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Belarus Head Of State Dies



Belarus Head Of State Dies

Stanislav Shushkevich, the first head of state of an independent Belarus, who with the leaders of Russia and Ukraine signed a decree dissolving the Soviet Union, has died aged 87.

Shushkevich, who later became a critic of Belarus’s strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko, died of complications from coronavirus, his wife Irina told AFP on Wednesday.

As chairman of the Belarus Supreme Soviet, Shushkevich, along with Russian leader Boris Yeltsin and Ukrainian leader Leonid Kravchuk, signed the 1991 declaration that dissolved the Soviet Union.

Shushkevich led Belarus from independence until he was defeated in a 1994 election by Lukashenko, becoming a prominent member of the opposition

“We hope that a state funeral will be organised, but no one has contacted us yet,” Irina Shushkevich said.

The Belavezha Accords, signed on December 8, 1991 at a luxury dacha in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha forest in Belarus, set up the post-Soviet group the Commonwealth of Independent States to replace the Soviet Union.

READ ALSO: Ex-South Korean President Chun Dies

The three leaders were reported to have fired off guns and downed glasses of vodka at the hunting lodge before signing the historic document.

Born in Minsk, Shushkevich took over the Supreme Soviet after the previous chairman was ousted because of his support for a Communist hard-line coup attempt in August 1991 against Mikhail Gorbachev.

After Belarus’s independence, he remained head of state until 1994, although he never formally held the title of president.

He was ousted in a graft probe spearheaded by Lukashenko, who at the time headed the Belarus anti-corruption committee.

In June 1994, Shushkevich stood in presidential elections against Lukashenko and other candidates but was knocked out in the first round.

Lukashenko won a landslide victory in the second round and has remained president ever since.

Shushkevich subsequently became a leading critic of Lukashenko and strong supporter of the country’s liberal opposition.

In 2012 Lukashenko accused Shushkevich of leading a “fifth column” in Belarus and the ex-leader was barred from leaving the country.

A year later, while writing his memoirs, Shushkevich said he had tried to access the original signed declaration from Belavezha but it appeared to have been lost.

Shushkevich had been less active in recent years and played no role in the huge anti-government protests that erupted after Lukashenko claimed another victory in an August 2020 presidential election.

Tens of thousands took the streets for weeks and thousands were arrested in a severe crackdown that crushed the demonstrations and saw many opposition leaders flee the country.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the Belarusian opposition leader who now lives in exile, called Shushkevich’s death “a big loss for the Belarusian people and the democratic world.”

“The first leader of independent Belarus will be remembered for his role in the dissolution of the Soviet Union. May he rest in peace,” she said on Twitter.

Belarusian media reported in April that Shushkevich was in intensive care due to complications from the coronavirus.

There was no immediate reaction from officials in Minsk on Wednesday to his death.


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BREAKING:Soldier Guarding Ugandan Minister Shoots Him Dead



The body of the shot minister being put in a vehicle

A Ugandan national army soldier has shot and killed a government minister he was guarding.

Retired Colonel Charles Okello Engola, who was the deputy minister for gender and labour, was shot at his home on Tuesday morning.

It is not yet clear whether there was an argument between the soldier and Col Engola.

The soldier, yet to be officially identified, then shot himself dead.

Before turning the gun on himself, some eyewitness said the soldier walked around the neighbourhood shooting in the air.

Initial reports suggest a number of people may be injured and videos on social media showed locals gathering at the scene in shock.

Col Engola was a senior government official, and had previously served as a deputy minister for defence.

The Speaker of Uganda’s parliament confirmed Col Engola’s death in a short statement while presiding over the morning session.

“This morning I received sad news that Hon Engola has been shot by his bodyguard and after, shot himself. May his soul rest in peace. That was God’s plan. We can’t change anything,” Anita Among told MPs on Tuesday.

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At 80, U.S. President Biden Announces Re-election Bid



U.S . Bars Unvaccinated Travellers
United States President Joe Biden

President Joe Biden  on Tuesday formally announced his bid for reelection, setting off a battle to convince the country his record merits another four years in the White House and his age won’t impede his ability to govern.

In a video released early Tuesday, Biden framed next year’s contest as a fight against Republican extremism, implicitly arguing he needed more time to fully realize his vow to restore the nation’s character.

“When I ran for president four years ago, I said we are in a battle for the soul of America. And we still are,” he said in the video, which opened with images of the January 6, 2021, insurrection and abortion rights activists protesting at the US Supreme Court.

“The question we are facing is whether in the years ahead we have more freedom or less freedom. More rights or fewer,” Biden says in voiceover narration. “I know what I want the answer to be and I think you do too. This is not a time to be complacent. That’s why I’m running for reelection.”

Biden’s official declaration ends any lingering doubts about his intentions, and begins a contest that could evolve into a rematch with his 2020 rival, former President Donald Trump. He enters the race with a significant legislative record but low approval ratings, a conundrum his advisers have so far been unable to solve. Already the oldest president in history, he also confronts persistent questions about his age.

The launch comes four years to the day Biden made his 2020 bid official. That race became a mission to restore the country’s character and prevent Trump from achieving a second term.

Biden’s fourth and final presidential campaign will rest on similar themes. Just as he did in 2020, Biden is making an appeal to the nation’s ideals, particularly with the specter of Trump’s return.

His announcement video warns against “MAGA extremists” who he says are “dictating what health care decisions women can make, banning books, and telling people who they can love.”

“Every generation of Americans has faced a moment when they’ve had to defend democracy. Stand up for our personal freedoms. Stand up for the right to vote and our civil rights,” he says. “And this is our moment.”

But Biden’s campaign will also ride on promoting the achievements made during the first two years of his presidency — and an argument he needs more time to “finish the job.”

“I know we can,” he says.

The Republican National Committee immediately rolled out an attack ad against Biden, unveiling what it called an “AI-generated look into the country’s possible future if Joe Biden is re-elected.” The dystopian video intermixes “news” of Biden’s reelection in 2024 with faux reports of high crime, international turmoil, rampant illegal immigration and financial calamity.

Little enthusiasm for another Biden run amid concerns about his age
No major Democratic challengers are expected to emerge, and Biden is likely to enjoy an easy path to his party’s nomination. Only two challengers are in the race: author Marianne Williamson and anti-vaccine activist and environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Still, at 80, Biden is the nation’s oldest president. Polls have consistently reflected concern about his age even among Democrats.

Most Americans — and even a majority of Democrats — in recent surveys have shown little enthusiasm for another Biden run.

A series of upcoming challenges, from the ongoing war in Ukraine to a still-uncertain economy, could provide hurdles to Biden’s reelection. And now that power in Washington is divided, the GOP-controlled House has largely dashed hopes for major legislative accomplishments in the two years ahead of the 2024 vote.


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India Overtakes China As Most Populous Nation



Indian Prime Minister Modi

India has become the world’s most populous country, overtaking China, according to the United Nations.

According to UN estimates on Wednesday, India’s population is 142.86 crore against China’s 142.57 crore.

This is the first time that India has topped the UN list of most populous countries since it started collecting population data in 1950.

China is facing a looming demographic decline as birth rates plunge and its workforce ages. Several regions have also announced plans to boost birth rates — but official efforts have so far failed to reverse the decline.

India has no recent official data on how many people it has because it has not conducted a census since 2011.

India’s once in a decade census was due to be held in 2021 but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly 1/4th of India’s population is under the age of 14, according to the UN data. 68 per cent of the population is in the 15 to 64 age group, while 7 per cent is above the age of 65.

Estimates by different agencies have suggested that India’s population is expected to keep rising for nearly three decades before it peaks at 165 crore and then would start declining.

The new UN report also estimated that the global population will have hit 8.045 billion by mid-2023.

Other countries, mostly in Europe and Asia, can expect a demographic slump over the coming decades, according to other UN figures published last July which forecast how the world’s population will develop between now and 2100.

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