Thousands demand Putin quit as birthday protests turn violent

Russian police violently broke up a rally in Saint Petersburg as thousands took to the streets across Russia Saturday on President Vladimir Putin’s birthday, urging him to quit power.


Heeding the call of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny to demand competitive elections, around 3,000 people rallied in Russia’s second city and Putin’s hometown while more than a thousand demonstrated in the centre of Moscow, AFP reporters said.

But while police in rainy Moscow showed restraint, allowing the crowd of mostly young protesters to march in the city centre – in an apparent effort to avoid clashes on Putin’s birthday – the rally in Saint Petersburg ended in violence.

At least 62 people were arrested, according to OVD-Info, a group that monitors politically motivated arrests.

Activists chanted “Shame” as helmeted police threw some protesters into police vans, injuring several demonstrators and forcing some to run for cover, an AFP reporter and witnesses said.

Igor Klimov, a 20-year-old protester, said he was not happy with Putin.

“He has been in power for as long as I can remember and there’s corruption everywhere,” he told AFP.

0:00 Moscow opposition rallies take place across Russia Share Moscow opposition rallies take place across Russia

Smaller rallies

Photographs from the scene showed a woman clutching her bleeding head after being detained by officers at the unauthorised protest. 

Rallies also took place in dozens of other cities across Russia, and 261 people in 26 cities were detained over the course of the day, according to the OVD-info group.

Fifty-seven protesters were detained in the central city of Yaroslavl, and 20 more people in Lipetsk, also in central Russia.

Amnesty International called on Russian authorities to  immediately release the protesters and investigate instances of violence. 

“The Kremlin’s intent is clear – to choke the life out of the protest movement,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amesty’s deputy director for Europe and Central Asia.

The protests – called by Navalny after he was sent to jail for 20 days this week – were markedly smaller than the rallies he mustered in March and June when tens of thousands took to the streets against corruption. 

The number of people detained across Russia on Saturday is lower than the arrests during the rallies called by Navalny in March and June. Police detained more than 1,000 people in Moscow alone during the March demonstration.

In Moscow on Saturday, the crowd chanted “Happy birthday” and “Russia without Putin” and many held copies of the constitution and wave flags amid honks of support from passing cars.

Hundreds of police officers, some in riot gear and with dogs, were deployed to prevent people from going to Red Square.

Navalny, a charismatic anti-corruption campaigner who aims to run in a presidential election next March, was arrested late last month as he was planning to travel to a rally in a provincial city.

A court on Monday sentenced him to 20 days in jail on charges of repeatedly violating a law on organising public meetings.

Officials say he is not eligible to run for president because he is serving a suspended sentence for fraud.

‘Important to have choice’

Svetlana Kiseleva, a 20-year-old student in Moscow, said she did not support Navalny but had joined the rally to demand political competition.

“It’s important to have a choice, to have an opposition,” she told AFP. “I still think he would be better than Putin anyway.”

Putin, who has ruled since 1999, turned 65 – the retirement age for Russian officials – and many protesters urged him to step down.

He said this week he has not yet decided whether to seek another six-year term. But he is widely expected to run in – and win – the March election.

‘Gulag awaiting us’

Navalny’s campaign team had released a series of video addresses of prominent figures calling on Russians to take to the streets.

“Gulag is awaiting us without political competition,” entrepreneur Evgeny Chichvarkin, who lives in self-imposed exile in Britain, said in the video.

Navalny, the Yale-educated lawyer with a street-smart image and a penchant for catchy slogans, compared life under Putin’s regime to a forced diet of “turnip.”

“If we do nothing, they will be feeding us this damn turnip for the rest of our lives. And our children too,” he said in an address dictated from his cell this week.

The Kremlin said Putin received on his birthday “numerous congratulatory messages and telegrams” including from 11 heads of state and later met with members of the Russian security council to discuss Syria.


Solar cars begin race across Australian desert

The race from the northern city of Darwin to the southern city of Adelaide is expected to take a week for most cars, with speeds of 90-100 kmh (55-62 mph) powered only by the sun.


The fastest time was achieved by Japan’s Tokai University in 2009, completing the transcontinental race in only 29 hours and 49 minutes.

Belgian team Punch Powertrain started first on Sunday after recording a trial time of 2:03.8 for 2.97 km (1.78 miles), hitting an average speed of 83.4 kmh (51.5mph).

But reigning 2015 champions Nuon from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands believes it has a good chance of retaining the prize.

“All the cars look completely different (this year), and all we know is we’ve got a good car, we’ve got it running perfectly the last couple of days and we’re confident we’re going to do everything to win,” tour manager Sarah Benninkbolt said Sunday.

Race director Chris Selwood said the biennial event has attracted one of the best fields ever, with teams from more than 40 countries.

“This is the 30th anniversary of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge and competitors want to be part of that. They have been drawn to the challenge of new regulations which reduced the solar array size without limiting the size of the solar car,” Selwood said.

Teams come from countries including the United States, Japan, Germany, Chile, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Belgium, Sweden, Iran, South Korea, India, Hong Kong, South Africa, Poland, Thailand, Turkey, Canada, Taiwan and Australia.

The Northern Territory Minister for Tourism and Culture, Lauren Moss said her government’s A$250,000 (US$194,150) sponsorship of the race showed it was committed to achieving 50 percent renewable energy for the territory by 2030.

“Innovation is at the heart of the event and the technology showcased this year will influence continuing solar innovation for vehicles and householders in the future,” she said.

“This event is a great promotion for the NT – it shows our ability to innovate to the world.”

(Reporting by Benjamin Cooper; Editing by Michael Perry)

Weary Wallabies edge Pumas in Argentina

Michael Cheika has challenged his travel-weary Wallabies to man up and strike an overdue trans-Tasman blow with a first victory over the world champion All Blacks in more than two years.


The Wallabies switched their focus almost immediately to the final Bledisloe Cup clash of the season in Brisbane on October 21 after rounding out their 2017 Rugby Championship campaign with a hard-earned 37-20 win over Argentina in Mendoza.

The victory – which came after two late tries broke a 20-all deadlock at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas – earned Australia second place in the tournament for the second year running.

“I don’t think we played fantastically well but we had a big two weeks. The travel’s been enormous,” Cheika said after his side backed up a 27-all draw with the Springboks on the South African high veldt with a five-tries-to-two triumph over the winless Pumas.

“We saw South Africa really lift their game. They really tested us last week and then this game here was always going to be difficult; Argentina in their last home game.”

“Even though we weren’t great in the first half, we stayed in the game, we trusted our shape and what we were doing and we got the points in the end.”

Despite two wins over Argentina being Australia’s only successes of the tournament, Cheika believes earning the Puma Cup after retaining the Mandela Plate are important morale boosters for his rebuilding team.

“It is important for them to have a little reward like that,” he said.

“We don’t delude ourselves that that’s the major prize but we want to get to the top and to do that we’ve got to be consistent and improve.

“We have to step up and improve when we take on New Zealand in a couple of weeks. It’s going to be a tough tussle but these lads are up for it.

“They’ve got a good attitude and if they can improve their game mindset so there’s less variations in the game, then I think we can go further.”

The coach was delighted with the performances of international newcomers Marika Koroibete, who bagged his third try in as many Tests, flanker Jack Dempsey, who ran for 100 metres and was iron-like in defence, and replacement forwards Allan Ala’alatoa and Lukhan Tui.

“We’ve got to back them to give them the experience in these cauldrons so that the more we go on, the smarter they’ll be,” Cheika said.

“They’ll learn from tonight.”

The match was eerily similar to the Wallabies’ 45-20 win over the Pumas in Canberra, with the score locked at 13-all at halftime and 20-all midway through the second stanza.

The final scoreline could easily have been the same as last time had Bernard Foley not missed four successive shots at goal at one point.

The five-eighth had slotted 19 straight before losing his rhythm on Sunday.

Flat open expected for Aust share market

The Australian share markets is expected to start the week flat following Wall Street’s mixed finish on Friday.


CommSec chief economist Craig James says trading is likely to begin cautiously on Monday as local investors wait for the release of housing data later in the week.

“Expect to see a modest gain in the number of home loans, with investors already starting to look at Brisbane and Adelaide markets,” Mr James told AAP.

Investors were being turned off by affordability constraints in Sydney and Melbourne, Mr James said.

Wall Street endured a varied close to their markets after a US employment report showed the first drop in the number of jobs in seven years.

Mr James said it was likely an effect of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and unemployment was actually at a 16-year low and there had also been a rise in wages.

While US stocks closed slightly lower on Friday, the S&P 500 rose 1.2 per cent for the week, the Dow added 1.6 per cent and the Nasdaq gained 1.5 per cent.

European markets were also mixed, with the UK’s up and German stocks down.

“In terms of international flashpoints affecting the markets, it’s still North Korea and now the Catalonia unrest,” Mr James said.

“With reports North Korea may be preparing to test another long-range missile, it’s certainly in the back of investors minds.”

The Australian share market closed higher, boosted by the mining, energy and banking sectors.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 closed up 58.9 points, or 1.04 per cent at 5,710.7 points on Friday, while the Australian dollar was trading at 77.64 US cents at the close.

The broader All Ordinaries index also closed up, by 57.1 points, or one per cent, at 5,777.4 points.

Fallout grows for producer Weinstein

A US TV news anchor has lodged another claim of sexual misconduct against powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and a third board member has resigned from Weinstein’s company.


Meanwhile a prominent US lawyer says she’s no longer representing the movie mogul as he confronts sexual harassment allegations dating back years.

TV anchor Lauren Sivan detailed an alleged 2007 encounter with Weinstein in a HuffPost report on Friday.

Sivan alleged that Weinstein cornered her in the hallway of a Manhattan restaurant closed to the public and masturbated in front of her.

Sivan said she had rejected an attempt by Weinstein to kiss her. “Well, can you just stand there and shut up,” she claims he responded.

Sivan reaffirmed the HuffPost report on Twitter.

The developments, along with the departure of yet another lawyer for Weinstein, are the latest fallout from allegations against the Oscar-winner that The New York Times detailed in an expose on Thursday.

“My understanding is that Mr Weinstein and his board are moving toward an agreement,” lawyer Lisa Bloom said in announcing her resignation on Twitter.

Bloom has previously represented victims of sexual harassment and assault. Her work with the co-chair of The Weinstein Company drew fierce criticism online.

President Donald Trump was asked by reporters to weigh in on the embattled Hollywood figure.

“I’ve known Harvey Weinstein a long time,” Trump replied. When asked if he was surprised by the accusations, the president replied: “Not at all.”

The allegations of sexual misconduct against Weinstein were detailed in a report this week by The New York Times.

Weinstein is on indefinite leave from the company he co-founded while it conducts an investigation into the claims made by women including actors Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan and stretching back years.

The scandal’s fallout included the resignation of Weinstein Company board member Marc Lasry, charirman and CEO of Avenue Capital Group, which was confirmed on Saturday by a Lasry spokesman, Todd Fogarty. Lasry joined an exodus from the nine-member board, with billionaire Dirk Ziff and, according to reports, Technicolor executive Tim Sarnoff also leaving.

On another front, Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski tweeted that “unless Harvey resigns” she will withdraw from a three-book deal she has with Weinstein Books.

Two million Australians suffering anxiety, twice as many as depression

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia, with an estimated two million sufferers.


In a survey of 1400 people, conducted by non-profit organisation BeyondBlue, two out of three respondents named depression as the most prevalent issue.

“Anxiety affects twice the number of Australians as depression,” says Chief Executive, Georgie Harman.

“So one in four of us in any given year will experience some kind of anxiety condition.”

Chronic anxiety is far more than the everyday stresses and worries that most people experience.

Clinical psychologist, Dr Luke Martin says, it’s also quite different from depression.

“Depression is a condition that really saps you of your energy, making you withdraw from others, making you stop getting enjoyment out of activites you usually do enjoy.

“Whereas anxiety is really looking out for future threats and danger, and worrying about everything that could go wrong, and making you feel very panicky, tense, on edge. breathing, racing heart.”

Ambika Sivan first noticed a change around the time her son was born.SBS World News

Migrants and mental health

Thirty-four-year-old Melbournian, Ambika Sivan, first noticed a change around the time her son was born, four-and-a-half years ago.

She says the pressures of trying to be a great mum, while lacking the support network she took for granted in her native India, led to a range of worrying symptoms.

“I was going through post-natal depression, and a lot of things at home. My heart rate increased and I felt like my heart was beating out of my body. I had excessive breathing and sweating.”

She sought help, and now uses her own experience to mentor others, in a pilot program in Dandenong – home to nearly 30-percent of Victoria’s asylum seekers.

Statistically, migrants have historically suffered a higher incidence of mental health problems.

“Anxiety peaks at times of uncertainty and change,” says Dr Martin.

“Migrant communities or refugees are really going through an awful lot… and anxiety in that context can be very very appropriate.

“But if that level of anxiety is getting in the way of their ability to solve problems, and connect in their community, and to feel less alone, then getting support for that anxiety is nothing to be ashamed of, and it can really help with that transition.”

The BeyondBlue poll revealed that 38 per cent of those who sought professional support for anxiety had been experiencing symptoms for longer than 12 months before getting support.

Clinical psychologist Dr Luke Martin.SBS World News


Kim’s murder trial to resume in Malaysia

The trial of two women accused of killing the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un enters its second week with the court moving temporarily to a high-security lab to view evidence tainted with the toxic VX nerve agent.


High Court Judge Azmi Ariffin declared that prosecutors and defence lawyers, along with the two suspects, will hold court at the laboratory for chemical weapons analysis to examine samples of the women’s clothing before they are formally submitted as evidence.

The decision came after government chemist Raja Subramaniam told the court that VX found on the clothing may still be active.

Such a move is not unusual in criminal cases in Malaysia, where judges often visit crime scenes.

Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, lawyer for Vietnamese suspect Doan Thi Huong, told The Associated Press that the visit to Raja’s lab is purely for safety reasons.

He said the concept of holding a formal court session at the lab is to legalise the visit, which is expected to take an hour, after which the trial will resume in the court building.

Huong and Siti Aisyah of Indonesia pleaded not guilty at the start of their trial last week to charges of murdering Kim Jong Nam by smearing VX on his face at a crowded airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur on February 13. They face a mandatory death sentence if convicted.

Defence lawyers have said the women were duped by suspected North Korean agents into believing they were playing a harmless prank for a hidden TV-camera show.

VX is banned by an international treaty as a weapon of mass destruction but is believed to be part of North Korea’s chemical weapons arsenal.

Kim was the eldest son in the current generation of North Korea’s dynastic rulers but was believed to have been cast out by his father and had lived abroad for years.

He reportedly never met current leader Kim Jong Un, who is widely believed to have perceived his older sibling as a threat and targeted him for assassination.

Swedish journalist Kim Wall’s decapitated head found by divers

In a grisly case worthy of a Nordic noir thriller, Copenhagen police inspector Jens Moller Jensen told reporters divers had found bags containing her missing clothes, her head and legs in Koge Bay, south of the Danish capital.


“Last night our forensic dentist confirmed that it was Kim Wall’s head,” he said.

Her headless torso was found floating in waters off Copenhagen on August 21, 11 days after she went missing.

Self-taught engineer and inventor Peter Madsen, 46, has been accused of Wall’s death, with prosecutors saying he dismembered her body before throwing it overboard.

Madsen, who is married and has been in custody since August 11, claims the 30-year-old Wall died when a 70-kilogramme (154-pound) hatch door fell on her head, and in a panic, he threw her body overboard.

He has insisted her body was intact at the time.

But Jensen said the decapitated head contradicted Madsen’s version of events.

There is “no sign of fracture on the skull and there isn’t any sign of other blunt violence to the skull,” he said, citing an autopsy carried out overnight.

Locating Wall’s head has been a priority for investigators, as the final autopsy on the torso was not able to establish the cause of death.

However, it did show multiple mutilation wounds to Wall’s genitals.

Danish submarine owner and inventor Peter Madsen, and murdered Swedish journalist Kim Wall.AAP

Fetish films

Prosecutors believe Madsen killed Wall as part of a sexual fantasy, then dismembered and mutilated her body.

Earlier this week, Prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen told a court custody hearing that a hard disk found in Madsen’s workshop contained fetish films in which real women were tortured, decapitated and burned.

“This hard drive doesn’t belong to me,” Madsen insisted, saying numerous people had access to his workshop.

Madsen has insisted there was no sexual relationship between him and Wall, and their contacts had been purely professional.

Jensen said the divers on Friday found the body parts and clothes in bags weighed down with metal pieces. Her torso had also been weighed down when it was found, also in Koge Bay.

“Yesterday morning we found a bag within which we found Kim Wall’s clothes, underwear, stockings, and shoes. In the same bag laid a knife, and there were some lead pipes to weigh the bag down,” he said.

“Around dinnertime we found one leg, and then another leg. And then we found a head that also laid in a bag, and was weighed down with multiple metal pieces.”

Wall worked as a freelance journalist based in New York and China, and her articles were published in The Guardian, The New York Times and others.

At the time of her disappearance, Wall was believed to be working on a feature story about Madsen, an eccentric, well-known figure in Denmark.

Madsen has successfully launched rockets with the aim of developing private space travel.

His homemade submarine Nautilus, launched in 2008, was the biggest private sub ever made when he built it with help from a group of volunteers.

But the group became engaged in a long-running dispute over the Nautilus, before members of the board decided to transfer the vessel’s ownership to Madsen, according to the sub’s website.

In 2015, Madsen sent a text message to two members of the board claiming: “There is a curse on Nautilus”.

“That curse is me. There will never be peace on Nautilus as long as I exist,” Madsen wrote, according to the volunteers.

Cairns beat Breakers for perfect NBL start

Cairns Taipans have made it two from two to start the NBL season, beating New Zealand Breakers 82-71 on Sunday, following their win over Illawarra on Friday.


Despite patches of dominance and a star turn from swingman Tom Abercrombie, the Breakers struggled with their combinations in Auckland and made too many shooting errors.

They managed to shoot at just 41 per cent accuracy from the field and missed almost half of their free throws.

Cairns were only partly better, shooting at 46 per cent from the field, but rode a third-quarter hot streak of 25 points to victory.

The win maintains the Queenslanders’ perfect start and sends them into Thursday’s clash with Adelaide in high spirits.

New Zealand, meanwhile, will play Sydney Kings on Friday.

“We’ll learn a lot from this – just in terms of the match fitness, the guys will be a little bit sharper moving forward,” Breakers coach Paul Henare said.

“We definitely don’t need to reinvent the wheel.”

“We just didn’t convert plays – we went to the foul line and we missed several free throws in that second half, weren’t converting plays at the rim for whatever reason, and the scoring dried up.

“That’s what Cairns force you to do and then they grind you down at the other end, and we just weren’t able to get any momentum.”

By the end of the match, the Breakers’ star man Abercrombie had racked up 24 points, while imports Edgar Sosa and DJ Newbill both hit double figures.

Yet the Taipans unleashed in the third quarter.

Emerging from the sheds possessed, Cairns put on their dominant 25-point tally, helped by strong showings from import Dayshon Smith (18 points) and Stephen Weigh (17 points).

For the Breakers, it proved an obstacle too difficult to surmount.

Psychology student Aleksandra Chichikova crowned first Miss Wheelchair World

“Fight your anxiety and your fears,” the 23-year-old Chichikova said at a gala evening, after the contestants had presented themselves in national costumes and evening dresses in elaborate choreographies.


Lebohang Monyatsi from South Africa was the runner-up ahead of Poland’s Adrianna Zawadzinska in the first contest of its kind on a global scale, which brought together 24 young women from 19 countries.

The goal of the contest was to “change the image of women in wheelchairs so they would not be judged solely by this attribute,” contest co-founder and jury president Katarzyna Wojtaszek-Ginalska told AFP.

Miss Belarus Aleksandra Chichikova greets the audience after she was crowned Miss Wheelchair World.AAP

The pageant organised by the Poland-based Only One Foundation also seeks to show that a wheelchair is a luxury in many parts of the world, she added.

The contestants were chosen either in national rounds or, in countries with no such pageants, by non-governmental organisations addressed by the Polish foundation.

“It is not the looks that matter the most,” said Wojtaszek-Ginalska, who is also confined to a wheelchair.

“Of course, a good look counts but we have focused especially on the personality of the girls, their everyday activities, their involvement, social life, plans,” she added.

Miss Belarus Aleksandra Chichikova greets the audience.AAP

The contestants spent eight days in the Polish capital, busy with rehearsals, photo sessions, conferences and visits.

The inaugural Miss Wheelchair World attracted contestants from Angola, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Finland, France, Guatemala, India, Italy, Mexico, Moldova, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Ukraine and the United States.

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