Tue. May 21st, 2024

Welcome back to World Brief, where we’re looking at a U.S. Embassy security alert for Moscow, two mass kidnappings in Nigeria, and Ireland holding constitutional referendums.

Welcome back to World Brief, where we’re looking at a U.S. Embassy security alert for Moscow, two mass kidnappings in Nigeria, and Ireland holding constitutional referendums.


Extremist Threat in Moscow

The U.S. Embassy in Russia warned on Friday that “extremists” had imminent plans to target large gatherings, including concerts, in Moscow in the coming days. It advised people to avoid crowds and concerts for the next 48 hours as well as remain vigilant of their surroundings. The embassy gave no further details, and the Kremlin has yet to issue an official statement regarding the United States’ alert.

In response, Latvia’s foreign ministry urged its citizens on Friday to leave Russia as soon as possible and avoid mass gatherings in Moscow for fear of possible “terrorist attacks.” Australia, Canada, Estonia, South Korea, Sweden, and the United Kingdom also advised their countries’ nationals against traveling to Russia. Washington had instructed all U.S. citizens to leave Russia immediately in February 2023.

The threat in Moscow came mere hours after Russian security services said they foiled a planned shooting at a synagogue in Russia’s Kaluga region by a cell of the Islamic State-Khorasan, a branch primarily based in Afghanistan. According to the Kremlin, Russian officials engaged in a firefight with militants before neutralizing the situation. They then seized “firearms, ammunition, as well as components for creating improvised explosive devices.”

It is unclear if the U.S. Embassy warning is linked to the alleged synagogue attack, but Russian authorities said they are currently investigating the planned shooting as a conspiracy to conduct a terrorist attack.

U.S.-Russian relations are currently at their lowest point since the Cold War—largely due to Moscow’s ongoing conflict with Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s animosity toward the West. On Thursday, the Russian foreign ministry summoned U.S. Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy to warn Washington against interfering in its general elections, which are slated for March 15 to 17. Democracy experts have accused Putin of rigging the upcoming vote, as he has imprisoned or barred from running all opposition candidates.

Moscow also informed Tracy on Thursday that Russia was designating three U.S. educational and exchange organizations, including the American Councils for International Education, as “undesirable”—ending a roughly 70-year tradition between the two nations. It accused the groups of “implementing anti-Russian programs and projects aimed at recruiting ‘agents of influence’ under the guise of educational and cultural exchanges.” The U.S. Embassy in Russia criticized the decision, calling it “a tragic illustration of the Kremlin’s desire to isolate its own people.”


Today’s Most Read


What We’re Following

Biden’s foreign-policy agenda. U.S. President Joe Biden delivered the annual State of the Union address on Thursday, and foreign policy took up a healthy portion of his remarks. Biden reiterated Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas while acknowledging the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and he announced that the U.S. military will build a temporary emergency floating pier off the Gaza Strip’s coast to help facilitate aid deliveries. However, he promised that “no U.S. boots will be on the ground.”

Biden called on the U.S. Congress to financially support Ukraine after Republicans repeatedly blocked emergency spending packages that would help fund Kyiv, among other purposes. He accused former U.S. President Donald Trump of “bowing down” to Putin and condemned Trump for seemingly inviting Russia to invade NATO members that do not meet the alliance’s 2 percent defense spending commitment.

To combat low public opinion over his immigration policies, Biden also urged Congress to pass bipartisan border security reforms that Trump told Republican lawmakers to block. The U.S. president listed some of the proposal’s toughest measures, including hiring 1,500 border security agents and 4,300 asylum officers.

Mass kidnappings in Nigeria. Armed bandits abducted more than 300 students, some as young as 8 years old, from their school in Nigeria’s Kaduna state on Thursday. At least 287 students are still in captivity after initial rescue efforts, a Nigerian police spokesperson said. And at least one student has been killed. No group has claimed responsibility thus far, but some authorities are blaming Ansaru, a breakaway faction of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in 2014.

This is Nigeria’s second mass kidnapping in recent days. On March 1, alleged Islamist militants abducted dozens of Nigerians, including children, near a camp for internally displaced people. It is still unclear which group was responsible for that attack. Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu condemned both kidnappings on Friday and ordered security officials to immediately launch rescue efforts.

Constitutional changes. Ireland held two constitutional referendums on Friday to coincide with International Women’s Day. If passed, the first vote would amend Article 41 to provide a wider concept of family, recognizing families “founded on marriage or on other durable relationships.” The second vote, if approved, would remove language in Article 41.2 referring to women’s “duties in the home.” A new version would recognize and protect all family caregivers.

“This referendum is our opportunity to remove limits on women’s role from our constitution and close this dark chapter of our past,” said Orla O’Connor, the director of Ireland’s National Women’s Council. Ireland’s constitution dates back to 1937, when the Catholic Church had a larger influence over politics and public life. Nowadays, though, the current wording “no longer reflects modern life,” Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Michael Martin said in December 2023.


Odds and Ends

IKEA’s new billboards in Portugal for self-assembly bookcases are not pulling any punches. “A good place to stash books. Or to stash 75,800 euros,” they read, in reference to the 75,800 euros (roughly $83,000) that Portuguese police found on bookcases in the prime minister’s chief of staff’s office last year. The discovery forced then-Prime Minister António Costa to resign in November 2023; Portugal is holding snap elections this Sunday. As someone who owns an IKEA dresser, maybe I’m not using the furniture to its full potential.

By admin

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