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Ahead of Sunday’s hotly contested presidential election, Ukraine is observing a so-called “day of silence” in which campaigning is forbidden.

The campaign hit a dramatic high on Friday night when the comic actor who is far ahead in public opinion polls debated with President Petro Poroshenko in the country’s largest sports stadium.

Poroshenko denounced Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who has never held political office, saying he would be too weak and inexperienced to stand up to Russia’s attempts to bring Ukraine back within its orbit. Zelenskiy in turn criticized Poroshenko for failing to rein in corruption during his five years in office.

In a melodramatic moment, both kneeled to ask forgiveness of those who have lost relatives in five years of fighting with Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

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Greek police say they have stopped a truck with stolen license plates and found 59 undocumented migrants inside.

The truck was stopped Friday afternoon on the highway about 30 kilometers (20 miles) east of Thessaloniki, because it had Bulgarian license plates that had been reported stolen. Behind a few boxes of insulation materials lay the 59 migrants, about half from Somalia and the rest from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Eritrea, Iraq, Palestine and Sudan, police announced Saturday.

The migrants told police they had paid 1,500 euros ($1,690) each to a trafficker in Turkey who helped them cross into Greece by boat, before boarding the truck.

The 61-year-old Bulgarian driver was arrested.

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French yellow vest protesters are marching anew to remind the government that rebuilding the fire-ravaged Notre Dame Cathedral isn’t the only problem the nation needs to solve.

Multiple protest events are planned around Paris and other cities Saturday for the 23rd weekend of the yellow vest movement against wealth inequality and President Emmanuel Macron’s leadership.

One group wants to march on the presidential palace despite bigger-than-usual police presence. Another is aimed at showing yellow vest mourning over the Notre Dame blaze while also keeping up pressure on Macron.

Many protesters were deeply saddened by the fire at a national monument. But many are angry at the $1 billion in Notre Dame donations that poured in from tycoons while their own demands remain largely unmet and they struggle to make ends meet.

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Police in Northern Ireland on Saturday arrested two teenagers in connection with the fatal shooting of a journalist during rioting in the city of Londonderry.

The men, aged 18 and 19, were detained under anti-terrorism legislation and taken to Belfast for questioning, the Police Service of Northern Ireland said Saturday. No further information was immediately given.

Lyra McKee, 29, a rising star of investigative journalism, was shot and killed, probably by a stray bullet aimed at police, during rioting Thursday night. Police said the New IRA dissident group was most likely responsible and called it a “terrorist act.”

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said earlier that a gunman fired a number of shots at police during the unrest. Police on Friday night released closed-circuit TV footage showing the man suspected of firing the shots that killed McKee.

The killing reminded many of the decades of violence that plagued Northern Ireland before the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement. It was condemned by all the major political parties as well as the prime ministers of Britain and Ireland.

Speaking in Dublin, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the people of Ireland and Northern Ireland had chosen peace and cooperation on Good Friday 21 years ago and will not be “dragged into the past” by political violence.

McKee rose to prominence in 2014 with a moving blog post — “Letter to my 14 year old self” — describing the struggle of growing up gay in Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland.

In the post, she described the shame she felt at 14 as she kept the “secret” of being gay from her family and friends and the love she eventually received when she was finally able to reveal it.

She also had recently signed a contract to write two books.

Hours before her death, she tweeted a photo of the rioting with the words: “Derry tonight. Absolute madness.”

Her partner, Sara Canning, told a vigil Friday that McKee’s amazing potential had been snuffed out.

Canning said the senseless murder “has left me without the love of my life, the woman I was planning to grow old with.”

“It has left so many friends without their confidante,” she added.

The New IRA is a small group who reject the 1998 Good Friday agreement that marked the Irish Republican Army’s embrace of a political solution to the long-running violence known as “The Troubles” that claimed more than 3,700 lives.

The group is also blamed for a Londonderry car bombing that did not cause any injuries in January. It is regarded as the largest of the splinter dissident groups still operating and has been linked to several other killings in the past decade.

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Three candidates are vying for the presidency in North Macedonia, where voters go to the polls on Sunday for the first round of elections.

The post is largely ceremonial, but the election is seen as a key test of the government following deep polarization after the country changed its name to end a decades-old dispute with neighboring Greece over use of the term “Macedonia.”

Here is a look at the three candidates, all of whom are university professors:

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Gordana Siljanovska Davkova, 63 — The first woman to run for president since the country declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Known for her love of yoga and rock-and-roll, Siljanovska, a constitutional law professor, first emerged as a non-partisan candidate promoted by her university. Her nomination is now supported by the main conservative opposition VMRO-DPMNE party.

Siljanovska campaigned under the slogan “Justice for Macedonia, fatherland calls.” She has been a vocal opponent of the deal with Greece that changed the country’s name to North Macedonia in return for Athens dropping its objections to the country joining NATO.

Siljanovska served as minister without portfolio in 1992-1994 in the first government after independence and participated in writing the country’s first constitution.

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Stevo Pendarovski, 56 — A former national security adviser for two previous presidents and until recently national coordinator for NATO, this is Pendarovski’s second bid for the presidency after being defeated by outgoing President Gjorge Ivanov in 2014.

Pendarovski is running as the joint candidate for both the governing social democrats and the junior governing coalition partner, the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration party. His candidacy is also supported by 29 smaller political parties.

He is a strong defender of the name deal with Greece, arguing that it paved the way for the country to nearly finalize its NATO accession and led to hopes EU membership talks will begin in June.

His slogan “Forward Together” reflects his main campaign platform of unity, and he has made NATO and EU membership a key strategic goal, saying they will bring more foreign investment, will create jobs and higher wages and prevent young people leaving the country.

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Blerim Reka, 58 — A soft-spoken international law professor who headed the country’s diplomatic mission to the EU from 2006-2010, the ethnic Albanian candidate was nominated by two small ethnic Albanian opposition parties, BESA and the Alliance of Albanians.

Reka chose “Reka for the Republic” as his campaign slogan, saying the concept of a “republic for all” is the most suitable for a multiethnic state. He has campaigned mainly in the larger ethnic Albanian communities. He advocates Northern Macedonia strengthen its multiethnic and multicultural characteristics, but insists the country must reform its “corrupt” administration and establish rule of law and an independent judiciary.

Reka also supports the name deal with Greece, saying the agreement ended a long-standing dispute and opened the doors for the country to join NATO and the EU.

No ethnic Albanian presidential candidate has ever made it to the second round of elections in the past. But the ethnic minority’s votes, which make up about a quarter of the country’s 2.1 million people, have proved crucial to the election of the president in the runoffs.

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Kosovo’s justice minister says a number of Kosovars have been returned from Syria, where they were part of Islamic terror groups.

Abelard Tahiri told journalists early Saturday that “a planned operation to bring back some of our citizens from Syria ended successfully,” without giving more details on their number or how they were brought to the country.

The local media said the group, including women and children, was taken to a former military base near the capital Pristina.

A police spokesman declined to comment.

Tahiri has announced a news conference later.

More than 400 Kosovars initially joined extremist groups in Syria and Iraq but none in the past three years, according to Kosovo authorities. About 150 Kosovo citizens are still actively supporting the groups there.

Source: Fox News World

Police in Northern Ireland searched for multiple suspects Friday after the fatal shooting of a journalist during rioting in Londonderry and sought help from the public to get “a killer off the streets” and into custody.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said 29-year-old journalist Lyra McKee was shot and killed, probably by a stray bullet, during overnight rioting in the city’s Creggan neighborhood. It said the New IRA dissident group was most likely responsible.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said a gunman fired a number of shots at police during the unrest that began Thursday evening.

“We believe this to be a terrorist act,” he said.

Police on Friday night released closed-circuit TV footage showing the man suspected of firing the shots that killed McKee.

Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy said the footage shows “the gunman at the corner and an individual picking up something from the ground on the same corner. We are releasing this to encourage anyone with information to make contact with us.”

He said locals know the identity of the gunman and urged them to come forward “to try to help us take a killer off the streets.”

The killing reminded many of the decades of violence that plagued Northern Ireland before the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement. It was condemned by all the major political parties as well as the prime ministers of Britain and Ireland.

Speaking in Dublin, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the people of Ireland and Northern Ireland had chosen peace and cooperation on Good Friday 21 years ago and will not be “dragged into the past” by political violence.

McKee rose to prominence in 2014 with a moving blog post — “Letter to my 14 year old self” — describing the struggle of growing up gay in Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland.

In the post, she described the shame she felt at 14 as she kept the “secret” of being gay from her family and friends and the love she eventually received when she was finally able to reveal it.

She also had recently signed a contract to write two books.

Hours before her death, she tweeted a photo of the rioting with the words: “Derry tonight. Absolute madness.”

Her partner, Sara Canning, told a vigil Friday that McKee’s amazing potential had been snuffed out.

Canning said the senseless murder “has left me without the love of my life, the woman I was planning to grow old with.”

“It has left so many friends without their confidante,” she added.

A murder investigation has been launched but there have been no arrests yet. Police appealed for calm over the long Easter holiday weekend.

Hamilton said the force’s assessment “is that the New IRA are most likely to be the ones behind this.”

The New IRA is a small group who reject the 1998 Good Friday agreement that marked the Irish Republican Army’s embrace of a political solution to the long-running violence known as “The Troubles” that claimed more than 3,700 lives.

The group is also blamed for a Londonderry car bombing that did not cause any injuries in January. It is regarded as the largest of the splinter dissident groups still operating and has been linked to several other killings in the past decade.

Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin said Friday that police believe more than one person was involved in the shooting.

“We certainly believe there was more than one person who was involved in this last night. Obviously only one person pulled the trigger but there was more than one person,” he said.

He said the violence started after police entered the area to search for weapons and that the gunman was aiming at policemen when the rioting intensified.

“The full and total responsibility for Lyra McKee’s death lies with the organization that sent someone out with a gun,” he said.

There has been an increase in tensions in Northern Ireland in recent months with sporadic violence, much of it focused in Londonderry, also known as Derry.

Londonderry Mayor John Boyle said the city was united in mourning McKee’s death.

“I have known her since she was 16 years old,” he said. “She was bright, she was warm, she was witty. But most of all, she was an outstanding individual, a great friend to so, so many people in this city in the short time that she was with us.”

Source: Fox News World

A lawyer for Congo opposition leader Moise Katumbi says a court has annulled his three-year prison sentence, enabling him to return from exile in Belgium.

The Court of Cassation, or supreme court of appeals, made the judgment Friday, saying that Katumbi can enter Congo a free man.

Lawyer Jean Joseph Mukendi said the court found fraud in the sentencing.

Congo’s government issued an arrest warrant last year against Katumbi, who had been a leading presidential contender before fleeing Congo in May 2016 after falling out with former President Joseph Kabila and as prosecutors announced they would try him on charges of hiring mercenaries, which he denied.

Katumbi tried to enter Congo to register as a candidate for December’s presidential election. He said he was blocked at the border with Zambia.

Source: Fox News World

A comedian who is the front-runner in Ukraine’s presidential race and the incumbent fighting to retain his job traded accusations in a debate at a sports stadium Friday, just two days before the election.

President Petro Poroshenko, who is trailing in opinion polls ahead of Sunday’s presidential runoff, accused his rival, 41-year-old comic actor Volodymyr Zelenskiy, of lacking the political experience needed to keep Ukraine on its pro-Western course and resist Russia’s attempts to draw the country back into its orbit.

While Poroshenko charged that his rival lacks a clear program, Zelenskiy shot back, calling the president “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

Zelenskiy, who is widely popular for playing a Ukrainian president fighting corruption in a popular TV sitcom, held the Ukrainian leader responsible for the nation’s economic woes and endemic corruption. He insisted that he would continue pushing Ukraine to further integrate into the West.

The debate was watched by some 60,000 people who packed the nation’s largest sports arena in Kiev, backing their candidates with enthusiastic chants or booing their opponents.

Zelenskiy tried to put Poroshenko on the defensive, showering the billionaire candy tycoon-turned-president with questions about his business assets and associates of his who have been accused of corruption.

The actor said he voted for Poroshenko five years ago but later realized that “I made a mistake, we made a mistake.”

“Could we imagine back then that a new way of life would in fact be a fight for survival?” Zelenskiy said, referring to the country’s sharp plunge in living standards since the 2014 vote.

“I’m not a politician, I’m a simple man who has come to break that system,” he said, echoing his sitcom character, a schoolteacher suddenly thrust into the presidential seat. “I’m the result of your promises and your mistakes.”

Poroshenko shot back, arguing that the actor has failed to spell out his program and pointing at his business ties with self-exiled billionaire tycoon Ihor Kolomoyskyi, the president’s archrival.

Poroshenko charged that Zelenskiy’s victory would benefit Russia, which annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and has backed separatist rebels in Ukraine’s east ever since in fighting that has left 13,000 people dead.

“He would be a weak head of state unable to stand up to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin,” Poroshenko said. “An actor can’t wage a war against Russia.”

Zelenskiy sought to turn the tables on Poroshenko, accusing him of maintaining backdoor channels with the Kremlin and continuing to market his candy in Russia despite the bitter tug-of-war between the two neighbors.

“I will uphold Ukraine’s European choice,” he insisted.

At some point, both candidates came down to their knees to ask for forgiveness of those who lost their relatives in the five years of fighting in the east.

Prior to the debate, Poroshenko rallied thousands of his supporters at the capital’s Independence Square, which was the heart of Ukraine’s 2014 opposition protests that ousted the nation’s former Russia-friendly president.

Lyudmila Soloveyko, a 56-year-old schoolteacher who went to the rally, said she’s grateful to Poroshenko for “opening the door to Europe for Ukrainians,” referring to the EU decision to scrap visas for traveling Ukrainians, which Poroshenko had lobbied for.

Zelenskiy has avoided a traditional political campaign, touring the country with his comedy show instead. In his rare interviews, he has pledged to continue the push for close ties with the EU and NATO but also spoke out for more active efforts to reintegrate the rebels in the east back into Ukraine’s fold.

Zelenskiy’s supporters scoffed at the president’s claim that the actor would be easy prey for the Kremlin and pointed at the economic woes and corruption during Poroshenko’s time at the helm.

“We have got tired of the old politicians who are good at nothing but talk,” said 54-year-old sales clerk Yevgenia Ostroshitskaya. “Life only has been getting worse. Let Zelenskiy give it a try, he has done it well in the movies.”

Zelenskiy won 30% of the vote in the March 31 first round vote while Poroshenko got 16%, and the gap has widened as Sunday’s runoff has approached.

A poll released Thursday by the Rating agency suggested Zelenskiy has 58% support, while Poroshenko has just 22%. The poll of 3,000 people had a margin of error of 1.8 percentage points.

Source: Fox News World

The foreign ministers of Italy and France say their countries are trying to forge a common strategy on Libya.

Italy’s minster, Enzo Moavero Milanesi, told reporters Friday after the two held talks in Rome that lower-ranking ministry officials will meet next week in the Italian capital “to build the path toward a goal that remains a shared one.”

French Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says there’ll be no progress toward ending the current fighting in Libya “without a solid Franco-Italian agreement.”

Italy and France both have energy and other strategic interests in Libya.

Fighting this month by militias loyal to rival governments in Tripoli and in eastern Libya is threatening to trigger a civil war on the scale of the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Source: Fox News World


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