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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: ‘I don’t know how I survived’

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe studies the thick menu, leafing through its pages in search of the various tastes she is craving. There’s an aubergine platter that she’s had before and wants to try again, a squid tempura, a spinach salad and the black cod with miso, which she tells me is unmissable.

Although it is just the two of us at Roka, a stylish Japanese restaurant in London’s Mayfair, we add sashimi, a spicy yellowfin tuna roll, yellowtail carpaccio with truffle and crab and black cod dumplings to our feast. “I have been food-deprived,” says the Iranian-British national who endured a six-year ordeal as a prisoner in Iran, as if to justify her appetite.

For Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was given her life back only in March, food was, for a long time, a matter of survival, and having plenty of it is freedom.

During seven months in solitary confinement after she was first arrested on spying charges in 2016, she ate very little. “The food was awful. So I just ended up having bread and cheese and jam for quite some time, for breakfast, lunch, dinner. They would give us the really teeny-tiny jams that they give you at the hotels, the small ones. The same amount of cheese. A little bit of bread.”

When she was transferred to the general women’s ward in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, food gained a meaning beyond subsistence: it filled time — which she had in abundance — and it solidified the sense of community among women prisoners.

The rations were still meagre, mostly grains and beans and frozen meat, but the prisoners had a kitchen and a shop where they bought fresh fruit and vegetables. “We didn’t have anything like an oven to begin with, but somebody donated some money and they bought an oven, which was nice, so we could bake bread and sometimes pizza and gradually we had this recipe book that we could follow and we started making sweets for the Nowruz [Iranian new year].”

We are meeting on her 101st day of freedom. It was March 16 when the 43-year-old Zaghari-Ratcliffe was finally allowed to board a plane from Tehran to be reunited with Gabriella, her now eight-year-old daughter, and Richard, her husband who had relentlessly campaigned for her release, going on hunger strike for 15 days in 2019 and 21 in 2021.

Snatched from the airport in Tehran when she and her then 22-month-old daughter tried to board a flight back to London after a family visit, Zaghari-Ratcliffe became a pawn in a geopolitical stand-off between the Islamic Republic and the west. In recent years, scores of dual nationals have been arrested in Iran and used as bargaining chips, to exchange for Iranians jailed abroad, or, in her case, to secure the release of £400mn debt that Britain owed Iran.

By the time Zaghari-Ratcliffe was released, her family’s anger was directed not only at Iran but also at successive British governments, which they believed had not tried hard enough to secure her freedom. “I think it should have happened earlier,” she says. “Six years is a very long time.”


It is a sunny day in London and the terrace of Roka is crowded. I find Zaghari-Ratcliffe seated at a table by the window inside, in the dining room with an open kitchen. It’s noisy and we have to raise our voices to be heard. She doesn’t seem to mind. She is often pensive, taking her time to consider her answers. At times, she appears detached, as if describing an experience lived by someone else.

It is when speaking of the separation from her daughter, first at the airport when she was arrested and again three years later when she and her husband decided that Gabriella should be sent back to London to live with him, that she lets the emotion in, at one point breaking into tears. “The thing I could never accept was the separation from my daughter. I could never come to terms with that. I could never understand that we live in a world that allows a mother to be away from her child for six years.”

Born to a religious family and raised in Tehran, Zaghari-Ratcliffe had studied English literature and worked in Iran for international bodies including the World Health Organization before travelling to the UK on a scholarship in 2007 to study media communications. It was then that she met and married her husband Richard, an accountant, and settled in London. After graduation, she worked at a BBC-affiliated international development charity and then at the Thomson Reuters Foundation — jobs that Iran would falsely claim involved training Iranian journalists and, in their twisted logic, plotting to overthrow the regime.

When, as foreign secretary in 2017, Boris Johnson mistakenly remarked that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was “simply teaching people journalism”, he inadvertently reinforced the regime’s accusations, possibly adding more years to her imprisonment. It was the message she gave Johnson when she met him after her release. “I wanted him to know that I actually lived under that shadow of his mistake for four and a half years. Every single time they told me: ‘you lied to us, he [Johnson] told the truth’.”

In her first months of incarceration, stuck in a tiny 2-metre by 2-metre cell in the city of Kerman, in the south-east of Iran, with no access to a lawyer or family visits, she was convinced that she was caught up in a case of mistaken identity. “I just kept telling myself . . . This is wrong. They arrested the wrong person.”

Roka
30 North Audley Street, London W1K

Kampachi salad £18.80
Pirpiri maki £13.60
Sashimi sake £10.20
Spinach salad £7.20
Black cod and crab gyoza £16.20
Eggplant salad £9.20
Fried squid £15.50
Black cod £41.80

Cranberry juice £3.90
Kombu spritz £5.60
Still Eira water x2 £10.80

Savitri Trust £1

Total (inc service) £175.96

Soon her jailers hinted at the likely reason for her arrest: to pressure the UK into paying £400mn owed to Iran for an order of Chieftain tanks that was not delivered after the 1979 Islamic revolution. “I could never tell whether they arrested me and then they made that up or they already knew about it and then they arrested me to feed the wrong agenda. I don’t know. But very, very early on, about two weeks, they told me that we want something from the British government.”

British foreign secretaries came and went, and all tried to win her release. Parts of the government resisted returning funds to Iran that could be used to finance radical groups in the Middle East. Others were concerned about finding a channel to send the money that would not break the international sanctions regime on Iran. When Liz Truss became foreign secretary in September 2021, she seemed more determined than most to secure her release. In the end, along with Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release, the debt was indeed settled, even if the official version remains that the two events were not linked.


We nibble on the many appetisers laid out across our table, each deliciously prepared, and beautifully presented. While I enjoy the raw fish, Zaghari-Ratcliffe is more interested in the squid and the salads, which I move closer to her side.

Sipping her matcha green tea mixed with passion fruit, she tells about the many impressive women she met at Evin. She was held with Narges Mohammadi, a human-rights activist who fought for women prisoners’ rights, “a lovely person, stoic”, and a group of wildlife conservationists who held a sit-in in 2019 to protest about the killing of demonstrators on the streets. “The political ward was very strong at one point,” she says. “There was power in . . . mobilising women in prison to be standing up for their rights, to speak up . . . the women learnt from each other.”

That solidarity helped her survive. But so did her faith. When she was in solitary confinement in the early months of imprisonment, she read the Koran, the only book she was allowed by her guards. “I don’t know how I survived. I am confident that my faith helped me. I had to hold on to something.”

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s first whiff of freedom came because of the Covid pandemic, which hit Iran hard in its first wave. Afraid that prisoners would die on their watch, or perhaps that their value would diminish, the authorities furloughed those with short remaining sentences into house arrest. With a year left on hers, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was given an ankle tag and sent to her parents’ house in Tehran. “I was the first female political prisoner ever to be given the ankle tag, to the point where the guards were, oh, how do you think it looks?” she recalls. “I could talk to my daughter every day, see her [on video] every day but I also had to call the prosecutor’s office every week to say, do I have to come back to prison, or not? And they would say, oh, call us back next Saturday. Every Saturday for one year.”

The tag came off when her five-year sentence was over. She could meet friends, visit bookstores and dine at restaurants — though none served the kind of Japanese cuisine she craved. But with the £400mn debt still unpaid, a new chapter of trauma was unfolding.

In April 2021, an Iranian court sentenced her to a year in prison on a new charge of spreading propaganda against the regime, and added to it another year of travel ban, a decision upheld on appeal a few months later. She was not incarcerated, but nor was she free. “The new sentence was dangling over my head to scare me. They wanted the money,” she suspected. By then, the Trump administration, whose hostility to compromise with Iran may have been an additional obstacle to Britain’s attempts to strike a release deal, was out of office. And in London, Johnson was now prime minister and keen to bring Zaghari-Ratcliffe back.

In the year she spent at home in Iran, Zaghari-Ratcliffe started to come to terms with the anger she felt towards her home country. She resolved to leave it on the plane to London. “I have to just carry on,” she tells me. “I don’t want to live with that black hole in my heart for ever.”

She has imparted this serenity about Iran to her daughter who, though aware of her mother’s treatment, speaks fondly of her mother’s heritage. “She’s very proud of being half-Iranian, which is very sweet. I’m very proud of her. Because I thought that bit of her past is a bit chipped, because of what happened to me.”


We are nearly two hours into our lunch and the waitress is eager to serve the pièce de résistance: the miso-marinated black cod. When it is finally placed before us, Zaghari-Ratcliffe serves both of us and, as we savour it, I steer the conversation towards the present. The woman in white embroidered shirt and dangling earrings sitting before me is, on the surface, impressively poised and well adjusted. Her nails are painted and her eyelids brushed with a light grey shadow. She is reflective and confident.

When I gently probe her feelings, and bring up what normality means to her today, however, she tells me about her nightmares. For a long time after she returned to London, she would wake up in the middle of the night, not knowing whether she was in prison or free. “In my nightmares, they [the authorities] tell me that you’re free and I can’t find my shoes. I’m looking for my shoes. I can’t find them. They tell me, we are waiting for the bus to come. The bus never comes. The fulfilment isn’t there,” she says. “I think subconsciously I have not really accepted that freedom has happened.”

Her life with her family feels at times surreal, almost like a holiday or a dream. She is the accidental celebrity, stopped on the streets and asked to take selfies with strangers. Her name is shouted out on the Tube when people see her. “It’s sweet . . . and it’s humbling,” she tells me. She has finally seen her husband serene and smiling, after watching him troubled for so many years. “He keeps telling me every single day that it’s good that you’re back, it’s good to have you back, and reminding me that these are very very precious moments. We have gone through a lot to come out of it stronger.” She knows that both of them still need to recover. “We are different people but we share the same pain. Even though he wasn’t in prison, he suffered in a different way. It takes patience, flexibility, understanding.”

I tell her that it’s difficult to imagine how a person adjusts to life after prison, when on the surface they appear to have reclaimed their normality — indeed she seems, in her poise, all too normal to me — but deep down they must still be struggling. She nods. “I think often people talk about, you go through imprisonment, and then freedom happens and then everything is just good. That’s not true. When freedom happens, especially when you’re away for a long time, then the whole battle of adjusting to the new life, and then depression happens,” she says. “And what is normal? What is normal for me? I am not the same person. Richard is not the same person. My daughter is eight. When I left her she was not even two. We have all changed in really different ways.”

Her life has shifted from an exceedingly slow existence to days bursting with energy and excitement, which can be exhausting. She was relieved when she discussed how tired she felt with another recently released prisoner. He told her that even an activity as simple as speaking on the telephone forces him to lie down for two hours afterwards. “I’m not on my own. There are other people going through that. But I think because we often talk about this part less. Because everyone says, you’ve put on nail varnish. You’re wearing make-up. I’m so happy that you’re back to your normal life. How do you know that this is my normal life?”

We have lost track of time. Most of our fellow lunch diners have departed and our waiter is hovering. Zaghari-Ratcliffe considers taking a look at a dessert menu, but we settle on the quick option: a black coffee for her and an espresso for me. Our discussion of life after prison appears to have worn her out but speaking of her daughter lightens her mood. What, I ask her, was the most enjoyable experience when she returned to London? “I took my daughter for a haircut and she loved it, absolutely loved it,” she says. “She had very long hair and we always talked about when mummy comes back we’ll go and have a haircut. This is what I was looking forward to for a very, very long time.” It was the most normal mother-daughter experience, but one that both had been denied for six long years.

Roula Khalaf is the editor of the Financial Times

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China Protests Over ‘Zero Covid’ Follow Months of Economic Pain

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The toll of China’s unwavering approach to fighting Covid has rippled through the world’s second-largest economy for months: Youth unemployment reached a record 20 percent, corporate profits sagged, and economic growth fell well below Beijing’s own projections.

The economic pain has intensified the pressure to ease pandemic restrictions to salvage the flagging economy and restore some semblance of normal life. Frustration with the government’s zero-tolerance Covid strategy, which has failed to prevent a big jump in cases, escalated over the weekend as a population tired of unpredictable lockdowns, extended quarantines and mass testing erupted into protests.

The current Covid outbreak, the most widespread since the start of the pandemic in 2020, has painted Xi Jinping, China’s president, into a corner. He has refused to budge on the government’s strict Covid approach. If he loosens restrictions and infections skyrocket, there is the risk of mass casualties and an overwhelmed health care system. But keeping the current policies in place and limiting infections with widespread lockdowns would inflict further damage to an already slowing economy.

“The government has no good options at this point,” said Mark Williams, chief Asia economist for Capital Economics, a research firm. “Whatever they do, it’s hard to see how there won’t be significant restrictions imposed across large parts of the country, which is going to have a huge impact on weakening the economy.”

More than 80 cities in China are now battling infections compared with 50 cities in the spring, when a smaller surge of infections prompted an eight-week lockdown in Shanghai and set the economy on its slowest pace of annual growth in decades. These cities account for half of China’s economic activity and ship 90 percent of its exports, according to Capital Economics.

Earlier this month, China announced plans to ease some pandemic policies, fueling speculation that it was the beginning of a transition to phase out its “zero-Covid” policy, much to the delight of investors who sent shares of Chinese companies soaring. But as the number of infections rose, the government reverted to a familiar playbook and held firm to what it has said all along: China is trying to eradicate Covid, not learning to live with it.

In a series of editorials in state media starting on Sunday, Beijing said that China still needed to “maintain strategic focus” in combating Covid, but it urged officials around the country to avoid extreme measures such as blocking fire exits or barricading communal doors during quarantine. It stressed the need for local officials to adhere to policy tweaks meant to “optimize” existing Covid policies and limit disruptions to people and businesses.

Even so, the authorities on Monday night deployed additional security to discourage another night of protests.

The growing unrest has threatened to jeopardize China’s hard-earned reputation as the world’s factory floor. Last week, workers upset about unpaid Covid bonuses and poor quarantine protocols rioted and clashed with police at a Chinese factory where Taiwanese contract manufacturer Foxconn produces more than half of the world’s iPhones.

Andrew Fennell, an analyst who oversees China’s government credit ratings for Fitch, said the country’s uncompromising approach has “weighed heavily on the economy and elevated social tensions.” He said that he expects Beijing to relax the most restrictive measures under its zero-tolerance approach, such as citywide lockdowns, in 2023, but that many restrictions will remain in place because of relatively low vaccination rates among the elderly in China.

In a note on Monday, Goldman Sachs estimated that there is a 30 percent chance that China will abandon “zero Covid” before April as the central government is forced to “choose between more lockdowns and more Covid outbreaks.”

After the initial outbreak of Covid in 2020, China’s economy bounced back quickly. While the rest of the world remained in lockdown, China’s hard-line approach to keeping the coronavirus in check worked well and its economy roared to life. In particular, exports were a bright spot as Chinese factories manufactured many of the products that the rest of the world bought online during isolation. Last year, China’s economy grew by an impressive 8 percent.

Currently, many of China’s biggest trading partners are staring at a possible recession from runaway inflation, rising interest rates, and the war in Ukraine. Domestically, the usually reliable pillars of real estate and high technology have fallen on hard times, and making more credit available to businesses has not jumpstarted the economy.

For small businesses, the recent outbreak is already sapping demand.

Cai Zhikang, a cake shop owner in Shenzhen, said corporate customers, the main source of his business, are starting to cancel orders more frequently. He said that a customer had scrapped a large corporate catering order exceeding $500 on Monday, a day after residents in the city in southeastern China staged a protest there over some of the latest restrictions.

Mr. Cai, 28, said that each wave of infections had brought more austerity from corporate customers who cut back on spending for employee treats to preserve their budgets. He said that he was also forced to close his shop for a month when Shenzhen imposed restrictions on the park where he operates his store. There is no point, he added, in planning ahead anymore because everything is dependent on whether Covid is spreading or not.

“If there is no Covid, I can definitely earn. When there is Covid, I cannot,” Mr. Cai said.

The impact has also spread to larger companies. A decline in overall profits at China’s industrial firms accelerated in October, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Profit in China’s 41 industrial sectors fell by 3 percent in the January to October period, a steeper decline compared with a 2.3 percent slide in January to September, numbers released on Sunday indicate.

China’s initial success in containing Covid started to crumble this year with the spread of the more infectious Omicron variant. The government projected a modest 5.5 percent growth for 2022 in March, several weeks before a sharp rise in infections pushed Shanghai into lockdown and brought the economy to a grinding halt. A series of smaller subsequent outbreaks has continued to test the limits of China’s zero-tolerance strategy, putting the government’s economic growth target out of reach.

On Monday, Nomura, a Japanese brokerage, cut its forecast for fourth-quarter economic growth to 2.4 percent from an earlier estimate of 2.8 percent, citing “a slow, painful and bumpy road to reopening.” It also lowered its gross domestic product prediction for 2023 to a 4 percent increase from a previous estimate of 4.3 percent.

A slowdown in the economy is already apparent to Emma Wang, 39, who owns a store selling handbags and suitcases in a shopping mall in Langzhong, a city in Sichuan Province where there are a handful of infections.

When she opened her store two years ago, business was steady and profitable. But more recently, people have started avoiding malls even though the city is not under lockdown. She is considering moving her business online to sell off her inventory.

“In the pandemic, there are no customers,” said Ms. Wang. “It’s difficult to sell even one bag.”

Compounding the problems for the mother of two is that her husband, who works for a food manufacturer whose business also has been disrupted, has not been paid by his employer for a few months.

“We have a mortgage and credit card loans,” she said. “The situation is not improving and it really upsets me.”

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U.S. could give Ukraine energy help as temperatures fall below freezing; rumors of imminent Russian mobilization in Kherson grow

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Russia could be about to mobilize men in occupied southern Ukraine

A destroyed van used by Russian forces, in Kherson, Ukraine, on Nov. 24, 2022.

Chris Mcgrath | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Speculation is mounting that Russia could try to mobilize men in the occupied part of Kherson, in southern Ukraine, in December.

The Center of National Resistance, a part of Ukraine’s Special Operations Forces to support Ukrainian resistance efforts, said on its website that “Russians are bringing riot police to carry out the mobilization of men in the southern temporarily occupied territories.”

It said riot police units from Dagestan had arrived on the left bank of the Dnipro river of the Kherson region, together with employees of the military commissariats from the pro-Russian, so-called “people’s republics” of Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, to conduct the mobilization.

“The newly arrived occupiers do not hide that in December the personnel will be involved in the illegal conscription of residents of the region with Russian passports. However, it is not exclusive that all men will fall under the ‘mobilization’, and not only the holders of enemy passports.”

Russian forces withdrew from the western bank of the Dnipro river to the eastern (or “left”) bank earlier in November. They have built up defensive lines and fortifications on that side of the river. Russia has already attempted to “Russify” occupied areas by handing out Russian passports and promoting Russian language and culture while suppressing that of Ukraine.

The Center of National Resistance called on the residents in the “TOT,” or “temporarily occupied territory,” to leave the region “and not become a resource for the enemy.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Blinken could announce help for Ukraine’s power transmission

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives at Henri Coanda airport, in Bucarest, on November 29, 2022, ahead of a NATO meeting.

Daniel Mihailescu | Afp | Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday will announce new assistance to help restore Ukraine’s power transmission ability in the face of Russian attacks targeting the country’s energy grid, a senior State Department official said.

Blinken arrived in Romania on Monday evening ahead of a meetings with NATO allies and foreign ministers from the Group of Seven advanced economies.

Ukraine’s foreign minister told some NATO diplomats visiting Kyiv earlier in the day that transformers were the biggest element of the country’s power infrastructure that needed to be restored.

— Reuters

Kherson region shelled 258 times in the past week, Zelenskyy says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia continues to pound the southern region of Kherson, a part of which Russian forces withdrew from several weeks ago.

“This day, as well as every single day, the occupants again shelled Kherson and the communities of the region. In just one week, the enemy shelled 30 settlements of our Kherson region 258 times,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Monday. Russian forces had also damaged a pumping station supplying water to Mykolaiv, he added.

“Ukraine will never be a place for destruction. Ukraine will never accept orders from these ‘comrades’ from Moscow. We will do everything to restore every object, every house, every enterprise destroyed by the occupiers,” Zelenskyy said.

Destroyed Russian vehicles and tanks in Mykhailivska Square on Nov. 19, 2022, in Kyiv, Ukraine. Millions of Ukrainians are facing severe power disruptions after recent waves of Russian missile and drone strikes reportedly left almost half of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure disabled and in need of repair, as temperatures plunge.

Jeff J Mitchell | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Russia has targeted Ukraine’s energy infrastructure for weeks, causing widespread power blackouts and shortages of energy, water and heat, leaving millions of people in tough circumstances as temperatures plummet. Temperatures in the capital Kyiv are below freezing and are even colder in the countryside.

— Holly Ellyatt

U.S., Russia have used their military hotline once so far during Ukraine war

Aerial view of the United States military headquarters, the Pentagon.

Jason Reed | Reuters

A communications line created between the militaries of the United States and Russia at the start of Moscow’s war against Ukraine has been used only once so far, a U.S. official told Reuters.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the United States initiated a call through the “deconfliction” line to communicate its concerns about Russian military operations near critical infrastructure in Ukraine.

Reuters is the first to report on the use of the deconfliction line, beyond regular testing.

Few details are known surrounding the specific incident that led to the call on the line, which connects the U.S. military’s European Command and Russia’s National Defense Management Center.

The official declined to elaborate but said it was not used when an errant missile landed in NATO-member Poland on Nov. 15, killing two people. The blast was likely caused by a Ukrainian air defense missile but Russia was ultimately responsible because it started the war in late February, NATO said.

Although the U.S. official declined to specify which Russian activity raised the U.S. alarm, there have been publicly acknowledged incidents involving Russian fighting around critical Ukrainian infrastructure. These include Russian operations around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s biggest, which is under Russian control.

— Reuters

Russia is using winter as a weapon of war against Ukraine, White House says

Russia is targeting civilian infrastructure in Ukraine in an effort to erode morale as its invasion stalls, John Kirby, spokesperson for the National Security Council, said Monday.

“This is a guy who’s used food as a weapon. He’s used fear as a weapon. Now he’s using the cold weather here to try to bring the Ukrainian people to their knees,” Kirby said.

Kirby said nearly all of the recent Russian military hits have been on civilian infrastructure like water and energy.

“It’s the kind of resources that people need as they get ready to brace for what will no doubt be a cold winter,” he said.

Kirby called the recent attacks despicable and said the U.S. and its allies are working to provide the Ukrainians with the training and tools they need to be successful militarily and to keep essential systems up and running.

“These targets are largely civilian and it’s designed to work for one reason and that’s to try to bring the Ukrainian people to their knees because he can’t bring the Ukrainian armed forces to its knees,” Kirby said.

Emma Kinery

Russia preventing staff from entering Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant unless they sign a contract with Russian nuclear company

Overview of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and fires, in Enerhodar in Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, August 24, 2022.

European Union, Copernicus Sentinel-2 Imagery | via Reuters

Russia is preventing staff from entering the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant unless they sign contracts with Rosatom, Russia’s nuclear energy company, claimed Ukraine’s General Staff in a Facebook post.

Russia occupied the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in March. However, it continues to be operated by Ukrainian staff.

In early October, Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed four Ukrainian regions, including the Zaporizhzhia region where the plant, Europe’s largest, resides. Along with the annexation, Putin transferred control and oversight of the Zaporizhzhia plant to Russia.

The plant remains at the frontlines of fighting between Russia and Ukraine, with damage from shelling causing it to go into blackout mode last week. The International Atomic Energy Agency has warned of instability in the plant’s leadership and its oversight under Russian military control. It’s also sounded alarms over potentially catastrophic consequences that could arise from continued shelling around the plant.

— Rocio Fabbro

Russia has launched over 16,000 missile attacks at Ukraine since the start of war, 97% at civilian targets

A militant of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic inspects the remains of a missile that landed on a street in the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine February 26, 2022.

Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

Russia has launched more than 16,000 missiles attacks on Ukraine since the start its invasion of the sovereign nation on Feb. 24, Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said.

The majority of these strikes — 97% of them — were aimed at civilian targets, he said over Twitter.

“We are fighting against a terrorist state,” Reznikov said. “Ukraine will prevail and will bring the war criminals to justice.”

Last week, the European Parliament declared Russia a state sponsor of terrorism for its attacks on civilian sites.

Russia has increasingly turned to missile and drone strikes as its battlefield losses mount. The energy sector became a primary target for Russian strikes, which have left large swaths of the Ukrainian population without power. Fears of a harsh and deadly winter grow as Russia’s ongoing attacks continue to debilitate Ukraine’s already unstable energy infrastructure.

— Rocio Fabbro

Kremlin denies Russian forces are about to withdraw from nuclear power plant

This photo taken on Sept. 11, 2022, shows a security person standing in front of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Enerhodar, Zaporizhzhia, amid the Ukraine war.

Stringer | Afp | Getty Images

The Kremlin denied a claim made by the head of Ukraine’s state nuclear energy company that Russian forces could be preparing to withdraw from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant that they’ve occupied since March.

The head of Energoatom, Petr Kotin, said Sunday that he saw signs Russia could be preparing to leave the plant, Europe’s largest nuclear facility and the center of bitter missile attacks between Russia and Ukraine.

“In recent weeks we are effectively receiving information that signs have appeared that they are possibly preparing to leave the [plant],” Kotin said on national television, Reuters reported.

“Firstly, there are a very large number of reports in Russian media that it would be worth vacating the [plant] and maybe worth handing control [of it] to the [International Atomic Energy Agency – IAEA],” he said, referring to the United Nations nuclear watchdog.

“One gets the impression they’re packing their bags and stealing everything they can.”

The Kremlin’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov denied the claim Monday, stating “there is no need to look for some signs where they are not and cannot be,” state news agency Tass reported.

—Holly Ellyatt

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Juventus shares fall after board resigns

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Italy’s Agnelli family has moved quickly to fill the gap at the top of Juventus, after the chair and entire board of the football club resigned late on Monday because of an accounting problem related to player salaries.

Exor, the holding company through which the family controls Juventus, said on Tuesday that it would nominate Gianluca Ferrero, a corporate adviser and auditor as chair, replacing Andrea Agnelli.

In a statement, Exor said that Ferrero had “the required technical competencies, as well as a genuine passion for the bianconero club”.

Shares in the club fell 6 per cent in early trading on Tuesday in Milan, stretching their decline for the year to nearly 24 per cent.

The Juventus board announced on Monday evening that it would resign because of “pending legal and technical/accounting matters”. After investigations by the public prosecutor’s office in Turin and the Italian market regulator, Consob, Juventus has had to change the way in which it has accounted for player bonuses for the financial years ending June 2020 and June 2021.

Juventus is one of Italy’s oldest and most successful football clubs, having won the league title a record 36 times, most recently in 2020.

Agnelli was one of the main movers behind the controversial idea of a European super league that would give guaranteed places to the continent’s leading clubs.

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