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EU bans Belarus airlines as opposition urges G7 sanctions

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Belarus carriers will be banned from flying over European Union territory or having access to its airports from Friday, the bloc said, as the country’s exiled opposition leader called for more joint Western sanctions.

The EU decision is part of planned punitive measures against Belarus in response to Minsk scrambling a warplane to force the landing on May 23 of a Ryanair flight carrying an opposition journalist, who was then arrested.

The move is due to take effect at midnight Central European Time (2200 GMT), and requires EU member states “to deny permission to land in, take off from or overfly their territories to any aircraft operated by Belarusian air carriers,” EU governments said in a statement.

The ban also includes marketing carriers, which sell seats on planes operated by another airline as part of a code-share agreement.

On Wednesday, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) issued a safety directive saying all EU aircraft should also avoid Belarus air space unless in an emergency.

Global airline industry body IATA criticised the decision, which will make flights to Asia longer and more costly.

However, the EU and NATO believe the forced landing of the flight from Athens to Vilnius to arrest journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend amounted to state piracy and must not be tolerated.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has said Protasevich was plotting a rebellion, and accused the West of waging a hybrid war against him.

National carrier Belavia flies to some 20 airports in Europe including in Germany, France, Italy and Austria.

Enforcement of the ban on Belarus carriers will fall to national EU governments, many of whom are also members of NATO, who can scramble fighter jets to protect their air space.

G7 FOCUS ON BELARUS

Speaking in Poland, opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who fled Belarus for Lithuania following disputed presidential elections in August 2020, told Reuters that Group of Seven countries should work together to impose new sanctions.

Leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the United States are expected to discuss Belarus on June 11, but host Britain has not yet accepted a French call to invite the Belarusian opposition to the event.

“Pressure is more powerful when these countries are acting jointly and we are calling on the UK, the USA, the European Union and Ukraine,” Tsikhanouskaya said.

EU governments say they are looking at targeting sectors that play a central role in Belarus’ economy, to inflict real punishment on Lukashenko. They could include bond sales, the oil sector and key export potash.

However, the bloc is expected to agree by June 21 a smaller sanctions list on individuals and two entities as a quick, intermediary response, according to diplomats.

Tsikhanouskaya said the opposition has become more concerned about security since the Ryanair incident, and that they would try to provide more security training to those in exile.

“I think that we started to pay more attention to security but again this is the strategy of the regime, to threaten people, to make them uncomfortable,” she said.

(Writing by Robin EmmottEditing by Mark Heinrich, Kirsten Donovan)

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Hundreds more unmarked graves found at erstwhile Saskatchewan residential school

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An indigenous group in Saskatchewan on Thursday said it had found the unmarked graves of an estimated 751 people at a now-defunct Catholic residential school, just weeks after a similar, smaller discovery rocked the country.

The latest discovery, the biggest to date, is a grim reminder of the years of abuse and discrimination indigenous communities have suffered in Canada even as they continue to fight for justice and better living conditions.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “terribly saddened” by the discovery at Marieval Indian Residential School about 87 miles (140 km) from the provincial capital Regina. He told indigenous people that “the hurt and the trauma that you feel is Canada’s responsibility to bear.”

It is not clear how many of the remains detected belong to children, Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme told reporters, adding that oral stories mentioned adults being buried at the site.

Delorme later told Reuters some of the graves belong to non-indigenous people who may have belonged to the church. He said the First Nation hopes to find the gravestones that once marked these graves, after which they may involve police.

Delorme said the church that ran the school removed the headstones.

“We didn’t remove the headstones. Removing headstones is a crime in this country. We are treating this like a crime scene,” he said.

The residential school system, which operated between 1831 and 1996, removed about 150,000 indigenous children from their families and brought them to Christian residential schools, mostly Catholic, run on behalf of the federal government.

“Canada will be known as a nation who tried to exterminate the First Nations,” said Bobby Cameron, Chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan. “This is just the beginning.”

OLD WOUNDS

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which published a report that found the residential school system amounted to cultural genocide, has said a cemetery was left on the Marieval site after the school building was demolished.

The local Catholic archdiocese gave Cowessess First Nation C$70,000 ($56,813) in 2019 to help restore the site and identify unmarked graves, said spokesperson Eric Gurash. He said the archdiocese gave Cowessess all its death records for the period Catholic parties were running the school.

In a letter to Delorme on Thursday, Archbishop Don Bolen reiterated an earlier apology for the “failures and sins of Church leaders and staff” and pledged to help identify the remains.

Heather Bear, who went to Marieval as a day student in the 1970s and is also vice-chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, recalled a small cemetery at the school but not of the size revealed on Thursday.

“You just didn’t want to be walking around alone in (the school),” she recalled. There was a “sadness that moves. And I think every residential school has that sadness looming.”

The Cowessess First Nation began a ground-penetrating radar search on June 2, after the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at the Kamloops Residential School in British Columbia outraged the country. Radar at Marieval found 751 “hits” as of Wednesday with a 10% margin of error, meaning at least 600 graves on the site.

The Kamloops discovery reopened old wounds in Canada about the lack of information and accountability around the residential school system, which forcibly separated indigenous children from their families and subjected them to malnutrition and physical and sexual abuse.

Pope Francis said in early June that he was pained by the Kamloops revelation and called for respect for the rights and cultures of native peoples. But he stopped short of the direct apology some Canadians had demanded.

Thursday was a difficult day, Delorme told Reuters. But he wants his young children to know “we will get the reconciliation one day with action like today.”

($1 = 1.2321 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto and Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Alistair Bell, Grant McCool and Daniel Wallis)

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Teamsters votes to fund and support Amazon workers

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The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a labor union in the United States and Canada, said on Thursday it has voted to formalize a resolution to support and fund employees of Amazon.com Inc in their unionization efforts.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Eva Mathews in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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Citigroup names new sales head for Treasury and Trade Solutions unit

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Citigroup Inc has named Steve Elms as the new sales head for the bank’s Treasury and Trade Solutions (TTS) unit effective immediately, according to an internal memo shared by a company spokesperson.

Elms, who will oversee the management of the global sales teams, has been involved with the bank’s TTS division for over 10 years, according to his LinkedIn profile.

TTS is a division of the bank’s Institutional Clients group. The segment offers cash management and trade services and finance to multinational corporations, financial institutions and public sector organizations around the world.

(Reporting by Niket Nishant in Bengaluru and David Henry in New York; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri)

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