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Sweden and Finland take major step towards joining NATO

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(Last Updated On: April 14, 2022)

Finland and Sweden took a major step towards joining NATO on Wednesday, after their prime ministers said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had changed Europe’s “whole security landscape” and “dramatically shaped mindsets” in the Nordic countries.

The Finnish prime minister, Sanna Marin, said on Wednesday that her country, which shares a 1,300km border with Russia, would decide whether to apply to join the alliance “quite fast, in weeks not months”, the UK’s Guardian reported.

Russia has repeatedly warned both countries against joining NATO and would see any such move as a provocation. The Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, has said that if Finland and Sweden entered NATO, Russia would have to “rebalance the situation” with its own measures.

Speaking at a joint press conference in Stockholm, with her Swedish counterpart, Magdalena Andersson, Marin said Finland had to be “prepared for all kinds of actions from Russia” and that “everything had changed” when Moscow attacked Ukraine, the Guardian reported.

Both countries are officially non-aligned militarily, but became NATO partners – taking part in exercises and exchanging intelligence – after abandoning their previous stance of strict neutrality when they joined the EU in 1995 after the end of the cold war.

Finland declared independence in 1917 after more than a century of Russian rule, and its heavily outnumbered army twice fought off Soviet forces during the second world war before ceding some border territory. Sweden has not fought a war for 200 years.

Many commentators expect the two Nordic nations to act in tandem on whether to join, although Finland – widely seen as likely to apply before a NATO summit in Madrid scheduled for June – looks closer than Sweden.

A Swedish security policy review is expected to be completed before the end of May and Andersson has said she will await its outcome before making any decisions. However, a positive Finnish decision would put pressure on Sweden to follow suit.

Both countries have received public assurances from the NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, that their applications would be welcome, as well as expressions of support from members including the US, UK, Germany and France. Any membership application must be accepted by all 30 Nato states, which could take four months to a year.

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Voters in many countries sceptical of democracy, poll shows

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(Last Updated On: April 12, 2024)

Voters in many countries are suffering a crisis of faith in their democracies and institutions, a survey by a governance watchdog showed, painting a bleak picture in a year in which more than half of the world’s population holds elections.

With the United States, India, Britain and the European Union going to the polls in 2024, the report published on Thursday by the International Institute of Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) offers a sombre snapshot of the perceived health of many democracies.

The results show that voters in 11 of the 19 countries surveyed, which included the U.S. and India, fewer than half of the people believed the most recent election was free and fair.

Only voters in Denmark believed courts ‘always’ or ‘often’ provide access to justice, while in 8 of 19 countries, more people had favourable views of “a strong leader who doesn’t have to bother with parliament or elections” than had unfavourable views.”Democracies must respond to the scepticism of their public, both by improving governance and by combating the growing culture of disinformation that has fostered false accusations against credible elections,” International IDEA Secretary-General Kevin Casas-Zamora said in a statement.

This year’s presidential election in the United States is likely to see incumbent Democrat Joe Biden face off again against ex-president Donald Trump, who falsely claimed widespread voter fraud when he lost the presidency in 2020.

The survey showed that only 47 per cent of respondents in the United States expressed faith that the country had credible electoral processes.

Elections for Europe’s parliament which take place in June could see big gains for the far-right and impact policy from support for Ukraine in its war against Russia’s full-scale invasion to measures to address climate change.

In February, the parliament condemned what it called Russian attempts to undermine European democracy.

The survey, conducted between July 2023 and January 2024, polled about 1,500 people in each of 19 countries including Brazil, Chile, Colombia, The Gambia, Iraq, Italy, Lebanon, Lithuania, Pakistan, Romania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Korea and Tanzania.

 

(Reuters)

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One dead, five wounded in Washington shooting

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(Last Updated On: April 11, 2024)

A man has been killed and five others, including two children, injured after a shooting in Washington.

The shooting happened in the Carver Langston neighborhood on Wednesday night, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Pamela Smith said.

Investigators believe the suspects got out of a vehicle and began shooting into a crowd of people on the street.

One man was killed while two men, a woman and a nine-year-old were taken by ambulance to local hospitals.

A 12-year-old later arrived at a hospital with a gunshot wound and is also believed to be a victim in the shooting, Smith said.

The District of Columbia is struggling with a sharp increase in violent crime, which went up 39 percent in 2023.

The increase was largely fuelled by a 35 percent rise in homicides and growth in carjackings, which nearly doubled.

Smith has pushed US politicians to pass legislation that would strengthen penalties for gun offenses in Washington.

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Three sons of Hamas leader Haniyeh killed in Israeli airstrike

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(Last Updated On: April 11, 2024)

Three sons of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh were killed in an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, the Palestinian Islamist group and Haniyeh’s family said.

The Israeli military confirmed carrying out the attack, describing the three sons as operatives in the Hamas armed wing, Reuters reported.

The three sons – Hazem, Amir and Mohammad – were killed when the car they were driving in was bombed in Gaza’s Al-Shati camp, Hamas said. Four of Haniyeh’s grandchildren, three girls and a boy, were also killed in the attack, Hamas said.

Asked about the four grandchildren killed in the airstrike, the Israeli military said there was “no information on that right now.”

Haniyeh, based abroad in Qatar, has been the tough-talking face of Hamas’ international diplomacy as war with Israel has raged on in Gaza, where his family home was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike back in November.

“The blood of my sons is not dearer than the blood of our people,” Haniyeh, 61, who has 13 sons and daughters according to Hamas sources, told pan-Arab Al Jazeera TV.

The three sons and four grandchildren were making family visits during the first day of Eid al-Fitr in Shati, their home refugee camp in Gaza City, according to relatives.

Hamas said on Tuesday it was studying an Israeli ceasefire proposal in the more than six-month-old Gaza war but that it was “intransigent” and met none of the Palestinian demands.

“Our demands are clear and specific and we will not make concessions on them. The enemy will be delusional if it thinks that targeting my sons, at the climax of the negotiations and before the movement sends its response, will push Hamas to change its position,” Haniyeh said.

In the seventh month of a war in which Israel’s air and ground offensive has devastated Gaza, Hamas wants an end to Israeli military operations and a withdrawal from the enclave, and permission for displaced Palestinians to return home, Reuters reported.

Haniyeh’s eldest son confirmed in a Facebook post that his three brothers were killed. “Thanks to God who honoured us by the martyrdom of my brothers, Hazem, Amir and Mohammad and their children,” wrote Abdel-Salam Haniyeh.

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