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Ecuador demonstrators block some roads, dozens arrested

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October 27, 2021

By Alexandra Valencia

QUITO (Reuters) -Thousands of demonstrators protested against the economic policies of conservative Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso on Tuesday, days after he raised gasoline prices, blocking roads in some parts of the country.

Lasso, an ex-banker who took office in May, last week scrapped https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/ecuador-scrap-monthly-fuel-price-increases-establishes-fixed-price-lasso-2021-10-22 planned incremental rises in gasoline charges, meant to eventually align with international costs, following pressure by indigenous and other organizations.

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He opted instead to raise the price of gasoline extra, a higher octane gasoline that is Ecuador’s most-used fuel, to a fixed $2.55 a gallon and diesel to $1.90 a gallon.

But unions and other groups want Lasso to freeze prices at lower rates and exempt sectors hit hard by COVID-19.

Five police officers were injured and two members of the armed forces were being held by a community in northern Quito, but were unharmed, Defense Minister Luis Hernandez told journalists.

Thirty-seven people were detained for blocking roads, he added.

The Ecuador Confederation of Indigenous Nations said demonstrators had been injured but did not give a figure.

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Interior Minister Alexandra Vela said marches were peaceful except for a few incidents in the afternoon and said the government was open to dialogue.

Gasoline costs have risen significantly since Lasso’s predecessor, Lenin Moreno, began monthly increases in May 2020.

“We don’t agree that the measures implemented because of the crisis should fall on workers and the middle class,” said university professor Victor Sanchez, 55, as he marched in central Quito with about 1,000 others.

Police used tear gas in the capital amid small clashes with protesters, while officers on horseback blocked the entrance to the plaza that had been the marchers’ destination.

Marches also took place in Guayaquil and Cuenca.

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Indigenous groups blocked the road that connects Quito to the country’s north with earth and trees, and others in various Andean provinces were closed.

Indigenous organization CONFENIAE said some roadways in the Amazon region had been shuttered from the early morning.

“We didn’t come to destabilize, we came to make economic demands of the government,” CONAIE president Leonidas Iza told demonstrators in Panzaleo.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; additional reporting by Tito CorreaWriting by Julia Symmes CobbEditing by Rosalba O’Brien, Marguerita Choy and Leslie Adler)

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One of suspected killers of Saudi journalist Khashoggi arrested in France – RTL

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December 7, 2021

PARIS (Reuters) – One of the suspected killers of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was arrested at the Roissy airport near Paris on Tuesday as he was about to board a flight to Riyadh, French RTL radio reported.

RTL said the person arrested was a former Royal Guard of Saudi Arabia who is believed to have been involved in the killing of Kashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

(Reporting by Tassilo Hummel, Writing by GV De Clercq, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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Biden, Putin begin talks, RIA says, after U.S. warning of toughest sanctions yet if Russia invades Ukraine

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December 7, 2021

By Steve Holland and Andrew Osborn

WASHINGTON/MOSCOW (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden began a video conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, Russian state television said, after U.S. officials warned Moscow could be hit with the toughest economic sanctions yet if it invades Ukraine.

The officials said the sanctions, which one source said could target Russia’s biggest banks and Moscow’s ability to convert roubles into dollars and other currencies, were designed to dissuade Putin from using tens of thousands of troops massed near the Ukrainian border to attack its southern neighbour.

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The Kremlin, which said before the meeting it did not expect any breakthroughs, has denied harbouring such intentions and has said its troop posture is defensive.

But Moscow has voiced rising vexation over Western military aid to Ukraine, a fellow former Soviet republic that has tilted towards the West since a popular revolt toppled a pro-Russian president in 2014, and what it calls creeping NATO expansion.

Moscow has likewise questioned Ukrainian intentions and said it wants guarantees that Kyiv will not use force to try to retake territory lost in 2014 to Russia-backed separatists, a scenario Ukraine has ruled out.

“We’re looking for good, predictable relations with the United States. Russia has never intended to attack anyone, but we have our concerns and we have our red lines,” said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

Calling for everyone to keep “a cool head”, Peskov said it was vital that Putin and Biden speak given what he called the extraordinary escalation of tensions in Europe.

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The Russian rouble weakened slightly on Tuesday, with some market analysts predicting the talks would de-escalate tensions and others saying that the U.S. sanctions threat eroded hopes of finding common ground.

Ahead of his first direct talks with Putin since July, Biden discussed the sanctions plan with European allies on Monday, seeking a strong joint stance in support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

He spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

They called on Russia to defuse tensions and return to diplomacy and said their teams would stay in close touch, including in consultation with NATO allies and EU partners, on a “coordinated and comprehensive approach”, the White House said.

Biden’s team has identified a set of economic penalties to impose should Russia launch an invasion, a senior Biden administration official said.

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A separate source familiar with the situation said targeting Putin’s inner circle has been discussed but no decision made. Sanctions against Russia’s biggest banks and curbing the conversion of roubles into dollars and other currencies were also being considered, another source said.

(Additional reporting by Idrees Ali in Washington, Gleb Stolyarov, Dmitry Antonov, Alexander Marrow, Tom Balmforth and Katya Golubkova in Moscow, Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Catherine Evans and Mark Heinrich)

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Britain reports 101 more cases of Omicron coronavirus variant

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December 7, 2021

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain has found a further 101 confirmed cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant, the UK Health Security Agency said on Tuesday, taking the total number of cases to 437.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by William Schomberg)

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