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Boris Johnson sparks outrage in India with bulldozer photo shoot

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrived in India under the shadow of “partygate” and quickly found himself in the middle of another controversy when he jumped atop an excavator at a factory of the British construction giant JCB.

Over the last week, bulldozers, including those made by JCB, have been in the news as government officials in several Indian states, including the capital Delhi, used the machines to destroy the homes and businesses of mostly poor Muslims as punishment for allegedly indulging in crimes like stone-pelting during religious clashes with majority Hindu groups.

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The photos of Johnson perched on a JCB bulldozer drew criticism on social media and landed him on the front page of many newspapers – a distraction from the “Global Britain” push that brings him on a two-day visit to the South Asian nation.

Amnesty India tweeted to call the UK leader’s visit to the JCB factory “ignorant.” The Indian Express newspaper captioned its front page photograph: “Boris & Bulldozer.

Critics have called out Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – which rules several states where the demolitions took place – for using the bulldozers to intimidate India’s Muslim minority, and collectively punish families for crimes without any judicial process.

India’s top court Wednesday ordered a stay on one such drive in Delhi. The government has denied the demolitions target Muslims alone.

Johnson is expected to discuss trade and security with Modi on Friday. He’s also expected to raise Russia’s war in Ukraine as the UK tries to persuade India to join efforts to isolate Moscow.

There was no immediate comment from the British High Commission in New Delhi. An email seeking comment from JCB, outside of UK business hours, was not immediately answered

Johnson has good relations with JCB, whose chairman is one of the most prominent corporate Brexit backers. The prime minister gave an election campaign speech at its headquarters in 2019, and JCB and its billionaire chairman Anthony Bamford have both been donors to Johnson.

Johnson arrived in India as British lawmakers discussed “partygate” and whether the leader should be referred to Parliament’s standards committee. That’s after police fined him over a birthday party during the pandemic — making him the first UK prime minister found to have broken the law.

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IAEA loses transmission from Ukraine’s Russian-held nuclear plant surveillance system

The UN atomic watchdog said on Wednesday it had again lost its connection to its surveillance systems keeping track of nuclear material at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, Europe’s largest, which the watchdog wants to inspect.
“The fact that our remote safeguards data transmission is down again –- for the second time in the past month –- only adds to the urgency to dispatch this mission (to Zaporizhzhia),” the
International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement.

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The connection was lost on Saturday “due to a disruption of the facility’s communication systems,” it added.

Read more: UN watchdog ‘concerned’ about Ukraine nuclear plant access

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Anti-coup protesters in Sudan shot dead: Report

Four protesters were killed in Sudan on Thursday, medics said, as large crowds took to the streets despite heavy security and a communications blackout to rally against the military leadership that seized power eight months ago.

In central Khartoum, security forces fired tear gas and water cannon as they tried to prevent swelling crowds from marching towards the presidential palace, witnesses said.

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They estimated the crowds in Khartoum and its twin cities of Omdurman and Bahri to be in the tens of thousands. In Omdurman witnesses reported tear gas and gunfire as security forces prevented protesters from crossing into Khartoum.

The protests mark the third anniversary of huge demonstrations during the uprising that overthrew long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir and led to a power-sharing arrangement between civilian groups and the military.

Last October, the military led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan toppled the transitional government, triggering rallies that have called on the army to quit politics.

Some protesters carried banners calling for justice for those killed in previous demonstrations. Others chanted, “Burhan, Burhan, back to the barracks and hand over your companies,” a reference to the Sudanese military’s economic holdings.

Earlier, protesters barricaded some of the capital’s main thoroughfares with stones and burning tires.

It was the first time in months of protests against the October coup that internet and phone services had been cut. After the military takeover, extended internet blackouts were imposed in an apparent effort to hamper the protest movement.

Staff at Sudan’s two private sector telecoms companies, speaking on condition of anonymity, said authorities had ordered them to shut down the internet once again on Thursday.

Bridges shut

Phone calls within Sudan were also cut and security forces closed bridges over the Nile linking Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri – another step typically taken on big protest days to limit the movement of marchers.

In recent days there have been daily neighborhood protests in the build-up to Thursday’s rallies.

On Wednesday, medics aligned with the protest movement said security forces shot dead a child during protests in Bahri. Thursday’s four deaths, all in Omdurman, brought the number of protesters killed since the coup to 107.

There was no immediate comment from Sudanese authorities.

The United Nations envoy in Sudan, Volker Perthes, called this week on authorities to abide by a pledge to protect the right of peaceful assembly. “Violence against protesters will not be tolerated,” he said.

Military leaders said they dissolved the government in October because of political paralysis. As a result, however, international financial support agreed with the transitional government was frozen and an economic crisis has deepened.

Burhan said on Wednesday the armed forces were looking forward to the day when an elected government could take over, but this could only be done through consensus or elections, not protests.

Mediation efforts led by the United Nations and the African

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UN: Almost 16 million people in Ukraine need humanitarian aid

As Russia presses on with its invasion of Ukraine, some 16 million people inside the country need humanitarian aid, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Ukraine said Thursday.

“Almost 16 million people in Ukraine today need humanitarian assistance: water food, health services,” Osnat Lubrani told a press briefing.

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Six million Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes for other parts of the country since the war started, though around 5 million have since returned, she said.

But “many know that they might be forced to flee again,” she added.

Over 5.3 million more Ukrainians have fled abroad, Lubrani said.

She said the UN tally of casualties since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 was likely much higher.

“The number we have of almost 5,000 civilians killed and more than 5,000 injured is just a fraction of the frightening reality,” she said.

She also said it was “extremely difficult if not… impossible” for humanitarian groups to access areas that are no longer under Kyiv’s control.

Lubrani called on Russia and Ukraine “to do more to protect the people of this country and to make our work possible.”

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