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Former Belarus leader Shushkevich, who sacked Gorbachev, dies at age 87

Former Belarus leader Stanislav Shushkevich, the man who broke the news to Mikhail Gorbachev that the Soviet Union was being consigned to history, has died at the age of 87, Belarusian media quoted his wife as saying on Wednesday.
Shushkevich was one of the three main actors, with Russian president Boris Yeltsin and Ukraine’s Leonid Kravchuk, at a meeting in a Belarusian hunting lodge in December 1991 at which they sounded the death knell of the former superpower led by Gorbachev.

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“The USSR as a geopolitical reality, and as a subject of international law, has ceased to exist,” they said in a joint statement announcing the formation of a new Commonwealth of Independent States.
Shushkevich recounted in later years that the other two leaders had jokingly nominated him to inform Gorbachev, which he did in an awkward call to the Kremlin while Yeltsin phoned US President George Bush.
Gorbachev, who had survived a hardline coup in August 1991 but had been left gravely weakened, was forced to resign weeks later as the Soviet flag was lowered for the last time over the Kremlin.
Shushkevich ran Belarus until 1994, when he lost a presidential election to Alexander Lukashenko, and was unsuccessful in several later campaigns against him.
He remained a harsh critic of Lukashenko and supported mass protests against him after a disputed 2020 election, though he did not participate in demonstrations because of his declining health.
In an interview with Reuters in August that year, Shushkevich correctly predicted that Lukashenko would hold on to power, backed by his powerful military and by Moscow.
“Lukashenko serves the Kremlin because otherwise he wouldn’t be able to hold on. The Kremlin … supports him,” he told Reuters by phone from his dacha.
“In such conditions, it’s difficult for the beaten and tortured Belarusian opposition to struggle with Russia.”
Lukashenko signed a special decree in 1997 by which Shushkevich’s pension was frozen and not indexed to inflation. In 2015, by which time the pension’s valued had eroded almost to zero, he relented and raised it to $220 a month.
References to Shushkevich were removed from school history books in 2021 after he spoke out numerous times against Lukashenko’s crackdown on protests.
His death was reported by the state news agency Belta on Wednesday in a bland six-paragraph chronology of his academic and political career.

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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

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The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

“There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of young children,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said at a news conference on Friday. He called the deaths a “likely triple homicide.”

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

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A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

In Greece’s worst wildfire disaster, 102 people were killed when a blaze tore through the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas close to Athens during the summer of 2018.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands of illegal migrants still cross the region annually.

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