Kyrgyzstan & Tajikistan sign ceasefire agreement after violent border clashes that injured scores and killed at least 30 people

The authorities of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have issued a statement after at least 30 people were killed on their shared border following a shootout over a water distribution facility. Both nations claim to be its rightful owner.

Tempers began to flare between local residents on Wednesday, when Tajikistan installed surveillance cameras near the Golovnoi water intake facility, a vital distribution point in the arid region, where water for irrigation is of vast importance. A day later, both countries moved their troops in. The clash was the latest in a long series of disputes caused by the poor demarcation of the Kyrgyz-Tajik border, despite the two post-Soviet nations being independent for 30 years.

Thursday’s armed clashes between troops of the two countries not only caused more than dozens of casualties, but led to the burning down of residential buildings, as well as a school and a border checkpoint.

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A ceasefire was agreed in the evening, at 17.00 Moscow time.

Both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a group of nine countries that were formerly republics of the Soviet Union. They are also part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a smaller, six-country military alliance. The largest member of CSTO and CIS, Russia, welcomed news of a ceasefire.

“We call on the parties, through further negotiations in the spirit of alliance and good neighborliness, to reach stable and long-term agreements that will normalize the situation,” a statement from Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, following the announcement.

READ MORE: Ex-con Japarov elected President of Kyrgyzstan in landslide, says Russia is ‘main strategic partner’ & pledges to fight corruption

On Friday morning, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov revealed that Russian President Vladimir Putin is ready to act as a mediator between Bishkek and Dushanbe.

Following the ceasefire, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan agreed to hold talks in the Tajik city of Isfara, with the aim of solving the disagreement.

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‘I don’t trust Greek Cypriots’: Turkey’s Erdogan doubts UN-sponsored talks on divided island will yield any result

The upcoming UN-sponsored talks on Cyprus are unlikely to yield any result, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said, after the international body failed to kickstart the island’s long-stalled negotiations process.

Turkey does not hold high hopes over the new UN-sponsored meeting, expected to take place in two or three months, the country’s president signaled on Friday.

“I don’t trust or believe in Greek Cypriots. They have never acted honestly,” Erdogan told reporters. “Now it’s been pushed back 2-3 months, but I again don’t believe any result will be achieved, because they are not honest.”

On Thursday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres acknowledged that a three-day summit, led by the international body and attended by the leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriots had flopped. The foreign ministers of the three guarantor powers – the UK, Greece and Turkey – took part in the summit as well.

“The truth is that at the end of our efforts, we have not yet found enough common ground to allow for the resumption of formal negotiations,” Guterres stated, promising to host a new talks attempt in “probably two or three months.”

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The large Mediterranean island of Cyprus has remained divided for most of its independent history after it became free from British rule back in 1960. The island was invaded by Turkey in 1974 following an attempted coup by ethnic Greek right-wingers, who sought reunification with Greece. Cyrus has remained divided roughly in half since the brief conflict, with its north controlled by the internationally-unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is heavily dependent on mainland Turkey.

Cyprus has been a major issue for Turkey’s foreign politics for decades, with the situation growing even more complicated in the early 2000s, when Greek Cyprus became a member of the EU. While de-facto only the southern part of the island joined, de-jure the whole of Cyprus is EU territory – another complex obstacle for Ankara’s proclaimed goal of joining the bloc at some point in the future.

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Spain extending gap between AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine doses from 12 weeks to 16, to buy time to address safety concerns

People aged under 60 in Spain will now receive their second dose of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine 16 weeks after their first, to allow time to address changing guidelines following blood clot fears, the Health Ministry has said.

The extension from the current 12 weeks between jabs is to allow for more studies on the Anglo-Swedish vaccine and experiences of other countries to become available, the ministry said in a statement on Friday.

At first, Spain immunized key workers aged 18-65 with shots of AstraZeneca’s Vaxzevria jab, but it then limited the vaccine to those aged 60 and over due to concerns about its association with blood clots in younger recipients.

A review of blood clotting cases by the EU’s drug regulator found that the jab’s benefits outweighed its risks, but that unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as “very rare side effects.”

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The review by the European Medicines Agency earlier this month found that most reported cases of thrombosis occurred in women under 60 years of age within two weeks of vaccination.

Spain’s decision to extend the dose interval was agreed by the Health Ministry and the country’s regional governments.

The ministry justified its precaution by highlighting that Ireland had opted for a similar strategy.

It also said it wanted to reassure young people waiting to be vaccinated that their first dose is 80% effective against the virus.

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Facebook bans RT’s digital content project Redfish after posts marking end of Mussolini’s dictatorship and Holocaust Memorial Day

RT’s Redfish, an award-winning Berlin-based digital content project, has had its Facebook page deleted over posts commemorating the Holocaust and the defeat of Italian fascism.

The company’s Facebook account was suspended on Friday after a recent post that criticized fascism. Redfish said Facebook deleted the page on the grounds that its posts commemorating the Holocaust and the defeat of Italian fascism violated its community standards.

The post in question featured an upside-down photo of Italy’s dictator Benito Mussolini. It was written on April 28, marking the day when Adolf Hitler’s Axis ally was executed.

It was the third post by the Redfish account to be taken down in a year, and it prompted a full suspension. Earlier in January, on Holocaust Memorial Day, Facebook removed a post showing historic photos of survivors of the Auschwitz death camp.

The photos were bizarrely flagged as violating rules on “nudity and sexual activity.”

RT reached out to Facebook for comment but, at the time of publication, is yet to receive a reply.

Last year, Facebook slapped Redfish’s account with a label warning readers that the company is “funded in whole or in part by the Russian government.” It was part of a larger drive by Big Tech to add alarming descriptors to media companies linked to countries that Washington perceives as its rivals.

The platform has made other questionable censorship decisions concerning historic photos. In May 2020, it prevented attempts to post a colorized version of the iconic photo of Soviet soldiers flying a flag over the captured Reichstag building in Germany. Facebook said the image broke “standards on dangerous individuals and organizations,” but later blamed a glitch in its algorithm for the blunder.

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Still, RT’s divisions are getting used to facing obstacles. Last month, the company behind RT’s video agency Ruptly and RT DE Productions GmbH, which runs the German-language website, received a notice about their accounts being closed by German Commerzbank, something the channel considers a part of a wider campaign to obstruct its work in the European country.

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UK to host 2022 summit to prepare for future pandemics and raise money for vaccine research

Britain has announced its plans to host an international summit in 2022, in partnership with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) which will aim to develop future preparedness for pandemics.

Health Minister Matt Hancock said on Friday that the UK wanted to play a leading role in the future of vaccine development and thus enhancing global preparedness for future pandemics. 

“We look forward to working with CEPI to speed up vaccine development, creating a global solution to ensure we’re better prepared for future pandemics,” Hancock said in a statement.

CEPI aims to reduce the time it takes to develop a vaccine to as little as 100 days. “Now is a moment to capitalise on the rare alignment of political will, practical experience, and technical and scientific progress emerging from Covid-19 to prevent such devastation happening again,” said Richard Hatchett, chief executive of CEPI. 

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The summit intends to enhance investment from the global community into the programme, but the government made no reference to who would be invited.

In relative terms, the current collection of Covid-19 vaccines in use were developed incredibly quickly. In normal circumstances it can take between 10 and 15 years, involving multiple stakeholders, to develop a vaccine and get it approved by the relevant authorities. 

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1st serving UK officer jailed for terrorism offence over membership of banned neo-Nazi group

22-year-old Benjamin Hannam has been sentenced to four years and four months in prison after becoming the first UK police officer to be convicted of a terrorism offence over his membership of a banned neo-Nazi group.

The now-former Met Police officer had been a member of National Action (NA), an outlawed neo-Nazi group in the United Kingdom, prior to joining the police force, with footage showing him spraying the group’s logo on a wall weeks before submitting his application to join the force.

Hannam was found guilty on April 1 of two counts of fraud, for lying on his police application about his membership of an outlawed far-right group, and two counts of possessing documents useful to a terrorist, including the ‘manifesto’ of Anders Behring Breivik, who murdered 77 people in a 2011 extremist attack in Norway.

He was able to join the Metropolitan Police in July 2017, beginning training in March 2018 and passing out in 2019, clearing the vetting checks required during the application process. Hannam’s membership of the group was exposed when data from a far-right forum was leaked online by an anti-fascist group.

Following his conviction, Hannam was formally dismissed from the Metropolitan Police force, having been suspended from duty while the trial was ongoing.

Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball accepted that the trial had “harmed public confidence” in both UK policing and, specifically, the Metropolitan Police. However, the Met has previously defended hiring Hannam, claiming that the organisation “acted very swiftly” after identifying his previous membership of a banned group. 

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In 2016, NA became the first far-right group outlawed in the UK by then-Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who used the powers provided by the Terrorism Act 2000 to tackle groups believed to be “concerned in terrorism.”

Reporting on the case had initially been prohibited during the trial, but media restrictions were lifted after Hannam pleaded guilty to separate charges of possessing indecent images of an underage individual.

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