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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Snowden in Russian Airport Transit Zone, Won’t Be Extradited

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov deepened the questions over the exact location of fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden early on Tuesday by saying that “he did not cross the Russian border“. The confusion was later undone by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who clarified that Snowden had not actually crossed into Russia because he was in the transit zone at Sheremetyevo International Airport. “It is true that Snowden has arrived to Moscow, and it really came as a surprise for us. He arrived as a transit passenger, and didn’t need a [Russian] visa, or any other documents. As a transit passenger he is entitled to buy a ticket and fly to wherever he wants” said the president to journalists during a state visit to Finland. He also said Russia would not arrest and extradite the whistleblower because he “has not committed any crime” on Russian soil and that he was “a free person. The sooner he chooses his final destination, the better it is for him and for Russia”. Meanwhile, Snowden was praised by the People’s Daily, official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, for “his fearlessness that tore off Washington’s sanctimonious mask”.

Taliban Stages Attack on Afghan Presidential Palace

Taliban militants staged a massive attack on key buildings in the Afghan capital, Kabul, early on Tuesday morning. International journalists had been waiting for security clearance for a press conference outside the US Embassy when they saw gunmen open fire against security guards standing at a gate. Many threw themselves inside the gates, but saw the shooting and also witnessed grenades being thrown by the militants. Afghan forces and US servicemen returned fire and the battle lasted for approximately 90 minutes. A palace official said Afghan President Hamid Karzai was safe and not injured in the attacks, as were children who were walking to school at the time and were caught in the firefight. A senior government official told the Reuters news agency that the militants had been able to enter the closely guarded perimeter of the compound by using fake identity papers. One car made it through without being impeded, but the second vehicle was stopped and this was when the shooting began.

US Supreme Court Invalidates Section of Voting Law Protecting Minorities

The US Supreme Court voted 5-4 on Tuesday to strike down a provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that required states with a history of racial discrimination to clear changes in voting procedures with the federal government. The decision is seen as a blow to civil right activists who fear that less scrutiny from the Justice Department when changing electoral laws could lead to an increase attempt in deterring minorities from voting, such as requiring literacy tests. “Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions,” wrote conservative Chief Justice John Roberts. The decision noted that high voter registration among minorities and the re-election of a black president point that the provision was no longer needed. The ruling invalidates Section 4 of the act, which applied to Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and parts of six other states. The Voting Rights Act is seen as the most important achievement of civil rights legislation ever passed, being renewed by Congress four times, most recently in 2006.

EU Delays Talks On Turkey’s Membership Bid

The European Union has decided to delay negotiations about Turkey’s accession to the EU until later this year. The talks were scheduled for tomorrow in what was considered a new chapter in reviving Turkey’s bid, but according to officials, Germany, backed by Austria and the Netherlands, resisted to proceed with them due to the Turkish government’s handling of recent anti-government protests. Commissioner Stefan Fuele tweeted on Tuesday that EU ministers in Luxembourg decided to wait for the approval of a report by the European Commission on reforms and human rights in Turkey before resuming the negotiations. The report on Turkey’s situation and behaviour is due on October 9, and only then EU governments will meet to set a new date for the talks. The October date falls after general elections in Germany, to be held in September. Turkey’s membership bid to the bloc began in 2005, but little progress has been made since then.

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