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Severe flooding has struck Orenburg, Russia, with water levels soaring two meters above critical levels, leaving rooftops barely visible. The mayor has urged residents to evacuate immediately as sirens blare throughout the city. The crisis is expected to worsen, extending to neighboring regions, including Kazakhstan, where 100,000 people have already been displaced.

This flood is deemed the worst in 80 years, triggered by rivers, notably the Ural, overflowing due to rapid snow and ice melt exacerbated by heavy rains. Orenburg, with a population of half a million, faces unprecedented evacuations and extensive property damage, while downstream areas like Orsk grapple with their own challenges following dam breaches.

Further east, rivers like the Ishim and Tobol are rising to perilous levels, with floodwaters threatening northern Kazakhstan and prompting evacuations. Efforts to reinforce dams and declare states of emergency in affected regions are underway, yet the scale of this disaster surpasses anything witnessed in recent memory.

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Poland’s MPs recently engaged in a significant debate over potentially granting women the right to abortion on demand, marking a departure from discussions of the sort in over three decades. Despite expectations of strong emotions given Poland’s devout Catholicism, the attendance was notably sparse, with many MPs from both the opposition and government failing to show up.

Although women constitute only 29% of the Sejm, the lower house of parliament, the majority of speakers in the debate were women. The discussion revolved around potentially liberalizing one of the EU’s strictest abortion laws, which currently permits the procedure only in cases of maternal health risk, rape, or incest.

While public opinion increasingly supports expanded abortion access, politicians have been hesitant to act. The previous Law and Justice-led government, supported by the Catholic Church, had actually tightened abortion restrictions in 2020, sparking widespread protests across the nation.

The ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal, which deemed abortion due to severe and irreversible fetal abnormalities unconstitutional, led to outrage and sustained demonstrations. Several women have died in hospitals since then, as doctors refused to perform necessary abortions, even when the mother’s life was at risk.

Outside the parliament, anti-abortion protesters expressed their views in stark terms, likening liberal ministers to Adolf Hitler and employing provocative imagery. Inside, MPs presented contrasting viewpoints, with some arguing for abortion as a woman’s right, while others contended that it’s not universally supported among Polish women.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk has committed to introducing abortion on demand, but his coalition government is divided over the extent of liberalization. Various proposals, ranging from abortion up to 12 weeks to decriminalization of abortion assistance, have been put forward by different factions within the coalition.

However, achieving consensus on this contentious issue won’t be easy, with opposition from conservative elements and the potential for a presidential veto by Andrzej Duda, who aligns with Catholic beliefs. Ultimately, the fate of these proposals remains uncertain pending further parliamentary deliberation and potential presidential intervention.

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Amid concerns over potential Islamic State (IS) threats to European sporting events, including a recent online warning, French authorities have intensified security measures in Paris. This move coincides with worries about the safety of upcoming events such as the Champions League quarter-final match and the impending Olympic Games.

While Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin acknowledged the elevated threat level, he also emphasized France’s experience in countering extremist activities, citing recent foiled attacks. Despite the heightened security, some fans remain undeterred, expressing a determination not to let fear dictate their lives.

Across Europe, governments are grappling with the growing threat posed by IS-K, particularly in light of the upcoming European Football Championship. Germany, in particular, has ramped up security measures, including border checks, amidst concerns over internal security.

Balancing security concerns with maintaining a sense of normalcy presents a challenge for France, especially with the Olympics fast approaching. While some voices caution against overreacting to IS threats, others stress the importance of not yielding to fear and maintaining public confidence.

France’s extensive experience with Islamist incidents has led to the deployment of significant security forces, including Operation Sentinelle and military personnel. Despite assurances from security officials, concerns persist, compounded by tensions with Russia and its alleged efforts to undermine French credibility through cyber campaigns.

President Macron has warned of Russia’s potential to disrupt the Olympics through various means, including cyber operations aimed at spreading misinformation. The French government has publicly denounced attempts to manipulate public opinion, attributing such actions to Kremlin-backed efforts to sow discord.

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After years of negotiations, the European Parliament has approved a significant reform aimed at tightening the EU’s migration and asylum regulations. The EU Asylum and Migration Pact, which has been in development since 2015, is set to become effective in two years’ time. Its objectives include expediting the asylum process, enhancing the repatriation of irregular migrants to their home countries, and establishing a system of shared responsibility among EU member states for asylum seekers.

Last year, there was a notable increase in illegal border crossings within the EU, prompting the need for such reforms. The pact, though met with some opposition from certain member states, is expected to gain full approval by the end of April through majority voting.

Under the proposed rules, EU countries will be obligated to either accept a quota of migrants from frontline countries like Italy, Greece, and Spain, or provide additional financial aid or resources. Additionally, the pact emphasizes swift processing of asylum claims, particularly those deemed to have low chances of approval, and aims to reach decisions within a maximum of 12 weeks. Forcible returns of rejected asylum seekers to their home countries would also need to occur within the same timeframe.

The pact introduces stricter pre-entry screening procedures within seven days of arrival, including biometric data collection for migrants aged six and above. It also establishes mechanisms to address sudden influxes of migrants.

The pact received support from the two main political groups in the European Parliament, although it faced opposition from some left-wing and far-right factions, as well as NGOs. Critics argue that the agreement may lead to increased suffering for asylum seekers, particularly those with low chances of acceptance, who might undergo processing on border islands or in detention facilities with limited access to fair procedures.

Despite its imperfections, many MEPs saw the pact as a workable compromise, acknowledging its significance in addressing the challenges of migration within the EU. However, concerns remain regarding the potential consequences of expedited processes and increased detention.

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A group of elderly Swiss women have achieved a significant victory in the European Court of Human Rights, marking the first climate case success in the court’s history. These women, primarily in their 70s, emphasized their vulnerability to the impacts of heatwaves associated with climate change due to their age and gender.

The court criticized Switzerland for its insufficient efforts in meeting emission reduction goals, deeming them inadequate. This ruling holds significance as it’s the first time the court has addressed the issue of global warming.

Greta Thunberg, the Swedish activist, joined in the celebration with other activists at the court in Strasbourg. One of the leaders of the Swiss women, Rosemarie Wydler-Walti, expressed disbelief at the victory, highlighting its magnitude.

The court’s decision carries legal weight and could potentially influence legislation in 46 European countries, including the UK. It found Switzerland in breach of its duties under the Convention concerning climate change, noting deficiencies in the country’s climate policies, such as failure to quantify reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

The group of Swiss women, known as KlimaSeniorinnen or Senior Women for Climate Protection, argued that they faced health risks during heatwaves in Switzerland and were unable to leave their homes. Data showed that March of the same year marked the world’s warmest, continuing a trend of record-breaking temperatures.

However, the court dismissed similar cases brought by Portuguese youths and a former French mayor, who also claimed that European governments were not acting swiftly enough to address climate change, thus violating their rights.

Elisabeth Smart, a member of KlimaSeniorinnen at 76 years old, highlighted her lifelong observations of climate change in Switzerland, having grown up on a farm. Despite the nine-year commitment to the case, she emphasized the innate drive within some individuals to take action rather than remain passive.

While governments worldwide have committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions significantly, experts and activists warn that progress remains slow, jeopardizing efforts to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C.

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The Vatican, led by Pope Francis, has reaffirmed its strong opposition to various issues including sex changes, gender theory, surrogate parenthood, abortion, and euthanasia in a document named “Dignitas Infinita” (Infinite Dignity). Alongside these, it also highlights concerns regarding poverty, migration, and human trafficking, seeing them as threats to human dignity.

Criticism towards Pope Francis comes from both conservative and liberal factions within the Catholic Church. While some conservatives accuse him of straying too far from traditional teachings, liberals argue that he hasn’t pushed the Church enough towards evolution on these matters.

In 2023, Pope Francis made statements allowing transgender individuals to be baptized in the Catholic Church under certain conditions and permitted priests to bless same-sex couples in specific circumstances, though maintaining the traditional view of marriage. He also tasked Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández, a close associate, with examining modern societal challenges.

Cardinal Fernández faced backlash for a book he authored in the late 1990s, which delved into human sexuality in detail. Despite these controversies, Pope Francis has shown openness on certain issues like same-sex unions and women’s roles in the Church.

However, the Pope remains steadfast in his opposition to surrogacy and gender theory, condemning them as morally wrong. The recent declaration, Dignitas Infinita, denounces abortion as a severe moral crisis and surrogacy as harmful to both women and children, emphasizing the sanctity of one’s birth sex.

Pope Francis’s stance underscores the complexity of his beliefs, defying simple labels of “progressive” or “conservative.” Despite his advanced age, as indicated in his autobiography, he has no plans to retire and intends to continue serving as Pope indefinitely.

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Nicaragua has asked the UN’s highest court to halt German weapons sales to Israel at the start of a landmark case.

Germany is accused of breaching the UN genocide convention by sending military hardware to Israel and ceasing funding of the UN’s aid agency.

Berlin rejects the claims and will present a defence to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Tuesday.

In 2023 some 30% of Israel’s military equipment purchases came from Germany, totalling €300m ($326m; £257m).

The allegations build on a separate case taken by South Africa in January, where judges in the Hague ordered Israel to take “every possible measure” to avoid genocidal acts. The court also ordered Hamas to release all hostages taken from Israel during its 7 October attacks immediately.Israel rejects accusations that it is engaging in genocidal acts in its campaign in Gaza, and has insisted it has the right to defend itself.

More than 33,000 have been killed in Israel’s offensive in Gaza, the Hamas-run health ministry there says, the majority of them civilians. Gaza is on the brink of famine, with Oxfam reporting that 300,000 people trapped in the north have lived since January on an average of 245 calories a day.

Nicaragua says Germany’s arms sales to Israel, which totalled $326.5m last year – a tenfold increase on 2022 – make it complicit in Israel’s alleged war crimes.

Components for air defence systems and communications equipment accounted for most of the sales, according to the DPA news agency.Germany was also one of 15 Western nations which suspended funding for the UN’s Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) over allegations that some of the agency’s staff were involved in the 7 October attacks on Israel.

According to papers filed with the ICJ, Nicaragua wants the UN’s top court to order Berlin to halt weapons sales and resume funding of the aid agency, one of the few international bodies still operating in Gaza.

It says in the absence of such measures, “Germany is facilitating the commission of genocide and is failing in its obligation to do everything possible to prevent the commission of genocide”.

Speaking as the trial opened, Alain Pellet, a lawyer for Nicaragua, said it was “urgent that Germany suspend continued sales.

“Germany was and is fully conscious of the risk that the arms it has furnished and continues to furnish to Israel,” he told judges.

Berlin has rejected the allegations, but has remained tight-lipped about its legal strategy ahead of the hearings.

“We note Nicaragua’s lawsuit and we deny the allegations as unjustified”, government spokesman Wolfgang Buechner said.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has been a vocal supporter of Israel’s right to self-defence, but he has faced increasing domestic hostility to the continuation of arms sales to the country.

On Sunday, a group of civil servants wrote to the German leader calling on the government to “cease arm deliveries to the Israeli government with immediate effect”.

“Israel is committing crimes in Gaza that are in clear contradiction to international law and thus to the Constitution, which we are bound to as federal civil servants and public employees,” the statement said, citing January’s ICJ ruling.

In January’s case, the ICJ ruled that “at least some of the acts and omissions alleged by South Africa to have been committed by Israel in Gaza appear to be capable of falling within the provisions of the Convention”.

But critics of the case have been quick to highlight that Nicaragua itself has a spotted human rights record, with its government accused of cracking down on opposition. In March, the UK’s mission to the UN accused President Daniel Ortega’s government of a “relentless” crackdown on human rights and civil liberties.

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Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from 10 northern regions in Kazakhstan due to flooding, caused by the melting snow. The authorities have taken swift action to ensure the safety of residents amidst the worsening situation.

Across the border in Russia, an oil refinery in Orsk, situated approximately 1,800km southeast of Moscow, has been forced to cease operations due to the floods. The disruption highlights the widespread impact of the natural disaster on both countries’ infrastructure and economy.

The Kremlin has issued warnings about the unprecedented pace of rising water levels, with some areas experiencing the fastest increase in a century. President Putin has directed regional authorities to prepare for the inevitable floods and take proactive measures to safeguard affected communities.

Russian emergency services have undertaken large-scale evacuation efforts, with nearly 4,500 people relocated from the Orenburg region following a dam breach. The situation remains critical, with forecasts indicating dangerous water levels in the Ural River, heightening concerns for further flooding.

In Kazakhstan, the emergency ministry has mobilized resources to provide temporary shelters for approximately 12,000 evacuated individuals. Additionally, efforts have been made to relocate around 60,000 farm animals to safe areas, mitigating the impact on agriculture and livelihoods.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has acknowledged the severity of the disaster, describing it as the worst natural calamity in Kazakhstan in 80 years. He has assured the nation that the government is intensifying its response efforts and will provide all necessary assistance to affected areas, emphasizing the importance of unity and support during this challenging time.

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Recent incidents of violence in French schools have reignited concerns, particularly following the tragic death of a 15-year-old boy named Shamseddin in Viry-Chatillon, a suburb in southern Paris. Mayor Jean-Marie Vilain expressed distress over the normalization of such extreme violence, recounting how Shamseddin was assaulted by a group of youths while walking home from a music class. Despite efforts by medical staff at Necker hospital, Shamseddin succumbed to his injuries.

Authorities have made one arrest in connection with Shamseddin’s murder, but are still seeking other assailants. Another incident in Montpellier involved the beating of a 14-year-old girl named Samara, who was hospitalized but has since regained consciousness. Initial reports indicated the attack stemmed from a dispute over Snapchat photos, though Samara’s mother mentioned her daughter faced bullying due to her refusal to conform to Islamic dress codes.

However, Samara’s mother also cautioned against politicizing the incident, rebuffing claims that it was religiously motivated and accusing far-right factions of exploiting the situation. These events have intensified concerns about violence in schools, with issues ranging from gang activity to cyberbullying and cultural pressures.

President Emmanuel Macron stressed the need to protect schools from escalating violence among teenagers. Opposition figures, including Marine Le Pen, have criticized the government’s response to such incidents. Mayor Vilain, visibly emotional, emphasized the need for moral education and consequences for wrongdoing in light of Shamseddin’s tragic death.

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Throughout the day and into the evening, individuals have been laying floral tributes in Bor’s main square, a copper-mining town in eastern Serbia, to honor Danka Ilic, a two-year-old girl who went missing. Alongside handwritten messages are cuddly toys and balloons, with votive candles flickering in remembrance. The mourners, whether local residents or from afar, express condolences to Danka’s family. Her disappearance, the subsequent search, and the tragic confirmation of her death have dominated headlines in Serbia since she vanished while playing at her grandfather’s house ten days ago.

Two men, both aged 50, are now in custody on suspicion of murder. According to police, they admitted to hitting Danka with their car but failed to seek help. Instead, they placed her in the vehicle and drove away. Details of the incident are distressing, with Danka’s father reportedly stopping the men’s car and inquiring about his daughter, unaware that she was inside the vehicle. Authorities are investigating the possibility of Danka surviving the initial impact, as evidence suggests the car was traveling at a low speed. Despite efforts to locate her body, one of the suspects allegedly moved it to another location.

The arrests dashed hopes of finding Danka alive, shifting focus to the grim task of recovering her remains. The case has drawn widespread attention both within Serbia and beyond its borders, with Interpol issuing alerts after a girl resembling Danka was spotted in Vienna. Protests planned in recent days have been called off out of respect for her family. President Aleksandar Vucic denounced those responsible as “monsters” while commending the police and the public for their efforts, emphasizing the resilience and compassion of the Serbian people.

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