‘End of an Era’: Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin Dies at 96

China's President Jiang Zemin gestures during his press conference in Beijing, China, September 2, 1994. (Reuters)
China's President Jiang Zemin gestures during his press conference in Beijing, China, September 2, 1994. (Reuters)
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‘End of an Era’: Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin Dies at 96

China's President Jiang Zemin gestures during his press conference in Beijing, China, September 2, 1994. (Reuters)
China's President Jiang Zemin gestures during his press conference in Beijing, China, September 2, 1994. (Reuters)

Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, who led the country for a decade of rapid economic growth after the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989, died on Wednesday at the age of 96, Chinese state media reported.

Jiang died in his home city of Shanghai just after noon on Wednesday of leukemia and multiple organ failure, Xinhua news agency said, publishing a letter to the Chinese people by the ruling Communist Party, parliament, Cabinet and the military.

"Comrade Jiang Zemin's death is an incalculable loss to our Party and our military and our people of all ethnic groups," the letter read, saying its announcement was with "profound grief".

Jiang's death comes at a tumultuous time in China, where authorities are grappling with rare widespread street protests among residents fed up with heavy-handed COVID-19 curbs nearly three years into the pandemic.

The zero-COVID policy is a hallmark of President Xi Jinping, who recently secured a third leadership term that cements his place as China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong and has taken China in an increasingly authoritarian direction since replacing Jiang's immediate successor, Hu Jintao.

China is also in the midst of a sharp economic slowdown exacerbated by zero-COVID.

Numerous users of China's Twitter-like Weibo platform described the death of Jiang, who remained influential after finally retiring in 2004, as the end of an era.

"I'm very sad, not only for his departure, but also because I really feel that an era is over," a Henan province-based user wrote.

"As if what has happened wasn't enough, 2022 tells people in a more brutal way that an era is over," a Beijing Weibo user posted.

The online pages of state media sites including People's Daily and Xinhua turned to black and white in mourning.

Wednesday's letter described "our beloved Comrade Jiang Zemin" as an outstanding leader of high prestige, a great Marxist, statesman, military strategist and diplomat and a long-tested communist fighter.

Jiang was plucked from obscurity to head China's ruling Communist Party after the bloody Tiananmen crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 1989, but broke the country out of its subsequent diplomatic isolation, mending fences with the United States and overseeing an unprecedented economic boom.

He served as president from 1993 to 2003 but held China's top job, as head of the ruling Communist Party, from 1989 and handed over that role to Hu in 2002. He only gave up the position as head of the military in 2004, which he also assumed in 1989.

When Jiang retired, it was said by sources close to the leadership at the time that everywhere Hu looked he would see the supporters of his predecessor.

Jiang had stacked China's most powerful leadership body, the Politburo Standing Committee, with his own protégées, many of them from the so-called "Shanghai Gang".

But in the years after Jiang retired from his final post, the military commission chairmanship in 2004, Hu consolidated his grip, neutralized the Shanghai Gang and successfully anointed Xi as a successor.



Spokesperson: Navalny's Funeral to be Held on March 1 in Moscow

Flower and a pictures are left as a tribute to Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, near to the Russian Embassy in Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Denes Erdos)
Flower and a pictures are left as a tribute to Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, near to the Russian Embassy in Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Denes Erdos)
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Spokesperson: Navalny's Funeral to be Held on March 1 in Moscow

Flower and a pictures are left as a tribute to Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, near to the Russian Embassy in Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Denes Erdos)
Flower and a pictures are left as a tribute to Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, near to the Russian Embassy in Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Denes Erdos)

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's funeral and farewell ceremony will be held on March 1 in Moscow, Navalny's spokesperson Kira Yarmysh said on the X social network.

The funeral will be held at the Borisovskoye cemetery after a farewell ceremony at a church in the Maryino district, she said.

A lawyer for the Russian opposition politician, who accompanied Navalny's mother last week as she fought to get authorities to hand over his body, was briefly detained on Tuesday in Moscow, Russian news media said.
The lawyer, Vasily Dubkov, later told independent news outlet Verstka that he had been released. Verstka said he did not comment on the reason for his detention but said it was an obstruction of his activity as a lawyer.
With Dubkov's help, Navalny's mother Lyudmila succeeded in obtaining the release of her son's body last Saturday, eight days after he died suddenly in an Arctic penal colony.
She had earlier accused investigators of trying to "blackmail" her by withholding the body unless she agreed to bury it without a public funeral, which she refused to accept.


North Korea’s First Spy Satellite Is ‘Alive’, Can Maneuver, Expert Says 

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un visits the Pyongyang General Control Centre of the National Aerospace Technology Administration to inspect operational readiness of the reconnaissance satellites and view aerospace photographs, in this picture released by the Korean Central News Agency on November 25, 2023. (KCNA via Reuters)
North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un visits the Pyongyang General Control Centre of the National Aerospace Technology Administration to inspect operational readiness of the reconnaissance satellites and view aerospace photographs, in this picture released by the Korean Central News Agency on November 25, 2023. (KCNA via Reuters)
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North Korea’s First Spy Satellite Is ‘Alive’, Can Maneuver, Expert Says 

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un visits the Pyongyang General Control Centre of the National Aerospace Technology Administration to inspect operational readiness of the reconnaissance satellites and view aerospace photographs, in this picture released by the Korean Central News Agency on November 25, 2023. (KCNA via Reuters)
North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un visits the Pyongyang General Control Centre of the National Aerospace Technology Administration to inspect operational readiness of the reconnaissance satellites and view aerospace photographs, in this picture released by the Korean Central News Agency on November 25, 2023. (KCNA via Reuters)

North Korea's first spy satellite is "alive," a Netherlands-based space expert said on Tuesday, after detecting changes in its orbit that suggest Pyongyang is successfully controlling the spacecraft - although its capabilities are still unknown.

After two fiery failures, North Korea successfully placed the Malligyong-1 satellite in orbit in November. Pyongyang's state media claimed it has photographed sensitive military and political sites in South Korea, the United States, and elsewhere, but has not released any imagery. Independent radio trackers have not detected signals from the satellite.

"But now we can definitely say the satellite is alive," Marco Langbroek, a satellite expert at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, wrote in a blog post.

From Feb. 19-24, the satellite conducted maneuvers to raise its perigee, or the lowest point in its orbit, from 488 km to 497 km, Langbroek said, citing data from the US–led Combined Space Operations Center.

"The maneuver proves that Malligyong-1 is not dead, and that North-Korea has control over the satellite - something that was disputed," he said.

South Korea's Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On Monday, Defense Minister Shin Won-sik said the satellite was not showing any signs of performing other tasks or engaging in reconnaissance.

"While we indeed currently can not be sure whether the satellite does successfully take imagery, it at least performs orbital maneuvers, so in that sense it is functional," Langbroek wrote of Shin's comments.

The orbit-raising maneuver was a surprise as the presence of an onboard propulsion system is unexpected, and previous North Korean satellites never maneuvered, he said.

"Having the capacity to raise the satellite's orbit is a big deal," Langbroek said.

That means that as long as there is fuel in the satellite, North Korea can prolong the satellite's lifetime by raising its altitude when it gets too low because of orbital decay, he concluded.

Nuclear-armed North Korea has vowed to launch three more spy satellites in 2024.


Michigan Takeaways: Presidential Primaries Show Warning Signs for Trump and Biden 

A voter stands in a voting booth at polling site located at Warren E. Bow Elementary School during voting in the 2024 presidential primary election in Detroit, Michigan, US, 27 February 2024. (EPA)
A voter stands in a voting booth at polling site located at Warren E. Bow Elementary School during voting in the 2024 presidential primary election in Detroit, Michigan, US, 27 February 2024. (EPA)
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Michigan Takeaways: Presidential Primaries Show Warning Signs for Trump and Biden 

A voter stands in a voting booth at polling site located at Warren E. Bow Elementary School during voting in the 2024 presidential primary election in Detroit, Michigan, US, 27 February 2024. (EPA)
A voter stands in a voting booth at polling site located at Warren E. Bow Elementary School during voting in the 2024 presidential primary election in Detroit, Michigan, US, 27 February 2024. (EPA)

Joe Biden and Donald Trump easily won their party’s primaries in Michigan, but Tuesday’s results showed that both candidates have cause for concern in their bid to win the swing state in November.

An “uncommitted” vote in Michigan's Democratic primary was the first indication of how backlash over President Biden's handling of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza might impact his reelection campaign. Trump won his primary by a large margin, but support for rival Nikki Haley once again showed that some Republican voters may have misgivings about giving the former president another four years in the general election.

Here are some takeaways from Michigan:

Biden, Trump each move closer to party's nomination Michigan was the last major primary state before Super Tuesday, and both sides were watching closely for implications for the November general election in one of the few genuine swing states left in the country.

Biden has now cruised to victories over lesser known candidates in South Carolina, Nevada and New Hampshire, which he won in a write-in campaign. Tuesday's results show that his standing is still strong in Michigan, which Biden returned to the Democratic column in 2020.

Trump has swept all five of the early state contests, including South Carolina, the home state of rival Haley. He now heads into Super Tuesday, when 15 states and one territory hold Republican nominating contests, as the overwhelming favorite to lock up the Republican nomination.

Michigan was one of three so-called blue wall states, including Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, that Trump won in 2016. He predicted a big win beforehand.

Just 16 of Michigan’s 55 Republican presidential delegates will be determined by the primary results, while the remaining delegates will be allocated during a March 2 convention. Trump’s anticipated dominance at the state convention, where grassroots activists will play a key role, will decide the allocation of the remaining 39 GOP delegates.

Some Democrats express anger over Gaza with “uncommitted” vote Michigan has become the focal point of Democratic frustration regarding the White House’s actions in the Israel-Hamas conflict. It has the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the nation.

That anger came through loud and clear on Tuesday as some voters marked “uncommitted” on their ballot in the Democratic primary. Biden still dominated the primary, but the result could be a concern in a state he won by less than 3% in 2020 and likely can’t afford to lose this year.

Organizers of the “uncommitted” movement had purposely kept expectations low, having only seriously begun their push a few weeks ago. The “Listen to Michigan” campaign that organized the push said they were hoping for 10,000 votes, pointing to Trump’s win of less than 11,000 votes in 2016 to show the significance of that number.

When Barack Obama ran for reelection in 2012, the last time a Democratic presidential incumbent sought re-election, the “uncommitted” option received close to 21,000 votes — or 11 percentage points.

The “uncommitted” vote totals would need to be between 20 and 30 percentage points for Democrats to worry about their impact in November, said Richard Czuba, a pollster who has long tracked Michigan politics.

“Twenty percent gets my attention. If it rises to 25%, that gets a lot more attention and if it rises above 30%, I think that’s a signal that Joe Biden has pretty substantial issues in his base,” said Czuba.

Much of the “uncommitted” vote was expected to come from the east side of the state, in communities such as Dearborn and Hamtramck, where Arab Americans represent close to half of the population. Biden won Dearborn by a roughly 3-to-1 advantage in 2020 and Hamtramck by a 5 to 1 margin.

Some Republicans still oppose Trump Despite Trump's clear victory in Michigan, Haley still saw significant support from the swing state's Republicans.

Some of her best results came in Oakland and Kent counties, where Democrats have been gaining ground in recent years, contributing to their recent statewide success. She also performed better in counties where the state’s largest universities are located, Washtenaw and Ingham counties.

Trump has dominated in primaries with help from his base but his strength among general election voters remains unclear. The former president has appeared in Michigan regularly in the eight years since he became president, while Haley only began stumping in the state over the weekend.

AP VoteCast reveals that a large portion of Trump’s opposition within the Republican primaries has come from voters who abandoned him before this year.

All three statewide Republican candidates that Trump endorsed in the 2022 midterms were crushed by Democratic incumbents.


Türkiye Arrests Members of Cell Suspected of ISIS Links

A photo showing a raid by the Turkish security forces on ISIS members (File)
A photo showing a raid by the Turkish security forces on ISIS members (File)
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Türkiye Arrests Members of Cell Suspected of ISIS Links

A photo showing a raid by the Turkish security forces on ISIS members (File)
A photo showing a raid by the Turkish security forces on ISIS members (File)

Turkish security forces arrested on Tuesday 20 ISIS members suspected of establishing a terrorist cell in the capital.

The Public Prosecution Office in Ankara said the arrest is part of an investigation launched by its Terrorism Crimes Office, against a group suspected of links to the terrorist organization ISIS.

In a statement, the Office added the suspected group was active in Ankara, noting that investigations into the suspects are currently continuing in the Anti-Terrorism Division.

Turkish police have stepped up operations against suspected ISIS militants particularly after the group claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on a Catholic church in Istanbul early this month.

Türkiye has detained 17 members of the ISIS Khorasan Province in an operation in Istanbul. Investigations revealed that they were involved in the attack on the Santa Maria Catholic Church, and of planning to establish a cell to train ISIS militants and send them to Middle Eastern countries.

The Turkish Counter-terrorism forces have also detained 147 people suspected of having ties to ISIS in operations across 33 provinces.

Last month, ISIS renewed its activities in the country after a pause of seven years.

Early in February, one Turkish citizen was killed by two ISIS gunmen at the Italian Santa Maria Catholic Church in Istanbul.

Authorities have already announced the arrest of 25 suspects in connection with the shooting.

Among the 25 remanded in custody were two suspected gunmen, previously captured by police, who are believed to be tied to ISIS. The first one is Amirjon Khliqov from Tajikistan and the other David Tanduev from Russia.

They were charged with being members of an illegal organization and aggravated intentional homicide. Another nine suspects were released pending trial.

Security sources said members of the ISIS Khorasan branch conducted activities against Türkiye and were in connection with the attack of the church.

ISIS claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks in Türkiye between 2015 and 2017, which killed more than 300 and wounded dozens. Türkiye designated the group as terrorist in 2013.


Iran Elections Shadowed by Economic Crisis

An Iranian student walks past election posters at the entrance of Tehran University. (EPA)
An Iranian student walks past election posters at the entrance of Tehran University. (EPA)
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Iran Elections Shadowed by Economic Crisis

An Iranian student walks past election posters at the entrance of Tehran University. (EPA)
An Iranian student walks past election posters at the entrance of Tehran University. (EPA)

Iranians are more worried about their tough living conditions than about picking the right candidate in upcoming elections.

In the minds of many voters, economic hardship is indeed the most burning issue as the country suffers under punishing international sanctions and rapid inflation.

Iranians will head to the polls for legislative and other elections on Friday, and candidates are promising them on campaign posters to “fight corruption” and “fix the economy.”

At Tehran’s storied Grand Bazaar, many shoppers are simply wandering the warren of aisles without buying anything, as prices have skyrocketed in recent years.

Many doubt that a quick solution is in sight -- among them 62-year-old retiree Aliasghari, who told AFP he wished the politicians would “stop the empty slogans.”

“The economic situation is extremely troubling,” said the pensioner walking through the labyrinthine market, who asked not to be fully named as he discussed the sensitive issue.

Citizens “are hearing a lot of fabrications and they have lost their trust in voting,” he said, adding that “none of my family members are willing to take part in the elections.”

Voters are due to pick new members of Iran's 290-seat legislature and the Assembly of Experts, a key body that appoints the country’s supreme leader.

As usual, Tehran's market is crowded with people of all ages and backgrounds in the weeks leading up to Nowruz.

However, they “just look at the prices and stalls without buying anything” because “the economic situation is causing serious worries,” according to Aliasghari.

Experts believe voter turnout could hit its lowest level in 45 years since the republic’s founding.

In the 2020 legislative elections, turnout was 42.57% nationwide, dropping to about 23% in Tehran, the country's largest electoral district with 30 out of 290 parliamentary seats.

Throughout Iran, the tough economic conditions have intensified political dissatisfaction.

A survey by Iranian state TV revealed that over half of Iranians aren't interested in voting, despite calls from top officials, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, urging everyone to participate.

But for many in Iran, with a population exceeding 85 million, the big worry is the soaring annual inflation, nearing 50%, along with rising prices and a weak currency.


Pakistan: Jailed ex-PM Khan and Wife Indicted on Graft Charges

Jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his third wife Bushra Bibi (File/AP)
Jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his third wife Bushra Bibi (File/AP)
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Pakistan: Jailed ex-PM Khan and Wife Indicted on Graft Charges

Jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his third wife Bushra Bibi (File/AP)
Jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his third wife Bushra Bibi (File/AP)

A Pakistani court has indicted jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his third wife Bushra Bibi on charges that they allegedly received land as a bribe by misusing his office during his premiership, his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or PTI, said.

The latest charges follow a string of convictions against Khan in the months leading up to the Feb. 8 national election, where his supporters won the most seats overall.

Khan, 71, has been in jail since August in connection with other cases, and has previously denied the allegations.

He had already been convicted in four cases with sentences of as much as 14 years in prison - including two on graft charges, that also disqualified him from taking part in politics for 10 years.

His trials are being held on a jail's premises on security grounds.

Khan's PTI party said on Tuesday the couple pleaded not guilty to the indictment charges.

The latest indictment is related to Al-Qadir Trust, which is a non-governmental welfare organization set up by Khan and his third wife Bushra Bibi in 2018 when he was still in office.

Prosecutors say the trust was a front for Khan to receive a valuable 60 acres of land in a district outside Islamabad and another large piece of land close to Khan's hilltop mansion in the capital as a bribe from a real estate developer, Malik Riaz Hussain, who is one of Pakistan's richest and most powerful businessmen.

Hussain has denied any wrongdoing.

On Wednesday, the PTI condemned the indictment.

“Trials conducted behind prison walls (are) only meant to pave the way for miscarriage of justice,” it said in a statement, terming them politically motivated cases to keep Khan behind bars.

Pakistan’s powerful military fell out with Khan before he was ousted in a parliament vote of confidence in April 2022.

He has alleged that generals backed his ouster to bring his opponents to power, a charge the army and the opposition deny.

Separately, Pakistani authorities arrested a prominent journalist for alleged “malicious campaign” against state institutions, in what rights activists described as a blatant attack on the freedom of expression.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had arrested on Monday Asad Ali Toor, known for his criticism of the country’s powerful military, over allegations of running a malicious campaign against state institutions.

A case under the country’s controversial law, the prevention of electronic crime act, has been filed against Toor.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) demanded his immediate release and removal of any curbs on freedom of expression.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), in a statement, also demanded his release.

On his blog account, Toor had criticized Chief Justice Qazi Faez over the court’s decision to remove the cricket bat symbol of Imran Khan’s party before the elections.


US Sanctions Iranian Deputy Commander, Houthi Member and Ships That Transport Iranian Oil

The US Department of Treasury in Washington, DC, on February 22, 2024. (AFP)
The US Department of Treasury in Washington, DC, on February 22, 2024. (AFP)
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US Sanctions Iranian Deputy Commander, Houthi Member and Ships That Transport Iranian Oil

The US Department of Treasury in Washington, DC, on February 22, 2024. (AFP)
The US Department of Treasury in Washington, DC, on February 22, 2024. (AFP)

The US sanctioned a deputy commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, a Houthi militant member, firms registered in Hong Kong and the Marshall Islands, along with two ships, including one that transported $100 million in Iranian commodities to China.

Iranian official Mohammad Reza Falahzadeh, and Houthi group member Ibrahim al-Nashiri were hit with sanctions Tuesday.

Hong Kong-registered Kohana Co. Ltd. and Marshall Islands-registered Iridescent Co. Ltd. — which own the Panama-flagged Kohana — were also designated for sanctions. The US says the Kohana has shipped over $100 million in Iranian commodities to businesses in China on behalf of Iran’s Ministry of Defense.

Additionally, the US sanctioned Hong Kong-based Cap Tees Shipping Co. Ltd., which owns the Artura, accused of transporting Iranian commodities for the network of previously sanctioned Houthi and Iranian financial facilitator Sa’id al-Jamal. Treasury says the Artura obfuscated its identity by using the name of a different vessel, Sanan II, to complete some of its shipments.

“Iran’s Ministry of Defense is at the forefront of Iran’s destabilizing activities, such as aiding Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and supplying militia groups with weapons that kill US forces in Iraq and Syria,” said Treasury undersecretary Brian Nelson in a statement.

The sanctions block access to US property and bank accounts and prevent the targeted people and companies from doing business with Americans.

Escalation between the US, Iran and Houthi militias have increased after a series of maritime attacks in the Mideast linked to the Israel-Hamas war, as multiple vessels have found themselves in the crosshairs of a single Houthi assault for the first time in the conflict.

The White House last week promised to unveil new sanctions on Iran in retaliation for its arms sales that have bolstered Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and threatened a “swift” and “severe” response if Tehran moves forward with selling ballistic missiles to Moscow.


Decades on, Serbia Struggles to Prosecute Yugoslav War Crimes

The murder of 20 civilians in the village of Strpci was one of an untold number of atrocities in the bloody wars that broke up Yugoslavia. ELVIS BARUKCIC / AFP/File
The murder of 20 civilians in the village of Strpci was one of an untold number of atrocities in the bloody wars that broke up Yugoslavia. ELVIS BARUKCIC / AFP/File
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Decades on, Serbia Struggles to Prosecute Yugoslav War Crimes

The murder of 20 civilians in the village of Strpci was one of an untold number of atrocities in the bloody wars that broke up Yugoslavia. ELVIS BARUKCIC / AFP/File
The murder of 20 civilians in the village of Strpci was one of an untold number of atrocities in the bloody wars that broke up Yugoslavia. ELVIS BARUKCIC / AFP/File

Exactly 31 years ago, gunmen forced 20 civilians off a train in the Bosnian village of Strpci. They were beaten, robbed and later murdered.
It was one of an untold number of atrocities in the bloody wars that broke up Yugoslavia -- and justice in many such cases is painfully slow.
In the Serbian capital Belgrade, the trial of those accused of carrying out the Strpci massacre is still going on, with the suspects free, AFP said.
"It is unforgivable that 30 years after the kidnapping and murder of 20 civilians in Strpci, the Serbian judicial authorities are incapable of conducting the trials in a professional manner and rendering a verdict," said the Balkans-based Humanitarian Law Center.
An estimated 130,000 people were killed in the wars that tore the former Yugoslavia apart in the 1990s.
In the decades since, several leading figures from the fighting -- including Bosnia Serb commander Ratko Mladic -- have been prosecuted at an international tribunal in The Hague. Scores more have been tried by local courts across the Balkans.
But in Serbia, convicted war criminals released from prison have been celebrated by top state officials and hailed in pro-government media.
Others have resumed their political careers or written works of revisionist history distributed by state-run publishers.
Stop-start Serbian trials
In the Strpci case, four former members of the Avengers, a paramilitary group linked with the Bosnian Serb army, got prison sentences ranging between five and 10 years after an initial trial that ended in February 2022.
But just a year later the verdict was overturned. A new trial opened in January.
The start-stop nature of the proceedings has angered advocacy groups that push for justice in war crimes trials.
According to the indictment, a special armed group was formed in Visegrad, Bosnia in February 1993 and tasked with kidnapping non-Serb passengers from the train connecting Belgrade to Bar in Montenegro.
The four accused in the trial -- Gojko Lukic, Dusko Vasiljevic, Jovan Lipovac and Dragana Djekic -- are suspected of kidnapping the passengers in Strpci and handing them to their killers.
The executioners have never been identified and no investigation has ever been opened into who masterminded the massacre.
Just four of the victims' bodies have been recovered, roughly 70 kilometers (43 miles) from the scene of the kidnapping along the shores of Lake Perucac.
Milan Lukic -- a prominent Serb paramilitary commander linked to the Avengers -- was sentenced to life imprisonment by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for crimes against humanity.
But he was never convicted of having a role in the Strpci killings.
Convictions outside Serbia
While Serbia has been accused of dragging its heels in war crimes cases, other countries in the region have shown greater initiative in tackling the issue, including the prosecutions of Serb paramilitary members.
A court in Montenegro convicted Nebojsa Ranisavljevic in 2004 and sentenced him to 15 years in prison for his role in the Strpci kidnappings.
And in neighboring Bosnia, seven former members of the Avengers were sentenced in August 2023 to 13 years in prison each for their part in the crime.
"The sentences should certainly have been more severe. But they show to a certain extent the willingness of society in Bosnia-Herzegovina to try war criminals," Edvin Kanka Cudic, a war crimes specialist for the Bosnia-based Association for Social Research and Communication, told AFP.
"Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Serbia, since the trials, like that of Strpci, also last a long time."


North Korea Has Sent 6,700 Containers of Munitions to Russia, South Korea Says 

South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik. (AP)
South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik. (AP)
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North Korea Has Sent 6,700 Containers of Munitions to Russia, South Korea Says 

South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik. (AP)
South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik. (AP)

North Korea has shipped about 6,700 containers carrying millions of munitions to Russia since July to support its war against Ukraine, in a sign of ongoing arms transfers, South Korean media reported on Tuesday, citing the defense minister.

At a briefing on Monday for local media, Minister Shin Won-sik said the containers might carry more than 3 million 152 mm artillery shells, or 500,000 122 mm rounds.

"It could possibly be a mix of the two, and you can say that at least several million shells have been sent," Shin said, according to the Yonhap news agency.

Hundreds of North Korean munitions factories are running at around 30% of their capacity due to a lack of raw materials and electricity, but those producing artillery shells for Russia were operating "at full swing," he added, without elaborating on the source of the information.

Seoul and Washington have accused Pyongyang and Moscow of trading arms and condemned the North for supplying weapons to Russia for use against Ukraine. Both countries have denied it even as they pledged to strengthen military cooperation.

The US State Department, in a fact sheet released on Friday, said that North Korea has delivered more than 10,000 containers of munitions or related materials to Russia since September.

In exchange, North Korea has received some 9,000 containers mostly containing food supplies, which Shin said has helped stabilize prices there.

An official at Seoul's defense ministry said it could not confirm the numbers, but quoted Shin as saying that Russia has sent nearly 30% more containers since July to North Korea than the has North shipped.

Shin said North Korea could fire another satellite as early as next month as Moscow continued to provide technical aid, and Pyongyang has also asked for assistance with aircraft and ground mobility equipment technology.

"It is unclear how much Russia will give, but the more dependent Russia gets on North Korean artillery shells, the greater the degree of Russian technology transfers will be," he said, according to Yonhap.


France’s Macron Doesn’t Rule out Sending Western Troops to Ukraine in Future 

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a press conference at the end of the international conference aimed at strengthening Western support for Ukraine, at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris, on February 26, 2024. (AFP)
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a press conference at the end of the international conference aimed at strengthening Western support for Ukraine, at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris, on February 26, 2024. (AFP)
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France’s Macron Doesn’t Rule out Sending Western Troops to Ukraine in Future 

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a press conference at the end of the international conference aimed at strengthening Western support for Ukraine, at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris, on February 26, 2024. (AFP)
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a press conference at the end of the international conference aimed at strengthening Western support for Ukraine, at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris, on February 26, 2024. (AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday that sending Western troops on the ground in Ukraine is not "ruled out" in the future after the issue was debated at a gathering of European leaders in Paris, as Russia’s full-scale invasion grinds into a third year.

The French leader said that "we will do everything needed so Russia cannot win the war" after the meeting of over 20 European heads of state and government and other Western officials.

"There’s no consensus today to send in an official, endorsed manner troops on the ground. But in terms of dynamics, nothing can be ruled out," Macron said in a news conference at the Elysee presidential palace.

Macron declined to provide details about which nations were considering sending troops, saying he prefers to maintain some "strategic ambiguity."

The meeting included German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Poland's President Andrzej Duda as well as leaders from the Baltic nations. The United States was represented by its top diplomat for Europe, James O’Brien, and the UK by Foreign Secretary David Cameron.

Duda said the most heated discussion was about whether to send troops to Ukraine and "there was no agreement on the matter. Opinions differ here, but there are no such decisions."

Poland's president said he hopes that "in the nearest future, we will jointly be able to prepare substantial shipments of ammunition to Ukraine. This is most important now. This is something that Ukraine really needs."

Macron earlier called on European leaders to ensure the continent's "collective security" by providing unwavering support to Ukraine in the face of tougher Russian offensives on the battlefield in recent months.

"In recent months particularly, we have seen Russia getting tougher," Macron said.

Macron cited the need to solidify security to head off any Russian attacks on additional countries in the future. Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia as well as much larger Poland have been considered among possible targets of future Russian expansionism. All four countries are staunch supporters of Ukraine.

Estonia’s foreign minister said earlier this month that NATO has about three or four years to strengthen its defenses.

In video speech, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on the leaders gathered in Paris to "ensure that Putin cannot destroy our achievements and cannot expand his aggression to other nations."

Several European countries, including France, expressed their support for an initiative launched by the Czech Republic to buy ammunition and shells outside the EU, participants to the meeting said.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said his country decided to provide over 100 million euros for that purpose.

In addition, a new coalition is to be launched to further "mobilize" nations with capabilities to deliver medium and long-range missiles, Macron said, as France announced last month the delivery of 40 additional long-range Scalp cruise missiles.

European nations are worried that the US will dial back support as aid for Kyiv is teetering in Congress. They also have concerns that former US President Donald Trump might return to the White House and change the course of US policy on the continent.

The Paris conference comes after France, Germany and the UK recently signed 10-year bilateral agreements with Ukraine to send a strong signal of long-term backing as Kyiv works to shore up Western support.