Russia opposition leader detained; Puigdemont 'cannot rule' from abroad

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  • Putin critic detained at rally – Russian police detained opposition leader Alexei Navalny at a rally in Moscow on Sunday after he urged voters to boycott the country’s presidential election. Video posted by the BBC shows Navalny being wrestled by police into a patrol wagon. Police said in a statement he would be charged with violating laws on holding demonstrations. The maximum penalty Navalny faces for the offence is 30 days in jail. Police had earlier raided his offices. Navalny is barred from running in Russia’s March 18 presidential elections, which is expected to be won for a fourth term by longtime president Vladimir Putin. As Navalny was being taken away, protesters chanted “down with the Kremlin” and “Putin is a thief.”
  • Puigdemont cannot rule from abroad – Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled that Catalan’s pro-independence politician Carles Puigdemont cannot lead the region’s parliament from abroad. He has been living in Brussels since he declared independence from Spain in October. The move resulted in charges of sedition and rebellion against him. Puigdemont is the only candidate for the Catalonian presidency and he believes he was given a democratic mandate for his declaration of independence during a referendum. Puigdemont said he would ask the court permission to return to Spain to attend the presidential investiture ceremony next Tuesday (El Pais). Read WikiTribune’s background to the Catalan crisis.

  • Hacked currency exchange to repay – Coincheck Inc, a Japan-based cryptocurrency exchange, said it would return about $425 million worth of the virtual money it lost to hackers two days ago. Roughly 260,000 owners lost more than 60 billion yen on Friday in one of the biggest-ever thefts of digital money. Coincheck said it would repay 90 percent of the money that was lost in the attack which on Friday forced it to suspend withdrawals of all cryptocurrencies except bitcoin. “The theft underscores security and regulatory concerns about bitcoin and other virtual currencies even as a global boom in them shows little signs of fizzling,” Reuters reports. Contribute to WikiTribune’s project on the technology behind cryptocurrencies, known as ‘distributed ledgers.’
  • Ambulance bomb kills at least 95 people – The Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing which killed at least 95 people and wounded about 158 in the Afghan capital Kabul on Saturday. The bomb, hidden in an ambulance, blew up at a police checkpoint in a busy part of the city that was crowded with pedestrians. The bombing came a week after the Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in which more than 20 people were killed.
  • Special prosecutor to investigate university after scandal  – A special prosecutor will investigate Michigan State University after its campus sports doctor Larry Nassar sexually assaulted athletes over nearly 20 years. The announcement comes as the remaining directors of the U.S. gymnastics governing body resigned after the former national team doctor was sentenced for sexually assaulting female athletes. The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) earlier said the member board must step down by January 31 or lose status as a sports governing body. Larry Nassar was this week sentenced to 40 to 175 years for sexually abusing young athletes. Read more WikiTribune coverage here. At least five of the 21 members had already resigned.
  • Saudi corruption deal reached – Members of the Saudi business and political elite, who were detained in November in an anti-corruption purge, have been released. Among those set free are Waleed al-Ibrahim, the head of MBC television network, and Khalid al-Tuwaijiri, a former chief of the royal court. Reports say they paid large settlements. More than 200 princes, politicians, and wealthy businessmen were detained in the crackdown. Read WikiTribune’s background to the saga.

  • Casino mogul resigns amid assault allegations – Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn resigned as finance chairman of the Republican Party’s fundraising arm on Saturday. The resignation came after employees of Wynn Resorts said Wynn pressured workers and others to perform sex acts. The Wall Street Journal first reported the allegations which were allegedly part of a decades-long pattern of abuse. Wynn responded: “The idea that I ever assaulted any woman is preposterous.” He blamed his ex-wife, who he is fighting in court, for the “slander.” Following the report, Wynn Resorts’ stock price dropped by more than 10 percent.


  • Trump’s speech in Davos – President Donald J. Trump promoted American business, talked tough on “predatory” trade, called to “de-nuke” North Korea, and couldn’t resist one swipe at the “nasty” and “fake” press in his speech on the final day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. He reiterated his campaign message that he would put America first, jarring with WEF’s globalist agenda, but said: “America first does not mean America alone. When the United States grows so does the world.” Trump praised himself for cutting regulations, and said the “stock market would have been 50 percent down not 50 percent up if the Democrats had won.” (See WikiTribune‘s coverage of Davos for more.)
  • Turkish president willing to pursue Syrian Kurds to Iraq  Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said he was prepared to fight Kurdish forces “until there is no terrorist on our border leading to Iraq.” Erdoğan also said Turkey will target the Kurdish-controlled city Manbij, where U.S. troops are also based, risking a potential confrontation. (Read WikiTribune‘s explainer on the situation here.)
    • Turkey considers the Kurdish YPG militia an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which fought for independence from Turkey for three decades. The U.S. has supported the YPG, which retook Manbij from the Islamic State in 2016.
  • Trump confirms he is open to protecting “Dreamers” – While at the World Economic Forum, Trump said he and leading congressional Republicans are willing to offer a pathway to citizenship to those who benefit from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The administration’s immigration plan actually extends legal protections beyond the 700,000 DACA recipients, and to another roughly 1.1 million undocumented immigrants who were eligible, but did not apply for the Obama-era policy.
  • At least 37 dead in South Korean hospital fire – The deadliest fire in South Korea in a decade broke out in a hospital, killing 37 people (after earlier reports of 41 deaths) and injuring more than 70. It follows a blaze last month which killed 29 people in a high-rise sports center. That fire was ultimately blamed on flammable finishing materials, made more deadly by insufficient emergency exits and parked cars blocking exits. The cause of today’s hospital incident was not immediately known.
  • Czech presidential run-off – A run-off in the Czech presidential election begins on Friday with pro-EU academic Jiri Drahos looking to unseat anti-immigration political veteran Milos Zeman, who has sought closer relations with Russia and China. The Washington Post reports that the contest is being watched “as a barometer of whether the populist, nationalist, and pro-Russian tide that suffered setbacks in Western Europe last year can be reversed in the continent’s center and east.”
  • North Korea using Russian ports to evade sanctions – North Korea evaded sanctions by shipping coal to Japan and China via Russia, according to Reuters, which cites three anonymous sources in European security. The newswire reports that at least three shipments of coal were unloaded in Russian ports, only to be loaded onto other ships and transported elsewhere, violating UN sanctions against the Hermit Kingdom that were tightened in August in response to its weapons testing. Russia told the UN in November that it abides by the sanctions policy.

What we’re reading

  • When reports of inappropriate harassment of young female hostesses at an old-boys event broke in the Financial Times on Wednesday, the impact was immediate. Future events were canceled and the event’s chairman stepped down. This Washington Post piece details the background to the undercover report and its aftermath. – Charles Anderson

What the WikiTribune community is up to

  • WikiTribune was at the World Economic Forum in Davos to cover the goings on from an event that is touted as the center of globalization. Read the wrap of our live Davos coverage — following everything from President Donald Trump’s speech to some interviews with lesser-known players.

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