A Soyuz rocket carrying Russia’s Progress M-14M spaceship has been successfully launched on its way to the International Space Station. The transport spaceship carrying more than 2.6 tonnes of supplies blasted off from Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan at 03:06 pm Moscow time on Thursday. It is scheduled to dock with the ISS at 04:09 Moscow time on Saturday.
Imprisoned Belarusian opposition leader and ex-presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov is seeking parole from President Aleksandr Lukashenko, his wife told reporters on Wednesday. She said her husband had been tortured and forced to sign the parole petition. Sannikov looked frail and showed her a message saying “They could kill me at any moment.” Sannikov is serving a five-year term after being convicted of organizing riots following the presidential election in December 2010. Lukashenko, dubbed Europe’s last dictator, said he can pardon his political opponents only if they appeal to him.
President Cristina Fernandez has received the go-ahead from Argentine doctors to resume her duties as head of state following 28 days of medical leave. The South American leader underwent surgery last month to remove her thyroid gland after being diagnosed with cancer. The operation revealed that the tumor was in fact benign. Her return to power comes as tensions escalate between the UK and Argentina over the sovereignty of the Falklands. British Prime Minister David Cameron sparked outrage last week when he accused the Argentine government of colonialism after they asserted their claim to the islands.
Nigeria's federal police chief has been sent into retirement by the country's president. A statement by the president's press service said Inspector General Hafiz Ringim had been placed on ‘terminal leave’, pending his planned retirement later this year. The move comes after an attack by radical Islamic sect Boko Haram killed at least 185 people in the north of Nigeria. The sect targeted police stations in the country's second-largest city of Kono, which has a population of at least 9 million. Boko Haram wants to implement strict Shariah law across Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation of more than 160 million people, which is split largely into a Christian south and Muslim north.
A bomb has been found on a Libyan Airlines plane that arrived at Cairo’s international airport from Tripoli on Wednesday. A team of explosive experts have removed the bomb and defused it at an open site away from buildings, the Associated Press reports citing airport officials. The bomb was discovered in one of the plane’s bathrooms by a flight attendant. Security personnel searched the plane and questioned the crew but found nothing else dangerous. The plane was scheduled to return to Tripoli, but due to the investigation the plane’s operator sent another aircraft instead.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has delivered her opening speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. She rejected calls for a large increase in the eurozone's so-called 'rescue fund'. Merkel said "we guarantee the euro, but what we don't want is to promise something we can't hold," swatting away appeals from international institutions like the International Monetary Fund for a bigger fund to help weaker euro nations with growing government debts. She also suggested the European Union and the United States should pursue a free trade deal.
Bosnia’s war crimes court has passed a jail sentence of 31 years on a former police officer for his involvement in the 1995 massacre of Muslim Bosniaks. Radomir Vukovic was convicted of participating in the execution of over 1,000 men from the Bosnian town of Srebrenica. Vukovic had previously been sentenced for his crimes in 2010 but appealed the ruling. However, today’s verdict confirms the allegations and is irreversible. Over 8,000 Muslims are estimated to have been murdered in the Srebrenica killings conducted under the control of Serbian General Radko Mladic.
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has handed in her formal resignation from the House of Representatives. The letter was read aloud by her colleague Debbie Wasserman Schultz, as Giffords herself stood by her side. The politician from Arizona received a standing ovation in the House, and was commended for her dignity, grace and perseverance. Last January, Giffords was the victim of an assassination attempt as she met with her constituents in a supermarket in Arizona. She was critically injured by a gunshot wound to the head in the attack. Six people people were killed in the incident and a further 13 wounded. Earlier this year, Giffords said she would resign in order to concentrate on her recovery. She is the third woman in Arizona history to be electedto US Congress.
The head of the Syrian Red Crescent organisation has been killed in the town of Idlib. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says Abdulrazak Jbero was shot while travelling by car from Damascus. Beatrice Megevand-Roggo, head of ICRC operations for the Near and Middle East, told Reuters the “circumstances are still unclear.” The ICRC has condemned the killing of Jbero, who served as the first President of the country's Red Crescent society.
Exploratory talks on re-establishing peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel are over. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas says he will consult with the Arab League next week on whether to extend the talks. The two countries began a low-level dialogue this month with Jordanian mediators. It is not clear now if full scale negotiations will evolve. Abbas said Israel had refused to address questions over the borders of a future Palestinian state and a starting point for negotiations. Palestinians say they see no point in new meetings; Israel on the other hand wants the exploratory talks to continue.
French oil major Total has ceased buying oil from Iran in line with European sanctions against Tehran. Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie told Reuters, “We have already stopped.” The company had been buying roughly 80,000 barrels a day from Iran. The Total CEO disagrees with the embargo because he believes the “oil will go somewhere else.”
Libya’s Defence Minister Osama al-Juwali has been holding talks with residents of Bani Walid, a former stronghold of Muammar Gaddafi. Earlier in the week local fighters drove out a pro-government militia from the town, 150 km south of Tripoli. They attacked the barracks of militia loyal to the National Transitional Council. Local residents say the NTC forces had set up checkpoints and have been harassing people.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has blasted the US for what he called its aspirations to world dominance. At a meeting with students in Tomsk on Wednesday, he said that the US “wants to control everything.” The premier has said that he sometimes thinks Washington needs “vassals rather than allies.” The US criticizes other countries for not complying with standards, but Washington itself sets these standards, Putin said. He warned that the Russian authorities are ready to work with non-governmental organizations, but will not allow them to become an “instrument of foreign influence.”
Nicolas Sarkozy’s middle son Pierre has been hospitalized in Odessa, Ukraine, local media report. Pierre, a DJ reportedly touring Ukraine, is said to have felt unwell after a party at one of the city’s restaurants. Representatives of the city council said they are aware of the incident, but gave no details. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry says it had no information about his tour. The French president’s press service has not commented on the reports.
At least 17 militants have been killed and 13 injured in a Pakistani security operation close to the border with Afghanistan. Officials say six security personnel were also killed in the clash in the North Western Kurram Agency area. The security forces took control of a militant hide-out in the Jogi Mountains. Pakistani troops have been fighting militants linked to the Taliban or Al-Qaeda in the Kurram and other tribal regions for several years.
Russia’s Central Election Commission has registered billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov as a presidential candidate in the March 4 election. The commission took the decision at its meeting on Wednesday, after checking signatures from the list of more than two million that Prokhorov collected for registration. The businessman-turned-politician has become the fifth candidate. The other four – Vladimir Putin, Gennady Zyuganov, Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Sergey Mironov – were nominated by parties represented in the parliament and did not have to collect signatures.
Islamist militants are leaving the town of Radda about 170 km southeast of the Yemeni capital Sanaa. The group that captured the town a week ago is led by Tareq al-Dahab, Reuters reports. He is a relative of the US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, assassinated in a drone strike last year, whom Washington described as one of the leaders of the Yemeni Al-Qaeda. The militants started leaving Radda on Wednesday, after a deal with authorities that guarantees the formation of a council to govern the town, and the release of several of their comrades. Under the agreement, the group will move from the town to a rural area. Islamist militants have recently taken control of some areas in the southern province of Abyan.
Russia’s Baltic Fleet has begun the deployment of Iskander missiles in the western Kaliningrad enclave. The first division armed with the theatre-of-war missile complexes will be deployed in the second half of 2012, a source in the fleet’s headquarters told Interfax on Wednesday. President Dmitry Medvedev announced the decision to deploy Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad in November 2011. This is one of the measures taken in response to the creation of a US missile defense shield in Europe.
Moscow is ready to discuss a UN resolution on Syria, but it will not support unilateral sanctions or military interference, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday. He noted that Western countries should hold consultations with Russia, China and other BRICS nations Brazil, India and South Africa. Moscow is open to constructive proposals, Lavrov said, adding that the main task is to end all forms of violence in Syria. The FM noted that Russia was ready to provide a venue for dialogue between the different Syrian forces. If the Syrian opposition does not want to go to Damascus, “this could be Cairo, the headquarters of the League of Arab States, Turkey or Russia’s territory,” he said.
An Israeli military court has sentenced Palestinian parliament speaker and Hamas member Aziz Dweik to six months of administrative detention. He was arrested by security forces last Thursday on suspicion of involvement in terrorist activity. Dweik’s attorney Fadi Qawasmi said no charges had been filed against his client. The speaker’s office described the sentence as part of Israel’s attempt “to destabilize Palestinian political life.” The parliament is to hold its next meeting in February.
A driver went on a rampage in the western Indian city of Pune on Wednesday, hitting vehicles and pedestrians, killing nine people and injuring 27. Santosh Mane, who worked with a bus service run by the Maharashtra state government, took the bus out of the depot and went berserk, police say. He drove in the busy morning traffic for about half an hour, damaging around 40 vehicles. Police officers shot at him, but the driver was eventually stopped by people who boarded the bus when he slowed down.
General Director of the Rostekhnologii (Russian Technologies) state corporation Sergey Chemezov has ruled out any further delay in the handover of the Admiral Gorshkov heavy aircraft carrier to India. The aircraft carrier is 283 meters long and 51 meters wide, with a displacement of more than 45,000 tonnes. The deal to upgrade it was signed in 2004. India suspended financing of the project in 2007, and the project’s budget was later increased. The ship was to be handed over in 2008, but the deadline was moved. Chemezov also told Interfax on Wednesday that the current delay in the construction of three frigates for the Indian Navy will be reduced to a minimum.
Rolling Stones star Mick Jagger has backed out of a World Economic Forum event hosted by UK Prime Minister David Cameron. The singer had been invited to the tea party to promote British talent at the annual meeting of political and economic leaders in Switzerland. But he said he did not want to be involved in party politics, or be “used as a political football,” AP reports. Jagger came to the forum in Davos as a guest, but says he will now cut short his visit.
Three Azerbaijani citizens arrested by security forces last week planned to attack Jewish targets, including Israeli ambassador to Baku Michael Lotem, media reports say. They quote sources as saying that those detained planned an attack on the embassy in Baku. The men are also suspected of plotting to kill a rabbi and a teacher at the Ohr Avner Chabad Jewish Day School in the Azeri capital. The suspects are said to have received instructions from a certain Balagardash Dadashov, who was in contact with Iran.
US military helicopters flew into Somalia early on Wednesday and freed an American and a Dane being held hostage. The Danish Refugee Council confirmed that Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagan Thisted, who were working on a project for the organization, were freed “during an operation in Somalia.” At least two US helicopters flew to a location about 20 kilometers north of the Somali town of Adow, where a shootout with captors took place, which left nine of them killed, AP said. The hostages had been held since October. They have now reportedly been taken to a US base in the East African nation of Djibouti.