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Ukraine reconstruction official quits citing ‘systemic obstacles’



Ukraine reconstruction official quits citing ‘systemic obstacles’

Mustafa Nayyem announces resignation a day before an international conference focused on rebuilding Ukraine.

A senior Ukrainian reconstruction official has resigned, citing budget cuts and bureaucratic delays, as Kyiv seeks crucial international investment to rebuild after Russia’s invasion.

Mustafa Nayyem, head of the State Agency for Restoration and Infrastructure Development, announced his resignation a day before an international conference in Berlin dedicated to mobilising international support for Ukraine’s reconstruction.

“I made the decision on my own due to systemic obstacles that do not allow me to continue to effectively exercise my powers,” Nayyem said on the Telegram messaging application on Monday.

“Starting from November last year, the Agency’s team began to face constant opposition, resistance and the creation of artificial obstacles,” he said, adding that there were also delays in payment for defence fortifications.


The prominent former lawmaker also criticised a government decision to prevent him from travelling to the event in Berlin and the dismissal last month of the deputy prime minister for infrastructure, another critical wartime official.

Oleksandr Kubrakov said his dismissal was not discussed with him in advance and he did not get a chance to defend his tenure in a presentation to parliament.

Both Kubrakov and Nayyem, who was appointed in January 2023, had helped anticorruption authorities uncover suspected graft during sting operations last year.

“I do not exclude that in time there will be attempts to persecute and discredit our work in the public domain,” Nayyem wrote.


“In fact, this has already been happening for a long time,” Nayyem said, adding that his team “did not always fit in” to the current government and its style of management.

In his resignation announcement, the 42-year-old hailed his agency’s work on restoring roads and bridges in recaptured areas, building a water pipeline after the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam in June last year and protecting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure against Russian air strikes.

Nayyem became well known in Ukraine in 2013 when he called for rallies against the decision by Ukraine’s then-president to stall integration talks with the European Union.

The protests eventually led to the removal of President Viktor Yanukovych and precipitated hostilities with Kremlin-backed separatists in the east that simmered until Russia’s invasion in February 2022.



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Erdogan says Turkey ready to build Cyprus naval base ‘if necessary’



Erdogan says Turkey ready to build Cyprus naval base ‘if necessary’

The Turkish president accuses Greece of wanting to establish a naval base of its own in Cyprus.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey is ready to build a naval base in Cyprus, half a century after its forces invaded the now-divided island.

“If necessary, we can construct a base and naval structures in the north” of Cyprus, Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency quoted the leader as saying on Sunday.

Erdogan said he flew back to Turkey after visiting Northern Cyprus on Saturday to mark 50 years since Turkey’s invasion. He also accused rival Greece of wanting to establish a naval base of its own in Cyprus, on whose future both sides remain as divided as ever.

Cyprus gained independence from Britain in 1960, but a shared administration between Greek and Turkish Cypriots quickly fell apart following violence that saw Turkish Cypriots withdraw into enclaves and the dispatch of a United Nations peacekeeping force.


In 1974, Turkey captured more than a third of the island and expelled more than 160,000 Greek Cypriots to the south.

Cyprus has since been split by ethnicity, with Greek and Turkish Cypriots living on either side of a UN-patrolled border.

In 1983, Turkey installed what it calls the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus – a breakaway state recognised only by Turkey.

On Saturday, Erdogan attended a military parade in north Nicosia to mark the day in 1974 when Turkey launched its offensive.

As Greek Cypriots mourned those killed and still missing since their expulsion in 1974, Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides on Saturday said reunification was the only option.


A divided Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004 as Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly rejected a UN plan to end their differences with Turkish Cypriots.

But on the other side of the UN-patrolled buffer zone that separates the two communities, Erdogan on Saturday rejected the federal model championed by the UN, saying he saw no point in relaunching talks on such a plan.

“Frankly, we do not think it is possible to start a new negotiation process without establishing an equation whereby both parties sit down as equals and leave the table as equals,” he said.

The last round of UN-backed talks to reunify the island collapsed in 2017.

“We are constructing on the island the building of the presidency of Northern Cyprus and the parliament building. They are constructing a military base, we are building a political base,” Erdogan said.


He also hailed the “precious” presence during Saturday’s visit of the leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Ozgur Ozel, saying it demonstrated the “unity” of Turkey’s population with regards to Cyprus.

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Caitlin Clark Not Gloating After WNBA All-Stars Top Olympic Team



Caitlin Clark Not Gloating After WNBA All-Stars Top Olympic Team

PHOENIX – Caitlin Clark is not going to the Paris Olympics, and Saturday night at Footprint Center it sounded like she didn’t mind at all.

She’s been running at a hectic pace for a year, she said. First the regular college basketball season, then the NCAA Women’s Final Four, right into the WNBA draft, first half of the season and the WNBA All-Star Game. Every move analyzed, every shot dissected. Pardon her if she’d like to take the Olympic break off.

“See you in a month,” she said after the WNBA All-Stars took care of a U.S. Women’s Olympic team that didn’t select her in grand fashion, 117-109. “I’m going to do a few things for myself.”

She said she’s going on vacation and wouldn’t divulge the plans, although some of the time will be spent working out in the gym with her Indiana Fever teammates.

Any vindication she, fellow rookie Angel Reese and game MVP Arike Ogunbowale feel as they remain in the U.S. while Diana Taurasi and company head to Paris trying to win their eighth gold medal in a row was overshadowed by their respect for the players on the U.S. Olympic team.


“They have plenty of talent on that team,” Clark said. “If anything, it shows how good this league is, how much talent there is in this league. This was a good opportunity to help them prepare. I’ll be rooting for them. I mean, I love the Olympics. I’ve loved the Olympics since I was a little kid. They’re going to be just fine. They’re going to win gold and dominate.”

But there isn’t much time, and they have a lot of work to do, USA coach Cheryl Reeve acknowledged. Her team has one more exhibition game Tuesday in London against Germany, then it’s on to pool play at the Paris Olympics by the end of the week. “We weren’t good at what we were trying to do,” Reeve said.

Asked before the game if she had any second thoughts about not picking Clark, Reeve said: “From me? No.”

Clark dished out 10 assists, a rookie All-Star record and one shy of the record set by Sue Bird in 2017. She added a pair of layups but missed all seven of her 3-point attempts. Reese had 12 points and 11 rebounds, becoming the first rookie to post an All-Star double-double.. Ogunbowale set a WNBA All-Star record with 34 points, 21 alone during the third quarter.

Reeve admitted they all could have been on the Olympic team.


“We’ve said this for years: The depth of talent we have in the USA, no one has anything close to it,” she said. “There are players not on our team who are great players. Everyone knows that. There’s no suggestion that those players playing for the WNBA aren’t good enough to play for this national team. But only 12 can make it.”

There’s no question the WNBA has reached a watershed moment. Clark has had a major impact on attendance and television exposure both economically and artistically. After a brief period of indoctrination when the veterans bounced her around and hazed her, she’s earned their respect.

She’s 22 years old and it’s all upside for her and the league.

After 25 years of a 12-team format, the WNBA is expanding to San Francisco next season, Toronto soon after and to a 44-game schedule from 40. WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert promised 16 teams by 2028 during her pregame media conference.

The event was framed against Suns and Mercury owner Mat Ishbia opening a self-financed $100 million Mercury practice facility just south of the arena, putting them on par at least facility-wise with his NBA Suns.


The atmosphere was electric both inside and outside the arena Saturday night as a sellout crowd of 16,407 filled the building to the rafters.

“Walking through WNBA Live as I did yesterday and today, the buzz was unlike anything we’ve seen at All-Star Weekend,” Engelbert said. “We had a record 24 partners on hand to celebrate.”

The WNBA has ridden the Clark phenomenon to a new pending media rights deal, plus merchandizing and marketing beyond their wildest imaginations. This is no longer your grandma’s WNBA.

Engelbert cited the highest WNBA attendance overall in 26 years, 16 nationally televised games–14 featuring Clark –that have drawn a million viewers or more. WNBA app usage is up 530%.

“And we’re not even halfway through the season,” she said. “When I stood in front of you at this time last year, I knew we were poised for big things. We were preparing ourselves for big things, but I’m just so thrilled with what we’ve been able to accomplish over the last year.”


Of course, Clark, Reese and a new wave of WNBA players also came along.

“I’ve been so pleased with Caitlin and all of our rookies,” Engelbert said. “So many of this rookie class, they’re so strong, and they’re performing at the highest level. You guys are all writing about it, which we love. Yeah, I’m really pleased with how that’s working out.”

And why shouldn’t she be pleased? The Fever lead the league with an average attendance of 16,898, 15,306 on the road through 15 games.

And as Engelbert said, they’re only halfway through the season. After the Olympics it’ll be a mad rush to finish the second half and soar into the playoffs.

The first half has been a learning experience for Clark.


“I feel like from the start of the season to now it’s completely night and day for me,” she said. “I just feel so much more comfortable. Things are starting to slow down. I’m having more time to learn between games. The most exciting thing for me is I still have so much more room to grow.”

That may seem a little scary to the rest of the league. But now, Olympics be damned. It’s time for a little rest. And then back at it.

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Populists shut out of European political systems that favor establishment parties



Populists shut out of European political systems that favor establishment parties

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LONDON – Voters abandoned mainstream center-right parties for the populist right in the U.K. and French elections this month but failed to convert support to electoral gains amid a right-wing vote split and tactical voting by the left.

Britain’s Labour Party, led by Keir Starmer, won a landslide election victory, scoring 412 seats in the 650-seat Parliament, eclipsing the mainstream Conservative Party that managed to hold on to just 121 seats after losing 244 seats. 


This was the worst performance in the Conservatives’ nearly two-century history amid the surge of upstart populist Reform Party, led by ‘British Trump’ Nigel Farage, that received over four million votes but gained only five seats.


Nigel Farage, Leader of Reform UK and local candidate Mark Butcher watch the Denmark v. England UEFA EURO 2024 game at the Armfield club on June 20, 2024, in Blackpool, England. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images) (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

In France, a broad leftist coalition consisting of hardline communists, environmentalists and socialists won 188 out of 577 seats in the parliament, seconded by French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance Ensemble (ENS), which won 161 seats, forming a ruling majority. 

France’s populist National Rally, led by Marine Le Pen, won over 37% of the vote and was the single most popular party among French voters, yet it came third in the number of parliament seats. The mainstream center-right Republicans came a distant fourth, with just 6.2% of the vote.


“What was quite clear was that this was a rejection of the Conservative Party, the mainstream Conservative party,” Alan Mendoza, the executive director of the London-based Henry Jackson Society, told Fox News Digital. “In France, they got a very high turnout for France, and in that case, it was clear that this was an anti-National Rally election.”

Marine Le Pen

Marine Le Pen, President of the National Rally group in the National Assembly, joins Jordan Bardella, President of the National Rally (Rassemblement National), at the final rally before the recently held European Parliament election on June 9th, (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images) (Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The elections demonstrated the voters’ persistent support for political movements embracing right-wing populism on issues related to immigration, crime and social issues while abandoning milquetoast traditional center-right parties for failing to bring meaningful change.

Yet, the insurgent populists came up short of converting the widespread support at the voting booth to electoral gains due to tactical voting agreements and support split among right-leaning voters.


“In both cases, the left-wing parties were able to maximize their votes, and the right-wing parties were not able to maximize their votes,” Mendoza said. “It’s been said that Labour’s support is a mile wide and an inch deep, but that’s what you need to win British elections with large numbers of support without being focused in certain areas,” Mendoza added about Labour’s lower overall popular support.


“The reality in France was that various left-wing parties and Macron got together and basically shut the right out, but the right did not do a similar thing. The Republicans stayed in the race and did not give way to the National Rally or vice versa.”

French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron leave the voting booth before voting for the second round of the legislative elections in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, northern France, Sunday, July 7, 2024. (AP)

Le Pen’s National Rally came out on top in the first round of voting last month after campaigning on significantly reducing immigration and crime and improving the economy. 

The populist party was on the cusp of winning the majority of seats in the second round, but the effort was curtailed after a tactical election agreement was struck between Macron’s centrists and the leftist coalition. Both parties agreed to withdraw candidates to avoid splitting the anti-National Rally vote.

Farage’s Reform Party was the third-most-popular party with over four million votes across the U.K., but due to Britain’s first-past-the-post electoral system, in which the candidate with the most votes in the area wins the seat, the party ended up with just 1% of the seats in the parliament. 


EU Elections

Farmers hold flags of European countries as they gather to listen to leaders’ speeches during a protest in Brussels, Tuesday, June 4, 2024. Farmers groups hope to sweep the Green Deal climate pact off the table. (AP Photo/Omar Havana) (AP Photo/Omar Havana)

The mainstream Conservatives got over two million more votes than the Reform Party but remain the second-largest political force in the country, prompting calls to reform the electoral system to give more representation based on the total votes.

Despite winning a historic number of seats in the U.K. Parliament, the Labour Party won the election with 9.6 million votes, down by over 600,000 votes, compared to its 2019 election results, when the party led under controversial socialist Jeremy Corbyn suffered two separate election defeats.

“In some cases, the Reform vote was probably mostly conservatives who had left the Conservative Party and decided to go there. But the far bigger component in Britain’s case was people who just decided not to vote at all,” Mendoza said. “The Conservative vote share went down 20 points, and a lot of conservatives who voted Conservative in 2019 just stayed at home and were not inspired by any of the parties.”

New UK Prime Minister Keir Starmer

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer speaks to his supporters at the Tate Modern in London, Friday, July 5, 2024. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

In the 2019 election, the Conservatives, under the leadership of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, won the majority of the parliament seats after campaigning on a populist platform of “Get Brexit Done.” The Reform Party’s predecessor, the Brexit Party, stood down its candidates in the election to boost the Conservatives.

In the aftermath of the elections, influential Conservative figures argued that the “Conservative family” consisting of the Reform Party and the Conservatives still beat Labour and won the majority of the votes – over 11 million – indicating the voters’ overall right-leaning bent.


Suella Braverman, a potential Conservative Party leadership contender, criticized the party’s performance in a speech at the Popular Conservatives conference and urged the party to embrace populism for the sake of the party’s future.

“To my mind, the Reform phenomenon was entirely predictable and avoidable and all our own fault,” she told the audience. “It’s no good denigrating Reform voters, it’s no good smearing the Reform party, it’s no good comparing Reform rallies to the rallies of Nuremberg. That’s not going to work. Criticizing people for voting Reform is a fundamental error to make.”

Marine Le Pen

French President Emmanuel Macron, right, meets French far-right National Rally leader Marine Le Pen at the Élysée Palace on June 21, 2022, in Paris. (Ludovic Marin/Pool/AP)

She further urged the Conservatives to “restore credibility on the core conservative policies that unite” and address the immigration issue, “because we’ve been weak, we’ve been squeamish, we failed to tackle this very pressing concern.”

In France, although failing to gain legislative power, National Rally maintains populist momentum and is eyeing the 2027 presidential elections, with Le Pen primed to take control of the country’s highest office.


The new parliamentary majority of leftists and centrists, meanwhile, leaves Macron, already deeply unpopular, facing the prospect of presiding over a politically paralyzed hung parliament.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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