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Voting Starts On Referendum To Let Putin Remain In Power Until 2036

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Russians have begun voting in a seven-day referendum on constitutional amendments that would allow president Vladimir Putin to run for re-election twice more and maybe remain as president for the next 16 years.

Election officials opened polling earlier today in advance of next Wednesday to avoid overcrowding amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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One hundred ten million voters are expected to cast ballots across the country’s ten time zones.

Putin, already in power for twenty years now, introduced the reforms to the 1993 constitution in January.  Both houses of parliament and regional legislators gave their stamp of approval.

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Among other changes, the reforms would reset Putin’s presidential term-limit clock to zero, allowing him to run two more times.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny says the vote is to make Putin president for life and a violation of the constitution.

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Turkey Trial Of Saudi Suspects In Jamal Khashoggi Murder Begins

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Turkey Trial Of Saudi Suspects In Jamal Khashoggi Murder Begins

Twenty Saudi nationals including two former aides to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have gone on trial in absentia in a Turkish court over the killing and dismembering of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.

Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018 after he entered the premises to obtain paperwork for his planned marriage.

The trial began at Istanbul province’s main court in Caglayan district at 10am local time (07:00 GMT) on Friday.

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Turkish officials say Khashoggi’s body was dismembered at the consulate by the killers and his remains are yet to be found.

59-year-old Khashoggi was an insider-turned-critic who wrote for The Washington Post before he was killed inside the Saudi consulate. He was also a vocal critic of the prince.

Saudi Arabia carried out a separate trial over the killing that was heavily criticized as incomplete. In December a court in Saudi Arabia sentenced five persons to death and three to jail for Khashoggi’s killing, but the trial was secretive and the defendants were not named.

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The Saudi authorities initially denied any involvement in the case, but later called it a “rogue operation”.

The AFP news agency reports that his fiancee Hatice Cengiz is attending the trial alongside the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Agnes Callamard.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the order to murder Khashoggi came from “the highest levels” of the Saudi government but has never directly blamed Prince Mohammed.

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Turkish prosecutors claim Saudi deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Assiri and the royal court’s media czar Saud al-Qahtani led the operation and gave orders to a Saudi hit team.

The prosecutor has already issued arrest warrants for the suspects who are not in Turkey.

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Pakistan PM Imran Khan Blames India For Stock Exchange Attack

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Pakistan PM Imran Khan Blames India For Stock Exchange Attack

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has told the country’s Parliament he is certain that India was behind the deadly attack on the stock exchange building in the southern city of Karachi in which at least seven persons were killed.

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On Monday, four gunmen armed with grenades and automatic rifles attacked the Pakistan Stock Exchange, killing two guards and a police officer before security forces killed the attackers.

Khan told parliament on Tuesday that he believed India was behind, he said “for the last two months my Cabinet knew [that there would be an attack]. I had informed my minister. All our agencies were on high alert.”

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However, India had denied the charge a day earlier.

Militants from the Baloch Liberation Army say they were behind the attack.

Pakistan has suffered years of militant violence, mostly by Islamist groups, but attacks such as this one have become rare in recent years.

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British PM Boris Johnson Warns Israel Against Plans To Annex Part Of West Bank

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British PM Boris Johnson Warns Israel Against Plans To Annex Part Of West Bank

United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson has on Wednesday urged Israel not to go ahead with the annexation of part of the occupied West Bank, saying it would be illegal and “contrary” to the country’s interests.

Earlier, Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu had set Wednesday as a possible start date for the process of applying Israeli sovereignty to Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley.

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But that plan seems to have stalled. The plan offers United States recognition of Israel’s settlements dotted across the West Bank, and Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley — land captured in the 1967 Middle East war and claimed by Palestinians for a future state.

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Last week, more than 1,000 European parliamentarians from 25 countries denounced Israel’s plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank and Jordan Valley saying the move would be “fatal to the prospects of Israeli-Palestinian peace” and must be prevented, if necessary with countermeasures.

The European governments in a letter signed urged leaders to prevent the annexation process and save the prospects of a two-state solution, saying the annexation would break international law.

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The settlements are widely considered illegal under international law, though Israel – and the US under the Trump administration – denies this.

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