Russia christens monument to victims of Stalin’s purges: In a solemn ceremony in Moscow on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled a new monument dedicated to the victims of former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. The opening of the new memorial arrives at a moment in which Russia is observing the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik overthrow of the Provisional Government in Russian in 1917.
Over 750,000 are believed to have been executed during his rule between 1924–1953, while millions of others were jailed or exiled to gulags.
Declaring the monument an occasion to “accept history as it is, with its great victories and tragic pages,” Mr. Putin was criticized by dissidents for what they say is a climate of repression in Russia.
Spain considers giving more autonomy to Catalonia: Amid a week of fever, Spanish authorities moved to arrest Catalan secessionist leaders and continued to take steps to assume direct rule over the breakaway region. Seeking to avoid arrest on charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement some Catalan leaders, including regional President Carles Puigdemont, fled to Belgium.
Despite undertaking a larger governing role, Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis admitted Madrid was weighing extending more autonomy to the region following the upcoming Dec. 21 snap elections.
Dastis pressed home Madrid’s position Catalan independence was out of the question, but told the Associated Press expanded self-determination was possible provided snap elections were respected by the region’s secessionist movement.
Syria says ISIS forced out of Deir al-Zor: Syrian state television reported Friday Syrian troops had taken control over two key sections of Deir al-Zor, effectively driving the Islamic State (ISIS) from the city.
Fighting for control the city began in September.
Backed by Russian airstrikes, Syrian troops had secured control over the area in one of the latest offensives against the terror group, which is reeling from a series of military setbacks which have witnessed the group lose key strongholds over the last month. Raqqa was liberated from ISIS’ grip in October.
Syrian opposition refuses Russian-sponsored peace talks: Hopes for a brokered agreement among Syria, Russia and opposition groups to resolve the six-year Syrian civil war were dashed on Wednesday when two groups representing the Syrian opposition rejected Moscow-sponsored talks held in Sochi, Russia.
The High Negotiations Committee and the Syrian National Coalition, both of which represent 33 opposition groups, rebuffed the invitation to meet in Sochi in favor of talks moderated by the UN.
Despite Damascus and the Kremlin signaling a willingness to thrash out an agreement, both opposition groups stated under no circumstance would they meet unless discussions were held in Geneva and administered by the UN.
London extends deadline for Northern Ireland devolved government: Talks between Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) aiming to restore a ruling coalition broke down on Tuesday. Unable to overcome the impasse, British Prime Minister Theresa May extended the deadline for both parties to reach a deal to re-establish a government or face Westminster imposing direct rule over the region.
Under a deal brokered in 1998, both parties share rule in Northern Ireland.
At odds over Sinn Fein’s demand for a language act, which is opposed by the DUP, both groups are under intense pressure from London to come to an agreement or come to terms with Westminster accepting the role of determining budgetary matters in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland has been without a government since January.
[AFP via Digital Journal] [RT News] [Al Arabiya] [PressTV] [RTÉ]