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Volodymyr Zelensky silences Irish parliament all the way from Ukraine

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Volodymyr Zelensky

President Volodymyr Zelensky hushed the Irish parliament on Wednesday all the way from Ukraine, on a day when the languages of the two countries intermingled inside and outside the chamber.

The histories of the two countries are intertwined, the Dail heard, as Mr Zelensky spoke to a state marking 100 years since its foundation.

Those sentiments came not from Mr Zelensky himself, but from the politicians who pledged solidarity to the people of Kyiv, Mariupol, Bucha and a host of other war-torn towns.

The Ukrainian leader, when he spoke at 10am on Wednesday, had a different script to the leaders who have previously addressed a joint sitting of the Oireachtas.

He did not, like Tony Blair in 1998, regale politicians with memories of childhood holidays in Co Donegal.

Neither did he share snapshots from career-making moments in Dublin, as European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker did in 2018.

The only Irish poetry referenced came from Ceann Comhairle Sean O Fearghail, who cited WB Yeats.

Instead, Mr Zelensky asked for help during the first virtual address in the history of the Oireachtas.

What Irish politicians heard was a demand for Irish and European support for the country in the face of Russian aggression.

Gratitude too, but calls to go further.

Mr Zelensky said Ireland has supported Ukraine from the start of the war.

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He said: “You did not doubt starting helping us, you began doing this right away and, although you are a neutral country, you have not remained neutral to the disaster and to the mishaps that Russia has brought to Ukraine.”

The voice of the Ukrainian leader, which has been heard in parliaments all the way from Brussels to Washington, was replaced by that of a translator.

But unmistakable was the impassive face of Mr Zelensky, which loomed above legislators from two screens behind Mr O Fearghail.

Dressed in military green, the Ukrainian president looked on as Irish politicians wore bright hues of blue and yellow.

Lapels, dresses and pocket-squares were all turned into expressions of silent support for Ukraine.

At the entrance to the Dail chamber, Oireachtas staff had also placed two small baskets of yellow and blue flowers.

Looking on too were around 50 ambassadors to Ireland from countries around the globe.

For them hunger is a weapon against us ordinary people as an instrument of domination

Volodymyr Zelensky

Mr Zelensky told those gathered that Russia is using hunger as a weapon in its war against his country.

“This night, our territory was again hit by Russian missiles,” he said.

“They are destroying things that are sustaining livelihoods to people.

“They also have blocked all of our sea ports, together with the vessels that had already agricultural cargos for exports.

“Why are they doing this? Because for them hunger is a weapon against us ordinary people as an instrument of domination.”

The Ukrainian leader stayed just long enough to hear a message of support from Irish premier Micheal Martin, who had sat upright, leaning forward, as he listened intently.

Mr Zelensky must have heard too, from thousands of miles away in Ukraine, the thunderous applause from senators and TDs inside the Dail chamber.

Not all members applauded – four People Before Profit TDs refused to clap, even as other politicians stood for a minute of applause.

The reason, a spokesperson said, was a disagreement with calls from Mr Zelensky for Nato involvement in the war, as well citing demands for more sanctions and a “decision to ban opposition parties” in Ukraine.

“Russia will have to live with the shame of what they have done in Ukraine for generations. Those responsible will be held to account,” Mr Martin told the Dail.

“We are with Ukraine and I am certain that, in the end, Ukraine will prevail.

“We are a militarily neutral country. However, we are not politically neutral in the face of war crimes. Quite the opposite.”

Outside the gates of Leinster House in the Irish capital, a small group of Ukrainian supporters gathered to listen to proceedings.

Irish and Ukrainian schoolchildren from St Joseph’s in the Dublin suburb of Fairview sang the national anthems of the two countries.

Nick Kozlov, from the Ukrainian Crisis Centre, led the crowd in chants.

“I believe, if we have young people like this, Ukraine will never be beaten,” he said.

As the two languages blended together outside, inside Leinster House the histories of the two countries were explicitly linked.

One hundred years after the creation of the Irish Free State, Ireland’s own struggle for independence was invoked, as was 19th century Irish political leader Daniel O’Connell and African-American abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

“In the long history of our own country, we have never invaded another but we do know what it’s like to have been invaded,” Tanaiste Leo Varadkar told the Dail.

“And to have the very existence of our national identity questioned too. For these reasons, we feel for the idealism of the Ukrainian people – their defiance and their determination to face down a new evil empire.”

Unity and silence reigned for most speeches, punctured only by renewed opposition calls for the expulsion of the Russian ambassador – a move resisted so far by the Irish Government.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald, dressed in white, said it is “long past time” to eject Yury Filatov.

That demand was conspicuously clapped by some TDs on the Government benches.

There was levity too.

Senator David Norris, partially kept from the corridors of the Seanad by ill health, made an appearance.

His particularly loud cheers at various stages in proceedings prompted applause and laughter, as well as compliments from Climate Minister Eamon Ryan.

But above all else, there was poignancy.

“Slava Ukraini,” Mr Martin told the embattled Ukrainian leader as he ended his speech.

Only a few metres above him, invisible to the Taoiseach, Ukrainian ambassador to Ireland Larysa Gerasko looked on.

Ms Gerasko, surrounded by colleagues, echoed quietly: “Slava Ukraini.”

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Comoros ex-president Sambi jailed for life for ‘high treason’

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Former Comorian President Ahmed Abdallah Sambi (2nd R), escorted by Gendarmes, arrives at the courthouse in Moroni on November 21, 2022. – Sambi, who served as president from 2006-2011 and is the main opponent of current leader Azali Assoumani, has been held under house arrest since May 2018.
Sambi was originally placed under house arrest for disturbing public order.
Three months later he was placed under pre-trial detention for embezzlement, corruption and forgery, over a scandal involving the sale of Comorian passports to stateless people living in Gulf nations. (Photo by Ibrahim YOUSSOUF / AFP)

A court in the Comoros on Monday handed down a life sentence for high treason to ex-president Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, who was convicted of selling passports to stateless people living in the Gulf.

Sambi, 64, an arch-rival of President Azali Assoumani, was sentenced by the State Security Court, a special judicial body whose rulings cannot be appealed.

“He betrayed the mission entrusted to him by the Comorians,” public prosecutor Ali Mohamed Djounaid told the court last week as he requested a life sentence.

Sambi, who led the small Indian Ocean archipelago between 2006 and 2011, pushed through a law in 2008 allowing the sale of passports for high fees.

The scheme aimed at the so-called bidoon — an Arab minority numbering in the tens of thousands who cannot obtain citizenship.

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The former president was accused of embezzling millions of dollars under the scheme.

The prosecution said the cost was more than $1.8 billion — more than the impoverished nation’s GDP.

“They gave thugs the right to sell Comorian nationality as if they were selling peanuts,” said Eric Emmanuel Sossa, a lawyer for civilian plaintiffs.

But Sambi’s French lawyer Jean-Gilles Halimi said “no evidence” of missing money or bank accounts had been put forward to suggest a crime.

Sambi refused to attend the trial after a brief appearance at the first hearing, as his lawyers said there were no guarantees he would be judged fairly.

He was originally prosecuted for corruption, but the charges were reclassified as high treason, a crime that “does not exist in Comorian law,” Halimi said.

Sambi had already spent four years behind bars before he faced trial, far exceeding the maximum eight months. He was originally placed under house arrest for disturbing public order.

Guardian

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UK university workers begin strike over ‘falling pay, brutal workloads’

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Thousands of university and college staff in the United Kingdom, including lecturers, librarians and researchers, have declared a strike to demand pay increase and improved working conditions.

The University and College Union (UCU), the UK trade union for university staff, said the strike, referred to as the biggest in decades, is to improve quality in the education sector.

The UCU “represents over 120,000 academics, lecturers, trainers, instructors, researchers, managers, administrators, computer staff, librarians, technicians, professional staff and postgraduates in universities, colleges, prisons, adult education and training organisations across the UK”.

“This is the biggest week in our history. Every single university takes strike action on Thursday and Friday. We need every member, student and supporter on our picket lines on Thursday to show the employers that this time is different,” the union said in a statement.

Announcing the strike on Wednesday, Jo Grady, UCU’s general secretary, warned of a “bigger action” unless employers improved their offers.

“Staff are burnt out but they are fighting back and they will bring the whole sector to a standstill,” she said.

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“Vice-chancellors only have themselves to blame. Their woeful leadership has led to the biggest vote for strike action ever in our sector. Students are standing with staff because they know this can’t go on.”

The strike, which began on Thursday, will also hold on November 25 and November 30.

Commenting on the development on Thursday, Grady expressed satisfaction with the turnout of university staff.

“Today’s picket lines are huge. 70,000 university staff have turned out like never before, defying bullying tactics from management to show they will no longer accept falling pay, pension cuts, brutal workloads and gig-economy working conditions,” she was quoted as saying, according to UCL.

“If vice-chancellors doubted the determination of university staff to save our sector, then today has been a rude awakening for them.”

The strike has affected over 2.5 million students, some of who are standing in solidarity with their lecturers.

Lawyers, nurses, postal workers and many others have also protested to seek pay rises that match the soaring inflation in the country.

The latest protests come after the UK’s National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers announced on Tuesday that more than 40,000 rail workers will stage strikes in December and January, disrupting travel for scores of people during the festive season.

The union said members will have demonstrations for four days from December 13 and in the first week of January.

The UK has been battling difficult economic situations due to surging energy costs arising from the Russia-Ukraine war.

Earlier in August, the Bank of England warned that inflation would climb to just over 13 percent in 2022.

It also projected that the country would enter a recession from the fourth quarter of 2022 until late 2023.

In November, the country’s inflation rate jumped in the last 12 months to 11.1 percent in October — up by one percent from August’s inflation rate.

The Cable

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Gunman kills 10 in US Walmart store

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A gunman has killed up to 10 people in a Walmart superstore in Chesapeake, in the US state of Virginia, police say.

Reports say the man, a store manager, opened fire then turned the gun on himself and is now dead.

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The City of Chesapeake tweeted “police confirm an active shooter incident with fatalities at the Walmart”.

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