The Guardian 2024-04-03 10:01:31


Victoria government blasted for rejecting truth-telling inquiry’s key recommendations

Yoorook Justice commissioners disappointed ‘crucial’ recommendation to immediately raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 without exceptions was rebuffed

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

Victoria’s First Peoples’ Assembly and the head of the state’s Indigenous truth-telling commission have criticised the Allan Labor government for seeking more time to consider overhauling child protection and criminal justice systems.

The government on Wednesday handed down its response to a report by the Yoorrook Justice Commission, which called for it to tackle systemic injustices experienced by First Nations people in the child protection and criminal justice sectors.

The government accepted four of the 46 recommendations, while 24 are supported in-principle. But it has rejected three recommendations, including immediately raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 without exceptions.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

The government has committed to raising the age to 12 by the end of the year, with exemptions for serious crimes, and flagged it would increase this to 14 by 2027.

Prof Eleanor Bourke, a Wergaia and Wamba Wamba woman and chair of Yoorrook, said the report provided a roadmap for the state to transform its child protection and criminal justice systems.

“Given the weight of evidence presented throughout the inquiry, which included deeply personal accounts from First Peoples witnesses of suffering which many continue to experience every day, Commissioners are disappointed by the government’s decision not to support three recommendations,” she said.

“Recommendations regarding the Bail Act and the minimum age of criminal responsibility and detention are crucial given the alarming over-incarceration of First Peoples adults and children, and ongoing deaths in custody.

“These recommendations were not made lightly. They go to the heart of addressing ongoing injustice against First Peoples.”

The assembly – the state’s democratically elected Indigenous body – said the government’s response revealed it was not moving “fast or hard enough” ahead of treaty negotiations, which are expected to begin in the coming months.

The assembly will negotiate a state-wide Indigenous treaty with the government. Traditional owner groups can also enter into separate treaties with the state.

Ngarra Murray, an assembly co-chair, said it was frustrating to face the
same sticking points.

“The justice system and child protection systems simply aren’t working for our families and we need urgent reforms now. We need real action now,” she said.

The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service also slammed the government’s response, describing it as “unworthy of the heart-wrenching truths” that the inquiry has heard.

Bourke said the inquiry’s five commissioners expected to see progress on the 15 recommendations the government flagged as under consideration.

These include major recommendations to create a standalone First Nations child protection system, transferring decision-making powers for some elements of the criminal justice system and creating an independent police complaints body.

Victoria’s treaty and First Peoples’ minister, Natalie Hutchins, said on Wednesday that many of the recommendations would be given further consideration during treaty negotiations.

She said the government would work with organisations to finalise its timeframe for implementing the supported recommendations.

Yoorrook is Australia’s first Indigenous truth-telling body and has the same powers as a royal commission.

Explore more on these topics

  • Indigenous Australians
  • Victoria
  • Victorian politics
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Queensland’s first festival pill-testing service finds ‘Canberra ketamine’ sold as MDMA

Rabbits Eat Lettuce festival, near Warwick, held Australia’s first multi-day festival clinic last weekend

  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

The organisers of Queensland’s first festival pill-testing service say many drugs sold as MDMA turned out to be other substances including one recently dubbed “Canberra ketamine”.

The Rabbits Eat Lettuce festival, near Warwick, held the first multi-day festival clinic in Australia on the weekend, after two patrons died at the same event in 2019.

The Pill Testing Australia clinical lead David Caldicott said it was hard to know if the clinic saved lives in 2024, but pointed to the lack of a need for paramedics as a win for safety.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

“We often see a lot of ambulance transports from festivals,” he said.

“You have to be quite naive to assume that people are going to this sort of event with the intention of behaving like members of a monastery. And frequently in Australia, sadly, tragically, we see people over-indulging and not using any restraint.”

According to data released by Queensland health on Wednesday, 257 festivalgoers used the testing clinic over the Easter long weekend.

Caldicott said that was equal to about 10% of attendees.

Of the 210 substances tested, some of them were not drugs at all, he said. The ones that were proved to be largely MDMA and ketamine. About 14 drugs were thrown away.

One of the major concerns was the level of drug “substitution”, because users do not know what they have actually taken. A lot of drugs sold as MDMA in fact proved to be dimethylpentylone or the drug 2-fluoro-2-oxo-phenylcyclohexylethylamine, known as “Canberra ketamine”. The latter was discovered in the ACT’s groundbreaking pill testing clinic last year.

“[Dimethylpentylone] is one of those drugs that people might think that they’ve got MDMA, and redose and redose making it potentially considerably more hazardous,” Caldicott said.

“The subjective effects of people consuming them can be quite different.”

There were no high-risk drugs found. Caldicott said purity was highly variable.

Some people fronted up to the clinic who didn’t even have drugs, just to have a chat about their drug use, Caldicott said. He said the clinic was able to persuade many attendees to take more precautions while using drugs.

The Queensland health minister, Shannon Fentiman, said the trial was about harm reduction.

“In 2021, there were over 2,200 drug-related deaths in Australia, which is 2,200 too many. That is why this initiative is important,” she said. “The drug checking service provided health advice and harm reduction information to hundreds of festivalgoers this weekend, meaning that those who did decide to take drugs did so in a more informed way.”

The average age of patrons who visited the service at the festival was between 28 and 30 years old.

The service is free, voluntary and confidential, and is part of a state government trial.

A fixed-site pill-testing service is also set to open in Bowen Hill in Brisbane this month. The state government plans to open a second fixed site once the location has been determined through a co-design process.

Explore more on these topics

  • Queensland
  • Health
  • Drugs
  • Drugs policy
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

‘People were screaming’: Hualien residents in shock after Taiwan earthquake

At least seven killed and 700 injured after 7.2-magnitude quake struck south-east of city on Wednesday morning

  • Taiwan earthquake: live updates

In the first moments after the huge quake hit, Lanni Hsu grabbed her dog and her family, and fled. Running down five flights of stairs, she headed outdoors to seek safety from falling objects.

Hsu lives in Hualien, a busy tourist city on Taiwan’s east coast, where the 7.2-magnitude quake struck on Wednesday morning. The death toll stood at seven, with 700 injured and hundreds trapped under rubble.

Three people among a group of seven on an early-morning hike through the hills that surround the city were crushed to death by boulders loosened by the earthquake, officials said. Separately, a truck driver died when his vehicle was hit by a landslide as it approached a tunnel in the area.

Hualien’s people are no stranger to deadly earthquakes. Even so, this was the most frightened Hsu had felt, she said.

While her panic-stricken neighbours wondered what to do next, they learned that the basement of their building was starting to flood. Fearing the building could collapse, they decided to leave.

As Hsu and her family drove in search of an open space for refuge, the city’s streets became clogged with traffic and emergency vehicles. She could hear the earth rumble as the aftershocks hit.

Wednesday’s earthquake, which hit south-east of Hualien, is the strongest in Taiwan in almost 25 years, and for intensity almost matches the “921” earthquake, named after the date it took place on 21 September 1999, which left more than 2,400 people dead.

Hualien’s people have faced many serious earthquakes in recent years. In September 2022, a 6.9-magnitude quake with its epicentre near the city toppled buildings and derailed a train, killing one person and cutting off power for thousands of residents.

Yashwanth Kuthati said he had just dropped his children at school and was driving away on his moped through Hualien’s Wednesday morning rush-hour traffic when the quake hit. First, he felt as if the air had been let out of his moped’s tyres. Then, within seconds, there was chaos as drivers around him slammed the brakes, or fell off their bikes amid the tremors. Even after reaching safety, he still felt distressed.

“We can see people screaming and the tremors have kept coming every few minutes, for many hours,” he said, adding it was the biggest earthquake he had witnessed in 12 years living in Taiwan. “I don’t think I can sleep inside the house tonight,” he added. “I feel very scared.”

Lai Hung-shu, a hostel owner in Hualien county, said she was used to earthquakes, but this one was different.

When the earthquake first started, we weren’t really exceptionally nervous, we get earthquakes all the time, but the thing that was different about this earthquake was the shaking felt much more violent and went on far longer than they typically do.”

Her hostel is in the mountains, and when the quake began she could hear the sound of rockfall coming down the mountain. Aftershocks continued all day, she said. She worried about the long-term effect on the tourist industry.

“The primary reason that we have visitors to our hostel is to see the beauty of Taroko national park, we won’t know how long it will take for repairs to be made or for guests to think about returning here.

“The road connecting Hualien with the north has been completely destroyed … this is the most serious damage to infrastructure we have ever seen.”

Buildings collapsed in Hualien, and one residential block was left listing at a 45-degree angle, as rescue workers used a cherry picker to free residents from the upper storeys.

In central Taipei, light damage was visible on some buildings on Wednesday morning, including at Liberty Square, one of the city’s most prominent tourist landmarks.

Outside the Howard Plaza hotel, passersby gazed up at the damage to the hotel’s exterior, where the earthquake had cracked its brickwork and dislodged some lettering on the hotel’s sign.

“I’ve never felt this kind of earthquake in LA, even though we have earthquakes pretty often,” said Mike Hung Hsu, a hotel guest visiting from the US who was woken by the temblor. “I used to live in Taiwan; in my memory we never had an earthquake like this one.”

He said his family had cancelled a planned sightseeing trip to Yilan county, near Hualien on the island’s east coast, as there was no way to travel by public transport.

Aftershocks from the Hualien quake continued for hours after the initial temblor, and tremors were reportedly felt as far away as Hong Kong, Fujian and Shanghai.

Kuthati, who rents scooters to tourists in Hualien and operates a guest hostel with his wife, expects a big impact on his income from lost tourist business, with many of the main roads into the city blocked and rail lines out of service. Taiwan is about to observe a four-day weekend for the Tomb Sweeping festival, when families traditionally pay their respects to their ancestors or travel to the island’s many nature spots.

Hualien usually draws large numbers of backpackers, hikers and cyclists seeking the stunning natural beauty of the surrounding landscape, including the nearby Taroko national park. But with landslides in the vicinity, many will probably stay home for the next few days.

Explore more on these topics

  • Taiwan
  • Earthquakes
  • Asia Pacific
  • features
Share

Reuse this content

Taiwan 7.2 magnitude earthquake: seven dead and hundreds injured amid landslides and collapsed buildings

People rescued from buildings in cities of Hualien and Taipei amid continuing aftershocks from Taiwan’s strongest quake in decades

  • Taiwan earthquake – live updates

Taiwan’s strongest earthquake in 25 years has killed seven and injured at least 700, causing building collapses, power outages and landslides on the island, and sparking initial tsunami warnings in southern Japan and the Philippines.

The quake, given a magnitude of 7.2 by Taiwan’s earthquake monitoring agency and 7.4 by the US, struck close to the popular tourist city of Hualien, on Taiwan’s eastern coast, damaging buildings and trapping people amid aftershocks following the quake, which started at 7.58am.

Videos on social media showed children being rescued from collapsed residential buildings. One five-storey building in Hualien appeared heavily damaged, its first floor collapsed and the bulk of the building leaning at a 45-degree angle.

Taiwan’s Centre for Science and Technology (CST) said people and vehicles were trapped in the Dachingshui tunnel. Train lines were also damaged, and schools and workplaces were closed across large areas of the city.

Witnesses in Hualien described driving while rocks dislodged from nearby mountains fell down around them, while others rushed outside after feeling the strength of the tremors.

Further north, part of the headland of Guishan Island, a tourist attraction also known as Turtle Island because of its shape, slid into the sea. In the capital, Taipei, several people were rescued from a partially collapsed warehouse, and tiles fell from buildings.

Although it was measured at 7.7 in Japan, Taiwan’s earthquake monitoring agency gave the magnitude of Wednesday’s quake as 7.2, making it Taiwan’s strongest since 1999, when a 7.6-magnitude quake 93 miles (150 km) south of Taipei killed 2,400 and injured 10,000.

Hualien’s last big quake was in 2022, when a 6.9-magnitude tremblor toppled buildings and derailed a train, killing one person and cutting off power for thousands of residents.

Wednesday’s quake caused TSMC, Taiwan’s leading semiconductor manufacturer, that is responsible for the production of most of the world’s advanced semiconductors, to evacuate its production lines, according to Bloomberg News.

Taiwan’s CST said more than 15 aftershocks exceeding a magnitude of 4.0 had occurred so far, but the magnitude has been decreasing.

Damage was visible on some buildings in central Taipei, such as outside the Howard Plaza hotel, where the earthquake had damaged brickwork and dislodged some of the lettering on the hotel’s sign.

Mike Hung Hsu, a hotel guest from the US, said he was woken up by the earthquake. “I’ve never felt this kind of earthquake in LA, even though we have earthquakes pretty often,” he said. “I used to live in Taiwan, in my memory we never had an earthquake like this one.”

Japanese media initially said the quake could trigger waves as high as three metres in some areas of Okinawa prefecture, located roughly 1,600km south of Tokyo, but the forecasts were later downgraded. Japan’s meteorological agency lifted all tsunami advisories at around noon local time, while the chief cabinet secretary, Yoshimasa Hayashi, said there had been no reports of injury or damage.

However, an official from Japan’s meteorological agency urged people to continue evacuating until the advisory was lifted. Some residents of the main Okinawa island had evacuated to a nearby US military base, media reports said, while footage showed others watching the sea from the safety of high ground in the prefectural capital, Naha.

The agency has warned that aftershocks, with a similar intensity to those felt in Taiwan, may be likely over the next week.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) said the quake’s epicentre was 18km (11 miles) south of Taiwan’s Hualien city at a depth of 34.8km.

The Philippines’ seismology agency on Wednesday issued a tsunami warning for coastal areas fronting the Pacific Ocean, saying they were expected to experience “high tsunami waves” but later lifted the warning.

It has only been three months since a magnitude-7.6 quake and tsunami killed 244 people and caused widespread damage on the Noto peninsula in Ishikawa prefecture on the Japan Sea coast.

Japan’s biggest earthquake on record was a massive 9.0-magnitude undersea jolt in March 2011 off Japan’s northeast coast, which triggered a tsunami that left around 18,500 people dead or missing.

Additional reporting from Gregor Stuart Hunter

Explore more on these topics

  • Taiwan
  • Asia Pacific
  • Japan
  • Earthquakes
  • Tsunamis
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

‘No choice’: Ukraine eyes Kerch bridge in Crimea for drone attack

Third attack on Kerch bridge between Russia and occupied Crimea ‘inevitable’, say Ukraine’s military intelligence

They have become a familiar sight in the skies above parts of Russia: long-range enemy drones, buzzing their way to another target. In the biggest Ukrainian onslaught inside Russian territory since Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion two years ago, Ukraine has in recent weeks carried out a series of attacks on Russian oil refineries and ports. On Tuesday, it hit a refinery and drone factory in the industrial region of Tatarstan – more than 800 miles from the border.

The Ukrainian spy agency behind these drone strikes has its eyes on another target: the 12-mile long Kerch bridge connecting occupied Crimea with Russia. Senior officials from Ukraine’s HUR military intelligence service indicate it is plotting a third attempt on the bridge, after two previous attempts to blow it up, claiming its destruction is “inevitable”.

For Putin, the bridge is a tangible reminder of what he sees as one of his greatest political achievements: the peninsula’s 2014 “return” to Russia using undercover Russian troops and a sham referendum.

For Kyiv, the bridge is equally a hated symbol of the Kremlin’s illegal annexation. Its destruction would strengthen Ukraine’s campaign to liberate Crimea and raise morale on and off the battlefield, where Kyiv’s forces are gradually being pushed back.

How any Ukrainian attack would unfold is unclear and there are serious doubts about whether the HUR is capable of pulling off a special operation against such a well-defended and obvious target. Russia has taken extensive measures to protect the bridge, strengthening anti-aircraft defences and deploying a “target barge” as a decoy for incoming guided missiles.

The HUR thinks it can disable the bridge soon. “We will do it in the first half of 2024,” one official told the Guardian, adding that Kyrylo Budanov, the head of the main directorate of intelligence, already had “most of the means to carry out this goal”. He was following a plan approved by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to “minimise” Russia’s naval presence in the Black Sea.

Over the past five months Ukraine has sunk seven landing boats and large ships belonging to Moscow’s Black Sea fleet. The latest, the Sergei Kotov, capsized earlier this month after a night-time raid involving 10 Ukrainian Magura V5 amphibious drones packed with explosives as it was on patrol south of the Kerch bridge. HUR officials indicated this was a “shaping operation” prior to another attack on the crossing.

The bridge has been hit and repaired twice before. A 3am raid by Ukrainian sea drones last July caused extensive damage to the road section, which runs parallel to a separate railway section used by Russia’s military to move tanks and supplies. In October 2022 an explosion, Russia said from a bomb smuggled on to a truck, caused several spans of roadway to fall into the water.

If the bridge were permanently compromised, Moscow would be forced to transport military supplies by road through occupied southern Ukraine. The route would go via Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces, which Russia partly captured in spring 2022. Ukrainian officials believe this would significantly impair the Kremlin’s ability to carry out offensives at a time when its ground forces are advancing.

The officials indicated that western weapons would allow Ukraine to destroy the bridge more speedily and Zelenskiy has repeatedly asked Berlin for its long-range Taurus missile system. Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has so far refused, arguing that this would be tantamount to his country taking a direct role in the war with Russia, and a dangerous escalation.

Earlier this month pro-Kremlin Russian channels released an intercepted phone call in which high-ranking German military officials discussed the capabilities of Taurus. The experts estimated that 10 to 20 missiles would probably be enough to destroy the bridge.

Budanov’s deputy, Maj Gen Vadym Skybytskyi, said he believed European politicians were wrong to fear escalation. “What does escalation mean for us? We have had two years of war. It’s an everyday procedure,” he said. “Russia bombs our territory. It hits power stations and civilian infrastructure.”

He said victory was currently impossible on the battlefield, given Russia’s military superiority and a shortage on the Ukrainian side of artillery shells and fighter jets, and suggested Kyiv had “no choice” but to take the fight to targets deep behind enemy lines, including military infrastructure, command and control centres and industrial production sites that made “weapons and munitions”. Kyiv used a Nato-standard procedure known as centre of gravity or Cog, he added – a model where outsized results can be achieved by selecting and then eliminating a few carefully picked high-value targets.

In recent months the HUR has sought to wipe out Russia’s refining capacity. Its long-range drones have hit Russian oil terminals in Putin’s home city of St Petersburg, more than 1,000km (621 miles) from Ukraine’s border. There have been attacks in the Oryol region, a blast on a train in the Urals city of Nizhny Tagil, and a strike in the Baltic port of Ust-Luga. The Tuapse oil refinery on the Black Sea also caught fire. On Friday the Financial Times reported that Washington had urged Kyiv to halt drone strikes on Russian energy infrastructure for fear of driving up global oil prices.

During Russia’s elections last week there were explosions at fuel facilities in the Oryol and Nizhny Novgorod regions, and in the border region of Belgorod, where pro-Ukrainian Russian fighters using armoured vehicles carried out several separate border incursions. One drone was shot down near Moscow, its mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, said.

Ukraine planned to strike more Russian targets, Skybytskyi claimed, with undercover agents playing a part. Some were “Russians with Ukrainian roots”; others were non-ideological Russians recruited in exchange for payments. The “pool” was so large the HUR could pick and choose candidates for sabotage operations, he said.

But Russia’s own spy agencies were now back after a period on the back foot, the general added. They had adapted their techniques, he suggested. After Putin’s full-scale invasion, western governments, including the UK, expelled large numbers of career Russian intelligence officers stationed abroad under diplomatic cover.

Last month there was apparent proof of the Kremlin’s renewed confidence when a Russian pilot who defected to Ukraine was found murdered in a Spanish seaside resort. Brigadier-general Dmytro Timkov, the HUR’s top security official, said Maksim Kuzminov had been warned not to leave Ukraine for the EU. He ignored the advice, Timkov said.

Timkov compared Ukraine to a patient on life support, in desperate need of further assistance. “We are attached to a drip. We have enough drugs to stay alive. But if the west wants us to win we need the full treatment,” he said. “Otherwise we fall down.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Ukraine
  • Crimea
  • Russia
  • Europe
  • Drones (military)
  • features
Share

Reuse this content

‘No choice’: Ukraine eyes Kerch bridge in Crimea for drone attack

Third attack on Kerch bridge between Russia and occupied Crimea ‘inevitable’, say Ukraine’s military intelligence

They have become a familiar sight in the skies above parts of Russia: long-range enemy drones, buzzing their way to another target. In the biggest Ukrainian onslaught inside Russian territory since Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion two years ago, Ukraine has in recent weeks carried out a series of attacks on Russian oil refineries and ports. On Tuesday, it hit a refinery and drone factory in the industrial region of Tatarstan – more than 800 miles from the border.

The Ukrainian spy agency behind these drone strikes has its eyes on another target: the 12-mile long Kerch bridge connecting occupied Crimea with Russia. Senior officials from Ukraine’s HUR military intelligence service indicate it is plotting a third attempt on the bridge, after two previous attempts to blow it up, claiming its destruction is “inevitable”.

For Putin, the bridge is a tangible reminder of what he sees as one of his greatest political achievements: the peninsula’s 2014 “return” to Russia using undercover Russian troops and a sham referendum.

For Kyiv, the bridge is equally a hated symbol of the Kremlin’s illegal annexation. Its destruction would strengthen Ukraine’s campaign to liberate Crimea and raise morale on and off the battlefield, where Kyiv’s forces are gradually being pushed back.

How any Ukrainian attack would unfold is unclear and there are serious doubts about whether the HUR is capable of pulling off a special operation against such a well-defended and obvious target. Russia has taken extensive measures to protect the bridge, strengthening anti-aircraft defences and deploying a “target barge” as a decoy for incoming guided missiles.

The HUR thinks it can disable the bridge soon. “We will do it in the first half of 2024,” one official told the Guardian, adding that Kyrylo Budanov, the head of the main directorate of intelligence, already had “most of the means to carry out this goal”. He was following a plan approved by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to “minimise” Russia’s naval presence in the Black Sea.

Over the past five months Ukraine has sunk seven landing boats and large ships belonging to Moscow’s Black Sea fleet. The latest, the Sergei Kotov, capsized earlier this month after a night-time raid involving 10 Ukrainian Magura V5 amphibious drones packed with explosives as it was on patrol south of the Kerch bridge. HUR officials indicated this was a “shaping operation” prior to another attack on the crossing.

The bridge has been hit and repaired twice before. A 3am raid by Ukrainian sea drones last July caused extensive damage to the road section, which runs parallel to a separate railway section used by Russia’s military to move tanks and supplies. In October 2022 an explosion, Russia said from a bomb smuggled on to a truck, caused several spans of roadway to fall into the water.

If the bridge were permanently compromised, Moscow would be forced to transport military supplies by road through occupied southern Ukraine. The route would go via Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces, which Russia partly captured in spring 2022. Ukrainian officials believe this would significantly impair the Kremlin’s ability to carry out offensives at a time when its ground forces are advancing.

The officials indicated that western weapons would allow Ukraine to destroy the bridge more speedily and Zelenskiy has repeatedly asked Berlin for its long-range Taurus missile system. Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has so far refused, arguing that this would be tantamount to his country taking a direct role in the war with Russia, and a dangerous escalation.

Earlier this month pro-Kremlin Russian channels released an intercepted phone call in which high-ranking German military officials discussed the capabilities of Taurus. The experts estimated that 10 to 20 missiles would probably be enough to destroy the bridge.

Budanov’s deputy, Maj Gen Vadym Skybytskyi, said he believed European politicians were wrong to fear escalation. “What does escalation mean for us? We have had two years of war. It’s an everyday procedure,” he said. “Russia bombs our territory. It hits power stations and civilian infrastructure.”

He said victory was currently impossible on the battlefield, given Russia’s military superiority and a shortage on the Ukrainian side of artillery shells and fighter jets, and suggested Kyiv had “no choice” but to take the fight to targets deep behind enemy lines, including military infrastructure, command and control centres and industrial production sites that made “weapons and munitions”. Kyiv used a Nato-standard procedure known as centre of gravity or Cog, he added – a model where outsized results can be achieved by selecting and then eliminating a few carefully picked high-value targets.

In recent months the HUR has sought to wipe out Russia’s refining capacity. Its long-range drones have hit Russian oil terminals in Putin’s home city of St Petersburg, more than 1,000km (621 miles) from Ukraine’s border. There have been attacks in the Oryol region, a blast on a train in the Urals city of Nizhny Tagil, and a strike in the Baltic port of Ust-Luga. The Tuapse oil refinery on the Black Sea also caught fire. On Friday the Financial Times reported that Washington had urged Kyiv to halt drone strikes on Russian energy infrastructure for fear of driving up global oil prices.

During Russia’s elections last week there were explosions at fuel facilities in the Oryol and Nizhny Novgorod regions, and in the border region of Belgorod, where pro-Ukrainian Russian fighters using armoured vehicles carried out several separate border incursions. One drone was shot down near Moscow, its mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, said.

Ukraine planned to strike more Russian targets, Skybytskyi claimed, with undercover agents playing a part. Some were “Russians with Ukrainian roots”; others were non-ideological Russians recruited in exchange for payments. The “pool” was so large the HUR could pick and choose candidates for sabotage operations, he said.

But Russia’s own spy agencies were now back after a period on the back foot, the general added. They had adapted their techniques, he suggested. After Putin’s full-scale invasion, western governments, including the UK, expelled large numbers of career Russian intelligence officers stationed abroad under diplomatic cover.

Last month there was apparent proof of the Kremlin’s renewed confidence when a Russian pilot who defected to Ukraine was found murdered in a Spanish seaside resort. Brigadier-general Dmytro Timkov, the HUR’s top security official, said Maksim Kuzminov had been warned not to leave Ukraine for the EU. He ignored the advice, Timkov said.

Timkov compared Ukraine to a patient on life support, in desperate need of further assistance. “We are attached to a drip. We have enough drugs to stay alive. But if the west wants us to win we need the full treatment,” he said. “Otherwise we fall down.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Ukraine
  • Crimea
  • Russia
  • Europe
  • Drones (military)
  • features
Share

Reuse this content

Melbourne private school Kilvington grammar charged over death of student after Vietnam excursion

Worksafe also charged World Travel Expeditions after Lachlan Cook, 16, died in hospital following health complications

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

A travel company and a Melbourne private school have been charged over the death of a student who became unwell on a school trip.

The Kilvington grammar school student, Lachlan Cook, 16, suffered diabetes complications during a trip to Vietnam in September 2019 and later died in hospital in Melbourne.

His death was found to have been preventable by a coroner in 2023.

A court previously heard the boy had been self-managing his type 1 diabetes when he fell ill and was taken to hospital 24 hours after first showing symptoms. He suffered a heart attack and was flown back to the Royal Children’s hospital in Melbourne, with his life support switched off in October 2019.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

On Wednesday, WorkSafe said it has charged the school and the travel company, World Challenge Expeditions Pty Ltd.

World Travel Expeditions has been charged with three counts of failing to ensure that persons other than employees were not exposed to health and safety risks under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The regulator alleges the company failed, so far as was reasonably practicable, to reduce the risk of illness or death to participating students, including those with diabetes.

The school is also facing one charge of failing to ensure that persons other than employees were not exposed to health and safety risks, WorkSafe said.

The case is due to be heard in the Melbourne magistrates court on 30 April.

Explore more on these topics

  • Victoria
  • Health
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Melbourne men allegedly sought $2.5m worth of phones to be shipped to Russia and other countries

Victoria police say four men were charged with nearly 100 fraud and deception offences

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

Members of a Melbourne organised crime syndicate have been charged over alleged complex frauds totalling almost $4m, including sending phones to Russia.

Financial crime detectives from Victoria police arrested four men on Wednesday and charged them with almost 100 fraud and deception offences after an 18-month investigation.

The quartet were alleged to have fraudulently obtained or attempted to obtain more than $2.5m worth of mobile phones that were destined to be shipped overseas, primarily to Russia.

They also allegedly fraudulently obtained two mortgages and a car worth at least $1.36m.

A 38-year-old man from Keilor Downs faces 37 charges of obtaining property by deception, knowingly dealing with proceeds and property suspected of crime.

His alleged accomplice, a 33-year-old Taylors Lakes man, was charged with 37 counts of obtaining property by deception, three counts of gaining financial advantage by deception, dealing with proceeds of crime and three counts of dealing with property suspected to be proceeds of crime.

A 32-year-old man from Sydenham was charged with negligently dealing with proceeds of crime and property suspected of being proceeds of crime.

A 69-year-old Melton man also faces 12 counts of obtaining property by deception, recklessly dealing with proceeds of crime and deal property suspected proceeds of crime.

All four were released on bail and were set to appear at the Melbourne magistrates court on Monday.

Explore more on these topics

  • Victoria
  • Australian police and policing
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Endangered Greek dialect is ‘living bridge’ to ancient world, researchers say

Romeyka descended from ancient Greek but may die out as it has no written form and is spoken by only a few thousand people

An endangered form of Greek that is spoken by only a few thousand people in remote mountain villages of northern Turkey has been described as a “living bridge” to the ancient world, after researchers identified characteristics that have more in common with the language of Homer than with modern Greek.

The precise number of speakers of Romeyka is hard to quantify. It has no written form, but has survived orally in the mountain villages around Trabzon, near the Black Sea coast.

With its remaining speakers ageing, the dialect is now threatened with extinction, leading a University of Cambridge academic to launch a “last chance” crowdsourcing tool to record its unique linguistic structures before it is too late.

The Crowdsourcing Romeyka project invites native speakers across the world to upload a recording of themselves talking in the language. Ioanna Sitaridou, a professor of Spanish and historical linguistics, said she anticipated that many were likely to be in the US and Australia, as well as spread across Europe.

“There is a very significant diaspora which is separated by religion and national identity [from the communities in Turkey], but still shares so much,” she said.

Sitaridou has established that rather than having developed from modern Greek, Romeyka descended from the Hellenistic form of the language spoken in the centuries before Christ, and shares some key features with ancient Greek.

An example is the infinitive form of the verb, which in Romeyka still uses the form found in Ancient Greek. So while speakers of Modern Greek would say “I want that I go”, Romeyka preserves the ancient form “I want to go”. This structure had become obsolete in all other Greek varieties by early medieval times.

As a result, Sitaridou has concluded that “Romeyka is a sister, rather than a daughter, of modern Greek”, a finding she says disrupts the claim that modern Greek is an “isolate” language, meaning it is unrelated to any other European language.

Modern Greek and Romeyka are not mutually intelligible, says the academic; she suggests that an apt comparison would be speakers of Portuguese and Italian, both of which derive from Vulgar Latin rather than from each other.

Though the history of the Greek presence in the Black Sea is not always easy to disentangle from legend, the Greek language expanded with the spread of Christianity. “Conversion to Islam across Asia Minor was usually accompanied by a linguistic shift to Turkish, but communities in the valleys retained Romeyka,” Sitaridou said.

In contrast, Greek-speaking communities who remained Christian grew closer to modern Greek, especially because of extensive schooling in Greek in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The 1923 treaty of Lausanne saw Turkey and Greece exchange their Christian and Muslim populations, but because the Romeyka-speaking communities in the Trabzon region are Muslim, they remained in their homeland.

As a result of extensive contact with Turkish, cultural stigma and migration, however, the language is now endangered, according to Sitaridou. A high proportion of native speakers in the region are over 65, and fewer young people learn the language.

Does she think the online initiative could help save Romeyka as a living language? “Obviously I love all languages and I would like to see them preserved,” she said. “But I’m not one of these people who think languages have to be preserved at all costs. And at the end of the day, it’s not exactly down to me. If the speakers decide to pass it on, great. If the speakers choose not to pass it on, it’s their choice.

“What is very important for these [minority] languages and for these speech communities is to keep for themselves a sense of belonging and who they are. Because it connects them to their past, whatever way you see your past.

“When speakers can speak their home languages they feel seen and thus they feel more connected to the rest of society. On the other hand, not speaking the heritage or minority languages creates some form of trauma which … undermines integration.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Language
  • Turkey
  • Greece
  • Europe
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Endangered Greek dialect is ‘living bridge’ to ancient world, researchers say

Romeyka descended from ancient Greek but may die out as it has no written form and is spoken by only a few thousand people

An endangered form of Greek that is spoken by only a few thousand people in remote mountain villages of northern Turkey has been described as a “living bridge” to the ancient world, after researchers identified characteristics that have more in common with the language of Homer than with modern Greek.

The precise number of speakers of Romeyka is hard to quantify. It has no written form, but has survived orally in the mountain villages around Trabzon, near the Black Sea coast.

With its remaining speakers ageing, the dialect is now threatened with extinction, leading a University of Cambridge academic to launch a “last chance” crowdsourcing tool to record its unique linguistic structures before it is too late.

The Crowdsourcing Romeyka project invites native speakers across the world to upload a recording of themselves talking in the language. Ioanna Sitaridou, a professor of Spanish and historical linguistics, said she anticipated that many were likely to be in the US and Australia, as well as spread across Europe.

“There is a very significant diaspora which is separated by religion and national identity [from the communities in Turkey], but still shares so much,” she said.

Sitaridou has established that rather than having developed from modern Greek, Romeyka descended from the Hellenistic form of the language spoken in the centuries before Christ, and shares some key features with ancient Greek.

An example is the infinitive form of the verb, which in Romeyka still uses the form found in Ancient Greek. So while speakers of Modern Greek would say “I want that I go”, Romeyka preserves the ancient form “I want to go”. This structure had become obsolete in all other Greek varieties by early medieval times.

As a result, Sitaridou has concluded that “Romeyka is a sister, rather than a daughter, of modern Greek”, a finding she says disrupts the claim that modern Greek is an “isolate” language, meaning it is unrelated to any other European language.

Modern Greek and Romeyka are not mutually intelligible, says the academic; she suggests that an apt comparison would be speakers of Portuguese and Italian, both of which derive from Vulgar Latin rather than from each other.

Though the history of the Greek presence in the Black Sea is not always easy to disentangle from legend, the Greek language expanded with the spread of Christianity. “Conversion to Islam across Asia Minor was usually accompanied by a linguistic shift to Turkish, but communities in the valleys retained Romeyka,” Sitaridou said.

In contrast, Greek-speaking communities who remained Christian grew closer to modern Greek, especially because of extensive schooling in Greek in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The 1923 treaty of Lausanne saw Turkey and Greece exchange their Christian and Muslim populations, but because the Romeyka-speaking communities in the Trabzon region are Muslim, they remained in their homeland.

As a result of extensive contact with Turkish, cultural stigma and migration, however, the language is now endangered, according to Sitaridou. A high proportion of native speakers in the region are over 65, and fewer young people learn the language.

Does she think the online initiative could help save Romeyka as a living language? “Obviously I love all languages and I would like to see them preserved,” she said. “But I’m not one of these people who think languages have to be preserved at all costs. And at the end of the day, it’s not exactly down to me. If the speakers decide to pass it on, great. If the speakers choose not to pass it on, it’s their choice.

“What is very important for these [minority] languages and for these speech communities is to keep for themselves a sense of belonging and who they are. Because it connects them to their past, whatever way you see your past.

“When speakers can speak their home languages they feel seen and thus they feel more connected to the rest of society. On the other hand, not speaking the heritage or minority languages creates some form of trauma which … undermines integration.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Language
  • Turkey
  • Greece
  • Europe
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Charges laid after presumed Queensland car-crash victim found to have been shot

Police announce manslaughter charge after initially believing man, 21, had died as a result of crash at Booie, near Kingaroy

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

A man’s death on a Queensland property was initially treated as a car crash fatality by police – who have now charged another man with manslaughter after the discovery of a gunshot wound during the postmortem process.

Investigators initially believed a 21-year-old Nanango man died in the 21 March crash after hitting a fence pole on a private property on Kingaroy Barkers Creek Road at Booie, near Kingaroy.

But after allegedly discovering a gunshot wound on his upper body, police have charged a 38-year-old Kingaroy man with one count of manslaughter and insecure storage of weapons.

Police believe the 21-year-old man had arrived at the property about 11.30pm that night, and was later located in his car unconscious.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

Police said a second man, believed to be a passenger, fled the vehicle before emergency services arrived.

The Queensland ambulance service transported the unconscious man to hospital where he later died.

Det acting Insp Renée Garske said the man was not known to those living at the property.

Garske said investigations were continuing over the incident.

“As a result of postmortem investigations, it was identified that the male person sustained a gunshot wound … to the upper body,” she alleged.

“It’s a horrific set of circumstances for emergency services to respond to any incident involving the death of a person.

“Certainly our hearts go out to the families involved.”

The 38-year-old man has been refused bail and will appear at the Murgon magistrates court on 3 April.

Police have urged anyone with further information to contact Crime Stoppers.

Explore more on these topics

  • Queensland
  • Australian police and policing
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

NSW Catholic high school teacher charged with having sex with 17-year-old student

A 39-year old man at All Saints’ College in Maitland was charged with nine counts of sexual intercourse with a person under his care

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

A Catholic high school teacher in the New South Wales Hunter region has been charged with having sex with a 17-year-old student following a police investigation.

Police said they arrested the 39-year-old teacher at All Saints’ College in Maitland at the local police station on 28 March. He was charged with nine counts of sexual intercourse with a person under his care.

The teacher was granted conditional bail to appear before Maitland local court at the end of the month, police said.

The man was placed on “administrative leave” last month after being accused of serious misconduct.

At the time, the Maitland-Newcastle Catholic diocese released a statement saying the school’s leadership had been made aware of the allegations.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

The allegations were immediately reported to the relevant authorities, the diocese said.

The diocese this week said the teacher remained on leave.

“The diocese of Maitland-Newcastle places the safeguarding of children and vulnerable persons first,” it said in a statement. “All allegations are responded to and taken seriously.”

The diocese said it “appreciates the responsibility of updating” the school community.

“However, this must be balanced against ensuring the integrity of the investigations being undertaken and protecting the privacy of all other parties,” it said. “No further comment can be provided at this time.”

The diocese said it would take “appropriate action” against the teacher once the investigation was completed.

It said it was keeping the Office of the Children’s Guardian – the state’s child safety authority – updated on the situation.

The Office of the Children’s Guardian has been contacted for comment.

Explore more on these topics

  • New South Wales
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Arthur Streeton painting of Sydney Harbour shown in public for first time in 130 years

Painting by influential Australian impressionist, unseen for more than a century, has been unveiled ahead of auction where it is expected to fetch up to $1.5m

A masterpiece by Australian impressionist Arthur Streeton not seen by the public for 130 years has been unveiled.

The oil painting Sunlight at the Camp, painted in 1894, has gone on show in Melbourne before its auction in Sydney, where it is expected to fetch up to $1.5m.

The work is highly significant in Streeton’s career and for the history of Australian art, chairman of Smith and Singer auction house Geoffrey Smith said on Wednesday.

“Very few works of this subject, date and scale remain in private ownership and its re-emergence for public auction represents almost the last opportunity to acquire a work of such beauty and stature,” he said.

Streeton was one of Australia’s most influential landscape painters and a leading member of the Heidelberg school with fellow artists Tom Roberts, Frederick McCubbin and Charles Conder.

Their work later became known as Australian impressionism, the nation’s first distinctive movement in painting.

Streeton painted Sunlight at the Camp in 1894 when he was in his late 20s and living in an artist’s camp at Sirius Cove alongside Tom Roberts, in the newly established municipality of Mosman.

It was the golden age of Australian impressionism, a time when the most creative visual artists in Australia worked side by side to record the landscape they were immersed in, said Smith, painting directly from nature in a way that would change the course of Australian art.

“It was that idea of Australians painting Australia, capturing the moment and the essence of a place and a time,” Smith said.

“That’s the excitement – when I look at a painting such as this, I feel that thrill.”

Streeton’s view of Sydney Harbour was painted quickly with impressionistic brushstrokes, in order to record the hues of changing light hitting the rocks, and their reflections on the water.

The painting was last exhibited in 1894 and was owned by art collector, the late Ruth Simon, for decades, with most of her collection going to the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

Sunlight at the Camp will go under the hammer as part of an auction of Australian art by Smith and Singer, formerly Sotheby’s Australia, in Sydney on 17 April.

It is expected to fetch a total of almost $13m across 76 lots.

Explore more on these topics

  • Australian art
  • Art
  • Painting
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Botswana threatens to send 20,000 elephants to Germany in trophy hunting row

President Mokgweetsi Masisi voices anger over Berlin’s opposition to the import of trophies over poaching concerns

Botswana’s president has threatened to send 20,000 elephants to Germany amid a dispute over the import of hunting trophies.

Earlier this year Germany’s environment ministry raised the possibility of stricter limits on the import of hunting trophies over poaching concerns. But a ban on the import of hunting trophies would only impoverish Botswanans, Mokgweetsi Masisi told German daily Bild.

The African leader argued that conservation efforts have led to an explosion in the number of elephants and that hunting is an important means to keep them in check. Botswana banned trophy hunting in 2014 but lifted the restrictions in 2019 under pressure from local communities. The country now issues annual hunting quotas.

Herds of elephants were causing damage to property, eating crops and trampling residents, Masisi told the German paper.

“It is very easy to sit in Berlin and have an opinion about our affairs in Botswana. We are paying the price for preserving these animals for the world,” he said.

Germans should “live together with the animals, in the way you are trying to tell us to”.

“This is not a joke,” said Masisi, whose country has seen its elephant population grow to some 130,000.

Botswana, home of the world’s largest elephant population, has already offered 8,000 elephants to Angola and another 500 to Mozambique, as it seeks to tackle what Masisi described as “overpopulation”. Officials in March also threatened to send 10,000 elephants to London.

“We would like to offer such a gift to Germany,” Masisi said, adding that he would “not take no for an answer”.

A spokesperson for the environment ministry in Berlin said Botswana had not raised any concerns with Germany on the matter.

The ministry remained in talks with African countries affected by import rules, including Botswana, the spokesperson said.

“In light of the alarming loss of biological diversity, we have a special responsibility to do everything to ensure the import of hunting trophies is sustainable and legal,” she said.

Germany was one of the largest importers of hunting trophies in the European Union, she said.

African elephant hunting trophies already require import authorisation under current rules, she added.

Discussions within the EU on harsher import restrictions are focused on extending the list of protected species, she said.

With Agence France-Presse

Explore more on these topics

  • Botswana
  • Africa
  • Germany
  • news
Share

Reuse this content