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‘Exiled’ Russian mercenary boss Prigozhin hails Niger coup, touts services

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‘Exiled’ Russian mercenary boss Prigozhin hails Niger coup, touts services

Last Updated on July 29, 2023 by Fellow Press

Wagner mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, who remains active even after leading a failed mutiny against the Russian army’s top brass last month, has hailed Niger’s military coup as good news and offered his fighters’ services to bring order.

A voice message on Telegram app channels associated with Wagner which they said was Prigozhin did not claim involvement in the coup, but described it as a moment of long overdue liberation from Western colonisers and made what looked like a pitch for his fighters to help keep order.

“What happened in Niger is nothing other than the struggle of the people of Niger with their colonisers.

“With colonisers who are trying to foist their rules of life on them and their conditions and keep them in the state that Africa was in hundreds of years ago,” said the message, posted on Thursday evening.

The speaker had the same distinctive intonation and turn of phrase in Russian as the Wagner boss although Reuters was not able to confirm with certainty that it was him.

“Today this is effectively gaining their independence.

“The rest will without doubt depend on the citizens of Niger and how effective governance will be, but the main thing is this: they have got rid of the colonisers,” the message said.

It was unclear who was in charge of Niger after soldiers on Wednesday evening declared a military coup and held President Mohamed Bazoum in the presidential palace.

The country, one of the poorest in the world but which also holds some of its biggest uranium deposits, declared full independence from former colonial ruler France in 1960.

The voice message was the latest sign that Prigozhin and his men remain active in Africa, where they still have security contracts in some countries like Central African Republic (CAR), and are keen to expand.

Prigozhin, 62, appears to continue to enjoy freedom of movement in spite of what the Kremlin said last month was a post-mutiny deal that would see him relocate to neighbouring Belarus where some of his men have already started training the army.

He was heard in a video released earlier this month telling his men in Belarus that they should gather their strength for a “new journey to Africa.”

There have been various sightings of Prigozhin in Russia since the post-mutiny deal was clinched and the Kremlin said he had even attended a meeting with Putin, who had earlier called the abortive mutiny “a stab in the back”.

The voice message’s release coincided with the publication on Telegram of at least two photographs purporting to show Prigozhin meeting African attendees of a showcase two-day Russia-Africa summit in St Petersburg which concludes on Friday.

Reuters verified the location shown in one of the photographs as the Trezzini Palace hotel in St Petersburg, Prigozhin’s home town.

The lanyard worn by the official from Central African Republic (CAR) he is shown meeting in the same photograph matches those given to the summit’s delegates.

Smiling and wearing blue jeans and a white polo shirt, Prigozhin looks relaxed in the photos as he poses to shake the hands of the delegates.

Prigozhin, in his voice message, boasted of Wagner’s alleged efficiency in helping African nations stabilise and develop in what sounded like a sales pitch.

“…Thousands of Wagner fighters are capable of bringing order and of destroying terrorists and of not allowing them to harm the local populations of these states,” he said.

Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said on Thursday that constitutional order in Niger should be restored.

Analysts said the Prigozhin appearances indicated that his private military company (PMC) would continue to play a role in furthering the Kremlin’s foreign policy agenda in Africa.

Yes, it’s wild that Prigozhin is back in Russia, and apparently has been several times.

But it’s also in line with both Wagner’s and Russia’s goals to project normalcy and business as usual,” Catrina Doxsee, an expert at the U.S. CSIS think tank, said on messaging platform X.

“Moscow will likely use the Summit to reassure African partners of their commitment and continuity of PMC services in the wake of the uncertainty from the past month,” she said.

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Emmanuel Macron announces dissolution of National Assembly

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Last Updated on June 10, 2024 by Fellow Press

French President Emmanuel Macron has announced the dissolution of the National Assembly, following defeat of his party in 2024 European Parliament (EP) elections, according to local media report.

“I have decided to give you back the choice of your parliamentary future through the vote. I am therefore dissolving the National Assembly,” Macron said in a short speech.

“This is a serious, weighty decision. But it is above all an act of trust,” he added.

He added that the elections to the National Assembly are to take place in two rounds on June 30 and July 7.
Macron’s Renaissance party gained 15.2 per cent of the votes in 2024 European Parliament elections, far behind far-right National Rally who received 31.8 per cent.

“The unprecedented gap between the presidential majority and the leading opposition party reflects a stinging disavowal and rejection of the policies led by Emmanuel Macron,” RN President Jordan Bardella said after the EP elections results were unveiled, quoted by local media.

“We’re ready for it. I call on French people to join us in forming around the RN a majority in the service of the only cause that guides our steps: France.” parliamentary party leader of RN, Marine Le Pen, said Sunday evening on social media platform X.

The EP elections were held from June 6 to June 9, with voters of the 27 EU member states selecting 720 lawmakers to the 10th EP.

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UN adds Israel to blacklist

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Last Updated on June 10, 2024 by Fellow Press

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has added Israel’s military to a global list of offenders that have committed violations against children, his spokesman confirmed on Friday.

Israel had been told it is being placed on the list in the secretary-general’s annual report on children in armed conflict, to be sent to the UN Security Council next Friday, Stephane Dujarric told a press briefing.

Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad were also added to the list, according to a diplomatic source, along with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Dujarric added that the Israeli UN mission was called by Guterres’ chief of staff on Friday, a courtesy afforded to countries that are newly listed. “It is done to give those countries a heads-up and avoid leaks,” he said.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan recorded a video of himself making a phone call from his office, apparently to a UN official, and leaked part of it on social media.

In the video, Erdan expressed outrage at the UN decision, calling the IDF “the most moral army in the world.”

“The only one who is blacklisted today is the secretary-general, whose decisions since the war started, and even before, are rewarding terrorists and incentivizing them to use children for terror acts… Shame on him!”

Dujarric said it was “shocking and unacceptable” that Erdan had apparently published the private call, saying it was “something he had never seen in my 24 years serving this organization.”

Israel’s inclusion on the list comes after eight months of war in Gaza, in which more than 15,500 children have been killed, according to the Ministry of Health in the enclave.

The war was sparked by a Hamas-led assault on Israel on October 7, which killed 1,200 people and saw some 250 others taken hostage. Many are still in captivity and Hamas’ top leadership is still at large despite the Israeli onslaught.

The UN’s so-called blacklist has previously included countries such as Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian envoy to the UN, said the decision to add Israel to the list “will not bring back tens of thousands of our children who were killed by Israel over decades and will not restore normal life for the children who were permanently disabled by its actions.”

“But it is an important step in the right direction towards ending the double standards and the culture of impunity Israel has enjoyed for far too long and that left our children vulnerable to its consequences.”

The annual report will go to the Security Council on June 14. The official report will be published on June 18. It will be discussed at a debate in the council on June 26.

Asked about ramifications, the UN spokesman said it will be up to the members to decide any action.

The war has seen Israel-UN relations reach historic lows with Israeli diplomats using their platforms at the UN to denounce the world body.

Israel’s quarrel with the UN has gone beyond the secretary-general. Israeli officials have also criticized the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the World Health Organization, UN Women, and the UN’s Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories Francesca Albanese.

Meanwhile, dozens of UN staffers have been killed in Gaza since the conflict began, the largest loss in the world body’s history.

Israel has long accused UNRWA of anti-Israeli incitement, which UNRWA has repeatedly denied, and in 2017, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to dismantle the UN body, saying it should be merged with the main UN refugee agency.

Since the October 7 attack, Israeli journalists and news outlets have refocused their attention on UNRWA and have amplified stories questioning its role in the war.

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