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Moscow election: Was Russian with same name as jailed activist invented as spoiler candidate? | World News



Looking through the list of newly-elected deputies to the Moscow city council, I was surprised to see the name Alexander Solovyov on the list.

I knew an Alexander Solovyov who was an associate of exiled former oligarch and Putin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and was, until recently, chairman of his Open Russia movement. As far as I knew, he was also in jail.

This was confirmed when I sent him a text: “Alexander is imprisoned until the evening of 24 September. Thanks.”

The Solovyov I knew was one of the liberal opposition activists barred from running in Moscow City elections. He had been vocal in the protests which followed and, like scores of others, was then jailed for participating in mass rallies. He had hoped to run in Moscow’s District Number 3.

Alexander Solovyov is currently in jail
Alexander Solovyov is currently in jail

So who was the Alexander Solovyov who had won in District Number 3? Apart from a few hesitant campaign videos, he seemed to be a complete unknown. He also went to ground directly after his election win, prompting a media hunt to check whether he was even real.

Victor Yemelyaninkov, head of the electoral commission for his area, told us to stop calling: “Everyone here is calling me non-stop. I don’t know where he is or where to find him.”

Aleksey Obukhov, from the other Solovyov’s press team, is convinced he was a spoiler.

Alexander Solovyov
The other Mr Solovyov has dismissed notions he was a spoiler candidate

“He was invented just to take away the votes from the real Solovyov. We ran his campaign on the streets and the real Solovyov was widely recognised,” he said.

“They were looking for someone with the same name and surname from that area, and the only person they found was this engineer.”

Solovyov, the newly-elected deputy, re-surfaced on Thursday. He said he had needed a rest after the election and had been spending time with his family.

He dismissed notions he was a spoiler candidate, saying: “The other Solovyov started running later and he could have run in a different electoral district.”

This Solovyov said he had decided to run in July, and had approached the ‘A Just Russia’ party because he liked their agenda and would not then need to gather the signatures to run as an independent.

Ironically, he may have snatched victory from the ruling party candidate because of the smart-vote system introduced by Alexey Navalny and his anti-corruption team, FBK. This involved voters registering to see who was most likely to beat the ruling party candidate in any given district and tick that name on the ballot.

In District number 3, both the jailed Solovyov and Alexey Navalny had called on voters to back Solovyov over the incumbent. It seemed to work. Solovyov won. And across Moscow, United Russia took a hit in the polls.

Alexei Navalny
Alexei Navalny says Vladimir Putin ‘is stamping his feet’ over a crackdown on the opposition

On Thursday, the state hit back. Masked security men swinging sledgehammers conducted raids at Navalny’s campaign offices in more than 40 cities across Russia.

Navalny HQ put the unprecedented crackdown down to the success of the smart-vote scheme.

“Putin is very angry and is stamping his feet,” Navalny said in a videotaped response.

“Do you remember ever seeing in our country an operation on this scale against terrorism, corruption or drug dealers as you’re seeing now against us? That must mean we’re cooler than a drug cartel!”

Putin casts his vote in Moscow on Sunday
Mr Putin’s United Russia party suffered a poor result in the local elections

As of last month, Navalny’s foundation is under investigation for alleged money laundering. Navalny is promising the investigation won’t stop him but it appears as though the state is looking for a way to deal with the problem he and his associates represent once and for all.

The raids also send a message to the regions, heard loud and clear already in Moscow after a summer of detentions and draconian jail terms for an unlucky few, that opposition will not be tolerated.

If the crackdown around these elections belongs more to Soviet times, spoiler candidates are a feature of the post-Soviet age.

The Solovyovs weren’t the only twins in the Moscow poll. There was also a pair of Alexandra Andreyevas. It is possible these are striking coincidences, but given the way the Russian state stage-manages the democratic process, it does not seem likely.

Whether or not he expected to win though, Solovyov the deputy says he’ll give it the best he’s got.

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Surfer fought off great white shark by punching it and telling it to ‘f*** off’ | World News



A surfer has told how he fought off a great white shark by punching it in the eye after it attacked him.

Nick Minogue, from the New Zealand city of Auckland, was bitten by the shark on Saturday at Pauanui Beach in the country’s Coromandel region.

He told the NZ Herald: “I was just paddling along and got hit on the side of my elbow and forearm.

“By the time I realised what was going on, its teeth were definitely latched on to the front section of the board.”

Mr Minogue, 60, said he had heard sharks don’t like being punched in the nose or eye.

“So I actually shouted at it ‘f***off!’ and went to punch it in the eye and missed,” he said.

“Then I pulled my fist back and shouted ‘f*** off!’ again and got it right smack bang in the eye. It’s quite a big eye, about three knuckles across, and its eye kind of looked up and rolled up.

“In between the two punches it crunched down a bit more on the board and then disengaged its teeth, got its jaws off and then I got brushed by the dorsal fin and the tail fin and swam off.”

Mr Minogue said he had been alone in the water apart from a German surfer closer to shore, who heard him screaming before the two paddled as fast as they could to get out of the water.

A picture of Pauanui Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula of New Zealand's North Island Pic: Daniel de Vries/Wikimedia Commons
Pauanui Beach is on New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula. Pic: Daniel de Vries/Wikimedia Commons

Mr Minogue said: “It was a grey shark with a white bottom, probably a great white. It was a big head and jaw. I kind of sat up in shock and decided to hit it. That was the only thing to do.”

Experts told the newspaper that the bite marks on Mr Minogue’s surf board and his description led them to conclude the shark had been a great white.

Pauanui surf life-saving club captain Stuart Upjohn had also been on the beach and told Radio NZ: “It turned out he was actually fine but just a bit shaken. [We] had a good look at his surfboard and it had a good bite mark in it.”

Mr Minogue was left with a cut on his arm but said his full-length wetsuit saved him from further injury.

“There was blood dripping out the sleeve of my wetsuit. Thankfully it wasn’t too deep. Two teeth put holes in my wetsuit but only one punctured the skin,” Mr Minogue said.

“I’ve still got an arm and fingers, it could have been a lot worse.”

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Quaden Bayles: Bullied boy leads out all-star rugby league team in Australia | World News



A nine-year-old boy who was left suicidal after being bullied because of his dwarfism has had “the best day of his life” as he led out an all-star rugby league team in Australia.

Quaden Bayles received an outpouring of support worldwide after his mother shared an emotional clip of him on social media.

In the viral video the youngster was heard saying, “I’m going to die right now… give me a knife, I’m going to kill myself”, after a bullying incident at his school.

A heartbreaking video of an Australian boy who was bullied because of his dwarfism at school has gone viral after his mother posted it online.

‘We’re sick of it’: Anguish of bullied schoolboy

On Saturday, Quaden was invited to walk the Indigenous All-Stars rugby league team onto the field as they took on the Maori All-Stars in an exhibition match on Australia’s Gold Coast.

The crowd at the Cbus Super Stadium in Robina, Queensland, erupted in cheers as Quaden entered the field hand-in-hand with captain Joel Thompson.

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 22: Quaden Bayles runs onto the field before the NRL match between the Indigenous All-Stars and the New Zealand Maori Kiwis All-Stars at Cbus Super Stadium on February 22, 2020 on the Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)
Quaden was greeted by cheers from the crowd

Dressed in an All-Stars jersey, he wore black noise-cancelling headphones and clung to the match ball as he strode into the middle of the pitch.

Ahead of the event, Quaden’s mother Yarraka Bayles said her son had described the invitation to attend the match as “going from the worst day of his life to the best day of his life”.

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 22: Former rugby league player Johnathan Thurston (R) poses with Quaden Bayles before the NRL match between the Indigenous All-Stars and the New Zealand Maori Kiwis All-Stars at Cbus Super Stadium on February 22, 2020 on the Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)
Former rugby league player Johnathan Thurston poses with Quaden

“We could never have dreamt in our wildest dreams that it would’ve gone worldwide and created such a media frenzy,” Ms Bayles said.

“It’s every parent’s worst nightmare losing their babies and for me that’s my reality every day.

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 22: Quaden Bayles looks on with Cody Walker of the Indigenous All-Stars before the NRL match between the Indigenous All-Stars and the New Zealand Maori Kiwis All-Stars at Cbus Super Stadium on February 22, 2020 on the Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)
Quaden looks on with Cody Walker of the Indigenous All-Stars

“That’s what I have to prepare for – the worst, because everything he is going through with his medical condition, the suicide attempts are very real and people don’t understand that.

“There are way too many people suffering in silence and my heart goes out to those families that have already lost their children to bullying.

Hugh Jackman still

Credit- @RealHughJackman Twitter

Hugh Jackman supports bullied schoolboy

“It’s been way too many and it’s something that needs to be addressed, it’s an international crisis and it demands urgent attention.”

Rugby league player Cody Walker described Quaden as a “young warrior”.

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 22: Quaden Bayles looks on with Cody Walker of the Indigenous All-Stars before the NRL match between the Indigenous All-Stars and the New Zealand Maori Kiwis All-Stars at Cbus Super Stadium on February 22, 2020 on the Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)
Cody Walker described Quaden as a ‘young warrior’

“We’re in a pretty privileged position to be sports stars and obviously seeing that hurt us in so many ways and thought very quickly about… what we can do to lift his spirits first and foremost,” he said.

“One of the vehicles in Aboriginal communities is rugby league and… this game is a very important game within those communities, so what better way to get Quaden down here on the Gold Coast, be a part of our team, lead us like the young warrior he is, and show him that we love him.”

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 22: Quaden Bayles runs onto the field before the NRL match between the Indigenous All-Stars and the New Zealand Maori Kiwis All-Stars at Cbus Super Stadium on February 22, 2020 on the Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)
Quaden’s mother said it ‘the best day of his life’

A comedian has raised more than $440,000 (£339,000) after setting up a fundraising page to send Quaden to Disneyland following his bullying ordeal.

American Brad Williams, who has the same dwarfism condition achondroplasia as Quaden, set up the GoFundMe page after seeing the video of the youngster in floods of tears.

Hollywood star Hugh Jackman and Star Wars actor Mark Hamill are among those who have voiced support for Quaden since the clip of him went viral.

:: Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK.

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Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary accused of racism for saying terrorists are ‘generally Muslim men’ | Business News



Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has sparked outrage for suggesting would-be plane bombers are more likely to be Muslim men – and airport security should focus on “where the threat is coming from”.

He told The Times that potential terrorists will “generally be males of a Muslim persuasion” – and that families with young children should be waved through airport security as there was “virtually” no chance of them being terrorists.

Ryanair has disputed the paper’s coverage and said its chief executive “apologises sincerely for any offence caused”, having been accused of sharing “racist and discriminatory” views.

Ryanair adverts have been banned after they were judged to be misleading
Ryanair is one of the biggest airlines in Europe

The 58-year-old told the newspaper: “Who are the bombers? They are going to be single males travelling on their own.

“If you are travelling with a family of kids, on you go; the chances you are going to blow them all up is zero.”

He added: “You can’t say stuff, because it’s racism, but it will generally be males of a Muslim persuasion. Thirty years ago it was the Irish.

“If that is where the threat is coming from, deal with the threat.”

Ryanair told Sky News that any suggestion that Mr O’Leary thought Muslim men should face extra airport security checks were “simply inaccurate”.

“Michael was only calling for more effective airport security checks which would do away with much of the unnecessary queues at airport security today for all passengers,” a spokesman said.

Michael O'Leary, Ryanair
Michael O’Leary (L) has worked at Ryanair for more than 30 years

The controversial comments came during an interview in which he also appeared to mock obese passengers – and hit out at the need to accommodate disabled people.

  • He said that the need for wheelchair facilities on each floor of an office he had built in Dublin was “complete and utter nonsense”
  • That “fairly shortly we’ll have to have gender-fluid toilets”, adding: “I’m male today and I’ll be female tomorrow”
  • And described obese airline passengers as “monsters”, saying: “If you have complete monsters you may need to buy two seats”

Hate crime monitoring group Tell Mama said his “flippant” comments could have serious consequences for the business where he was worked for more than 30 years.

“Besides being discriminatory and basing judgements on the ‘looks’ of people, which is abhorrent, O’Leary clearly does not know about the history of terrorism, where people have used others to bypass this blunt and divisive technique,” it said.

Michael O'Leary criticised McDonald's decision to sack their CEO

Rules on staff relationships ‘go too far’ – O’Leary

The Muslim Council of Britain also criticised Mr O’Leary, describing his views as “the very definition of Islamophobia”.

“He openly advocates discrimination against ‘males of a Muslim persuasion’, which presumably is not based on specific intelligence but solely whether someone ‘looks or acts like a Muslim’,” a spokeswoman said.

“It is a shame that such racism is being expressed so openly, and that the CEO of a large airline would so want to discriminate against his customers so brazenly.”

Mr O’Leary is no stranger to courting controversy, having famously proposed that passengers should pay to use the toilet, and he dressed up as a pope to launch Ryanair’s new route from Dublin to Rome.

He has also been at loggerheads with the UK government in recent times – threatening legal action over its bailout of regional carrier Flybe, and criticising former transport secretary Chris Grayling over no-deal Brexit planning.

Last year he also waded into the row over a McDonald’s executive who was sacked for having a consensual relationship with an employee.

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