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Defiant Belarus leader shrugs off sanctions, says athlete was ‘manipulated’

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KYIV/LONDON/WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A defiant President Alexander Lukashenko said on Monday a Belarusian sprinter defected at the Olympic Games only because she had been “manipulated” by outside forces and shrugged off a coordinated barrage of new Western sanctions.

At an hours-long news conference on the anniversary of an election which opponents said was rigged so that he could win, Lukashenko denied being a dictator and said he had defended Belarus against opponents plotting a coup.

As he spoke in his presidential palace in Minsk, Britain, Canada and the United States announced coordinated sanctions targeting the Belarusian economy and its financial sector, including exports of oil products and potash, which is used in fertilisers and is Belarus’ main foreign currency earner.

Lukashenko said Britain would “choke” on its measures and he was ready for talks with the West instead of a sanctions war.

Lukashenko said he had won the presidential election fairly on Aug. 9, 2020 and that some people had been “preparing for a fair election, while others were calling … for a coup d’état.”

Tens of thousands of people joined street protests in 2020 – Lukashenko’s biggest challenge since he became president in 1994. He responded with a crackdown in which many opponents have been arrested or gone into exile. They deny planning a coup.

Dismissing accusations that he is a dictator, he said: “In order to dictate – I am a completely sane person – you need to have the appropriate resources. I have never dictated anything to anyone and I am not going to.”

Belarus has again been in the international spotlight since sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya fled to Warsaw last week following a dispute with her coaches in which she said an order came from “high up” to send her home from Tokyo.

“She wouldn’t do it herself, she was manipulated. It was from Japan, from Tokyo, that she contacted her buddies in Poland and they told her – literally – when you come to the airport, run to a Japanese police officer and shout that those who dropped her off at the airport are KGB agents,” Lukashenko said.

“There was not a single special service agent in Japan.”

DICTATORSHIP DENIAL

Lukashenko, 66, has kept power with political support and financial backing from Russia, which sees Belarus as a buffer state against the NATO military alliance and the European Union.

Belarus would respond if necessary to sanctions pressure but “there is no need to take up the sanction axes and pitchforks,” he said.

Western countries announcing sanctions cited violations of human rights and election fraud. U.S. President Joe Biden decried what he called a “brutal campaign of repression to stifle dissent.”

“…The actions of the Lukashenka regime are an illegitimate effort to hold on to power at any price. It is the responsibility of all those who care about human rights, free and fair elections, and freedom of expression to stand against this oppression,” Biden said.

Biden’s executive order allows the United States to block people doing business with a wide range of Belarusian officials and others involved in activities in the country regarded as corrupt. It also restricts the transfer of their property in the United States and their travel to the country.

The British sanctions also prohibited the purchase of transferable securities and money-market instruments issued by the Belarusian state and state-owned banks. Canada unveiled similar action.

Previous sanctions, including by the EU, have not persuaded Lukashenko to change course.

“While we take it with patience, let’s sit down at the negotiating table and start talking about how to get out of this situation, because we will get bogged down in it with no way back,” Lukashenko said.

Tensions with Western powers hit new heights after Belarus forced a plane to land in Minsk in May and arrested a dissident Belarusian journalist who was on board.

Separately, neighbouring Lithuania and Poland accuse Belarus of trying to engineer a migrant crisis in retaliation for EU sanctions.

Poland reported a record number of migrants had crossed the border from Belarus since Friday, saying they were probably from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lukashenko says Lithuania and Poland are to blame.

He also denied involvement in the death last week of Vitaly Shishov, who led a Kyiv-based organisation that helps Belarusians fleeing persecution. Shishov was found hanged in Kyiv.

Lukashenko’s opponents say there are now more than 600 political prisoners in jail.

“Sanctions are not a silver bullet, but they will help stop the repression,” exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said in Vilnius.

(Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Daphne Psaledakis in Washington, Gwladys Fouche in Oslo, Tom Balmforth, Katya Golubkova and Olzhas Auyezov in Moscow, Elizabeth Piper and William James in London, Alan Charlish in Warsaw; Writing by Matthias Williams and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Giles Elgood)

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BENANTHONY LAVOZ AND DELON OM GET RAW WITH “The Gentleman and Scholar”

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Toronto, ON – Canadian Latin Pop sensations BenAnthony Lavoz and Delon Omdropped their new EP “The Gentleman & Scholar.”  Coming off the success of their summer hit single “One More Time” the pop sensations went dark for their new project. The multi-talented artists wanted the lyrics of their new EP to describe the struggles we keep to ourselves, the ones that lead us to walk in the darkness.  Lavoz and Om brought in some heavy hitters to produce “The Gentleman and Scholar.  The EP was produced by David Neale (Karl Wolf, Danny Fernandes, Peter Jackson) and multi-platinum Grammy award winning producer, Sensei Musica (Fat Joe, Pitbull, and Shakira).  The project serves as an emotional outlet for Lavoz and Om, who bring to the table a genuine connect and passion.  The Gentleman and Scholar” reminds us that there are many parts that make up who we are, but at the heart of it all … is our truth.  Do we own it, or do we hide?   One of the singles on the EP, Follow the Leader” features Canadas own Danny Fernandes.  The three artists connected over their dark pasts to create the song about vulnerability, redemption and finding a new and forgiving path to walk. 

 

BenAnthony Lavoz, a Toronto native and Latin Grammy award winner has performed with Prince Royce, Nicky Jam, Bad Bunny and Ozuna. Delon Om, is a former Canadian Idol contestant, song writer and music producer signed to Ultra Records. Oms single, Someone Special To Me” was featured in the critically acclaimed documentary This is for Toronto.”  Together they produced an EP that speaks to the resilience of the human spirit, in hopes that lessons learned, and paths walked will give others hope and encouragement to step out of the dark and into the light.   

 

The Gentleman and Scholar” is raw and ready.  Step into the light on all music platforms today…

https://open.spotify.com/album/3UVffFHFUTktYpTCGN1Ba7?si=OsBEakH7Si2mb_Y1HseJoA&dl_branch=1

 

FOLLOW Delon OM: 

INSTAGRAM: @delon_om 

SPOTIFY: https://open.spotify.com/artist/5rQzEmQuzhHIyn1N1g12s6?autoplay=true 

YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5DcyrsEUpnb2r3X786nKyQ/featured 

 

FOLLOW BENANTHONY LAVOZ: 

INSTAGRAM: @benanthonylavoz 

SPOTIFY: https://open.spotify.com/artist/3PSLZvxcutlF9L42d4Y9YJ?autoplay=true 

YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIXjnthAd2L7d7NImU6atBA 

 

 

  

Media Inquiries:  

Sasha Stoltz Publicity & Management:
Sasha Stoltz | Sasha@sashastoltzpublicity.com | 416.579.4804

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Front-line workers shoulder burden of vaccine mandates – CBC.ca

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This story features an audience member, like you, who got in touch with us. Send us your questions. We are listening: ask@cbc.ca.

Service industry workers in Canada say they’re bearing the brunt of anger, frustration and general confusion from clients over new vaccine mandates that they had nothing to do with creating, but are now responsible for enforcing.

At the entrance to Wienstein & Gavino’s, an Italian restaurant in downtown Montreal, hostess Abigail Trevino is standing at the ready to greet clients and ask them for their proof of vaccination.

“I try to defuse the situation usually with a joke, saying that I feel more like a bouncer than a hostess these days,” said Trevino. “Usually people laugh at that and it’s enough to break the tension.”

For the most part, she said, people have been understanding of Quebec’s vaccine passport system, which came into effect on Sept. 1. Occasionally she’s had customers who were annoyed or frustrated, but no one who was outright aggressive.

“I had someone get quite visibly annoyed with me, but he did actually come back and apologize afterwards and say, ‘I realize that you don’t make the rules; I’m sorry I lost my temper.'”

‘Doubled the workload’

The challenge, more than anything, has been the extra work. “It’s basically doubled the workload,” Trevino said. 

From troubleshooting technical issues with smartphone QR codes and apps, to answering phone calls from people asking what kind of proof is accepted, Trevino said her responsibilities as a hostess have suddenly expanded.

While she agrees with the vaccine passport in principle, she’d like to see more recognition from the government about the added burden it places on businesses and their employees, when they’re already dealing with staff shortages.

“We’re doing a lot of extra work for no extra money, and it eats into the time it takes to seat people. It slows everything down,” said Trevino.

“It would be nice if people could be a little bit nicer to restaurant workers, because I understand that it’s frustrating for people to have to pull out their ID and they’re not always expecting it.… [But] if people could just be patient and understanding, and realize that we don’t make the rules.”

At the Hearty Hooligan, a vegan restaurant in Hamilton, management said their top concern is to make sure front-line staff feel safe. (Submitted by the Hearty Hooligan)

Across the border in Ontario, people have had less time to get used to vaccine certificate requirements, which came into effect on Wednesday.

The rules apply to venues including indoor areas at restaurants and bars, gyms and recreational facilities, and entertainment venues.

The Hearty Hooligan, a vegan restaurant in Hamilton, warned customers of the changes last week through a post on its Instagram account.

“Providing proof of vaccination when you are looking to dine in is the law,” the post states. “Front-line workers have taken a lot of abuse throughout this pandemic and we will not tolerate any harassment over these policies.”

The Hearty Hooligan warned its customers that vaccine requirements would be coming into effect with this Instagram post. (The Hearty Hooligan/Instagram)

But in response to that, head chef Matthew Miles said they’ve faced an onslaught of angry comments from people accusing them of everything from discrimination to supporting tyranny.

When the mask mandate first came into effect, Miles said they had customers enter the restaurant without masks, arguing about their rights. They’re bracing for more of that type of attitude.

To help protect staff, the restaurant installed a bell near the front till that rings directly to the kitchen, so that employees can call for extra help if there’s a conflict.

“Our issue right now is mainly the safety of our front-line staff. We want them to feel supported and we want them to feel safe in their workspace,” Miles said.

Inspections and fines

In response to those concerns, a spokesperson for the Ontario health minister said bylaw officers are responsible for enforcing the new requirements and inspectors will be visiting establishments to offer help and support to staff. 

Workers in Ontario are being asked to call 911 if they feel threatened for denying entry to someone who refuses to comply. 

In Quebec, people who try to get into places requiring a vaccination passport without one risk receiving fines ranging from $1,000 to $6,000. Businesses that don’t enforce vaccine passport rules can also face fines between $1,000 to $6,000.

Alberta’s new proof-of-vaccination program is not mandatory, but some of the businesses that have chosen to adopt it say they’re ready to call police if people refuse to co-operate.

Quebec’s vaccine-passport system went into effect Sept. 1, followed by a two-week education period. People are required to show digital or printed proof of vaccination for many non-essential activities and businesses. Other provinces are just beginning to roll out their systems. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Outside the restaurant and bar industry, workers in a range of sectors are now adding enforcement of public health restrictions to their list of tasks.

Nadia Ali, a 19-year-old Carleton University student who works part time as a lifeguard, recently learned she would have to screen swimmers for proof of vaccination.

The pool where she works is in an Ottawa condo building, and Ali said some residents have been angry about the changes.

“One lady came in and she told me this was unjust and discrimination, and that she wouldn’t be coming here again,”  Ali said. “I just told her, ‘I’m sorry but I just enforce the rules, I didn’t make them.'” 

Her management has been supportive, she said, and if a resident was ever aggressive, she would ask for help from the front desk. So far, it hasn’t come to that. 

More than anything, Ali said, it’s a lot of hassle and extra work. She hopes the process will get smoother with time.

Extra anxiety

It all comes down to employees being put in an unfair position that they never signed up for, according to Toronto-based employment lawyer Muneeza Sheikh.

“What we are doing, essentially, is we’re placing employees in a combative scenario when that isn’t part of their job duty,” she said.

Sheikh said some of her clients have hired new staff altogether — if they can afford it — to enforce vaccine mandates. But for establishments that don’t have or can’t afford security, she said the vaccine requirements put them in a difficult position.

“There are Canadian employees who have a significant amount of anxiety around going to work now around this vaccination passport and how it’s going to be implemented,” she said.

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Britain offers Canadian military help to defend the Arctic – CBC.ca

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Britain is signalling its interest in working with the Canadian military in the Arctic by offering to take part in cold-weather exercises and bring in some of its more advanced capabilities — such as nuclear-powered submarines — to help with surveillance and defence in the Far North.

In a recent exclusive interview with CBC News, the United Kingdom’s top military commander said his country is “keen to cooperate” and learn more about how to survive and fight in a cold, remote setting.

Gen. Sir Nick Carter said Britain would also like to “cooperate in terms of helping Canada do what Canada needs to do as an Arctic country.”

The offer was quietly floated months ago in government circles. Experts say, however, that successive Canadian governments have been reluctant to allow anyone — even close allies — to become too deeply embedded in the region. 

WATCH: Gen. Sir Nick Carter discusses the prospect of military cooperation with Canada in the Arctic

U.K. is keen for closer cooperation with Canada in the Arctic

16 hours ago

Gen. Sir Nick Carter, Britain’s chief of the defence staff, says the U.K. is keen for closer cooperation with Canada in the Arctic. He said the British military wants to learn from Canada’s experience and can bring capabilities to help better defend the region. 0:28

Much of that reluctance has to do with contested claims to Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic. Concern over Canada’s exclusion from the recent security pact between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia may lend fresh urgency to the U.K.’s proposal, however.

CBC’s interview with Gen. Carter was conducted before the AUKUS pact was announced.

As members of NATO, both Britain and Canada have taken part in winter warfare exercises in Norway. Gen. Carter said he believes that cooperation could be expanded to the benefit of both countries. The British Army has for many years conducted armoured and combined warfare training at Suffield, Alta.

Keeping a closer eye on the Arctic

The Arctic is becoming more of a focus for NATO and Canada’s closest allies. The potential threat posed by the reactivation of Russia’s northern Cold War-era bases, as well as the interest of possible adversaries such as China, figured promptly in speeches and panel discussions at the recent NATO leaders summit last June.

Canada’s former Conservative government placed a premium on increasing Canada’s military presence in the Far North; it built a naval refuelling station and set in motion the construction of Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships, which are just being delivered.

Then-prime minister Stephen Harper looks down the shoreline in the Arctic port of Nanisivik, Nunavut on August 10, 2007. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)

Those measures offer Canada’s military limited capabilities, however. Underwater and satellite surveillance of the region is still in the planning and early implementation phases.

Carter said the U.K. has capabilities that could help keep closer tabs on the Arctic’s rapidly melting seas and inlets, but it would be up to the Canadian government to decide.

“We would absolutely defer to Canada’s expertise in this,” Carter told CBC News.

“I think we have military capabilities, certainly in the maritime domain and in terms of our science that would be useful to Canada and I think operating alongside Canada in that regard is going to be clearly good for both countries.”

Going nuclear

What Britain has — and Canada lacks — is a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, which can operate under ice for extended periods of time.

When Canada bought its current diesel-electric submarines from Britain in the late 1990s it embarked on a project to retrofit them with fuel cells that would have delivered better, longer under-ice performance. The plan fell through and was quietly shelved.

In the late 1980s, the Conservative government of former prime minister Brian Mulroney proposed buying 12 nuclear-powered submarines with the goal of using them for Arctic defence. The end of the Cold War and subsequent defence cuts caused the plan to be shelved.

The University of Calgary’s Rob Huebert, one of the country’s leading experts on Arctic defence, said that after a hiatus of almost a dozen years, the British rejoined the biennial American high Arctic military exercise in 2018 with their nuclear-powered submarines.

Back in March, the Russians deployed three ultra-quiet nuclear subs to simultaneously punch through the Arctic ice in the same location — a demonstration that set the defence community buzzing.

Three nuclear submarines owned by Russia maneuvered to break through several feet of Arctic ice at the same time in March 2021. (Russian Defence Ministry)

“We do not have the capability of engaging Russian submarines or Chinese submarines, if and when that ever becomes a reality,” said Huebert, speaking about the Canadian navy’s Arctic inventory. “That’s the No. 1 capability that the British bring to the Arctic.”

CBC News asked Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s office to comment on the notion of closer cooperation with the British in Canada’s Far North. The query went unanswered.

Huebert said successive Canadian governments have been reluctant to let the allies become more deeply involved in the region, beyond the Operation Nanook exercise held each summer.

“We’re fearful any type of involvement with NATO would undermine our sovereignty,” said Huebert, noting that both the United States and Britain do not recognize Canada’s claim to the Northwest Passage.

Canada needs to show the flag: defence expert

The British offer of cooperation and assistance is a wake-up call for the Liberal government on several different fronts, said Dave Perry, a vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

It is, he said, a reminder that Canada needs to be more present in the region.

“There have been [Canadian] commitments to increase the situational awareness there, but that has a long way to go and the thing for Canadians to remember is that it is our actual territory and our backyard,” he said. 

“I think it is great to work with other people, but we should be doing what we can to make sure we have a home field advantage.”

With Australia planning to acquire nuclear submarines — which conceivably could operate in the Arctic as well — Perry was asked if Canada will have to rely more on its allies to monitor and defend its territory.

“I think the AUKUS deal is an indicator that there are some countries with whom we have been intimately familiar and intimately allied with. Some of our best friends on the planet are firming even tighter, smaller clubs,” he said.

“The United States under successive administrations is being far less benign about allies that they look at as pulling — or not pulling — their weight … The United States is looking for people who will pull their weight.”

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