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  • All protesters detained in Minsk amid Belarus post-election chaos to be released by Friday morning – police chief

    Belarusian deputy police chief Aleksandr Barsukov has vowed that all of those who were taken into temporary custody amid unrest that has gripped Minsk since Sunday's presidential election will be released by 6am local time on Friday.

    The official made the announcement as he was visiting a temporary detention facility in one of the capital’s boroughs, amid allegations that officers were brutalizing detainees there. Barsukov has rejected the claim.

    Cities across Belarus have been swept by a wave of protests, occasionally escalating into violence and scuffles between demonstrators and law enforcement, after exit polls showed incumbent President Aleksander Lukashenko winning about 80 percent of the vote in Sunday's election. His critics, who rallied behind united opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, have insisted that the government rigged the tally, demanding Lukashenko's resignation. Around 6,000 people in total have been arrested across Belarus

  • Three rockets fall inside Iraqi base housing US troops

    Three unguided projectiles have landed on the premises of Al-Balad military airbase, which houses US troops, Iraqi authorities confirmed. No information on damage or potential casualties was immediately available.

    The military compound, located some 80 km (50 miles) north of the capital Baghdad, came under attack on Thursday. At least three projectiles landed on its premises, yet did not cause any "significant" damage, Iraq's Security Media Cell has said, promising to provide further detail to the public later.

  • Finland recommends face masks in public for first time

    The government in Finland recommended the use of face masks in public for the first time on Thursday as the number of coronavirus cases rises. Prime Minister Sanna Marin said masks should be worn in situations where social distancing is not possible, such as on public transport.

    Prior to Thursday, Finland had not officially backed the use of masks.

    Marin clarified the new quarantine rules for travelers from high-risk countries. She said the government had no legal grounds to order general quarantines.

    However, local health authorities and doctors were able to mandate coronavirus tests and quarantine decisions for travelers arriving from high-risk countries, Reuters quoted the PM as saying.

  • FBI will join Beirut blast probe, US diplomat says in Lebanon

    The FBI will join Lebanese and international investigators in a probe into last week’s massive Beirut explosion that killed at least 172 people, a senior US diplomat said on Thursday.

    US Under Secretary for Political Affairs David Hale said in Beirut this was at the invitation of Lebanese authorities, Reuters reports.

    The high-ranking US diplomat headed to Lebanon to stress the “urgent need” for the country to embrace fundamental reform, the State Department said. The visit comes in the aftermath of a blast that caused large-scale damage in the capital, Beirut.

  • N. Macedonia’s Zaev to form govt that ‘won’t veer away from road to EU’

    The president of North Macedonia on Thursday handed a mandate to pro-Western ex-PM Zoran Zaev to form a new government after his party bloc narrowly won a July 15 election.

    “I will lead a government that will not… veer away from the road leading to membership of the European Union after obtaining membership of NATO,” Zaev said.

    The Social Democratic leader will have 20 days to ensure the support of parties representing Macedonia’s ethnic Albanian minority before getting the green light to form a cabinet, Reuters said.

    Zaev, who had led the previous government of the former Yugoslav republic since 2017, put the country on a path toward EU membership by agreeing to add “North” to its name.

  • Taiwan to raise defense spending next year ‘to ensure national security & regional peace’

    Taiwan unveiled a T$42.1 billion ($1.4 billion) increase in next year’s planned defense spending on Thursday. President Tsai Ing-wen’s cabinet is proposing T$453.4 billion in military spending for the year beginning January 2021, compared to the T$411.3 billion budgeted for 2020 – an increase of 10.2 percent, Reuters said, citing its calculations.

    “The steady increase in the defense budget will facilitate the implementation of various military-building and war-preparation tasks … and ensure national security and regional peace and stability,” Taiwan’s Defense Ministry explained.

    On Monday, Taiwan said Chinese fighters briefly crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, the same day US health chief Alex Azar met Tsai in Taipei.

    After the budget announcement, China’s People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command said its forces had carried out combat drills in the Taiwan Strait and to the north and south of the island during Azar’s trip.