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Last fall, a coalition of rebel groups known as the Three Brotherhood Alliance launched a rapid-fire offensive across Myanmar’s northern Shan state, quickly overrunning more than 100 military outposts and seizing several key towns along the country’s border with China.

This in itself was not unusual. Myanmar’s military government has faced insurgencies from ethnic and political militias for decades, and there’s been a major uptick in rebel activity since the 2021 coup, which brought the country’s current military junta to power, ending a short period of representative government. Over the past few months, the government has been rapidly losing ground to rebel forces in several regions of the country.

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People who are poor, unemployed, homeless, immigrants, or exploited, as well as all those killed by past dictatorships and turned into rubbish by the "throwaway culture" of the present: the level of a society's civilisation is measured by the way they are treated, the Pope said.

Pope Francis reiterated the centrality of the vulnerable as well as the urgency of countering the triple "scourge" of corruption, abuse of power, and lawlessness—both in politics and in society—in his address on Wednesday with representatives of the DIALOP transversal dialogue project.

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The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has helped in the fight against rebels for more than two decades, will completely withdraw from the country by December.

“After 25 years of presence, MONUSCO will definitively leave the DRC no later than the end of 2024,” Bintou Keita, head of the mission known as MONUSCO said at a media briefing in the Congolese capital Kinshasa on Saturday.

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A landslide in north-west Colombia has killed at least 23 people and injured around 30 more, local authorities say.

The road connecting the cities of Medellín and Quibdo had been closed by several landslides, so many people stopped their cars to take shelter in a house near the community of Carmen de Atrato, a local official said.

Another landslide then struck the road, burying them and some of the vehicles.

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Brussels wants to launch a bespoke EU mission to protect commercial vessels in the Red Sea from attacks by Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

In a document dated January 10 and seen by Euronews, the EU’s diplomatic service proposes sending "at least three" warships with "multi mission capabilities" to the region as early as next month.

The document recommends the "fast-tracking implementation" of an operation mandated to act "from the Red Sea to the Gulf," in order to protect maritime security in a region plagued by instability in recent weeks.

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"We have issued the last package that we had withdrawn and for which we had funding," John Kirby said. White House National Security Council strategic communications coordinator John Kirby said at a briefing Thursday that "the assistance we were providing has come to a halt."

The White House official also said it is very important that Congress continues to approve the allocation of money to Ukraine. He stressed that Kiev needs help more urgently during the winter period.

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Russia and Ukraine on Wednesday exchanged hundreds of prisoners of war in the biggest single release of captives since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.

Ukrainian authorities said that 230 Ukrainian prisoners of war returned home in the first exchange in almost five months. Russia’s Defense Ministry said that 248 Russian servicemen have been freed under the deal sponsored by the United Arab Emirates.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States and 12 allies issued what amounted to a final warning to Houthi rebels on Wednesday to cease their attacks on vessels in the Red Sea or face potential targeted military action.

The Yemen-based militants have carried out at least 23 attacks in response to the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza since Dec. 19.

A senior Biden administration official declined to detail rules of possible engagement if the attacks continue, but underscored that the Iranian-backed Houthis should “not anticipate another warning” from the U.S. and its allies.

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva likes to boast he had a good first year after returning to the job. The economy is improving, Congress passed a long-overdue tax reform bill, rioters who wanted to oust him are now in jail, and his predecessor and foe Jair Bolsonaro is barred from running for office until 2030.

Still, the 78-year-old leader has struggled to boost his support among citizens and lawmakers. Some major setbacks, including a series of votes by Congress to override his vetoes, signaled that Lula’s future could be less productive in a Brazil almost evenly split between his supporters and Bolsonaro’s.

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TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Despite its last-minute scheduling, the meeting at a bookstore in Russia’s westernmost city of Kaliningrad still drew about 60 people, with many outraged by a lawmaker’s efforts to ban abortions in local private clinics.

The weeknight turnout surprised and heartened Dasha Yakovleva, one of the organizers, amid recent crackdowns on political activism under President Vladimir Putin.

“Right now, there is no room for political action in Russia. The only place left is our kitchens,” Yakovleva, co-founder of the Feminitive Community women’s group, told The Associated Press. “And here, it was a public place, well-known in Kaliningrad, and everyone spoke out openly about how they see this measure, why they think it’s unjustified, inappropriate.”

Although abortion is still legal and widely available in Russia, recent attempts to restrict it have touched a nerve across the increasingly conservative country. Activists are urging supporters to make official complaints, circulating online petitions and even staging small protests.

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Elon Musk says he refused to give Kyiv access to his Starlink communications network over Crimea to avoid complicity in a "major act of war".

Kyiv had sent an emergency request to activate Starlink to Sevastopol, home to a major Russian navy port, he said.

His comments came after a book alleged he had switched off Starlink to thwart a drone attack on Russian ships.

A senior Ukrainian official says this enabled Russian attacks and accused him of "committing evil".

Russian naval vessels had since taken part in deadly attacks on civilians, he said.

"By not allowing Ukrainian drones to destroy part of the Russian military (!) fleet via Starlink interference, Elon Musk allowed this fleet to fire Kalibr missiles at Ukrainian cities," he said.

"Why do some people so desperately want to defend war criminals and their desire to commit murder? And do they now realize that they are committing evil and encouraging evil?" he added.

The row follows the release of a biography of the billionaire by Walter Isaacson which alleges that Mr Musk switched off Ukraine's access to Starlink because he feared that an ambush of Russia's naval fleet in Crimea could provoke a nuclear response from the Kremlin.

Ukraine targeted Russian ships in Sevastopol with submarine drones carrying explosives but they lost connection to Starlink and "washed ashore harmlessly", Mr Isaacson wrote.

Starlink terminals connect to SpaceX satellites in orbit and have been crucial for maintaining internet connectivity and communication in Ukraine as the conflict has disrupted the country infrastructure.

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The EU report highlighted the impact the National Security law was having on the city. Photo: Sun Yeung The EU report highlighted the impact the National Security law was having on the city. Photo: Sun Yeung

The European Union has criticised the “continuing erosion of Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and of rights and freedoms that were meant to be protected until at least 2047”, in an annual report released on Friday.

The report for 2022 described at length the “far-reaching implementation of the national security law”, which it said had encroached on academic and media freedom, rights of assembly and association, and “cast doubt on the state of the rule of law in Hong Kong – a cornerstone of its economic success”.

It summarised the major events in Hong Kong last year, including the unchallenged appointment of John Lee Ka-chiu as chief executive in the “patriots-only” election, the 25th anniversary of the handover from Britain, the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping, and the Covid-19 restrictions which saw “around 10 per cent of EU nationals” abandon the city.

But it was dominated by the roll-out of the security law, imposed by Beijing in July 2020, which has led to hundreds of arrests, the annihilation of political opposition, and a crackdown on many forms of expression and dissent

The Hong Kong government issued a lengthy response late on Friday, urging the EU to “recognise the facts and abide by international law” and to “immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs, which are purely China’s internal affairs”.

“Any foreign country or external force that slanders Hong Kong’s situation and tries to undermine Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability will only do so on its own accord. It will never succeed,” the statement read.

The EU pointed to the “intensification” of trials under the national security law, which by the end of last year had led to the arrest of 236 people, some “held in custody since January 2021, in some cases in solitary confinement”, the detention of minors, and the invocation of a colonial era sedition law.

The report says that on November 1, an EU national was arrested under the sedition law. “At a later stage, the authorities claimed that the man was a Chinese national and that, therefore, he was not allowed consular assistance,” it said.

The detainee is believed to be Portuguese national Joseph John, also known as Wong Kin-chung, who was arrested for “allegedly publishing seditious articles online disparaging Beijing and local authorities”. The EU confirmed he is still being detained

The report noted the high-profile cases of activist lawyer Chow Hang-tung, media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying and the arrests of those involved in the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund – former lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan, singer Denise Ho Wan-see, scholar Hui Po-keung, barrister Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, 92 year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun and the fund’s secretary Sze Ching-wee.

“At the time of his arrest, Hui was leaving the city to take up a teaching post at a university in the EU,” the report said.

It described the purging of critical voices in the Law Society and Bar Association as “a negative impact on key parts of the legal community”.

It noted the ongoing barriers to freedom of assembly, including the fining of attendees at a small protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the continued outlawing of commemorations of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.

Academics have been targeted by pro-Beijing media for “their perceived political stances, forcing some of them to leave their positions”.

“In one case, the government rejected a foreign researcher’s visa application and neither the scholar nor the school was officially informed about the reasons behind this refusal,” the EU said, adding that political scientists had postponed sensitive research and some universities closed these departments altogether and removed human rights from the curriculum

It pointed to the increasingly long-arm of the security law, including the blocking of the Hong Kong Watch website and a police warning issued to the same group.

The report also said exiled members of civil society had started receiving warnings from authorities and were blocked from accessing Hong Kong-based assets.

The EU also documented an increasingly harsh media environment. As well as the shuttering of outlets such as Citizen News and Factwire, editors of the previously closed Stand News faced sedition charges, and the Foreign Correspondents’ Club cancelled its annual human rights reporting awards, citing “legal red lines”.

Instances of self-censorship cited by the bloc included a TV channel “apologising after receiving complaints that its reports ‘incited hatred’.”

The journalist in question had asked government officials “about the procedure for handling complaints against mainland medical professionals who came to Hong Kong to assist in controlling the pandemic”.

The Hong Kong government statement said the “so-called report has repeatedly maliciously slandered” the security law. It accused the EU of “turning a blind eye to the fact that the implementation of the [law] has brought the lives and economic activities of Hong Kong citizens back to normal and the business environment has resumed”.

Despite all this, the EU is continuing to ramp up its engagement with the Hong Kong government this year. Last week, the bloc’s top diplomat in the city Thomas Gnocchi joined other EU consuls general at a lunch hosted by the chief executive

Lee used the lunch to pitch Hong Kong as “the ideal gateway between East and West” for companies seeking to expand in the region.

Just two months earlier, the European Parliament adopted by a landslide a motion calling for sanctions on Lee over the “alarming deterioration” of fundamental freedoms in the city.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong said the resolution was a “despicable act” and a “publicity stunt”.

But elsewhere in Brussels, Hong Kong has largely fallen off the agenda. It has not been an agenda item at leaders’ or foreign ministers’ summits since early 2021, when the bloc failed to implement new measures on Hong Kong in response to the security law after being blocked by Hungary.

Previous measures adopted by foreign ministers in 2020 included monitoring national security law trials in Hong Kong courts, ramping up engagement with civil society, and entering into no new negotiations with the Hong Kong government.

The report says that the EU’s office and its member states in Hong Kong conducted 71 trial observations in 2022, however sources said that not all members have stepped up to the plate.

One Brussels source told the Post that Hungary, Romania, Finland, Poland, Greece, Spain and Portugal have a diplomatic presence in the city but have been “laggards” on trial observations

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