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Russian playwright, theater director sentenced to 6 years for play 'justifying terrorism'

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Russian playwright, theater director sentenced to 6 years for play 'justifying terrorism'
  • Independent theater director Zhenya Berkovich and playwright Svetlana Petriychuk have been in jail for over a year awaiting trial. A Russian court on Monday convicted them of terrorism charges and sentenced them to six years each in prison.
  • Authorities claimed their play “Finist, the Brave Falcon” justifies terrorism, which is a criminal offense in Russia. Berkovich, Petriychuk and their supporters claim the play clearly presents anti-terrorist sentiments.
  • Russia has intensified its crackdown on dissent since sending troops into Ukraine with severity not seen since the Soviet era.

A Russian court on Monday convicted a theater director and a playwright of terrorism charges and sentenced them to six years each in prison, the latest in an unrelenting crackdown on dissent across the country that has reached new heights since Moscow sent troops into Ukraine.

Zhenya Berkovich, a prominent independent theater director, and playwright Svetlana Petriychuk have already been in jail for over a year awaiting trial.

Authorities claimed their play “Finist, the Brave Falcon” justifies terrorism, which is a criminal offense in Russia punishable by up to seven years in prison. Berkovich and Petriychuk have both repeatedly rejected the accusations against them.

AMERICAN CITIZEN SENTENCED TO 12.5 YEARS IN RUSSIAN PRISON

In one hearing, Berkovich told the court that she staged the play in order to prevent terrorism, and Petriychuk echoed her sentiment, saying that she wrote it in order to prevent events like those depicted in the play.

The women’s lawyers pointed out at court hearings before the trial that the play was supported by the Russian Culture Ministry and won the Golden Mask award, Russia’s most prestigious national theater award. In 2019, the play was read to inmates of a women’s prison in Siberia, and Russia’s state penitentiary service praised it on its website, Petriychuk’s lawyer said.

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Theater director Zhenya Berkovich, right, and playwright Svetlana Petriychuk are seen in a glass cage prior to a hearing in a court in Moscow, Russia, on July 8, 2024. The two have been behind bars since early May. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

The case against Berkovich and Petriychuk elicited outrage in Russia. An open letter in support of the two artists, started by the independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper, was signed by more than 16,000 people since their arrest.

The play, the letter argued, “carries an absolutely clear anti-terrorist sentiment.”

Dozens of Russian actors, directors and journalists also signed affidavits urging the court to release the two from custody pending investigation and trial.

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Immediately after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin unleashed a sweeping campaign of repression, unparalleled since the Soviet era. It has effectively criminalized any criticism of the war, with the authorities targeting not only prominent opposition figures who eventually received draconian prison terms, but anyone who spoke out against it, publicly or otherwise.

Pressure mounted on critical artists in Russia, too. Actors and directors were fired from state-run theaters, and musicians were blacklisted from performing in the country. Some were slapped with the label “foreign agent,” which carries additional government scrutiny and strong negative connotations. Many have left Russia.

Berkovich, who is raising two adopted daughters, refused to leave Russia and continued working with her independent theater production in Moscow, called Soso’s Daughters. Shortly after the start of the war in Ukraine, she staged an anti-war picket and was jailed for 11 days.

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Typhoon Gaemi barrels towards China’s Fujian after sinking ship off Taiwan

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Typhoon Gaemi barrels towards China’s Fujian after sinking ship off Taiwan

Strong winds sink a Tanzania-flagged freighter off Taiwan coast, with crew missing and rescuers unable to access area.

Typhoon Gaemi is sweeping towards southern China after wreaking devastation in Taiwan, killing at least two people and sinking a cargo ship, with its nine crew members missing.

The typhoon made landfall on the northeastern coast of Taiwan at about midnight (16:00 GMT) on Wednesday, the country’s Central Weather Administration said, reporting gusts of up to 227kmph (141mph) before it barrelled towards Fuzhou in China’s Fujian province as of 12:15pm (04:15 GMT) on Thursday.

Taiwan’s fire department said on Thursday that a Tanzania-flagged cargo ship had sunk off the coast of the southern port city of Kaohsiung, forcing its nine crew members from Myanmar to abandon ship in life jackets.

Hsiao Huan-chang, head of the fire agency, said the crew had contacted a nearby Taiwanese cargo ship, but when rescuers finally reached the area, “visibility at the scene was very low and the winds were too strong” to conduct a search.

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“When the weather permits, we will immediately dispatch ships or helicopters to rescue, but at the moment it is not possible,” he said.

The authorities confirmed that Gaemi – the strongest typhoon to hit Taiwan in eight years, with accumulated rainfall of 2,200mm (87 inches) since Tuesday – killed two people.

A motorist in Kaohsiung was crushed by a tree and a woman in eastern Hualien died after part of a building fell on her. More than 200 people were injured in the storm.

Several cities, including Taipei, announced a second day off on Thursday, with schools, government offices and the stock market closed, while hundreds of domestic and international flights were cancelled.

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China flood alert

Chinese weather forecasters said Gaemi would pass through Fujian later on Thursday, with the province putting in place the second-highest flood alert level.

The Ministry of Water Resources warned on Wednesday that extremely heavy rains were expected to swell rivers and lakes in Fujian and the neighbouring province of Zhejiang.

In Fujian, government officials have relocated about 150,000 people, mainly from coastal fishing communities, state media reported.

As gale force winds picked up, officials in Zhoushan in Zhejiang suspended passenger waterway routes for up to three days.

Most flights were cancelled at airports in Fuzhou and Quanzhou in Fujian, and Wenzhou in Zhejiang, according to the VariFlight website.

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Guangzhou rail officials suspended some trains that pass through typhoon-affected areas, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Meanwhile, northern China has been deluged by summer storms from a separate weather system.

Some areas in the capital, Beijing, experienced heavy rain and emergency plans were activated, with more than 25,000 people evacuated, according to the Beijing Daily newspaper. Some train services were also suspended at the Beijing West railway station.

Gaemi exacerbated seasonal rains in the Philippines on its path to Taiwan, triggering flooding and landslides.

Relentless rain killed at least 20 people over the past two weeks in the capital, Manila, and its surrounding provinces, the Philippine authorities said on Thursday.

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Exclusive-Logistics Giant Lineage Raises $4.45 Billion in Biggest IPO in 2024

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Exclusive-Logistics Giant Lineage Raises .45 Billion in Biggest IPO in 2024
By Echo Wang NEW YORK (Reuters) – Lineage, the world’s largest operator of cold-storage warehouses, raised $4.45 billion in its U.S. initial public offering, setting it up for the biggest stock market debut globally this year, two people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday. The Novi,
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Death toll reaches 6 in Mexican tequila distillery blast

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Death toll reaches 6 in Mexican tequila distillery blast

Rescue teams on Wednesday found another body at a tequila distillery in Mexico a day after an explosion and fire, bringing the death toll to six. Two workers were injured.

The factory belongs to the Jose Cuervo company, one of Mexico’s most famous tequila brands.

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The local civil defense posted on X that the latest body was found in a waste area where large containers had collapsed.

A Mexican flag waves in front of The National Palace, the office of the president, in Mexico City’s main square, the Zocalo, at sunrise, April 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

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The company on Tuesday said the explosion occurred as employees were carrying out maintenance work. Authorities on Tuesday night said the situation was under control, but on Wednesday morning a fire broke out in a storage area with cardboard and other materials.

The town of Tequila is about 375 miles northwest of Mexico City. Overlooked by a volcano and surrounded by plantations of agave, the plant from which the liquor is produced, life in the municipality of 40,000 residents revolves around tequila production and the tourism it generates.

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