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RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT RESIGNS OVER WAR IN UKRAINE

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Boris Bondarev, Russian Diplomat

A Russian diplomat has quit his job in protest at the “bloody, witless” war “unleashed by Putin against Ukraine”.

Boris Bondarev, whose LinkedIn says he worked at the Russian mission to the UN in Geneva, told the BBC he knew his decision to speak out may mean the Kremlin now considers him a traitor.

But he stood by his statement which described the war as “a crime against the Ukrainian people” and “the people of Russia”.

Moscow has not yet commented (the resignation letter is attached below).

Russia has cracked down on those who are critical of or veer from the official narrative surrounding the war, which it refers to only as “a special military operation”.

In the letter posted on social media and shared with fellow diplomats, Mr Bondarev explained he had chosen to end his 20-year career in the service because he could no “longer share in this bloody, witless and absolutely needless ignominy”.

“Those who conceived of this war want only one thing – to stay in power forever,” he wrote.

“To achieve that, they are willing to sacrifice as many lives as it takes,” he continued. “Thousands of Russians and Ukrainians have already died just for this.”

The letter does not hold back over his former employer either, accusing Russia’s Foreign Ministry of being more interested in “lies and hatred” than diplomacy.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Bondarev said he had “not seen any alternative” than to resign: “I don’t think it will change a lot, frankly, but I think it may be one little brick into the bigger wall which would eventually be built. I hope so.”

Mr Bondarev revealed that the invasion had initially been met by colleagues with “happiness, delight, euphoria” at the fact Russia had “taken some radical steps”.

“Now they’re less happy with that, because we’re facing some problems, with the economy first of all,” he told the BBC. “But I don’t see that many of them would repent and change their views.

“They may become a little bit less radical, less aggressive quite a bit. But not peaceful.,” he said.

In contrast, Mr Bondarev said in his open letter he had “never been so ashamed of my country” as he was on 24 February, the day the invasion began.

It is unclear if he is the first diplomat to resign from the mission, although no one else has spoken out publicly.

Mr Bondarev is under no illusions that Moscow will now see him as a traitor, but notes he hasn’t “done anything illegal”.

“I just resigned and spoke my mind,” he said. “But I think I have to be concerned about my safety of course.” (BBC)

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BIDEN FALLS FROM BIKE BUT IS UNHURT

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US President Joe Biden rides his bicycle at Gordon’s Pond State Park in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, on June 18, 2022. – Biden took a tumble as he was riding his bicycle Saturday morning, but was unhurt. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)

US President Joe Biden took a tumble as he was riding his bicycle Saturday morning, but was unhurt.

A video from a White House pool report showed the 79-year-old president immediately getting up after his fall. He then says: “I’m good.”

He was biking with First Lady Jill Biden near their vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and had stopped to talk to onlookers when he fell.

US President Joe Biden falls off his bicycle as he approaches well-wishers following a bike ride at Gordon’s Pond State Park in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, on June 18, 2022. – Biden took a tumble as he was riding his bicycle Saturday morning, but was unhurt.

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BLASTS AND GUNFIRE AT SIKH TEMPLE IN AFGHAN CAPITAL

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[files] Taliban’s acting first deputy prime minister Abdul Ghani Baradar (Photo by Wakil KOHSAR / AFP)

Gunmen stormed a Sikh temple in the Afghan capital Saturday, lobbing at least one grenade and wounding two people, the interior ministry and witnesses said.

While the number of bombings has dropped across the country since the Taliban seized power in August, several fatal attacks have rocked the country in recent months.

“I heard gunshots and blasts coming from the gurdwara,” Gurnam Singh, a Sikh community leader told AFP.

Interior ministry spokesman Abdul Nafi Takor said a grenade blast wounded two members of the Sikh community.

Minutes later a car bomb detonated in the area but caused no casualties, he added.

Singh, who was close to the scene, said the number of casualties could rise.

“Generally at that time in the morning we have several Sikh devotees who come to offer prayers at the gurdwara,” he said.

The number of Sikhs living in Afghanistan has dwindled to around 200 compared to about half a million in the 1970s.

Over the years the community has faced repeated attacks and at least 25 people were killed in March 2020 when gunmen stormed a Sikh temple.

The jihadist group Islamic State claimed responsibility for that attack, which forced many Sikhs to leave the country even before the Taliban returned to power.

IS has a history of targeting Afghan Sikhs, Hindus, and other members of minority communities — including Muslim Shiites and Sufis.

A string of bombings hit the country during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ended in Afghanistan on April 30, some of them claimed by IS.

The deadliest was in the northern city of Kunduz, where a bomb targeting Sufi worshippers tore through a mosque killing at least 36 people.

IS is a Sunni Islamist group, like the Taliban, but the two are bitter rivals.

The Taliban have pursued an Afghanistan free from foreign forces, whereas IS wants an Islamic caliphate stretching from Turkey to Pakistan and beyond.

Taliban officials insist their forces have defeated IS, but analysts say the jihadist group remains a key security challenge.

THE GUARDIAN

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‘UKRAINE WAR, INFLATION WILL PUSH SEVEN MILLION NIGERIANS TO POVERTY’

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A view shows a building destroyed by a military strike, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in the town of Lysychansk, Luhansk region, Ukraine June 10, 2022. Picture taken June 10, 2022. REUTERS/Oleksandr Ratushnia

• Clear, transparent exchange rate policy urgently required, says World Bank • ‘CBN’s intervention programmes undermining commercial, risk-adjusted lending’

The World Bank has warned that the war in Europe could effectively push an additional one million Nigerians into poverty by the end of the year. The figure excludes the six million earlier predicted to fall into poverty this year owing to the rise in prices of essentials, especially food.

The bank also cautioned against inefficient exchange rate approaches saying: “Clarity on exchange rate policy, and transparency in its management are necessary to attract more significant capital inflows, including foreign direct (FDI).”

The concerns were contained in the latest World Bank Nigeria Development Update (NDU), tagged, ‘The Continuing Urgency of Business Unusual’, yesterday.

The report, which was launched at a function attended by Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, and other government functionaries, gave a scary verdict about the country’s fiscal and monetary outlook and warned that urgent reforms are required to save the economy.

The report notes that, “stagnating oil revenues harm fiscal accounts at both federal and sub-national levels” and that fiscal performance has suffered enormously from sluggish oil production and rising petrol subsidy, amid “expenditure pressures”, which remain high.

“On the expenditure side, interest payments and capital expenditures increased. As a result, the general government fiscal deficit is estimated at 6.5 per cent of GDP in 2021, with the federal fiscal deficit reaching 4.2 per cent of GDP – a marginal improvement from 4.4 per cent in 2020 –but still breaching the limit set by the 2007 Fiscal Responsibility Act for the third consecutive year,” the report states, adding that Nigeria, for the first time, did not benefit from rising crude prices last year.

It adds: “In the wake of the global economic recovery from COVID-19, international oil prices increased sharply. Although the price of Bonny light crude oil rose to an average of US$70/barrel in 2021, from US$42/barrel in 2020, net oil revenues transferred to the Federation Account increased only by 3.9 per cent (approximately N100 billion). The stagnation in oil revenues is attributable to declining oil production and sizable deductions from the federation’s oil revenues for the petrol subsidy.”

It projects that net oil revenue will remain stagnant this year due to low production profile and large reductions for subsidy payments, with a deficit expected to average 5.05 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the year.

“Federal expenditures are estimated to increase by over 25 per cent in 2022 amid elections, with a 37 per cent increase in capital expenditures. If budgeted expenditures are in line with the Medium-Term Fiscal Framework (MTFF), the federal fiscal deficit will reach 5.4 per cent of GDP.

“Suppose capital expenditures are maintained at the 2021 level, which may occur due to delays in passing the 2022 amended budget, in that case, the federal fiscal deficit is still expected to be higher than in 2021 and reach 4.7 per cent of GDP,” it explains.

The institution reiterates its call for reform of the foreign exchange market, noting that a more liberal model would reduce misalignments and attract more foreign investments required to grow the economy.

According to the report, “the need for timely and consistent monetary policy and exchange rate unification has become critical.

“Clarity on exchange rate policy, and transparency in its management, are necessary to attract more significant capital inflows, including foreign direct investments. The exchange rate policy in 2022 remains focused on maintaining the IEFX rate and the official exchange rate artificially stable through foreign exchange restrictions and administrative measures.”

THE GUARDIAN

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