nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orban, Jansa has clashed with Brussels in the past over media freedoms.

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Slovenia holds the EU’s six-month rotating presidency at a moment when there is increasing alarm in western European capitals about respect for the rule of law and freedoms in eastern European countries, especially in Hungary and Poland.

The bloc has held up disbursements from its post-pandemic recovery fund to Hungary and Poland because of feuding over Budapest’s approach to LGBTQ rights and Warsaw’s challenge to the supremacy of EU law.

“By the way, it’s (the) Netherlands where the last journalist was killed in the EU,” Jansa added in his tweet, referring to the murder of prominent Dutch reporter Peter de Vries in July.

Rutte called that tasteless, saying on Twitter that he condemned the comment “in the strongest possible terms” and had conveyed that message to Slovenia’s ambassador in The Hague.

Jansa retorted: “Well, Mark, don’t waste time with ambassadors and media freedom in Slovenia … protect your journalists from being killed on the streets.”

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European Parliament President David Sassoli tweeted that Jansa should “cease the provocations” against members of the assembly.

European Council President Charles Michel, who will chair an EU summit Oct. 21-22, said on Twitter the bloc’s parliamentarians “should be able to do their work free from any form of pressure”, but did not refer to the Slovenian leader.

Jansa’s Twitter tirade included a picture – later deleted – of “13 of the 226 known Soros puppets” in the EU parliament. Orban has long vilified Hungarian-born U.S. financier George Soros, who promotes liberal values through the Open Society Foundations and who is Jewish.

“Anti-Semitism has no place in the European Union…It presents a threat not only to Jewish communities but to an open and diverse society,” a spokesman for the EU’s executive Commission said when asked about Jansa’s tweet.

“Social media should … not be a place for personal attacks against individuals, be it private or public figures”.Editing by John Chalmers and Frances Kerry

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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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