MOSCOW (AP) — Several dozen Russians gathered in the center of Moscow on Saturday to protest Russian authorities’ recent crackdown on independent media.
The small rally was organized by several opposition candidates in Russia’s Sept. 19 parliamentary election and officially billed as a meeting between candidates and voters in order to avoid detentions and accusations of staging an unauthorized rally.
In their speeches, the candidates condemned the recent designation of several independent media outlets, including Russia’s top independent TV channel Dozhd and popular news site Meduza, as “foreign agents.” The label carries strong pejorative connotations that can discredit the recipient and implies additional government scrutiny.
“Our authorities want to completely wipe out the media sphere. The labeling now of Dozhd, Meduza and other media as ‘foreign agents’ are steps toward establishing a dictatorship that was described by Orwell, with the main slogan being: ‘Ignorance is power,’” said activist Nikolai Kavkazsky, who is running for parliament on the ticket of the liberal Yabloko party.
Independent media, journalists, opposition supporters and human rights activists in Russia have faced increased pressure ahead of the Sept. 19 vote, which is widely seen as an important part of President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to cement his rule before the next presidential election in 2024.
The 68-year-old Russian leader, who has been in power for more than two decades, pushed through constitutional changes last year that would potentially allow him to hold onto power until 2036.
In recent months, the government has designated a number of independent media outlets and journalists as “foreign agents” and raided the homes of several prominent reporters. The publisher of one outlet that released investigative reports exposing alleged corruption and abuses by top Russian officials and tycoons close to Putin was outlawed as an “undesirable” organization.
Two other news outlets shut down after authorities accused them of links to “undesirable” organizations.
The Kremlin has rejected accusations that it is stifling free press and insisted that the “foreign agent” designation doesn’t bar outlets from operating.
The wave of repressions against independent outlets has prompted protests in Moscow. Two weeks ago, 12 journalists were briefly detained after picketing Russia’s Federal Security Service in protest of the “foreign agents” law.
No detentions were reported at the rally on Saturday.
ROME, Sept 25 (Reuters) – Italian Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro, who was arrested in January after spending 30 years on the run, has died, AFP reported on Monday, citing Italian media.
Messina Denaro, 61, was suffering from cancer at the time of his arrest. As his condition worsened in recent weeks he was transferred to a hospital from the maximum-security prison in central Italy where he was initially held.
He was convicted of numerous crimes, including for his role in planning the 1992 murders of anti-mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino – crimes that shocked Italy and sparked a crackdown on the Sicilian mob.
He was also held responsible for bombings in Rome, Florence and Milan in 1993 that killed 10 people, as well as helping organise the kidnapping of Giuseppe Di Matteo, 12, to try to dissuade the boy’s father from giving evidence against the mafia. The boy was held for two years, then murdered.
Dubbed by the Italian press as “the last Godfather”, Messina Denaro is not believed to have given any information to the police after he was seized outside a private health clinic in the Sicilian capital, Palermo, on Jan. 16.
According to medical records leaked to the Italian media, he underwent surgery for colon cancer in 2020 and 2022 under a false name. A doctor at the Palermo clinic told La Repubblica newspaper that Messina Denaro’s health had worsened significantly in the months leading up to his capture.
Reporting by Crispian Balmer and Kanjyik Ghosh; Editing by Kim Coghill and Gerry Doyle
United States President Joe Biden has informed his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, that Washington will provide Kyiv with ATACMS long-range missiles, US broadcaster NBC News has reported.
Ukraine has repeatedly asked the Biden administration for the long-range Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) to help hit supply lines, airbases and rail networks deep behind Russia’s front lines in occupied regions of Ukraine.
But the White House has not announced a decision to provide Ukraine with the ATACMS system and the missiles were not publicly discussed when Zelenskyy visited Washington, DC on Thursday for talks with Biden, even as the US announced a new $325m military aid package for Kyiv.
The White House and the Pentagon declined to comment on the NBC report on Friday.
The Pentagon also declined to say whether any promise of ATACMS was given to Zelenskyy during his meetings on Thursday at the Department of Defense, saying: “In regards to ATACMS, we have nothing to announce.”
A date for delivery of the ATACMS was not revealed, according to NBC.
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned earlier this month that the supply of longer-range missiles to Kyiv would cross a “red line” and the US would be viewed as “a party to the conflict” in Ukraine if it did provide such weapons.
Zelenskyy did not answer directly when asked about the NBC reports on ATACMS, but he noted that the US was the biggest single supplier of weaponry to Ukraine.
“We are discussing all the different types of weapons – long-range weapons and artillery, artillery shells with the calibre of 155mm, then air defence systems,” Zelenskyy said, speaking through an interpreter.
“We have a comprehensive discussion and [we] work with the United States at different levels,” he said.
The Washington Post also reported that the US plans to provide Ukraine with a version of the ATACMS that will be armed with cluster bomblets rather than a single warhead, citing several unnamed sources familiar with the deliberations, and that can fly up to 306km (190 miles).
ATACMS is designed for “deep attack of enemy second-echelon forces”, a US Army website states, and could be used to attack command and control centres, air defences and logistics sites well behind the front line.
For Lachlan Murdoch, this moment has been a long time coming. Assuming, of course, that his moment has actually arrived.
On Thursday, his father Rupert Murdoch announced that in November he’ll step down as the head of his two media companies: News Corp. and Fox Corp. Lachlan will become the chair of News Corp. while remaining chief executive and chair at Fox Corp., the parent of Fox News Channel.
The changes make Rupert’s eldest son the undisputed leader of the media empire his father built over decades. There’s no real sign that his siblings and former rivals James and Elisabeth contested him for the top job; James in particular has distanced himself from the company and his father’s politics for several years. But Rupert, now 92, has long had a penchant for building up his oldest children only to later undermine them — and sometimes to set them against one another — often flipping the table without notice.
Given Rupert Murdoch’s advanced age, this might be his last power move. But there’s a reason the HBO drama “Succession” was often interpreted as a thinly disguised and dark satire of his family business. In Murdoch World, as in the fictional world of the Roy family, seemingly sure things can go sideways in an instant, particularly when unexpected opportunities arise.
Lachlan Murdoch has lived that first hand. Born in London, he grew up in New York City and attended Princeton, where he focused not on business, but philosophy. His bachelor’s thesis, titled “A Study of Freedom and Morality in Kant’s Practical Philosophy,” addressed those weighty topics alongside passages of Hindu scripture. The thesis closed on a line from the Bhagavad Gita referencing “the infinite spirit” and “the pure calm of infinity,” according to a 2019 article in The Intercept.
Béatrice Longuenesse, Lachlan’s thesis advisor at Princeton, confirmed the accuracy of that report via email.
After graduation, though, Lachlan plunged headlong into his father’s business, moving to Australia to work for the Murdoch newspapers that were once the core of News Corp.’s business. Many assumed he was being groomed for higher things at News Corp., and they were not wrong. Within just a few years, Lachlan was deputy CEO of the News Corp. holding company for its Australian properties; shortly thereafter, he took an executive position at News Corp. itself and was soon running the company’s television stations and print publishing operations.
Lachlan’s ascent came to an abrupt halt in 2005, when he resigned from News Corp. with no public explanation. According to Paddy Manning, an Australian journalist who last year published a biography of Lachlan Murdoch, the core problem involved two relatively minor issues on which Lachlan disagreed with Roger Ailes, who then ran Fox News.
“The real point was that Lachlan felt Rupert had backed his executives over his son,” Manning said in an interview. “So Lachlan felt, ‘If I’m not going to be supported, then what’s the point?’” Manning did not have direct access to Lachlan for his book “The Successor,” but said he spoke in depth with the people closest to his subject.
Lachlan returned to Australia, where he has often described feeling most at home, and founded an investment group that purchased a string of local radio stations among other properties.
While he was away, News Corp. entered choppy waters. The U.K. phone-hacking scandal, in which tabloid journalists at the News of the World and other Murdoch-owned publications had found a way to listen to voicemails of the British royal family, journalistic competitors and even a missing schoolgirl, had seriously damaged the company. The fracas led to resignations of several News Corp. officials, criminal charges against some, and the closure of News of the World as its finances went south.
Manning said that the damage the scandal inflicted on News Corp. — and on both Lachlan Murdoch’s father and his brother James, chief executive of News’ British newspaper group at the time — helped pull Lachlan back to the company.
“He was watching the family tear itself apart over the phone-hacking scandal,” Manning said. Lachlan was “instrumental in trying to circle the wagons and turn the guns outwards, and stop Rupert from sacking James.”
While it took more convincing, Lachlan eventually returned to the company in 2014 as co-chairman of News Corp. alongside James.
Not long afterward, Ailes was forced out of his job at Fox News following numerous credible allegations of sexual harassment.
Lachlan Murdoch has drawn criticism from media watchdogs for what many called Fox News’ increasingly conspiratorial and misinformation-promoting broadcasts. The network hit a nadir following the 2020 election when voting machine company Dominion Voting Systems sued Fox News for $1.6 billion, alleging that Fox knowingly promoted false conspiracy theories about the security of its voting machines.
In certain respects, though, Lachlan Murdoch’s behavior suggests some ambivalence about his role at News Corp. In 2021 he moved back to Sidney and has been mixing commuting and remote work from Australia ever since. “I think there’s a legitimate question about whether you can continue to do that and for how long” while running companies based in the U.S., Manning said.