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‘I Was Threatened’: Belarus Opposition Leader Reveals What Happened After Disputed Election

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“I am just the same, unselfconfident person I was,” Svetlana Tikhanovskaya told Sky News in August last year. “But this is my mission. I have to overcome all these difficulties and bring our country to a free future and become a mother and wife again.”

That was shortly before a blatantly rigged election robbed her of what would most likely have been, had the votes been counted right, a resounding victory against Belarus’s long time autocratic leader, Alexander Lukashenko.

A day later she would appear in an emotional video recorded clearly under duress where she said she had over-estimated her strength, that she was “still the same weak woman that I was” and would be leaving Belarus.

“I was threatened with my children,” she tells Dermot Murnaghan in the Sky News Daily podcast. “They told me ‘we will jail you all, and your children will be abandoned, they will be put in an orphanage’.”

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“They know where to push.”

With her husband Sergei Tikhanovsky at the mercy of Lukashenko’s prison guards and her children already in Europe, she had little choice. But Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has never shown the slightest weakness either as a mother, a wife or as a leader.

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“They underestimated me, the Belarusian people and the will of the Belarusians for a better future,” she told Sky News last week.

As a wife, she has campaigned tirelessly for her husband’s freedom, running on his behalf as president when Mr Tikhanovsky, a popular video blogger, was barred from the race and jailed.

As a leader, she has grown in stature every step of the way – along the campaign trail and now in exile as she tours Western capitals, making sure Lukashenko’s brutalities are known and condemned while calling for tough western sanctions against him and his regime.

She wants the international community and the media to refer to him as Belarus’s ex-president, a leader de facto but not de jure.

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Sergei Tikhanovsky was barred from the presidential race and jailed

She calls him a threat to the security of Europe as he floods its borders with migrants lured into Belarus through tourist visas and the promise of easy EU entry.

She hopes that continued western sanctions will force this ‘ex-president’ to begin negotiations with the Belarusian people.

She is confident that the spirit of resistance is strong, both within the Belarusian community in exile and in Belarus itself.

“We are trying to build on the ground organisations to resist more centrally. The regime knows that people didn’t give up.”

Inside Belarus though, it’s hard to gauge that resistance. It is underground at best. Those who have stood up to the regime are jailed.

Tens of thousands have fled. Belarusians who oppose Lukashenko in their sitting rooms are cowed into submission, knowing the domestic intelligence service, still known by its Soviet name, the KGB, have feelers everywhere.

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Sky correspondent challenges Lukashenko

Now you can be jailed for the telegram channels you subscribe to. Human rights groups say they believe around 100 people were arrested in early October for social media comments condemning a shootout during a KGB raid on an IT specialist’s home, in which one KGB officer and the IT specialist were killed.

Those arrested for their comments in the ensuing social media storm could face up to twelve years behind bars for supposedly ‘inciting social enmity’.

Life in the capital Minsk is as normal as it can be given the circumstances. It is quieter perhaps, a little less full. Many of the bars and restaurants we journalists frequented around last year’s election and the subsequent protests are boarded up, their owners presumably starting afresh in Lithuania, Ukraine or Poland.

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September: Belarus opposition leader jailed

But others have sprung up, trendy eateries with glamorous clientele, people trying to carry on with their lives. Plus of course, there are the regime stalwarts, all those who participate in the heavy-handed apparatus of the state, who subjugate justice to their ends and who keep Lukashenko in power.

To all intents and purposes, despite what Mrs Tikhanovskaya says, the regime has won.

Her husband’s trial is a closed process in what passes for a courtroom in a prison in the city of Gomel. It started in June and there has been no verdict yet.

He is unlikely to be shown much mercy. Viktor Babariko, who like Mr Tikhanovsky ran for president, was jailed in June for 14 years on spurious embezzlement charges.

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Belarusian opposition politician Maria Kolesnikova has just started an eleven-year jail term

Maria Kolesnikova, who campaigned in his place alongside Mrs Tikhanovskaya, has just started an eleven-year term alongside her lawyer Maxim Znak.

“We don’t have the moral right to stop,” Mrs Tikhanovskaya says. “You are not thinking even about stopping because those people who are in jail, they sacrificed with freedom, some with their lives to give us the opportunity to fight further and to prove that what they were fighting for is extremely important for us as well.”

Thursday 27 November is the day of solidarity with political prisoners across former Soviet countries. Spare a thought for the 818 recognised as political prisoners in Belarus, and for the thousands more who are not recognised as such for various reasons.

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Source Here: news.sky.com

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WHO Estimates 15m People Have Died Directly or Indirectly From COVID – More Than Double Official Death Toll

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The World Health Organisation estimates that 15 million people worldwide have now died of coronavirus – or as a result of its impact on health services.

WHO data shows the number of excess COVID mortalities to be somewhere between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people from 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2021. This is more than double the official death toll of around six million.

Excess mortality refers to the number of people who have died of the virus either directly or indirectly by being unable to access health services for other conditions.

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The figures were compiled using country-reported data and statistical modelling, the WHO said.

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There were 14.9 million excess deaths associated with COVID-19 by the end of 2021, the UN body said on Thursday.

Most excess COVID deaths (86%) happened in Asia, Europe and the Americas, according to the figures.

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Middle-income countries accounted for 81% of deaths, with 28% occurring in upper-middle-income countries and 4% in low-income ones.

Some 68% of all excess deaths worldwide happened in just 10 countries.

There was a higher rate for men (57%) than there was for women (43%), with more excess deaths among the elderly than younger generations.

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WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus commented: “These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems.

“WHO is committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes.”

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Original Source: news.sky.com

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Pope Francis Seen Using Wheelchair for the First Time for Mobility Reasons

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The Pope has been pictured using a wheelchair – the first time he’s used one in public due to the knee pain that’s made it hard for him to walk and stand.

Francis, 85, was wheeled on stage and helped into a seat during an audience with a group of nuns and religious superiors from around the world at the Vatican.

He appears to be having a flare-up of sciatica, a nerve condition he suffers with that he’s called his “troublesome guest”.

The Pope has had to cancel or cut short activities several times in the last month because of pain in his right knee.

He was pictured in a wheelchair last July after major intestinal surgery, but this is believed to be the first time he’s used one in public due to his mobility problems.

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Before Thursday’s event, he was able to walk the roughly 10 metres or so from the side entrance of the stage to his seat with some help.

He recently received some injections to try to relieve the pain but has continued to struggle.

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His impaired movement was apparent over Easter when he attended but did not take charge of masses at St Peter’s Basilica, instead delegating a cardinal or archbishop to preside.

During a trip to Malta in April he was also pictured using an elevator platform to get on and off the plane.

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Original Article: news.sky.com

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Woman Pulled Alive From Rubble Six Days After Building Collapsed

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A woman has been found alive in the rubble of a building that partially collapsed almost six days earlier, Chinese state media has said.

At least five people are confirmed to have died and possibly dozens are still missing following the disaster in the city of Changsha, in central China‘s Hunan Province, on 29 April.

The unidentified woman has become the 10th survivor and was rescued shortly after midnight today, about 132 hours after the rear of the six-storey building suddenly caved in, the official Xinhua News Agency has reported.

The woman was conscious and told rescuers how to pull her out without causing further injury, Xinhua added.

Teams had used dogs and hand tools as well as drones and electronic life detectors in the search.

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All the survivors were reportedly in good condition after being treated in a hospital and it is thought intermittent rain showers over the last few days may have helped their chances of survival without food or water.

At least nine people have been arrested in relation to the collapse of what Xinhua has described as a “self-built building”.

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This includes its owner, on suspicion of ignoring building codes or committing other violations.

Three people in charge of design and construction were also held, along with five others who allegedly gave a false safety assessment for a guest house on the building’s fourth to sixth floors.

The building also housed residences, a cafe and shops.

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An aerial photo shows the site of the collapsed residential building in Changsha, central China’s Hunan Province

There has been increase in the number of collapses of self-built buildings in recent years.

Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for additional checks to uncover structural weaknesses.

Following the building collapse at the weekend, he urged for more victims to be found in the rubble “at all costs”.

Poor adherence to safety standards, including the illegal addition of extra floors and failure to use reinforcing iron bars, is often blamed for similar disasters.

China also suffers from decaying infrastructure such as gas pipes that has led to explosions and collapses.

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Source: news.sky.com

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