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Japan PM Kishida to outline policy plans after strong election win

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November 10, 2021

By Antoni Slodkowski

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will outline his plans on Wednesday to revive the country’s economy hit by the pandemic following a convincing election win last month, in which his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) won a strong majority.

The soft-spoken former banker from Hiroshima is enjoying a post-election boost, with the government’s support ratings rising to 53% in this week’s opinion poll by public broadcaster NHK, compared to 46% two weeks ago.

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Solid ratings, a planned economic stimulus, coupled with high vaccination rates and few infections could help Kishida solidify his power base in the party and avoid the fate of his predecessor Yoshihide Suga who lasted only a year in the job.

On Wednesday, Kishida is set to be re-elected by the parliament in whose powerful lower chamber the LDP won 261 out of 465 seats. The vote is a formality given the party’s and its junior coalition partner Komeito’s dominance in the parliament.

Kishida is also set to reappoint all but one of the ministers from the previous line up, announced last month after he was first elected by the parliament following his victory in the LDP chief race triggered by Suga’s resignation in September.

One change is in the position of the foreign minister, where Kishida is expected to replace Toshimitsu Motegi, who has moved to a key party post, with another LDP heavyweight former Education Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi.

Most of Kishida’s ministers have no prior cabinet experience, in line with his pledge to give a chance to new people, but the majority of important jobs have gone to allies of two party grandees: conservative former premier Shinzo Abe, or ex-finance minister Taro Aso.

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In a further move bolstering the position of conservatives in the LDP following Abe’s record-long tenure in the top job, the ex-PM is expected to on Wednesday take over as the head of the party’s largest faction, domestic media said.

With elections out of the way, Kishida is setting an ambitious agenda to pass economic stimulus which could be worth more than 30 trillion yen ($264.7 billion) on Nov. 19, and an extra budget to fund the spending by the end of this month.

On Tuesday, Kishida vowed to put the economy on track by boosting private-sector investment and disposable income to achieve a “virtuous cycle” of economic growth and distribution of wealth.

Kishida stressed his immediate priority was reviving growth, while fiscal reform could wait until later.

He has said he wants to revamp Japan’s medical system and arrange the provision of booster shots so that the country is in better shape to meet the next wave of COVID-19 infections.

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He is set to lay out these plans at a news conference in the evening Japan time.

($1 = 113.3500 yen)

(Reporting by Antoni Slodkowski; Editing by Michael Perry)

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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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