The Kremlin's hand-picked candidate for president of Chechnya, Ahmad Kadyrov, has secured victory, the election commission chief said yesterday. His stage-managed election followed a campaign consisting of threats, violence and manipulation. \nSpeaking as the ballots were still being counted from the vote on Sunday, the commission chief, Abdul-Karim Arsakhanov, said Kadyrov had already gained more than half the votes, the Interfax news agency reported. \nIn an interview on Saturday, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin said the election was part of an attempt to reach a political settlement after four years of bitter warfare. \nKadyrov, a Muslim religious leader who had earlier fought against the Russians, had been selected by Moscow to be the acting president three years ago. \nIn the vote on Sunday, he had faced six little-known challengers who had been restricted in any attempts to hold campaigns. His strongest opponents were earlier pressured by Moscow to withdraw from the race after private polls indicated that Kadyrov was extremely unpopular. \nHis election posters were virtually the only ones to be seen on the ruined buildings of Grozny. In many of them he was shown shaking hands with Putin. \nSurrounded by armed guards at his home on Sunday, Kadyrov told reporters that after his formal election as president he would be "a real leader." \n"People will no longer be able to say as they sometimes do that I am Putin's puppet," he said. \nReporters in Grozny, the capital, said on Sunday that turnout at polling places seemed light. But officials in Grozny said their final figures would show a high turnout. \nRussian human rights groups declined to participate as election observers, calling the process a farce. Most international bodies cited concerns over safety in declining to send observers. \nThousands of soldiers and tens of thousands of civilians have been killed and the city of Grozny has mostly been destroyed as the Russians have battled separatist rebels. Open warfare has mostly been replaced now by guerrilla fighting, ambushes, kidnappings, torture, assassinations, land mines and terrorist attacks. \nSecurity was reported to be extremely tight on voting day, with 15,000 soldiers sent to guard 425 polling places. The main streets of Grozny were closed to traffic during the weekend and all trucks were banned from the city to prevent terrorist bombings. \nRussian troops deployed in Chechnya played a dual role as voters, with 30,000 soldiers included among 454,000 eligible voters. \nIn his interview Saturday with editors of The New York Times, Putin emphasized that the elections "are but one component of the political settlement there." \n"Now we are preparing the steps to follow," which are to include a parliamentary election, he said. \n"But, of course, it would be naive to think that the situation in Chechnya is close to complete normalization," he said. "One has to remember in what circumstances the people of Chechnya have been living for almost 10 years, in circumstances of total violence." \nIn fighting separatist rebels in the Muslim republic, Putin said, Russia is holding a line against Islamic radicalism that could spread to neighboring areas. \n"For all of us, including the United States, that would mean a further strengthening of fundamentalism in the Islamic world," he said. \n"Therefore it serves United States interests to shore up Russia's efforts to maintain stability in this area," he said, adding: "We have been witnessing understanding of this problem from the United States president."
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big