Ukraine. Forest fires near the defunct nuclear plant of Chernobyl caused radation in the area to rise 16 times above the normal level. Police arrested a suspect who is accused of causing the fires that started in early April by setting grass and rubbish on fire. While the fires increased the level of air pollution in Kiev – located around 90km south of Chernobyl – making them the worst in the world, authorities claimed there was no rise in radiation levels in the Ukrainian capital. While reports said the fires were getting dangerously close to the nuclear power plant and waste storage facilities, the government assured that the fires were contained and under control.
Sahel. Eleven European states have formed a new task force, named “Takuba”, to fight terrorism in Mali and the Sahel. The states supporting the project are Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Sweden. The French-led task force is also supposed to support the French “Barkhane” mission in the Sahel as well as the joint troops of five Sahel states.
Venezuela. The United States are accusing Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro as well as other high-ranking politicians of drug trafficking and narco terrorism and offered a bounty of $15 million for the arrest of Maduro. According to US federal authorities, Maduro cooperated with dissident FARC members to “flood” the US with cocaine. The US government, which supports Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guidó, already imposed sanctions against Venezuela under Maduro for human rights abuses and argues that Maduro is responsibile for Venezuela’s economic and political crisis.
WHO. US President Donald Trump has accused the World Health Organisation (WHO) and European states of knowingly allowing covid-19 to spread beyond China. Consequently, hesuspended funding for the WHO. The UN agency had declared a global health emergency on Janaury 30. The day after, Trump announced a ban on all foreign nationals entering the US from China. He said: “Tragically other nations put their trust in the WHO and they didn’t do any form of ban and you see what happened to Italy […]”. Meanwhile, New York Times data suggests that almost 40 000 Americans and authorised travellers were able to enter the US from China since the travel ban was put into action on February 4 whereas Italy introduced a complete ban on all people travelling from China on January 31. The WHO criticised Trump’s travel ban for “increasing fear and stigma, with little public health benefit”, and Democrats and disease experts claim that the travel ban has little effect as the coronavirus had already started to spread within the US as well as internationally.
WFP. Due to fundig shortfall the World Food Programme (WFP) was forced to reduce their support for refugees in Uganda by 30% and for Yemen by 50%. In Uganda, 1.4 million refugees rely on food rations distributed by the WFP. Activists fear that these cuts will make refugees’ lives in midst the nationwide shutdown due to the coronavirus even more complicated. A speaker of the WFP said that due to a critical lack of finances they had no other option but to reduce their aid for Yemen by half, despite the humanitarian crisis in the country. According to the UN, about 80% of the Yemini population is dependent on aid. Starting in mid-April they will receive support every second month as opposed to every month.
Syria. For the first time, the UN’s Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) explicitly names the Assad regime as those responsible for the poison gas attacks of 2017. They accuse the Syrian air force to have used sarin and chlorine gas in attacks on Syrian cities in late March 2017. Human rights organisations see the OPCW’s report as a milestone in the investigation of war crimes.
Israel. On the way of forming a new government, opposition leader Benny Gantz, who holds the mandate to form a government, has been asking for more time. This was denied to him by President Rivlin. The possibility of a unity coalition that was in sight is slipping away. Since no party has a clear majority, the mandate goes back to the parliament and a fourth election round in Israel could be the consequence.
USA. Senator Bernie Sanders ended his campaign for the nomination as presidential candidate, saying “the path toward victory is virtually impossible.” Thus, Joe Biden is the only remaining candidate of the Democrats. Sanders wants to leave his name in the ballot, but assured that he is supporting Biden in the political fight against Donald Trump. Sanders is known to not only run a presidential campaign, but to mobilise the US American progressive left and to have created a movement concerned with social and environmental justice.
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