Putin critic denied spot on ballot for Russian presidency: Citing the Russian dissident’s conviction for corruption, the Russian Supreme Court has barred Alexei Navalny’s petition to appear as a candidate for the country’s 2018 presidential election.
Incumbent president, Vladimir Putin, is favored to maintain power in March elections.
A fierce critic of Mr. Putin, Navalny was denied a position in the election over fraud and money laundering convictions. Nalavny contends the charges were politically motivated to disqualify him from political office.
Navalny is one of 11 potential Russian candidates prohibited from seeking the presidency.
Up to 1,700 arrested in Iran protests: Nationwide protests across 80 Iranian cities and towns have left at least 21 dead and resulted in over 1,000 arrests since emerging in the regional capital of Mashhad on Thursday, Dec. 28. Ninety college student protesters are reported to have been detained to-date, 10 of whom are still unaccounted for.
Initially demonstrating against massive inflation, joblessness and government corruption, dissidents have turned the rallies against Iranian leadership.
Tehran has blamed anti-regime demonstrations on the foreign intelligence services of the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Responding to the protests, Iran staged its own pro-regime demonstrations starting last week, cut off social media access and closed transportation services in cities to prevent swelling anti-regime crowds.
North, South Korea reestablish hotline, agree to talks: Ahead of the XXIII Olympic Winter Games hosted in February at PyeongChang, South Korea, North Korea has agreed to hold its first direct talks with Seoul in over two years.
The negotiations are expected to cover the Olympic competition, and other mutual areas of interest, including security. On Saturday, a Pyongyang official said North Korea was “likely to participate” in a figure skating event featuring Kim Ju Sik and Ryom Tae Ok who won a bronze medal at the Asian Winter Games in February 2017.
The agreement to sit for face-to-face discussions follows the North unexpectedly resuming use of a hotline shared between Seoul and Pyongyang earlier this week and brought some measure of hope that a resolution to the nuclear crisis is near.
Norway ends arms sales to UAE amid war crimes in Yemen: The government of Norway announced Wednesday its intent to suspend arms and ammunition sales to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for its involvement in the war in Yemen.
A Saudi Arabian coalition which includes the UAE has been conducting an air campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen since 2015.
International rights groups and have heavily criticized the Saudi-led airstrikes for killing 8,600 Yemeni civilians in the conflict; another 50,000 have been injured.
In line with UN sanctions, China toughens stance on North Korea: Days after U.S. and Taiwanese intelligence sources revealed Chinese merchant ships transferred fuel oil to North Korea in defiance of UN sanctions, Beijing announced it has tightened restrictions on energy supplies to Pyongyang.
China’s Commerce Ministry announced it would curtail crude oil and refined petroleum products and end the sale of steel, industrial machinery and vehicles. The ministry also said it plans to bar food exports to the North.
Beijing has previously banned natural gas exports to the North and refused importation of North Korean textiles, but has publicly complained of the economic toll of the sanctions on Chinese businesses.
In related news, Reuters reported at the end of December that Russia was caught by Western European security personnel transferring oil to North Korean ships while at sea on multiple occasions in October and November 2017.
[Moscow Times] [CNN] [Reuters] [BBC] [AP] [Middle East Eye] [Daily Mail]