Moscow, Oct. 10 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Russia will resist possible attempts to revise the Minsk agreements on Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday.
"There is a feeling that the Ukrainian side calls for convening the Normandy summit in order to revise the agreements of the previous meetings of the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France," Lavrov told reporters after a meeting of foreign ministers of the Commonwealth of Independent States in the Turkmen capital of Ashgabat.
"It will be just a blow to the reputation of the Normandy Four, and we will do everything to prevent this," he said, according to a video footage posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry's Facebook account.
The Minsk agreements, reached in September 2014 and February 2015 respectively, are designed to peacefully end the conflict starting in April 2014 in Ukraine's Donbass region, which has left more than 13,000 dead.
The documents envisage a ceasefire, a withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the demarcation line, a prisoner exchange and local elections, among other measures.
The Trilateral Contact Group on the peaceful settlement of the Donbass situation, including diplomats from Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe agreed last week on the Steinmeier Formula, a plan named after incumbent German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
The implementation of the plan, envisaging elections in eastern Ukraine and granting the rebel region temporary special status, will require changes in Ukraine's legislation.
The plan has yet to be firmed up through a possible meeting by the leaders of the Normandy Four -- France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia.
On Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on telephone the prospects for convening the Normandy Four summit.
Brussels, Oct 10 (AP/UNB) — In a big blow to French president Emmanuel Macron, his country's nominee for the next European Commission has been rejected by EU lawmakers assessing whether she was fit for the job.
Sylvie Goulard, a close ally of Macron, had been nominated by incoming European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for a position overseeing Europe's internal market, industry and defense.
Goulard failed to convince European parliament members, who quizzed her twice about allegations she misused funds and consulted for a U.S. think tank while she served in the EU Parliament.
Goulard is the third candidate to be rejected after lawmakers dismissed a pair of nominees over suspicions of conflict of interest.
She was rejected with 82 votes against, 29 in favor, and one abstention.
Before European lawmakers rejected her nomination, Goulard had denied any wrongdoing in the case dating back to her years in the European parliament from 2009 to 2017. She has not been indicted in a French investigation but resigned as French defense minister when it was opened two years ago.
After an initial hearing left many lawmakers unimpressed and asking for more guarantees, Goulard had to submit written answers to a set of questions before she was quizzed again.
"I gave you all the elements in my possession," she said Thursday. "It's a thrilling mandate. Hopefully you will give me the chance to carry it out."
Lawmakers decided differently, leaving Macron in an uncomfortable position.
Despite her judicial case, Goulard had been hand-picked by Macron, who has portrayed himself as the champion of Europe since he came to power two years ago, pledging to reform the bloc and enhance its sovereignty.
Macron now needs to come up with another candidate that has to be vetted by von der Leyen and approved by lawmakers.
Goulard has been accused of using the funds to pay a legislative assistant who actually worked for her former party. She told lawmakers the issue was related to overpayments she made after the employee stopped working for her and vehemently denied wrongdoing.
In September, she answered questions from French investigators.
"One can never be certain of what will happen, but normally I won't end up being charged," she said.
As for her consultancy work for the Berggruen Institute think tank, she said it was not illegal. Goulard was reportedly paid some 10,000 euros ($11,000) a month for her work with the Berggruen Institute during 2013-2015.
"We obviously did not vote for Goulard," French far-left EU lawmaker Manon Aubry said. "EU citizens won't put their trust in their institutions when a Commissioner sees absolutely no problem in making 10,000 euros a month from a private lobby in addition to her (EU lawmaker) salary."
London, Oct 10 (AP/UNB) — U.S. President Donald Trump said he planned to get involved in the case of an American diplomat's wife who quickly left the U.K. after she was allegedly involved in a fatal wrong-way crash — but stopped short of suggesting he would revoke her diplomatic immunity and return her to Britain to face charges.
Trump on Wednesday called what happened "a terrible accident" and said his administration would seek to speak with the driver "and see what we can come up with." He noted that the British drive on the left side of the road, while in the United States, people drive on the right.
"The woman was driving on the wrong side of the road," Trump said. "And that can happen."
British police say the 42-year-old woman is a suspect in an Aug. 27 collision between a car and a motorcycle near RAF Croughton, a British military base in England used by the U.S. Air Force. The 19-year-old motorcyclist, Harry Dunn, was killed.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's office said the prime minister spoke with Trump on Wednesday and "urged the president to reconsider the U.S. position, so the individual involved can return to the U.K., cooperate with police and allow Harry's family to receive justice."
Johnson also urged the woman to return to the U.K. to face investigation.
The woman's name hasn't been officially released.
The teenager's family met with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Wednesday and said they left feeling angry and disappointed.
Madrid, Oct 10 (AP/UNB) — Several thousand olive farmers have marched through Spain's capital to protest plunging prices and to demand protection from tariffs the United States plans to levy on European Union on agriculture products.
Many of the protesters waved olive branches as they marched to Agriculture Ministry headquarters in Madrid on Thursday chanting for fairer prices.
They claim distributors have driven down what they pay for olive oil so it can be sold at cheaper retail prices.
The farmers also want Spanish government measures to offset a 25% tax on EU agricultural imports the U.S. is preparing to impose.
One banner at the march read "USA Abuses" and featured a cartoon of U.S. President Donald Trump.
Organizers said the protesters represented some 250,000 families that make a living from olive farming in Spain.
Hong Kong, Oct 9 (AP/UNB) — As riot police fought anti-government demonstrators on the streets of Hong Kong over the weekend, two photos popped into the encrypted inbox of a group of volunteer medics who call themselves the "Hidden Clinic."
The images showed the nastily swollen left arm of a 22-year-old protester who had been beaten and were accompanied by a message from the sender that said, "I suspect his bone is broken."
After exchanges through the night via the Telegram messaging app that arranged an off-the-books X-ray, the protester was diagnosed with a displaced fracture of the ulnar bone.
With Hong Kong's summer of protests now stretching into the fall and clashes becoming increasingly ferocious, medical professionals have quietly banded together to form the Hidden Clinic and other networks to secretly treat the injuries of many young demonstrators who fear arrest if they go to government hospitals.
The person who messaged the network on the injured protester's behalf later explained the youth's wariness by saying, "Many of his friends have been detained when seeing doctors."
The Hidden Clinic says it has clandestinely treated 300-400 protesters with an array of injuries: broken and dislocated bones, gaping wounds and exposure to tear gas so prolonged that they were coughing up blood. It also says the severity of the injuries has increased sharply in the past week, with hard-core protesters and police increasingly tough on each other.
A practitioner who specializes in traditional Chinese medicine and is not affiliated with Hidden Clinic says she alone has treated 60-80 patients, some with multiple wounds from tear-gas canisters and other riot-control projectiles. The woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she fears reprisal during her frequent trips to the mainland, uses acupuncture to ease their pain and doesn't charge for her services.
This behind-the-scenes doctoring, outside of government hospitals, suggests that the official toll of 1,235 injured protesters treated in public hospitals since June 9 significantly undercounts both the number and full extent of those hurt in the more than 400 demonstrations tallied by the government.
Hong Kong's chief executive, Carrie Lam, says the casualty count includes injuries to more than 300 police officers. The government tally, compiled by the Hospital Authority, only counts patients who visited 18 public Accident and Emergency departments in the territory of 7.5 million people, not those treated privately.
The protests were triggered in June by a now-abandoned measure that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited for trial in Communist Party-controlled courts in mainland China. They've flared into sustained fury against Lam's government, testing commitments from Communist leaders in Beijing not to interfere in the internal affairs of Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous hub for international trade and finance that reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.
The full scope of the clandestine efforts to treat protesters isn't clear, because both the injured and the medics want to protect themselves in the atmosphere of deep distrust that has put Hong Kong on edge. But interviews by The Associated Press with four practitioners and with protesters treated outside the government health system show it is extensive, underscoring the support that the demonstrators enjoy.
One trainee doctor, who wouldn't give her full name and asked to be identified only as Wong for fear she would damage her career, said her supervisor at a major public hospital doesn't know of her involvement with Hidden Clinic.
After her regular shifts, she spends her nights dealing with a steady stream of injured protesters, giving them quick, initial diagnoses via text message and photo, and dispensing advice. She then reaches out to the network's behind-the-scenes doctors, arranging more extensive consultations and treatment — and even help with any costs.
When the protests began, Wong said she used her medical skills on the front lines. She helped assemble Hidden Clinic at the end of July because "I realized the injuries are getting more severe," she said.
Its name reflects its low profile — its Telegram logo is a bear wearing an identity-concealing surgical mask — but also the many unreported injuries its volunteers see.
"Data published by the government aren't really accurate anymore, and there are a lot of hidden injuries," Wong said.
With many distrustful of Lam's government, and by extension its hospitals, "patients would rather endure the pain and not get arrested," she said.
For some injuries, Hidden Clinic dispenses temporary treatment that allows protesters to wait a few days before going to an Accident & Emergency facility, so they can lie more convincingly that they weren't recently hurt in violence.
"You can just say that, oh, you got injured while playing football or something," Wong said.
Early Monday, when police again battled black-clad protesters after peaceful rallies that drew tens of thousands of marchers, Hidden Clinic's cases included a protester who messaged a photo of a gruesome neck-wound — round, the size of a plum, dark at the edges and seemingly caused by a rubber bullet. The victim, in his 20s, said he was having difficulty swallowing.
"It was quite alarming," Wong said. They quickly found a private surgeon who treated him in his own clinic. The man then asked Hidden Clinic to delete any record of their Telegram interactions.
Wong also arranged treatment for the 22-year-old with the broken arm, as well as two other people with wounds that needed suturing. The appeals began arriving from 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. Sunday, and she finished about 4 a.m., before dealing with more cases later in the day, she said.
Asked about protesters' fears of public wards, the Hospital Authority said in a statement to AP that it "upholds the importance of patient confidentiality, which is the cornerstone of patient confidence" and "has also reminded law enforcement departments to be mindful of the respect for patient data privacy in hospitals."
The protesters aren't convinced.
"Government hospitals have police," said a 19-year-old who came prepared for trouble at Sunday's protest, wearing a metal shield on his left arm, a hardened helmet with full-face reflective visor, protective pads on his knees, elbows and shoulders, a gas mask, a walkie-talkie and a black jacket reeking of tear gas.
Struck under his right armpit by a rubber bullet in a previous skirmish, the student said he used Telegram to find free treatment from a private clinic that diagnosed bruising but no broken ribs. He identified himself only as John, for fear of retaliation.
In a detention that seemed to confirm the concerns of protesters that government clinics aren't safe, a pregnant 19-year-old detained Monday was being watched over by two policewomen in the maternity ward of the Tuen Mun Hospital, according to the hospital.
An 18-year-old who was struck on the head by a tear-gas canister on Oct. 1, when Hong Kong shook with protests, rioting and the police shooting of a protester, said she turned to Hidden Clinic to treat dizziness, vomiting and headaches because "I may be arrested if I go to the government hospital." She refused to give her name.
"I can't believe the government," she said. "The government will use any ways to find out the protesters."
Clandestine doctors say they feel compelled to help.
"These kids are striving for a whole era's freedom," said the Chinese medicine practitioner who devotes one evening per week to treating protesters, seeing as many as a dozen each time. "For those of us who don't dare go out, the very least we can do is treat their wounds."