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Monday, December 23, 2013

Russia Frees Pussy Riot Pair

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, the two imprisoned members of Pussy Riot, were freed on Monday under the same presidential amnesty that had freed former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky on Friday. The two band members had served nearly 21 months of a two-year sentence for hooliganism after performing a “punk prayer” at Moscow’s Christ the Savior. Tolokonnikova, upon being released from a prison hospital in Siberia where she was being treated after going on hunger strike, shouted “Russian without Putin” and told awaiting journalists that she would not “digress from this cause”. Alyokhina, released from a prison in Nizhny Novgorod, said that the amnesty was a “PR stung” and that if she had had the choice, she would have refused the amnesty “without a doubt”.

South Sudan Readies Assault on Rebels

South Sudanese Information Minister Michael Makuei said on Monday that the government was readying an attack on two towns held by rebel soldiers loyal to ousted vice president Riek Machar, prompting fears of further ethnic bloodletting in the country and throwing mediation efforts by Western powers and East African states into disarray. “We are making a major offensive. Today we will take over Bor”, said Makuei to the Reuters news agency, while denying that the country’s oil production had been stopped by the fighting. “The oil at this moment is still flowing as no one is interested in the shutdown of oil”, he said. There have been reports of summary executions between the rival Nuer and Dinka tribes. President Salva Kiir belongs to the Dinka, while former vice president Riek Machar is a Nuer.

Turkey Clashes as PM Condemns ‘Plot’

Turkish police forces clashed with anti-government protesters in Istanbul after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said his Islamist party faced a “dark plot” by forces outside Turkey to split the country apart. “Let our friends and foes know this. Whoever dares to harm, stir up or set traps in this country, whoever tries to touch our independence, we will come to break those hands”, he said during a rally in the Black Sea city of Giresun. The country has been beset by corruption scandals in recent weeks, with the sons of two cabinet ministers charged with involvement in bribery related to urban development projects. Erdoğan was criticised in the press for portrayal of the charges laid against his associates. “These excessive internal and external enemy fantasies, which could drag Turkey into dangerous situations and ruin the country’s stability, should be abandoned”, wrote commentator Ali H Aslan in the moderate Zaman newspaper.

Business Secretary Attacks Tories’ Migrant ‘Panic’

UK Business Secretary Vince Cable has revealed the deepening rift in the governing coalition after accusing the Conservatives on Sunday of angling for the populist vote with a migration policy bordering on “panic”. ” I think there’s a bigger picture here. We periodically get these immigration panics, I remember going back to Enoch Powell and ‘rivers of blood’ and all that, and if you go back a century there were panics over Jewish immigrants”, he said during an appearance on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme. A Liberal Democrat, Cable added that he thought “what’s happening here is the Conservatives are in a bit of panic because of Ukip, reacting the way they are, it’s not going to help them politically but it’s doing a great deal of damage”. Downing Street replied through a statement, saying that “Vince is a member of the government and supports government policy. The words he chooses to do that are up to him”.

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