The Russian alliance withdraws from Kazakhstan, Europe intends…

Here’s your roundup of international news from Kazakhstan, Germany, the UK, Canada and Russia:

KAZAKHSTAN

A Russian-led military alliance began pulling out of Kazakhstan on Thursday after a week-long deployment to the Central Asian country following violent protests that left dozens dead. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev asked the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which includes Russia and five other states, to intervene in what was considered Kazakhstan’s worst political crisis since its independence.

Kazakh authorities are investigating former security chief Karim Massimov, a close ally of former leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, for allegedly trying to stage a coup, while claiming the violence was directed by foreigners trained by Islamist militants. As Russian troops continue to camp on the Ukrainian border, the Russian deployment has come under fire from Western leaders concerned about the country’s continued efforts to expand its military influence.

GERMANY

Former Syrian intelligence officer Anwar Raslan has been sentenced to life in prison by a German court for overseeing at least 27 murders and the torture of 4,000 prisoners as a senior official in a Damascus detention center. The court found that Raslan, who was a colonel under President Bashar al-Assad before being granted asylum in Germany, committed “systemic and brutal torture” against government opponents in 2011 and 2012.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said: “This trial has thrown a much-needed and renewed spotlight on the sickening types of torture, cruel and truly inhuman treatment – including beatings despicable sexual abuse – to which countless Syrians have been subjected in detention centres.

UK

Senior government ministers rallied around Prime Minister Boris Johnson and rejected calls for his resignation after he admitted attending a ‘bring your own booze’ party at 10 Downing Street during the country’s coronavirus lockdown in May 2020. Speaking in the House of Commons this week, Johnson apologized for attending the ‘socially distanced drinks’ event and acknowledged the ‘rage’ of the public, but refused to admit any wrongdoing, saying he thought he was attending a business event.

While opposition leaders have called on Johnson to step down, his allies say he should await the outcome of an investigation into the event. Some conservatives, however, appear to be losing patience with his response to the scandal, leading to speculation that they could impose a no-confidence motion.

CANADA

Quebec Premier Francois Legault announced that the province will impose a health tax on residents who have not yet received their first Covid-19 vaccine to cover health care system costs. The province has yet to announce the amount of the penalty, which will be imposed on adults who do not qualify for the medical exemptions. The move follows similar interventions announced in Greece and Austria aimed at penalizing those who flout vaccination mandates.

Quebec has recorded the highest number of Covid-19 related deaths in Canada and is currently struggling with an increase in cases. Nearly 13% of adults in the province are unvaccinated, but they account for almost a third of hospital admissions.

RUSSIA

The Kremlin has described this week’s talks with the United States and NATO over Ukraine as unsuccessful, raising the risk of armed conflict as around 100,000 troops remain stationed on the border. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said talks led to “positive nuances” but Russia wants a binding deal that Ukraine can never join NATO, which the US considers as a non-starter.

Speaking to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau expressed pessimism about the prospects of finding a solution. “It appears that the risk of war in the Osce region is now greater than at any time in the past 30 years,” he said. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly newspaper Daily Maverick 168 which is available for R25 from Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. To find your nearest retailer, please click on here.

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Mary I. Bruner