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Russia assumes UN Security Council presidency

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Russia has taken the presidency of the UN Security Council despite Ukraine urging members to block the move.

Each of the council’s 15 members takes up the presidency for a month, on a rotating pattern.

The last time Russia had the presidency, February 2022, it launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

It means the Security Council is being led by a country whose president is subject to an international arrest warrant for alleged war crimes.

The International Criminal Court – which is not a UN institution – issued the warrant for Vladimir Putin last month.

Despite Ukraine’s complaints, the United States said it could not block Russia – a permanent council member – from assuming the presidency.

The other permanent members of the council are the UK, US, France, and China.

The role is mostly procedural, but Moscow’s ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebenzia, told the Russian Tass news agency that he planned to oversee several debates, including one on arms control.

He said he would discuss a “new world order” that, he said, was coming to “replace the unipolar one”.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called Russia’s presidency “the worst joke ever for April Fool’s Day” and a “stark reminder that something is wrong with the way international security architecture is functioning”.

Ukraine’s presidential adviser, Mykhaylo Podolyak, said the move was “another rape of international law… an entity that wages an aggressive war, violates the norms of humanitarian and criminal law, destroys the UN Charter, neglects nuclear safety, can’t head the world’s key security body”.

President Volodymyr Zelensky called last year for the Security Council to reform or “dissolve altogether”, accusing it of failing to take enough action to prevent Russia’s invasion.

He has also called for Russia to be removed of its member status.

But the US has said its hands were tied as the UN charter does not allow for the removal of a permanent member.

“Unfortunately, Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council and no feasible international legal pathway exists to change that reality,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told a news briefing this week.

She added the US expects Moscow “to continue to use its seat on the council to spread disinformation” and justify its actions in Ukraine.

The UN Security Council is an international body responsible for maintaining peace.

Five nations are permanently represented on the Security Council. They reflect the post-war power structure that held sway when the council was formed.

Members of this group work alongside 10 non-permanent member countries.

Russia’s presence as a permanent member on the Security Council means it can veto resolutions.

To pass a Security Council vote, there must be nine votes in favour, with none of the five permanent members voting against.

In February last year Russia vetoed a resolution that intended to end the Russian invasion of Ukraine (China, India and the United Arab Emirates all abstained).

In September it vetoed a resolution calling for the reversal of its illegal annexation of four regions of Ukraine. Brazil, China, Gabon and India abstained.

(BBC News)

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Stonehenge orange powder paint removed

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The orange powder paint sprayed onto Britain’s most famous prehistoric structure, Stonehenge, by environmental protesters on Wednesday has been removed, leaving “no visible damage,” according to the organization that manages the site.“Thankfully, there appears to be no visible damage but that’s in no way saying there hasn’t been harm, from the very act of having to clean the stones to the distress caused to those for whom Stonehenge holds a spiritual significance,” said English Heritage chief executive Nick Merriman in a statement to CNN Thursday.

He confirmed that the site is open to the public and that summer solstice celebrations, which are expected to attract huge crowds, will go ahead as normal.

A video posted on X by Just Stop Oil on Wednesday showed two of the group’s activists spraying the landmark using fire extinguishers.

“The Just Stop Oil protestors demanded the incoming government sign up to a legally binding treaty to phase out fossil fuels by 2030,” the group posted on X.

The action took place around 12 p.m. local time (7 a.m. ET) at the ancient site near Salisbury in the southwest of England, Wiltshire Police said in a statement.

The two activists “were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage, damaging an ancient monument and deterring a person from engaging in a lawful activity,” police said in a statement Thursday.

The pair have been released on bail pending further enquiries, police said.

The official Stonehenge X account described the incident as “extremely upsetting.”

“Orange powdered paint has been thrown at a number of the stones at Stonehenge. Obviously, this is extremely upsetting and our curators are investigating the extent of the damage,” the post said.

The protesters were a 21-year-old student from Oxford and a 73-year-old man from Birmingham, Just Stop Oil said in a press release.

In anticipation of people meeting at Stonehenge on Thursday to mark the Northern Hemisphere’s longest day of sunlight, English Heritage published “conditions of entry.”

“Stonehenge is a World Heritage Site, a Scheduled Ancient Monument and is seen by many as a sacred place. We ask that all those attending respect it and those celebrating around it,” the website said.

Responding to the incident on X, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wrote: “Just Stop Oil are a disgrace.”

On Thursday, two more activists from the group caused a scene at London’s Stansted Airport after they sprayed orange paint on two private jets on the runway where Taylor Swift’s private jet is suspected to have landed.

The pop star is in London on her Eras world tour and is set to play three shows in London this weekend.

Just Stop Oil posted videos on their social media channels showing two activists breaking into the airfield, cutting into the fence and spraying orange paint on the aircraft.

The same group made headlines last month when two protesters smashed the glass protecting the Magna Carta, a famous British manuscript from the 13th century, at the British Museum in London.

Climate activists have been staging increasingly high-profile protests, many of which have involved attacking high-value artworks including the Mona Lisa and Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers.”

(CNN)

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Putin arrives in North Korea

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Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in North Korea to a red carpet welcome on Tuesday night.

The two-day visit marks the first for a Russian leader in the last 24 years. Putin’s only previous visit to Pyongyang was in July 2000, two months after his presidential inauguration.

Mr Putin was met off his plane by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and – flanked by a military guard of honour – the pair talked animatedly for several minutes.

In Pyongyang, the streets had been decorated with Putin’s portraits and the flags of Russia and North Korea.

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Priyanka Gandhi to finally make electoral debut

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Priyanka Gandhi, sister of India’s main opposition Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, is set to contest her first election, ending decades of anticipation by her supporters.

Ms Gandhi is a descendant of the Nehru-Gandhi family, India’s most famous political dynasty, and her electoral debut will be closely watched.

The 52-year-old will contest the Wayanad seat in the southern Indian state of Kerala after her brother relinquishes it.

A win for Ms Gandhi would mean the presence of all three Gandhi family members in the Indian parliament.

Her mother Sonia Gandhi, former president of the Congress party, is an MP in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the parliament.

Her brother Mr Gandhi won the recent parliamentary elections from both Wayanad and Uttar Pradesh’s Rae Bareli seats.

Mr Gandhi, who has represented Wayanad as an MP since 2019, is giving it up as he can only retain one parliamentary seat under Indian law. On Monday, he thanked the people of Wayanad for their “love, affection and support”.

A date for the by-election is yet to be announced but Ms Gandhi says she is “not nervous at all”.

“I am very happy to be able to represent Wayanad and I will not let them feel his [Rahul Gandhi’s] absence,” she said on Monday. “I will work hard and I will try my best to make everyone happy and be a good representative.”

The by-election will mark the end of a decades-long wait by Congress supporters for Ms Gandhi’s involvement in electoral politics.

(BBC News)

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