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Prices of flights out of Russia skyrocket after the draft is signed | International

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The Russians are still coming to understand that the war in Ukraine is not a war fought by others and that the decisions of their leader, Vladimir Putin, also affect them. The mobilization decree that the president signed this Wednesday has caused confusion and panic among many Russians. As hours passed, there were fewer and fewer options to leave the country.

Fear has snowballed. Flights out of the country have sold out as citizens assimilated the Russian leader’s message. Barely an hour after Putin addressed his citizens for the first time since the beginning of the offensive, to tell them that some of them would be forced to go to the front, the tickets for this Wednesday from the Russian capital to Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia had sold out. After a few hours, there was no longer the possibility of traveling in the next few days or to other destinations where Russians do not need a visa, such as the countries of Central Asia.

The airline Siberian Airlines (S7) sold out all its flights from Moscow to Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, until September 26. Tickets from other Russian cities were available, but the few left were sold at prohibitive prices. Leaving from St. Petersburg to the capital of Armenia cost 193,000 rubles, more than €3,000 at the exchange rate.

Russians will also not be able to leave the country through the Baltic countries, except for Finland. As a result of the war in Ukraine, those nations decided to close their borders to all Russians, even those who have a Schengen visa for the entire European area of free movement. “Latvia will not issue humanitarian or other visas to those Russian citizens who avoid mobilization,” warned Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics.

Major Russian carriers, including flag carrier Aeroflot, as well as Russian Railways (RZHD), say they have not been instructed to stop selling tickets abroad to potential reservists. “I have the military file, although I did not serve. I bought the ticket with Aeroflot yesterday and they have not asked me anything, not the reason for the trip, nor how much money I have, more or less as usual,” said a 34-year-old man, whose testimony was shared by a Telegram channel created at the beginning of the war to help citizens with options to leave the country.

Putin’s decree has caused much confusion due to its vagueness. The text does not specify who will be called by the Army, and part of the task will fall to each regional government. “I think that the mobilization only affects those who have military experience,” a citizen who prefers to remain anonymous told this newspaper. Another Russian contact declined to comment for now because this Wednesday he began the trip to Dushanbe. Many thought that the call from the recruitment offices would only reach veterans of conflicts like Syria, but as the legal text is written, anyone who has done military service can be summoned.

There is little information. A platform of lawyers and human rights activists, Call to Conscience, recalled that current Russian legislation protects people “whose beliefs or religion are incompatible with military service” so that they can apply for civilian alternatives to military service. “This also applies to the mobilization period,” the organization added in a statement.

The news has been so unexpected that the Moscow Stock Exchange collapsed more than 10% this day, despite the crisis it has experienced since the war began and the impact of previous measures, such as sanctions, on its companies.

The wave of panic is reminiscent of the first days of the offensive in Ukraine. Thousands of Russians then left the country fearing that the border would be closed and they would not be able to escape. However, a large part returned later due to a false sense of calm and because they did not have the means to live abroad.

The same thing happens with mobilization. The spokesman for the Russian president, Dmitri Peskov, has warned that the draft will not be instantaneous and that the 300,000 soldiers that the Defense Ministry says it wants to mobilize could be called in the future, so the fleeing Russians could be mobilized on their return. In addition, the State Duma approved on Tuesday a series of amendments that include jail time for those reservists who do not respond to their summons.

Likewise, the decree was approved with one point, the seventh, completely deleted from the document. Peskov did not explain its content and limited himself to promising that the figure will not be higher than the one announced by the authorities. On March 5, Putin assured that they would resort to “neither conscripts nor reservists.” “They are not and will not be employed in this military operation. Our Army will resolve all the tasks that arise,” he said.

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‘Destitution is almost inevitable’: Afghan refugees in Greece left homeless by failed system | Migration and development

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Mohammad Ashraf Rasooli, 70, looks at his five-year-old granddaughter, sitting on the floor next to him watching cartoons on a phone. They live in a two-bedroom flat in a suburb of Athens. “Even tomorrow, we don’t know what will happen to us,” he says.

The former judge and legal adviser to the Afghan Ministry of Justice, who had a role in putting together the 2004 Afghan constitution, is facing eviction with his family, including his three grandchildren. This is in line with regulations in Greece, which state that once someone has obtained refugee status, they must leave the accommodation provided for them within 30 days.

Since being evacuated to Greece last October, the family have been in limbo, hoping to join relatives in the UK and grieving for lives left behind in Kabul. Due to Rasooli’s high-profile work, as well as that of his daughter, a former journalist, and his son-in-law Fazel Sultani, a prosecutor at the Ministry of Justice, the family had gone into hiding after the Taliban stormed Kabul.

“We had a lot of problems, because the Taliban were saying if somebody had worked with NGOs or international organisations we’d be killed. It was very difficult for me to be there; we went to hide in a few places until we got evacuated,” says Rasooli. He scrolls through his phone to show photos of his home, pointing out books on the shelves, including legal texts he wrote, which he has been told have since been destroyed by Taliban soldiers.

The family has tried to make the best of things and the children are in Greek schools, but until recently, Rasooli feared to go outside in case his papers were checked. They had to wait until this month to receive asylum seeker ID cards.

They struggled to navigate a catch-22 system whereby access to rent subsides requires having a rental contract, while landlords will not rent without proof of the subsidies.

Rasooli and his family are not alone, says Minos Mouzourakis, an advocacy officer at Refugee Support Aegean (RSA). “Destitution is almost inevitable for refugees recognised in Greece. Expecting them to promptly leave accommodation despite exclusion from social welfare and protracted, often year-long, delays in renewing documents is a policy choice breaching the country’s legal obligations according to jurisdictions across the continent,” he says.

Mohammad Ashraf Rasooli (second left), sits with Fazel Sultani, his son-in-law, granddaughter and daughter in their flat in Athens, Greece.
Mohammad Ashraf Rasooli (second left), sits with Fazel Sultani, his son-in-law, granddaughter and daughter in their flat in Athens. Photograph: Anna Pantelia/The Guardian

RSA has gathered more than 100 testimonies of recognised refugees in Greece who have turned to jobs such as collecting waste cardboard around Athens to sell to recycling companies. For such work they may earn between €10 and €20 a day.

RSA has recorded cases where refugees returned to Greece have faced destitution, such as Soraya* and Somaya* from Afghanistan who were sent back from Sweden in June this year. They are now reliant on soup kitchens and solidarity networks and must wait until January 2023 to get identification documents. Some courts, in countries such as Germany, have halted returns of refugees to Greece judging that they are likely to face inhumane or degrading treatment.

“The situation for recognised refugees in Greece is dire. It is commonplace that people granted protection status in Greece face destitution and homelessness following their positive asylum decision,” says Lucy Alper, a legal coordinator with Refugee Legal Support in Athens.

“The only integration programme, Helios, funded by the EU and implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is not fit for purpose. Many people enrolled in the Helios programme cannot access the limited rental subsidies offered, as they must first open a Greek bank account, pay a deposit on a flat and sign a house contract via the government’s online platform. Barriers are at every turn, exacerbated by the bureaucracy of the Greek asylum system.

“Notwithstanding these failures, people are being evicted from their accommodation. There is no safety net,” says Alper.

The IOM says 19,000 people had leased an apartment so far, which spoke to the “feasibility of the requirements”. They added there are, “all the necessary services to support recognised refugees in finding and leasing apartments … IOM in coordination with its partners ensures support and interpretation in issuing all required documents … whenever obstacles are encountered, targeted support is provided to solve possible problems.” It says it had no “recorded cases” of difficulties from those who applied within the appropriate time frame due to bureaucracy.

Rasooli hopes to go to the UK under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy (Arap) but has a rejection that is under review. His initial rejection letter, seen by the Guardian, states that since he has asylum in Greece, he will have access to medical care and is in relative safety – facts disputed by NGOs who have documented the precariousness of life for refugees in the country.

For now, the family remains in Athens, hopeful for an offer of an apartment for the short term. Nothing about the future is certain.

The Greek Migration Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

* Names have been changed to protect identities

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Europe Lost Russia as Energy Supplier, Russian Envoy Says

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VIENNA (Sputnik) – Russia’s Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov said Europe has lost Russia as its largest energy supplier.

“Isn’t it vice versa: Europe has lost Russia as its largest energy supplier to get the opportunity to buy the US LNG at a much higher price? Great achievement!” Ulyanov wrote on Twitter.

It was his response to a user post that quoted the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) saying Russia had lost Europe as its largest energy client “forever.”

IEA chief Fatih Birol said in October that Russia had lost the European oil and gas market forever and would face a drop in production. The West stepped up sanctions pressure on Russia over Ukraine, which led to higher prices for electricity, fuel and food in Europe and the United States.

A view shows gas metering units at the Gazprom's Amur Gas Processing Plant near the town of Svobodny, Amur Region, Russia. The plant was launched on June 9, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 27.11.2022

Russia Determined Not to Sell Energy Resources to Those Who Set Price Caps: Kremlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin said cheap and reliable Russian energy resources were Europe’s competitive advantage, and even a partial rejection of them already had a negative impact on its economy and residents. The US, pushing through the EU’s complete rejection of Russian energy carriers and other resources, is leading to the de-industrialization of Europe, he said.

Putin, commenting on the West’s idea to limit prices for Russian energy resources, said Russia would not supply anything abroad if this was contrary to its own interests.

Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said Russia would not supply oil to countries that set any price cap. He added that such restrictions were interference in market tools, and Moscow was prepared to work with consumers ready for market conditions.



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Kirchner: Argentina’s vice-president blasts ‘firing squad’ overseeing her corruption trial | International

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“Last words…” said Cristina Fernández de Kirchner from her office in the Senate, staring at the camera. She paused for a second, smiled and delivered the line she had already envisaged as a headline. “Never has a judicial term been so appropriate to define what this court is: it is a firing squad.”

Her words were aimed at three federal judges who on December 6 will decide whether she is guilty of leading an alleged scheme to divert state funds through public works contracts. The prosecution wants Fernández de Kirchner to spend 12 years behind bars and be permanently barred from holding public office.

Fernández de Kirchner, 69, has been charged with “illicit association” and “aggravated fraudulent administration” in connection with a corruption case involving 12 other defendants and known in Argentina as the Vialidad Case. The 51 contracts under scrutiny were awarded in the province of Santa Cruz, the political cradle of Kirchnerism, to companies owned by a friend of the Kirchners, Lázaro Baez, over a 12-year period (Baez has since been sentenced to 12 years in prison for money laundering). Prosecutors said many contracts were inflated and some were never carried out. They have estimated that the scheme cost the state around $1 billion. The defendants include officials accused of collecting bribes and businesspeople suspected of paying them.

But the vice-president claims to be a victim of political persecution.

“A government that was democratically elected three times is not an ‘illicit association’,” she said, alluding to the government of her late husband Néstor Kirchner (2003 -2007) and her own two terms in the president’s office between 2007 and 2015.

On Tuesday, the vice-president spoke for less than 20 minutes, a far cry from the long speeches she has given in the past in court. At her first hearing on December 2, 2019, she claimed to be the victim of a case in which the sentence had been decided ahead of time. The ultimate goal of the trial, according to the vice-president, is to remove her from politics and erode Peronism, the movement she represents.

“The sentence is written, but I never thought it would be so badly written,” said Fernández de Kirchner, accusing the two lead prosecutors in the case, Diego Luciani and Sergio Mola, of spreading lies about her. To reinforce the idea of the firing squad, she recalled the assassination attempt against her outside her house in early September.

Kirchner has maintained throughout the trial that the entire investigation against her is a set-up by the opposition to imprison her. Her lawyers have uploaded a document entitled “The Twenty Lies of the Vialidad Case” to social media.

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