BBC 2024-02-18 04:31:23


Navalny’s team accuses Russia of ‘hiding’ his body

Alexei Navalny’s mother has been unable to recover his body after his death in an Arctic jail, a close aide to the dead Russian opposition leader says.

Kira Yarmysh said his mother, Lyudmila, was told his body would only be handed over once a post-mortem examination had been completed.

Navalny’s team believes the anti-corruption campaigner was murdered on the orders of President Vladimir Putin.

A rights group said 300 Russians had been arrested for laying tributes.

Western governments say the blame lies with Russian authorities for the 47-year-old’s sudden death, while foreign ministers from the G7 group of rich countries called on Russia to “urgently clarify” the circumstances surrounding it.

Mr Putin has not publicly commented since the Russian prison service announced on Friday that Navalny had been taken ill and died at the remote IK-3 prison in the Arctic Circle.

In the immediate aftermath, the Kremlin said it was aware and the president had been informed.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it rejected “biased and unrealistic” assessments over his cause of death made during a meeting with British officials on Saturday.

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Navalny was one of the most prominent faces of Russian opposition to Mr Putin’s regime and was serving a three-decade sentence for politically-motivated charges at the “Polar Wolf” penal colony in Kharp, about 1,200 miles (1,900 km) north of Moscow.

His mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, was reportedly told by the prison service he died on Friday after collapsing and falling unconscious during a walk, his team said.

She visited the colony on Saturday and was given an official notice stating the time of death as 14:17 local time (09:17 GMT), Ms Yarmysh said.

Another Navalny ally, Ivan Zhdanov, said the activist’s mother was told he died of “sudden death syndrome” – a generic, vague term for a condition which causes sudden death from cardiac arrest with no apparent cause.

His team said that Ms Navalnaya was told his body had been taken to the town of Salekhard, near the prison complex, but when she arrived the morgue was closed.

Prison officials reportedly told her an initial post-mortem examination was inconclusive and a second would have to be carried out.

Navalny’s allies claim his body is purposely being withheld by the Russian authorities so they can “cover traces”, and call for the body to be returned to his family “immediately”.

Meanwhile, more than 300 people have been arrested following vigils and gatherings across Russia, according to independent Russian human rights monitoring group OVD-Info.

OVD-Info, which reports on freedom of assembly in Russia, said arrests had taken place in 32 cities, with the largest numbers in the capital Moscow and St Petersburg.

On Saturday, police in Moscow detained about 15 people who had laid flowers and lit candles at the foot of the “Wall of Grief” monument to the victims of repression during the Soviet-era.

Protests are also being held near Russian embassies in many countries.

G7 foreign ministers meeting at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday observed a minute’s silence to pay tribute to the Russian activist.

British Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron said the UK would be “taking action”.

“When appalling human rights outrages like this take place, what we do is we look at whether there are individual people that are responsible and whether there are individual measures and actions we can take,” said Cameron, who added that he would not share in advance what measures the UK intended.

Also in Munich was Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who described Mr Putin as a “thug” and said it was “absurd” to perceive him as the “legitimate head of a Russian state”.

Navalny had been an outspoken critic of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which began two years ago next week.

Alexei Navalny: More coverage

  • OBITUARY: Russia’s most vociferous Putin critic
  • READ MORE: What we know about reports of Navalny’s death
  • BEHIND BARS: Life in notorious ‘Polar Wolf’ penal colony
  • IN HIS OWN WORDS: Navalny’s dark humour during dark times
  • STEVE ROSENBERG: Grief, defiance and hope among Navalny supporters
  • WATCH: Oscar-winning BBC documentary on Navalny

Zelensky warns of ‘artificial deficit’ of weapons

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has made an urgent appeal for more weapons to avoid a “catastrophic” situation in Europe.

An “artificial deficit of weapons” will only help Russia, Mr Zelensky told an international conference in Germany.

Ukrainian troops have been running out of ammunition as vital US support has been held up by supporters of former President Donald Trump in Congress.

Mr Zelensky said he was prepared to tour the front lines with Mr Trump.

“If Mr Trump will come, I am ready to go with him to the front line. What does it mean, the real war, not Instagram, the real war,” the Ukrainian president said.

President Joe Biden assured Mr Zelensky during a phone call on Saturday that the US was committed to supporting Ukraine’s fight against “Russia’s brutal invasion”, the White House said in a statement.

Mr Biden also said that earlier in the day “Ukraine’s military was forced to withdraw from Avdiivka after Ukrainian soldiers had to ration ammunition due to dwindling supplies as a result of congressional inaction, resulting in Russia’s first notable gains in months”.

Avdiivka – a gateway to the Russian-seized Donetsk regional capital in the east – had for months witnessed some of the fiercest fighting before the Ukrainian pull-out announced by the country’s top military commander.

For his part, President Zelensky said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that the two leaders discussed the current situation on the front line.

He said he was “grateful to have President Biden’s full support”, adding that he hoped Congress would make a “wise decision” on approving a stalled aid package for Ukraine.

US Vice-President Kamala Harris had earlier repeated assurances of support to Kyiv.

The US “can’t play political games” over the military aid, she said at a joint news conference with Mr Zelensky at the Munich Security Conference.

The gathering of world leaders and senior defence officials comes one week before the two-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The president told delegates Ukrainian efforts were “limited only by the sufficiency and length of range of our strength”.

“Keeping Ukraine in the artificial deficits of weapons, particularly in deficit of artillery and long-range capabilities allows Putin to adapt to the current intensity of the war,” he said.

“Ukrainians have proven that we can force Russia to retreat,” he said. “We can get our land back.”

He went on to warn that the Russian leader would make the next few years “catastrophic” for many more countries if the Western world did not stand up to him.

“Do not ask Ukraine when the war will end. Ask yourself, why is Putin still able to continue it?” Mr Zelensky told the conference.

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Ukraine is critically dependent on weapons supplies from the US and other Western allies to keep fighting Russia – a much bigger military force with an abundance of artillery ammunition.

UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron said help for Ukraine from the UK, the EU and the US would make a “real difference” to the fight against Russia.

But earlier this week, the US Senate approved a $95bn (£75bn) foreign aid package – including $60bn for Ukraine – after months of political wrangling, but it faces an uphill battle in the House of Representatives, where members of the Republican Party who are loyal to Mr Trump seem unwilling to pass the measure.

Outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told the Munich conference Europe should help Ukraine more because it was in its interests, and stop “all that whining and moaning about Trump”.

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said a Putin victory in Ukraine was “not only a tragedy for the Ukrainians but it sends not only a message to Putin but also to [Chinese President] Xi [Jinping], that when they use military force, they get what they want. So what happens in Ukraine today and can happen in Taiwan tomorrow. And therefore I strongly believe that it’s a good deal for the United States to support Ukraine. It’s not charity, it’s an investment into their own security.”

Trump hit where it hurts most in New York fraud ruling

Donald Trump’s latest legal loss hits him where it hurts most because it takes aim at his very identity.

For decades, he has marketed himself as a genius business mogul who made it big in one of the world’s most cut-throat cities.

That image – forever tied to New York deal-making and reinforced by relentless self-promotion – catapulted him to international fame, allowing him to reinvent himself first as a reality TV star and then ultimately president of the United States.

But Judge Arthur Engoron’s ruling in a civil fraud case – related to the inflation of property values and lying on financial statements to obtain better loan terms – undermines Mr Trump’s entire narrative. It instead paints him as a fraud and inflicts a massive blow to his business empire and wealth.

Donald Trump once remarked that the mind can overcome any obstacle. But what an obstacle this is.

The verdict significantly curtails the Trump Organization’s ability to do business in New York. He has personally been banned from holding any directorships for three years and his company cannot secure loans with financial institutions registered with the city during that time either.

He has been hit with an enormous financial penalty of $355m (£282m; €329m) – which jumps to more than $450m once interest is included – that far exceeds how much cash he has to hand. His business will continue to be be watched by an independent monitor, with a separate independent director of compliance also signing off on major business decisions.

In perhaps the only bright spot for the former president and Republican frontrunner, the Trump empire was spared from the equivalent of the corporate death penalty – the cancellation of its business licences.

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Mr Trump has for decades seemed to rally and recover from scandals and legal challenges that could irreparably damage others, so much so that he has been referred to as Teflon Don, because nothing sticks.

The nickname previously belonged to the mob boss John Gotti after he won a series of high-profile acquittals in the 1980s. But today’s verdict signals that Donald Trump’s luck, like Gotti’s, may be running out.

Judge Engoron noted Mr Trump and the other defendants’ lack of remorse and history of repeated and persistent fraud. In this case, he said the examples of fraud over more than a decade at the company “leap off the page and shock the conscience”.

Yet the defendants were incapable of admitting the error of their ways, he said, writing: “Their complete lack of contrition and remorse borders on pathological.”

Unsurprisingly, Mr Trump sees things very differently. He says he built a “perfect company” and rejects that he should be punished for fraud because banks were paid back in full. He continues to repeat claims, without evidence, that his legal challenges are just a plot by elite Democrats to keep him out of the White House.

According to Mr Trump’s estranged niece Mary Trump, the judge’s ruling amounts to the end of the Trump family legacy. “Today is an emotional day, but one thing is for certain: the Engoron decision is absolutely devastating for Donald,” she wrote on social media.

As the son of a real estate developer whose projects included middle-class apartment buildings in the outer boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, Mr Trump always dreamed of making a name for himself among the skyscrapers of Manhattan.

A seven-year spree of construction from 1976-1983, including the eponymous Trump Tower, solidified his reputation as a real estate giant in New York. ”Not many sons have been able to escape their fathers,” he told the New York Times in 1983 – the implication being that at 37, he already had.

And it’s true that the 1980s era of greed and excess was a prosperous time for a young developer with his ambition.

Trump Tower, with its prime location on 5th Avenue, put Donald Trump on the map. Once his reputation was established, he subsequently put his name on every project he did.

By the early 1990’s though, Donald Trump filed for several corporate bankruptcies and nearly lost it all.

It was during this time that Rich Herschlag, the chief engineer in the Manhattan Borough President’s office, worked with Mr Trump and his organization on the Riverside South project, a redevelopment in a former rail yard on the Upper West Side.

He says it meant “everything or darn close to everything” for Donald Trump to be seen as a successful real estate developer – and in particular build an empire from his father’s legacy.

“To watch it [potentially] gutted and decimated, I can’t image that’s anything less than an emotional horror,” he told the BBC.

  • How can Trump pay massive civil penalty?

It is not yet clear how Mr Trump will pay the nearly half a billion dollars that he is liable for and if that will involve selling any assets or businesses to raise the cash. His sprawling real estate empire in New York is valued by Forbes at $490m but there are many other properties around the country, including hotels, golf courses, condominiums and even a winery.

He will appeal against the penalty, which would put the decision on hold until a higher court reviews the case.

But if he wants to avoid paying the fine or having his personal assets seized while the appeal process plays out, he still has to deposit the full amount within 30 days or secure a costly bond.

Selling any of his prime Manhattan real estate would be an indignity for the former president – and a decision he would not take lightly.

Whether or not Donald Trump is able to recover from this financial shock, the outcome looks sure to significantly dent his fortune.

The ruling in the city where he rose to the top – while always remaining something of an outsider – is undoubtedly a big loss. And for more than six decades in New York real estate, there’s no figure Mr Trump has derided more than the “loser”.

India build on already large lead over England on day four

Men’s International Test Match Series – Day 4 of 5
IndiaIndia

First innings 445 all outSecond innings 220 for 2 wickets58.2 overs

LIVEEnglandEngland

First innings 319 all out

India lead England by 346 runs with 8 wickets remaining

The untraceable ingredients in skincare products

In the baffling world of skincare ingredients, where is the best place to start seeking sustainable skincare?
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Take a look at the ingredients list on the back of your moisturiser. First, count them. Then, ask yourself: do I know what they are? Mine, which is vegan and comes in a bottle made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic, contains 26 listed ingredients, half of which I can’t pronounce, let alone explain.

The longest among them is “acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer”. A quick internet search tells me this is a synthetic ingredient, commonly used in skincare as a thickening agent. But what is the environmental impact of this substance? Was it made using “green chemistry”, which aims to reduce environmentally harmful chemicals and processes? Is it biodegradeable, or will it persist in waterways or landfill indefinitely?

Short of a chemistry degree, understanding how to make sustainable skincare choices is no easy task for most consumers.

Information on the environmental and social impact of beauty ingredients is scarce, despite the prevalence of cosmetic use. There is little recent data on how many products are typically used each day, but one survey of 2,300 people from 2004 estimated women use around 12 beauty products a day, and men six. Much like the fashion industry, much of the $430bn (£340bn) beauty industry lacks the transparency to enable consumers to make informed decisions.

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“The beauty industry uses vast quantities of ingredients that are either grown, harvested and processed, or lab synthesised, but no numbers currently exist on the amount of ingredients used,” says Lorraine Dallmeier, chief executive of skincare school Formula Botanica.

Dallmeier runs online courses for people to formulate their own botanical skincare products. At entry level is the creation of an eye cream, for which you would need a water bath (on a stove or hot plate); two beakers (in the course I watched, one was filled with jojoba oil, the other with rose water); a whisk, a set of scales, two glass rods, a thermometer and a pot of emulsifier. “Everyone can formulate,” says Dallmeier.

I decide to give it a try, opting for the most basic product of all: a two-ingredient face oil, which doesn’t include water. If a skincare product contains water or water-based ingredients – as lotions do – it needs a preservative to remain stable and safe to use. The “recipe” is given to me by Zurich-based skincare brand Soeder, which controls its entire supply chain from ingredients to packaging in its own factory and laboratory, and makes most of its products using cold-pressed oils and natural ingredients such as wheat and Swiss honey.

“The biggest problem with the beauty industry [when it comes to ingredients] is that brands often use pre-mixes in their products, which are pre-made combinations of technical raw materials,” says Soeder co-founder Johan Åkerström. The constituent ingredients of these premixes do not have to be listed on the final product’s label.

“For example, if a premix contains a surfactant like coco glucoside, it might have been made using palm oil. However, the palm oil won’t be listed separately in the ingredients, making it unclear to consumers what went into the product,” says Åkerström. (Read more about how palm oil plantations can harm nature and the climate.)

Only final ingredients, rather than the original source of those ingredients, are required by the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients to be listed. The overall lack of clarity in labelling remains a challenge for consumers who want to know exactly what goes into the beauty products they use.

Not all the raw ingredients that go into skincare and cosmetic products appear on the label (Credit: Getty Images)

Soeder’s recipe for a face oil is relatively simple: combine five drops of hemp seed oil with 15 drops of sweet almond oil. Apply twice a day, after cleansing and before moisturising. “Oils are tricky to use, so it’s important to find an oil that suits your skin,” Åkerström says. “Hemp is very light and high in omega fatty acids, so this is a well-balanced, generic recipe – and we use these ingredients in our soap. Massage onto the hands first, not directly onto the face.”

The most significant thing that could be done to make an impact is to produce less, but that means selling less. And the industry isn’t ready to shrink yet – Tara Pelletier

But sourcing the ingredients was tricker. I found 100% (some oils are already mixed) cold-pressed sweet almond oil from a health store on my local high street, where a 100ml bottle cost £7 ($8.90). For pure hemp seed oil, I had to go online. A 500ml bottle was £8, plus £3 shipping ($10.20 plus $3.80 shipping). I found an own-brand equivalent face oil from a well-known high street store retailing at just £2.50 ($3.20), but a scan of the ingredients required the chemistry degree I don’t have.

I calculate these supplies could last for over 100 applications. Plus, once made and applied, the oil smelled delicious and left my skin feeling soft and nourished.

“You are paying for the quality of the ingredients, which are nourishing, rather than cheap synthetic fillers,” says Khandiz Joni, a former make-up artist turned sustainability consultant. “They’re often more concentrated so you need less of it. And only buy what you need, finish what you have and choose refills, which are often cheaper.”

When quality ingredients are more expensive, it’s worth considering why alternatives might be cheaper. “It’s like fast fashion,” says Joni. “It takes physical energy, from the planet and the people making the products we use – we need to respect that. So find the most environmentally and socially responsible brands you can afford.”

Joni advises seeking out brands that promote circularity, for example, by using waste ingredients, or using green chemistry in their formulation and manufacture, and who are transparent about their environmental impact from production, packaging and shipping. It’s always worth carefully researching any company’s environmental claims – read our guide on how to spot misleading green buzzwords.

The way that products are made can often have a greater climate impact than the origin of their ingredients (Credit: Getty Images)

The Los-Angeles-based brand Ilia, which was founded by Sasha Plavsic in 2011 and acquired by Clarins in 2022, aims to pay particular attention to the sourcing of its ingredients. “Clarins grows many of their ingredients, so we work directly with their regulatory team on ensuring our products fall within the necessary regulatory requirements, which include visibility on all ingredients down to trace elements,” says Plavsic. “Every ingredient can have issues in regards to sourcing – there is no perfect pathway.”

Danka Tamburic, professor of cosmetic science at the London College of Fashion, argues that the effect of the manufacturing process of raw materials is often overlooked in determining how sustainable a cosmetic product is.

“Natural ingredients could theoretically be more sustainable, but in most cases the carbon footprint is actually higher than for synthetic ones,” Tamburic says. “People forget that agriculture is very resource-demanding.”

Tamburic has studied the energy use in manufacturing emulsifiers, a crucial ingredient in many cosmetics. Emulsifiers help to blend ingredients that dissolve best in oils with those that dissolve best in water. The energy used in conventional manufacturing processes for emulsifiers had a much greater effect on carbon emissions than the origin of the raw materials. Energy can be reduced by more than 80% by making emulsions using a method that requires less heat, she found.

Tamburic adds that there’s often a misconception that “natural” equals “safe”. “Safety and sustainability are two different things, yet the proposed common solution to both is the use of natural ingredients. This is simply not valid every time. Natural [ingredients] are neither inherently more sustainable, nor safer; each case has to be analysed on its own merit.”

Long-term sustainability in the beauty industry may involve producing and selling fewer products, says Tara Pelletier (Credit: Getty Images)

Besides the ingredients, what happens to the packaging once used is another major challenge for the industry.

Cosmetics packaging is often made of hard-to-recycle plastics, and more than 90% of cosmetics packaging goes to landfill. Some brands take part in take-back schemes where suppliers will accept packaging customers choose to return. Ilia, for example, works with non-profit Pact Collective to recycle its hard-to-recycle packaging. Customers can send up to 10 empty beauty products per month to Ilia – from its own range or another brand’s – and Pact Collective says it will recycle it responsibly. Plavsic says that the partnership has diverted over 61,000 lbs (27.7 tonnes) of waste since launch.

The independent brand Meow Meow Tweet, also based in California, uses a closed-loop system that takes back empty bulk containers, sterilises and refills them, before selling again. Every month, Meow Meow Tweet chooses an organisation to support financially, prioritising small, mutual-aid, grassroots-focused groups, and those with queer or BIPOC (black, indigenous and people of colour) leadership. 

“What excites me is when smaller companies break through the uniform, manufactured and antiquated concepts of beauty and provide products that understand real people and how they exist in the world and their own skin,” says co-founder Tara Pelletier. “I think the beauty industry has a long way to go to get socially and environmentally responsible. The most significant thing that could be done to make an impact is to produce less, but that means selling less. And the industry isn’t ready to shrink yet.”

Dallmeier believes that pioneering challenger brands are changing the narrative around beauty, from telling people they’re inadequate to focusing more on skin and mental health. “For decades, we’ve been told that we’re not young enough, or attractive enough or smooth enough, that cellulite – a perfectly normal condition – is unsightly and can be cured, despite an evidence-based review concluding that anti-cellulite products don’t work,” she says. “And we know why they do this: to drive mass consumption.”

Joni agrees and points to beauty influencers on social media showing their product-filled bathroom shelves. “How can they get through all those products? Think of the expiry dates!”

For Joni, much of the difficulty for consumers in making better choices lies in the use of the word “sustainable” to define a type of skincare. The comparatively higher price points of “sustainable” beauty products inadvertently position them as luxury. Yet, for anything to be truly sustainable, it needs to be equitable.

“We need to ask ourselves, what is sustainable skincare? In short, it’s a way of thinking, and is as much down to the consumer as it is the brand. It’s not simply how ‘clean’ or ‘green’ or ‘eco’ a product is; if you are not using it, it’s not sustainable,” says Joni. “It’s about a complete mindset change.”

I take the opportunity to ask Joni about my own moisturiser and the lengthy ingredient Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer. “In short, it‘s a microplastic,” she says.

Time to change it then, but not until I’ve used it all up first.

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