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Ukraine, Navalny allies share Putin as ‘common enemy,’ says Kremlin foe

Top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny will remain in prison as long as Vladimir Putin is in power and Russia’s opposition and Ukraine share a “common enemy” in the Russian president, one of Navalny’s top lieutenants said.
Ivan Zhdanov, a close ally of Putin’s pre-eminent domestic critic, spoke in an interview in Kyiv. He said he had come to Ukraine to see for himself the impact of Moscow’s invasion and to be able to report a true picture back to Russians.

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“Putin is a common enemy for us, and we have already been fighting against him for many years,” Zhdanov, head of Navalny’s embattled Anti-Corruption Foundation, told Reuters on a central square in the Ukrainian capital.
He said Navalny’s team were interested in striking up a dialogue with the Ukrainian government.
Navalny, already serving a jail term of two and half years, received a new nine-year sentence in March for fraud and contempt of court. He said last week he had been charged in a new criminal case and could face up to 15 more years in prison.
Zhdanov delivered a bleak assessment of Navalny’s chances of being released, linking his lengthening jail sentence and new charge to the Russian invasion.
“He will stay in prison as long as Putin is in power, as long as Putin’s circle is in power,” he said.
“If Navalny was free right now…, he would be saying all the time that this war must be stopped immediately. Does Putin need such a person right now?”
Despite the huge stakes of the war in Ukraine and the Kremlin’s spiraling confrontation with the West, Putin looks politically unassailable at home for now. The Kremlin leader, in power since the turn of the century, turns 70 this October.
Zhdanov, 33, left Russia last year during a sweeping Kremlin crackdown on associates of Navalny, whose nationwide political network was declared extremist and banned.
Zhdanov heads Navalny’s exiled Anti-Corruption Foundation, which continues to produce YouTube investigations about alleged graft in Russia and helped Western governments compile sanctions lists of individuals associated with the Kremlin.
“There is no court right now, but the sanctions mechanism is a mechanism for accountability,” said Zhdanov, who is now based in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.

Russian sentiment

Despite his bleak outlook, Zhdanov dismissed as “absolutely untrue” polling figures from March suggesting that 81% of Russians support the actions in Ukraine.
He said a huge portion of Russians simply fear answering the polls honestly: “In fact, the figures are much lower.”
Zhdanov estimated that around 25 to 30 percent of people actively support the war, while 40 to 50 percent avoid taking a strong position. More than 20 percent are clearly opposed, he said.
The Kremlin says it is carrying out a “special military operation” in Ukraine to rid it of threats to Russian security. Ukraine and its Western supporters call it an unprovoked war to grab territory.
“Russia will be carrying the cost of this war for many decades. Reputationally, financially, and in lots of other ways,” Zhdanov said.
He said he believed that Russia's actions in Ukraine constituted genocide, citing allegations of Russian war crimes in formerly occupied towns near Kyiv. Moscow denies the allegations and has accused Ukraine of staging a “provocation.”
“In Bucha, people didn’t die from artillery or mortar fire. People died there after they were arrested in the street, tied up, interrogated, and then taken to be shot. How is that not genocide?” said Zhdanov.

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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

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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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