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Ukraine criminalises use and manufacture of bogus COVID-19 vaccine certificates

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Ukrainians who knowingly use or manufacture fake COVID-19 vaccine certificates face fines or jail under new legislation passed in parliament in the first reading on Tuesday to tackle record levels of coronavirus infections and deaths.

Ukraine lagged behind other European countries in obtaining coronavirus vaccines this year and is now struggling to persuade a sceptical public to take them.

Vaccines have become mandatory for some state workers, and in “red” zone areas including the capital Kyiv, only vaccinated people or those with negative COVID test results are allowed into restaurants, gyms and on public transport.

That has led to a flourishing black market in bogus certificates and the police have opened hundreds of criminal cases across the country.

“Lack of responsibility for such crimes creates preconditions for further … forgery of documents,” Health Minister Viktor Lyashko said on the parliament website, adding that it “poses a direct threat to the life and health of citizens of Ukraine.”

The draft law stipulates a fine of up to $2,600 or two to three years in prison for using knowingly false vaccination documents and for entering false vaccination data in medical registries.

The production of false documents for future sale will be punishable by imprisonment for up to three years or a fine of about $6,460, the draft said.

Ukraine had registered 2.96 million infections and 68,727 deaths as of Nov. 2. Only 7.5 million people, or less than a fifth of the total population of around 41 million, has been fully vaccinated so far.

An October poll by the Rating research agency showed that 43% of Ukrainians were not ready to take the coronavirus vaccine.

 

(Editing by Matthias Williams and Marguerita Choy)

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U.S. to revoke terrorist designation for Colombia’s FARC, add breakaway groups

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The United States will revoke its designation of the Colombian group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia as a foreign terrorist organization on Tuesday while designating two breakaway groups as such, a senior State Department official said on Friday.

A review of the terrorist listing – required every five years under U.S. law – found that the leftist organization known by the Spanish acronym FARC should no longer be listed, The official said.

But the two dissident groups that have formed out of FARC, La Segunda Marquetalia and FARC-EP, or People’s Army, would be designated as foreign terrorist organizations, the official said.

“It’s a realignment to address these current threats,” the official said. “The FARC that existed five years ago no longer exists.”

Founded in 1964, FARC was responsible for summary executions and kidnappings of thousands of people, including Americans.

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that the United States was preparing to remove FARC from the list five years after the group signed a peace agreement with Bogota.

The State Department notified the U.S. Congress on Tuesday of its planned delisting of FARC. The Colombian government was formally notified on Wednesday.

The government of Colombia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The decision will allow U.S. government agencies like the U.S. Agency for International Development to work on peace implementation in parts of Colombia where demobilized FARC soldiers are located, the official said.

“This is a priority for the Colombian government in the implementation of the peace agreement,” the official said.

 

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Simon Lewis in Washington; Additional reporting by Oliver Griffin in Bogota; Editing by Mark Porter and Leslie Adler)

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Tunisian police say they shot, wounded extremist trying to attack them

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Tunisian police on Friday shot and wounded an extremist who sought to attack them with a knife and cleaver in the capital, authorities said.

The 31-year-old man, whose identity was not disclosed, shouted, “God is great. You are infidels,” as he ran toward police officers near the interior ministry, the ministry said in a statement.

Witnesses and local media said police shot the man in the leg and arrested him. The man, who was previously labelled an extremist by the government, was taken to hospital and is being investigated by an anti-terrorism unit, officials said.

Tunisian security forces have thwarted most militant plots in recent years and they have become more efficient at responding to those attacks that do occur, Western diplomats say.

The last major attacks in Tunisia took place in 2015 when militants killed scores of people in two separate assaults at a museum in Tunis and a beach resort in Sousse.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, Frances Kerry and Cynthia Osterman)

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At least 19 killed in bus crash in central Mexico

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At least 19 people were killed and 20 more injured on Friday when a passenger bus traveling on a highway in central Mexico crashed into a house, authorities said.

The brakes on the bus, which was heading to a local religious shrine in the state of Mexico, failed, according to local media reports. State authorities did not disclose the possible causes of the accident.

Assistant state interior secretary Ricardo de la Cruz Musalem said that the injured had been transferred to hospitals, including some by air.

The state Red Cross said 10 ambulances had rushed to the area.

 

(Reporting by Sharay Angulo; writing by Laura Gottesdiener)

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