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Belarus Protests And Strikes Twisting Arm Of Leader

The Deciport Daily Quick-Look: 18 August 2020

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Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko gestures as he delivers a speech during a rally of his supporters near the Government House in Independence Square in Minsk, Belarus August 16, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer

Belarusian leader heckled, told to step down during speech to workers.

Security, Political // BLUF: Alexander Lukashenko, the leader of Belarus, has said that he would be ready to hold new elections and hand over power in a constitutional referendum, in an attempt to calm the huge protests over alleged vote rigging.

Lukashenko, a former Soviet collective farm manager, was heckled by workers who yelled chants for him to step down, while delivering a speech at one of Belarus' large state-run factories; forming part of his Soviet-style economic model.

Large-scale strikes and protests have seen the leader soften his position, while the European Union weighs in over alleged government abuse against protesters; and Moscow offers military assistance.

(See Point 2 Below for Further Information)

The Daily Quick-Look for 18 August 2020

The Deciport Daily Quick-Look is your at-a-glance look at several key events and situations around the world over the last 24 hours. Each headline contains the link to its source report.

BLUF = Bottom Line Up Front.

FYSA = For Your Situational Awareness.

1. UNITED STATES, CHINA - Security, Political: Former CIA officer arrested and charged with spying for China

FYSA: A former Central Intelligence Agency officer was arrested and charged with spying for China in a scheme that involved a relative who had also worked for the CIA, the U.S. Justice Department said on Monday. It said in a statement that Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, 67, was arrested on Friday on a charge that he conspired with a relative, also a former CIA officer, to communicate classified information to Chinese intelligence officials. The criminal complaint was unsealed on Monday. A naturalized American, Ma started working for the CIA in 1982, with Top Secret security clearance. Prosecutors said Ma left the CIA in 1989 and lived and worked in Shanghai, China, before arriving in Hawaii in 2001. (Reuters. See link in heading for further reading)

2. BELARUS - Security, Political: Lukashenko offers to hand over power after referendum

FYSA: Alexander Lukashenko, the leader of Belarus, said on Monday he would be ready to hold new elections and hand over power after a constitutional referendum, an attempt to pacify mass protests and strikes that pose the biggest challenge yet to his rule. He made the offer, which he insisted would not be delivered on while he was under pressure from protesters, after exiled opposition politician Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said she was willing to lead the country. In a sign of his growing vulnerability, Lukashenko faced heckling and chants of “step down” during a speech to workers at one of the large state-run factories that are the pride of his Soviet-style economic model and core support base. He faces the threat of European Union sanctions after a bloody crackdown on protests following what demonstrators say was his rigged re-election victory last week. He cites official results that gave him just over 80% of the vote. Officials in Washington and the EU want Russia not to meddle in what President Donald Trump called a “terrible situation”, after Moscow told Lukashenko it was ready to provide military help against an external threat. (Reuters. See link in heading for further reading)

3. PHILIPPINES - Security (Environmental): Strong earthquake jolts central Philippines, homes damaged

FYSA: A powerful earthquake struck a central Philippine region Tuesday, trapping a family in a collapsed house, damaging other houses and a seaport and prompting people to dash outdoors for safety. Roads were cracked in Cataingan, the coastal town nearest the epicenter, according to Rino Revalo, a Masbate provincial administrator, and initial images of the quake aftermath. Revalo told ABS-CBN network that a three-story house collapsed in Cataingan as the ground shook and trapped a retired police officer and his family. Rescuers scrambled to save them, he said. “People should avoid returning immediately to damaged structures,” he said. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said the 6.6 magnitude quake hit about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from Cataingan at a depth of about 21 kilometers (13 miles). Renato Solidum, who heads the government institute, said there was no threat of a tsunami from the earthquake, which was set off by movement in the Philippine Fault. The quake was felt in several provinces across the central Visayas region. (AP. See link in heading for further reading)

4. NEW ZEALAND - Security (Health), Political: PM Jacinda Ardern on border testing: 'It was what we had instructed'

FYSA: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says health and border officials retain her confidence despite the border staff testing shortfall. The government made it mandatory for all frontline border staff to be tested for the coronavirus following the revelation that by early August some two-thirds have never been tested. Jacinda Ardern says the government had instructed that there would be rolling testing of staff including those without symptoms. Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield yesterday said there had been no testing failure at the border regarding Covid-19 and nor had he misled the government on the issue. (RNZ. See link in heading for further reading)

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