Russia's once again been accused of poisoning one of its own.
Alexei Navalny. Last month, the Russian opposition leader became seriously ill after drinking tea in the motherland. He fell into a coma and was transferred to a German hospital. Navalny's a well-known critic of President Vladimir Putin. His foundation investigates corruption within the Kremlin. In 2018, he tried to run for president but was barred by election officials, leaving Putin to run the country for another hundred(ish) years. Ever since he fell ill, there's been speculation that he was poisoned. Now, we're finding out more.
Jeez. Go on.
Yesterday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said tests revealed traces of a Novichok nerve agent in Navalny's body. It's an illegal chemical weapon that was secretly developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It blocks nervous system messages from traveling through the body, causing muscle spasms that can stop the heart or other major bodily functions. And can remain in a person's system for months, if not years. Russia had claimed it destroyed all Soviet-era nerve agents in 2017.
I don't think I can keep scrolling.
Before you do that, know that there are antidotes. But it's not the first time Novichok's been used on Russian citizens. In 2018, former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with it in the UK. Both survived. And the UK charged two Russian men in the case. (They both flew to Moscow hours after the poisoning.) But the Russian government continuously said 'nyet, wasn't us.'
So what's being done?
TBD. After the Skripals were poisoned, several countries expelled Russian diplomats – including the US, which also imposed sanctions on the Kremlin. And last year, a global chemical weapons watchdog added Novichok to its banned list. But that doesn't seem to have stopped Russia. The White House called Navalny's poisoning "completely reprehensible." Merkel said it was "attempted murder" and that she'll consult with NATO allies about how to respond.
While Russia continues to claim no involvement in the matter, these allegations could increase already-high tensions with the West. Now, all eyes are on how international leaders will handle a country that's been accused of poisoning its own people.
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The airline industry. Yesterday, United Airlines said it's planning to furlough more than 16,000 workers, just days after Delta and American Airlines also announced job cuts. Airlines have tried to attract customers by eliminating certain fees but are still reeling from a drop in demand because of the pandemic. Air travel's reportedly down 70% from last year. Now, airline labor unions are pushing for more federal aid (the industry got $32 billion in March) and are hoping the funds could help them fly a little while longer.
The Charlie Hebdo trial. Yesterday, 14 people went to trial for allegedly helping the men who attacked the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. In 2015, two brothers entered its offices in Paris and gunned down 12 people. Their accomplice later killed a policewoman and four more people at a kosher supermarket. All three attackers died in shootouts with police. The attack – which al-Qaeda took credit for – was sparked by the magazine's controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. It was one of the deadliest acts of terror France had ever seen, and "Je suis Charlie" (I am Charlie) became a popular slogan of support. Now, the suspects on trial – who are accused of things like supplying weapons – face up to life in prison.
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