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In a recent case in Uppsala, Sweden, four teenage brothers and a 15-year-old girl have been sentenced by the court for the murder of a taxi driver. The victim had been reported for rape by the girl, and the court found that he was lured to a nature reserve with the promise of sexual favors due to the earlier allegations. The taxi driver was overpowered, and his body was discovered a week later, hanging from a tree in what appeared to be a staged suicide.

The eldest brother, who was 18 at the time, received a life sentence, while the four younger individuals, who were minors during the events, were sentenced to three to four years in a young offenders’ institution. The three older brothers were convicted of murder, while the girl and her boyfriend, both 15 at the time, were found not to be at the scene but were convicted of aiding and abetting the murder.

Despite the teenagers denying their involvement, the court relied on circumstantial evidence presented by prosecutors. Messages exchanged between them were used as evidence of a murder plot. Four days before the victim disappeared, the girl messaged a friend about her rapist, stating, “His brothers are going to meet my rapist.” Subsequent messages discussed the timing of the murder, with one brother suggesting, “We should do Friday,” and another agreeing.

After the killing, one of the brothers used the victim’s phone to transfer money from his bank account. The girl claimed she was unaware of the brothers’ intention to kill the man, stating she thought they would only beat him up. However, the court, led by Lars Holmgard, the president of the Uppsala District Court, ruled that the brothers had planned the murder, evident from the time they purchased the rope used in the crime. Holmgard stated, “The plan must have been for [the victim] to be hanged from the rope, in our opinion.”

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In Moscow, a traditional marriage ceremony showcasing customs from the far north of Russia is part of an exhibition promoting patriotism and “traditional values.” The weddings at the event adhere to the constitutional definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman, emphasizing the absence of recognition for same-sex unions in Russia.

Over the years, Russia’s LGBTQ+ community has faced increasing pressure from authorities, marked by a law enacted in 2013 prohibiting the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” among minors. These restrictions were expanded to all age groups in Russia last year, leading to the removal of references to LGBTQ+ individuals from various forms of media.

The Russian justice ministry has now sought to label the non-existent “International LGBT public movement” as an “extremist” organization, aiming for a ban. LGBTQ+ activists fear that if the supreme court supports this motion, individuals associated with LGBTQ+ activism could face lengthy prison sentences for allegedly participating in an extremist organization.

Members of the Russian parliament, particularly Vitaly Milonov, argue that the move is not an attack on sexual minorities but is instead aimed at countering the political agenda of an international LGBTQ+ movement. Milonov expresses a desire to ban activities from LGBTQ+ international organizations in Russia and even suggests banning the rainbow flag, considering it a symbol against traditional family values.

The Kremlin, under Vladimir Putin, has embraced an ideology centered on conservative thinking and “traditional family values,” portraying LGBTQ+ activism as a Western threat to Russia. The pressure on the LGBTQ+ community is framed as a defense of the moral fabric of the country.

Some activists believe that the supreme court hearing on labeling the “International LGBT public movement” as extremist is linked to the upcoming presidential election, suggesting that authorities are creating an artificial enemy to appeal to conservative sentiments. LGBTQ+ advocates view this as an attempt to distract the public from pressing issues.

Maxim Goldman, who identifies as non-binary, describes feeling rejected by their own country and reveals plans to leave Russia urgently due to the anticipated crackdown on LGBTQ+ activism. Others, like municipal deputy Sergei Troshin, express concerns about potential legal consequences for advocating LGBTQ+ rights, highlighting the pervasive atmosphere of fear in Russian society.

In summary, Russia’s LGBTQ+ community is facing increased hostility from authorities, with potential legal consequences for activists and a broader societal atmosphere of fear and repression.

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More than 200 years after their removal by Lord Elgin, the Elgin Marbles remain a contentious issue, symbolizing perceived injustice among the majority of Greeks. The British claim of ownership is widely rejected, and the sculptures, often referred to as the Parthenon Sculptures, are seen as stolen treasures, taken through imperial theft.

In central Athens, a consensus prevails among the people, regardless of age, asserting that the Parthenon and its sculptures rightfully belong to Greece. The argument that the British Museum ensures better preservation is dismissed, with anecdotes about issues like a leaking roof at the museum cited as evidence to the contrary.

At the foot of the Acropolis, a dedicated museum has been waiting for 14 years to showcase the missing marbles upon their return. While countries like Italy have expressed willingness to return Greek antiquities, the British government has not followed suit, maintaining a contentious stance on the issue.

The cancellation of a meeting between UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has strained diplomatic relations. Cabinet minister Adonis Georgiadis, expressing a sense of offense, underscores the bipartisan unity in Greece, asserting that the return of the marbles is not merely a political stance but a matter of national and cultural significance.

Foreign Minister Giorgos Gerapetritis reinforces the claim, emphasizing the historical, just, and ecumenical cultural value attached to the sculptures. Despite the strained relations, there is a hope for a resolution, with Georgiadis expressing the wish for the British Museum to find a “reasonable way out” of a predicament seen as a “disgrace” by many Greeks.

Among the late-night shoppers in Athens, skepticism towards the British Museum’s motivations is evident, with some attributing the reluctance to financial concerns. The sentiment among Athenians is that the return of the marbles would not only make Greeks happy but also foster goodwill globally, promoting fairness and reasonability.

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Finland has decided to close the majority of its border crossings with Russia, accusing Moscow of actively aiding migrants in their entry into the country. With seven out of eight road posts already closed due to a notable increase in crossings, the last remaining crossing, situated in the Arctic Circle, is set to be shut for a two-week period.

The Finnish government asserts that Russia is orchestrating the movement of asylum seekers towards Finland as part of what they describe as an “influence operation” and a “hybrid attack.” Prime Minister Petteri Orpo emphasized the government’s commitment to putting an end to these crossings, citing concerns for national security.

In November, Finland saw a surge in the number of asylum seekers, totaling around 900 individuals, who entered the country from Russia. These asylum seekers come from various countries, including Morocco, Pakistan, and Syria. The Finnish government’s response to this influx has been a gradual closure of more border posts. The decision has raised concerns from Finland’s non-discrimination ombudsman, who fears that the closures may compromise the right to seek asylum under international law, particularly considering the remote location of the last remaining border crossing, approximately 900 kilometers north of the capital.

Despite the closures, the Finnish government maintains that asylum seekers arriving by boat and air can still seek asylum. However, advocates worry that the decision to close official crossing points may lead asylum seekers to attempt illegal crossings through the vast forests and rivers that make up the lengthy border between Finland and Russia.

With the arrival of winter, there are heightened concerns about the safety of such attempts. Advocates also emphasize the importance of providing assistance to those in need on the Russian side of the border and urge authorities to avoid pushing individuals crossing illegally back into Russia.

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Marianna Budanova, the wife of Ukraine’s top spy, Lt Gen Kyrylo Budanov, has been hospitalized for suspected poisoning with heavy metals, as confirmed by a Ukrainian intelligence source. The source did not disclose additional information about potential victims or the circumstances surrounding the incident. Several Ukrainian media outlets have independently reported similar information, suggesting that multiple intelligence officials may have been affected. Notably, Ukraine’s military intelligence has not officially commented on these reports.

Lt Gen Budanov, who leads Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence, has been a pivotal figure in planning and executing major military operations against Russian forces following the full-scale invasion in February 2022. Despite the reports of poisoning, there is no indication as to whether Russia is believed to be responsible for the alleged attack.

Mrs. Budanova, born in 1993 in Kyiv, holds a master’s degree in psychology and has been involved in politics, previously serving as an adviser to the mayor of Kyiv. The reports suggest that she may have been exposed to heavy metals through poisoned food. Although the specific heavy metal involved has not been disclosed, sources emphasize that the substances are not commonly used in everyday life or military operations.

In the context of safety concerns, Lt Gen Budanov and his wife had been staying in his office since the February 2022 invasion, as mentioned in a September interview. Despite more than 10 reported assassination attempts against Lt Gen Budanov, there is no indication in the current reports that he has also been targeted. The situation remains dynamic, and further developments are awaited as investigations unfold.

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In Ljubljana, a delivery rider’s indulgence in a €400 burek, a Balkan pastry, during the initial Covid lockdown marked an unusual and notably expensive fast-food experience. The incident garnered attention as police surrounded the rider for a seemingly minor offense – not wearing a mask while eating on the steps of a church. This photograph became a poignant symbol of the stringent enforcement of Covid restrictions during the pandemic in the Slovenian capital.

Over a span of more than two years, the authorities in Slovenia issued a staggering €6 million in fines, affecting more than 60,000 individuals who allegedly violated anti-Covid measures. The fines were issued under the strict regulations imposed by the previous right-wing administration led by former Prime Minister Janez Janša. These measures included restrictions on freedom of movement and assembly, local travel limitations, and a nighttime curfew. The hungry food delivery driver was just one of many who faced penalties for violating face mask mandates, even in outdoor settings, and navigating daily activities without a Covid certificate became exceptionally challenging.

This week, a significant development takes place as legislation comes into effect to refund the fines issued during this period. This initiative fulfills a promise made by Prime Minister Robert Golob before his center-left Freedom Movement came into power last year. The move aims to rectify the harsh consequences of the previously imposed measures and rebuild public trust in the rule of law, which had been significantly undermined by what is now deemed as excessive and unconstitutional repression during the pandemic.

While the decision to refund fines has been welcomed by many, it has not been universally embraced. Some critics, including a member of Janez Janša’s SDS party, argue that repaying fines is a disregard for the efforts of health workers who tirelessly fought to save lives during the pandemic. However, the current administration, represented by Justice Minister Dominika Švarc Pipan, views the restitution legislation as essential for restoring Slovenians’ confidence in the rule of law, particularly in the aftermath of what is perceived as overzealous and unconstitutional measures imposed during the Covid crisis.

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Six teenagers in France, aged between 13 and 15 at the time, are currently on trial for their alleged complicity in the murder of teacher Samuel Paty in 2020. The tragic incident occurred when Paty, who had shown cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad during a class on freedom of expression, was killed by a Chechen refugee. The teenagers are accused of slander and of guiding the murderer to Paty at the school.

The youngest among them, a 13-year-old girl, had been suspended from school just days before the murder, for reasons unrelated to the case. However, she falsely claimed to her father that she confronted Paty over an alleged request for Muslim students to leave the class, leading to social media posts that prosecutors believe influenced the killer’s actions.

These teenagers face serious charges, and if convicted, they could be sentenced to a maximum of 2.5 years in prison. The case has sparked significant public attention and highlights the complex dynamics surrounding the events leading up to Paty’s murder. The teenagers are not accused of directly committing the murder but rather of playing a role in facilitating the tragic incident.

In addition to the ongoing trial of these six teenagers, a second trial is scheduled for next year. It involves eight adults, including the father of the 13-year-old girl currently on trial. The second trial will further explore allegations of complicity in the murder, bringing to light the broader network and individuals who may have contributed to the events leading up to Paty’s death.

The broader context of this case includes accusations against two friends of the Chechen refugee who carried out the murder. They are facing charges of “complicity in a terrorist murder,” the most severe crime in this case. One is accused of accompanying the murderer to buy weapons, while the other is accused of driving him to the school where Paty taught on the day of the murder. These accusations underscore the serious nature of the events surrounding the teacher’s death and the varied roles individuals are alleged to have played in its execution.

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Italy clinched their first Davis Cup title in 47 years as Jannik Sinner dominated Alex de Minaur, securing a 2-0 victory over Australia in Malaga, Spain. Matteo Arnaldi set the tone with a tense 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 win over Alexei Popyrin in the opening singles, giving Italy a 1-0 lead. Sinner, in exceptional form, then cruised to a 6-3, 6-0 triumph against De Minaur, sealing the historic victory.

The win marked Italy’s second Davis Cup triumph, the previous one dating back to 1976. Sinner’s outstanding week, including a crucial win against Novak Djokovic in the semi-final, underscored his late-season brilliance. Italy’s path to victory also featured Matteo Berrettini’s positive contribution.

Sinner, ranked fourth globally, showcased his dominance by breaking De Minaur early and maintaining control throughout. The victory was not only a result of individual brilliance but also a collective effort, with Arnaldi playing a crucial role in securing the initial lead.

The Australian team, aiming for their 29th Davis Cup title, faced disappointment after back-to-back final losses, having been defeated by Canada the previous year. Italy’s triumph was a testament to their resilience, overcoming challenges and celebrating the win with jubilation.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni congratulated the team for their talent and commitment, acknowledging the historic achievement. The week in Malaga was marked by a fabulous atmosphere, reigniting debates about the competition format while affirming the success of the event organized by Malaga and the International Tennis Federation.

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Kyiv experienced its most significant drone attack since the onset of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, according to the city’s mayor. The assault, consisting of over 75 Iranian-made Shahed drones, targeted the capital from the north and east. Despite the city’s air defenses successfully intercepting 74 drones, explosions and the sound of air defenses echoed through Kyiv for more than six hours. The Shahed drones, viewed as a cost-effective alternative to Russia’s diminishing missile stocks, are slower but distinctive due to their wingspan.

The attack caused damage to buildings, including a kindergarten, and left at least five people injured, including an 11-year-old child. Fortunately, there were no reported fatalities. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denounced the strikes as an intentional act of terror, vowing to continue uniting the world against Russian aggression. The assault coincided with Ukraine’s commemoration of the 1932-1933 Holodomor famine, adding symbolic weight to the event.

The possibility of Russia targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, a tactic used in the past, materialized as 16,000 homes in central Kyiv lost power. While Moscow’s previous attempts to deprive Ukrainians of essential resources failed, causing authorities to rapidly repair damaged infrastructure, the impact of such strikes remains significant. Despite ongoing improvements in Ukraine’s air defenses, attacks like these continue to cause destruction, instill fear, and disrupt the lives of its residents.

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The recent tragic killing of 22-year-old Giulia Cecchettin in Italy by her ex-boyfriend has ignited a national conversation about violence against women. Giulia was on the verge of graduating in biomedical engineering when she disappeared with her ex-boyfriend Filippo Turetta. Subsequent CCTV footage revealed her brutal murder, with Turetta assaulting her in a car park, using duct tape to silence her, and ultimately fatally attacking her in an industrial area.

This incident has fueled public outrage and grief, prompting widespread protests, vigils, and discussions about the pervasive issue of violence against women in Italy. The case has drawn attention to the deeply entrenched patriarchal attitudes in the country, with many women expressing concerns about the normalization of controlling and violent behavior by men.

Giulia’s killing is part of a larger pattern, as data from the Italian interior ministry indicates that 106 women have been killed in Italy this year, with 55 allegedly by a partner or ex-partner. The incident has led to an increase in calls to Italy’s anti-violence hotline.

The tragic event has also prompted discussions about the broader societal issues contributing to gender-based violence. Some argue that the resentment of women’s independence is a significant factor in toxic relationships, where violent men struggle with their partners’ success.

Filippo Turetta, who studied the same subject as Giulia, was arrested in Germany after a week-long international manhunt. Despite not being formally charged yet, he is set to be extradited to Italy. The case has brought attention to the need for societal change, with calls for educational campaigns and legislative measures to combat misogynistic violence.

Giulia’s sister highlighted the responsibility of men in addressing the patriarchal norms that contribute to gender-based violence. The outcry has led to unanimous approval by the Italian Senate for new legislation strengthening measures against gender violence, including stricter restraining orders and increased surveillance on perpetrators.

Despite these developments, critics argue that more needs to be done to combat the deeply rooted problem of gender-based violence in Italy. The incident has sparked hope among advocates that the widespread anger and demand for change will lead to a transformative shift in Italian society.

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