Issue 80:2016 11 17:Week in Brief International

17 November 2016




BULGARIA:  Rumen Radev won the presidential elections with 59.4% of the vote.  Bulgaria is a member of NATO and the EU, but Mr Radev has criticised the EU about sanctions against Russia. See comment President Putin’s Other New Friends.

ESTONIA:  Prime Minister Taavi Rovias lost a vote of no confidence.  He had refused to resign after his government’s three party coalition collapsed earlier in the week.

FRANCE:  Emmanuel Macron, formerly M Hollande’s economy minister, is expected to announce that he will stand as an independent in next year’s presidential elections.

The polls give Alain Juppe a narrow lead over Nicolas Sarkozy in the Republican Party’s first primary this Sunday.

GERMANY:  Seven Islamists who styled themselves “Sharia police” and patrolled the streets of Wuppertal have gone on trial accused of breaking a law against the wearing of political uniforms.   They wore hi-viz orange jackets with the words “Sharia Police” on the back.

Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrat Union backed the Social Democrat foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to succeed President Joachim Gauck next February.

GREECE:  President Obama began a farewell tour of Europe with a two-day visit to Greece.  Anti-austerity protests are expected, and an open-air speech at the Acropolis planned for the president was dropped last week after a hand-grenade attack on the French embassy in Athens.

ITALY:  The residents of Venice marched in protest against the pressure of tourism on their homes.  Local stores are being taken over as souvenir shops, properties are being let out as Airbnb rentals, and the mayor is encouraging the dwindling population to move to the mainland.

MOLDOVA:  Igor Dodon won the presidential election with 52.2% of the vote.  Moldova has a trade agreement with the EU, but Mr Dodon is keen to restore good relations with Russia. See comment President Putin’s Other New Friends.

POLAND:  The remains of former president Lech Kaczynski are to be exhumed as part of an investigation into the plane crash near Smolensk in Russia which killed him and other leading Polish figures in 2010.

RUSSIA:  The Kremlin welcomed the Donald Trump victory as an opportunity to rebuild Russian/USA relations.

The economy minister Alexei Ulyukayev has been detained on bribery and corruption charges.

Russia has alleged that a terrorist group captured in the Crimea had in its possession weapons and explosives. The Ukrainian Government dismissed the allegations and accused the FSB (formerly the KGB) of disseminating false information in order to influence Donald Trump against the Ukrainian Government.

Middle East and Africa

AFGHANISTAN:  A Taliban suicide car bomb attack on the German consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif killed 6 people and wounded at least 100.

IRAN:  State television reported that Iran and China have signed a defence agreement, enabling joint military manoeuvres and co-operation against terrorism.

IRAQ:  More mass graves have been found by Iraq forces attacking Isis-held Mosul.  There are reports from Hamman al-Alil outside Mosul of an uprising against Isis which was put down with massacres and other reprisals.  There are reports from within Mosul of Isis murdering 70 Mosul residents, ‘executed’ for ‘treason’ i.e. using mobile phones.

Iraq forces have driven Isis from Nimrud, the ancient site which was once the capital of the Assyrian Empire. Initial reports suggest that Isis has destroyed many of its monuments, including its 50m high ziggurat (stepped pyramid temple).

SOUTH AFRICA:  The intelligence minister David Mahlobo denied accusations of involvement in the illegal trade in rhino horn, after the broadcast of a TV documentary which claimed to show him at a massage parlour with a Chinese crime boss.  The previous intelligence minister resigned after his wife was found guilty of running a drug smuggling organisation and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

SYRIA:  After a four-week pause, Russia and the Assad regime have resumed airstrikes and missile attacks on Aleppo.  The Russian fleet is now in action; jets have flown from the Russian aircraft carrier into Syrian airspace (a fighter jet from the aircraft carrier crashed into the sea after a technical fault; the pilot ejected and was rescued).  Rebel bases in Idlib and Homs were also targeted.  Regime forces have recovered all the ground in Aleppo taken in recent weeks by the rebel assault which attempted to break the siege, and a renewed ground attack against the rebels is expected.

In northern Syria, forces from the Turkish-backed Operation Euphrates Shield have advanced on Isis-held Al-Bab.

TURKEY:  The chairman of the newspaper Cumhuriyet, the only opposition newspaper still published in Turkey, was arrested on charges of terrorism.  Many of the paper’s journalists have already been arrested. 300 NGOs and civil society organisations were closed down.  300 naval officers were suspended or dismissed.

Far East, Asia and Pacific

BURMA: Security forces raided Rohingya villages in west Burma, searching for insurgents who seized weapons from police stations and killed nine officers last month. At least 28 people have been killed and there are reports of villages being burnt to the ground.

HONG KONG:  The high court ruled that two new Youngspiration MPs could not take their place in parliament.  The verdict confirmed the ban imposed by Beijing last week.  The judges decided that the MPs, who campaign for independence from China, disqualified themselves by refusing to swear their oaths properly.

INDIA:  The sudden withdrawal of the country’s two largest banknotes has resulted in chaos as people try to change the old notes for new or smaller ones.  The Indian economy (which is largely cash-based) is coming to a standstill.  At least 16 people are reported to have collapsed and died at lengthy queues at banks and cash machines.  The scrapped notes – 1000 rupees (£12) and 500 rupees – were recalled to prevent corruption and tax evasion, and represent 85% of all cash in circulation.

KOREA, SOUTH:  Prosecutors are to question President Park Geun Hye as part of the investigations into her friend Choi Soon Sil’s alleged corruption and political influence.  Executives at Hyundai, Korean Airlines and Samsung have already been questioned.  Hundreds of thousands of protestors have demonstrated against the president, calling for her resignation.

South Korea and Japan provisionally signed an intelligence-sharing deal. It was condemned by opposition parties and provoked protests and demonstrations. The occupation of Korea by Japan between 1910 and 1945 is still a sensitive issue.

NEW ZEALAND: A 7.5 magnitude earthquake hit the South Island, damaging buildings and roads and causing at least two deaths.  It was felt across New Zealand, and caused tsunamis along the coast.  It was followed by 400 aftershocks, some of magnitude 5.

PAKISTAN:  Seven soldiers were killed by an artillery attack on Pakistani-controlled Kashmir by Indian forces.


USA:  Demonstrators across the country protested against Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election.

Donald Trump appointed an anti-establishment figure, Steve Bannon (the right-wing ex-editor of the controversial Breitbart News), as his chief strategist; but Trump also appointed an establishment figure, Reince Priebus (a former chairman of the Republican National Committee with strong links to Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House of Representatives) as his chief of staff.

Test yourself on Trump

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