Author: Russell Bradley Francis

As Congress continues to delay aid and Volodymyr Zelensky replaces his top commander, military experts debate the possible outcomes. Long before it was reported, at the end of January, that Volodymyr Zelensky had decided to replace his popular Army chief, Valery Zaluzhny, the Ukrainian counter-offensive of 2023 had devolved from attempted maneuvers to mutual recriminations. The arrows pointed in multiple directions: Zelensky seemed to think that his commander-in-chief was being defeatist; Zaluzhny, that his President was refusing to face facts. And there were arguments, too, between Ukraine and its allies. In a two-part investigation in the Washington Post, in early December, U.S. officials…

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Infighting over the succession and growing frustration in the regions could shatter the stability that the Tajik president has been building for so many years. Next year will mark thirty years of Emomali Rahmon’s presidency in Tajikistan, now the only country in Central Asia that has not seen a change of leadership since the early 1990s. Unsurprisingly, there have been rumors of an imminent transition of power for a decade. The name of the successor is no secret: it’s Rahmon’s son, thirty-six-year-old Rustam Emomali. But there is no consensus within the president’s large family over the succession. Some of the…

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PA President’s son Tareq Abbas also holds positions in other ventures incorporated by offshore company. Leaked documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca reveal Tareq Abbas, son of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, holds shares worth nearly $1 million in an offshore company with ties to the Palestinian Authority. The documents, leaked as part of the massive ‘Panama Papers’ scandal, show that a company called the Arab Palestinian Investment Company (APIC) was registered in September 1994 in the British Virgin Islands. Since then, the company’s economic portfolio has grown substantially, and is active in virtually every Palestinian economic sphere, including…

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Israel and its closest ally, the US, seemed to be in a disagreement on Thursday after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined the prospect of Palestinian statehood that did not guarantee his nation’s security. During a combative press briefing, he also vowed to resist the US on this matter. “I clarify that in any arrangement in the foreseeable future, with an accord or without an accord, Israel must have security control over the entire territory west of the Jordan River. That’s a necessary condition. It clashes with the principle of sovereignty, but what can you do,” the Israeli premier told the news…

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The US has announced a visa ban on extremists responsible for violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was taking action to target attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians. But the top diplomat said the ban would also apply to Palestinians accused of violence. Attacks have surged in the West Bank since the start of the war in the Gaza Strip, triggered by Hamas’s assault on southern Israel on 7 October. US state department spokesman Matthew Miller said the ban would affect “dozens” of extremist Israelis and some of their family members. He said…

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Brussel, Frankfurt (16/11 – 23) A levying of embargoes and export bans, the imposition of sanctions, erection of fearsome “license” (= restriction) protocol: there’s nothing new about this back-and-forth in world trade, in the eternal jousting for advantage among markets and nations. The clever Chinese imagined they had the world tea market all locked up until an earnest Scottish botanist carrying the telling name of “Robert Fortune” snuck into the Middle Kingdom to observe their agriculture, steal tea plants, and pick up tricks of tea processing. The Chinese global tea monopoly was busted wide open. The fortunate Mr. Fortune was…

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Copenhagen (13/11 – 37.5) When Ranil Wickremesinghe took over as Sri Lanka’s president in July after a popular uprising ousted his predecessor, the South Asian island nation was engulfed in its worst economic meltdown in 75 years. Since then, President Wickremesinghe has managed to a keep a lid on mass protests, improve supplies of essentials and on Monday, secured a nearly $3 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that opens the door to restructuring about $58 billion of debt and receive funding from other lenders. He has done that despite a deeply unpopular government, his own party commanding just one…

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Frankfurt (18/12 – 14) That there are remarkable advantages in being ignored is not generally recognized. Central Asian countries, historically under the thumb of Moscow, all through the 70+ years of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, were more or less cut off from the outside world. There was little trade or other exchange. The USSR was in fact a grab-bag of ethnicities, religions and languages, controlled with an iron fist by Stalin and afterwards with unbroken dominance through subsequent regimes. Under Soviet management, Central Asia had stayed poor and ignored; it had not developed any hydrocarbon resources to lure…

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Jakarta, Surakarta, Berlin (7/12 – 11) Amid a generally declining period for Germany’s national football team, the 2023 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Indonesia has been a shining light for them. Germany is one of the most successful national teams ever in international competition. They have won four World Cups (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014), three European Championships (1972, 1980, 1996), and a Confederations Cup (2017). Nevertheless, in recent years, Germany is suffering a horrid fate. In 2018, Germany suffered their first-ever first-round exit from the World Cup, since 1938. Germany became the fifth defending champions to be eliminated in the…

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London (07/11 – 71) For ten years now, the authorities of Tajikistan have been engaged in forced assimilation of the ethnic Pamiri people, giving away the heartlands to China for debts,” Orzu M. shared with RFI – Radio France Internationale is a French news and current affairs public radio station that broadcasts worldwide. RFI met with Orzu in Paris, sharing the fact that more and more Pamiris are leaving their native homes in Gorno-Badakhshan Mountainous Autonomous (GBAO) Region of Tajikistan; they are driven into exile by the persecution of the authorities, who are displacing indigenous peoples. RFI: How did it…

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