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6 Russian military officers charged with a worldwide cyberattack


The alleged cyberattackers hacked into software using destructive malware to black out thousands of computers and cause nearly $1 billion in losses, and were intended to support Russian government efforts to undermine, retaliate against, or otherwise destabilize worldwide computer networks, the Justice Department said.

The alleged hackers are officers of the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), a military intelligence agency of the General Staff of the Armed Forces. Monday’s charges allege some of the most consequential political attacks levied by the Kremlin since its efforts to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election, including the hacking of Democratic Party email accounts.

Prosecutors said they attacked Ukraine; the country of Georgia; elections in France; efforts to hold Russia accountable for its use of a weapons-grade nerve agent, Novichok, on foreign soil; and the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games after Russian athletes were banned from participating under their nation’s flag, as a consequence of Russian government-sponsored doping effort.

The United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania issued a federal arrest warrant for each of these defendants upon the grand jury’s return of the indictment.

“The defendants’ and their co-conspirators caused damage and disruption to computer networks worldwide, including in France, Georgia, the Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States,” prosecutors said.

They are all charged in seven counts: conspiracy to conduct computer fraud and abuse, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, damaging protected computers, and aggravated identity theft.

One of the pieces of malware developed by the hackers took down the medical systems of Heritage Valley in Pennsylvania, prosecutors said.

From November 2015 to October 2019, “their computer attacks used some of the world’s most destructive malware to date, including: KillDisk and Industroyer, which each caused blackouts in Ukraine; NotPetya, which caused nearly $1 billion in losses to the three victims identified in the indictment alone; and Olympic Destroyer, which disrupted thousands of computers used to support the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics,” prosecutors said.

The NotPetya malware, for example, spread worldwide, damaged computers used in critical infrastructure, and caused enormous financial losses. Those losses were only part of the harm, however. For example, the NotPetya malware impaired Heritage Valley’s provision of critical medical services to citizens of the Western District of Pennsylvania through its two hospitals, 60 offices, and 18 community satellite facilities.

The attack caused the unavailability of patient lists, patient history, physical examination files, and laboratory records. Heritage Valley lost access to its mission-critical computer systems (such as those relating to cardiology, nuclear medicine, radiology, and surgery) for approximately one week and administrative computer systems for almost one month, thereby causing a threat to public health and safety.

Yuriy Sergeyevich Andrienko, 32; Sergey Vladimirovich Detistov, 35; Pavel Valeryevich Frolov, 28; Anatoliy Sergeyevich Kovalev, 29; Artem Valeryevich Ochichenko, 27; and Petr Nikolayevich Pliskin, 32, face a maximum sentence of 27 years in prison for wire fraud.

They are wanted and assumed to be in Russia.

Prosecutors said Kovalev allegedly developed “spearphishing techniques and messages” to target: En Marche! officials; employees of the DSTL; members of the IOC and Olympic athletes; and employees of a Georgian media entity.”

“The victims who suffered real harm, as a result of these crimes are often ordinary citizens and businesses around the world,” US Attorney Scott W. Brady said at a Monday news conference.

The malware attacks disrupted the supply of electricity to more than 225,000 Ukrainian customers during the cold winter months of December 2015, according to the indictment.

When Ukraine was preparing their end of year pension payments, as well as the following year’s budget, there was a destructive malware attack against Ukraine’s Ministry of Finance and their state security service. During this attack, the conspirators used an updated version of KillDisk malware in December 2016, that caused the network to go down and prevented the execution of approximately 150,000 electronic payment transactions, according to the indictment.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that the charges “highlight once again Russia’s continuing disruptive, destructive, and destabilizing activities in cyberspace.”

“We call on Russia to put an end to its irresponsible behavior. Furthermore, we call upon all states that wish to see greater stability in cyberspace to join us in helping bring the actors charged today to justice,” he said in a statement.

The new indictments were the latest attempt by the US to crack down on the Russian intelligence agency known as the GRU, which was responsible for interfering in the 2016 election. GRU hackers stole tens of thousands of emails from top Democrats and weaponized material through WikiLeaks releases during the 2016 campaign, helping Donald Trump and weakening Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Kovalev and 11 other GRU operatives were charged in 2018 with conspiring to hack the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign chairman. The charges were brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, whose investigation provided the most detailed account of how GRU hackers aggressively went after Western targets.

Kovalev has yet to face a judge in Washington, DC, for the outstanding charges.

“For this type of activity, they might be safe now. In the future, they’re gonna have to be looking over their shoulders,” said FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich.

This story has been updated with additional developments Monday.

CNN’s Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.

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Trump announces plans to remove Sudan from state sponsors of terrorism list


“GREAT news! New government of Sudan, which is making great progress, agreed to pay $335 MILLION to U.S. terror victims and families. Once deposited, I will lift Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. At long last, JUSTICE for the American people and BIG step for Sudan!” he tweeted.

Behind the scenes, the Trump administration has been pushing for the transitional government in Sudan, led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, to normalize relations with Israel. Such a move would present a foreign policy win to Trump just weeks ahead of the election.

The President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and a team of international negotiators from the White House and State Department had taken the lead on brokering these deals between Israel and a number of countries, including Sudan, Oman and Morocco, according to people familiar with the discussions, and their efforts have thus far yielded two successful deals — with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

During a visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Khartoum in late August, the two discussed the rescission of the terrorism designation, but Hamdok appeared to rebuff the potential of normalizing relations with Israel, saying the transitional government did not have the authority to pursue such a change.

Senior government sources in Sudan told CNN that the designation change was a requirement by Hamdok before talks on normalization could proceed.

“Prime Minister Hamdok was insistent during negotiations with the US that the removal from the list not be linked to normalization as Sudan has met all the criteria for its removal. Now that the designation has been changed discussions can begin afresh on normalization. The designation change was our priority and normalization is theirs,” one source said.

Sudan has been listed as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1993, and it is one of only four nations total designated as such. Iran, North Korea and Syria are also listed. As a result, Sudan faces a series of restrictions including a ban on defense exports and sales and restrictions on US foreign assistance.
Sudan’s strongman leader, Omar al-Bashir, was ousted in a military coup in April 2019 after three decades in power.

With the nation under a transitional government, Pompeo has voiced support for delisting Sudan with certain prerequisites.

“This is an opportunity that doesn’t come along often. We all know the history of Sudan and the tragedy there,” Pompeo said at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in late July. “There’s a chance not only for a democracy to begun to be built out, but perhaps regional opportunities that could flow from that as well. I think lifting the state sponsor of terrorism designation there, if we can take care of the victims of those tragedies, would be a good thing for American foreign policy.”

The State Department declined to comment on Trump’s announcement Monday, although the top US diplomat in Khartoum congratulated the Sudanese government and its people on the news.

“This will be a critical step in advancing the U.S.-Sudan relationship and we hope will open the way for new engagement by the international community,” charge d’affaires Brian Shukan wrote Monday on Twitter.
More than 200 people were killed and thousands were injured in 1998 when twin al Qaeda bombings rocked the US Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Sudan, under the leadership of al-Bashir, sheltered Osama bin Laden and was found to have assisted the al Qaeda operatives. The US and Sudan reached a settlement in which the latter would pay $335 million to compensate survivors and victims’ families.

Edith Bartley, spokesperson for the families of Americans who were killed in the embassy bombings, said in a statement Monday that they welcomed the announcement.

“On behalf of the families killed in the 1998 bombing of the Nairobi embassy, I wish to express our appreciation for the long hard work of the State Department, and the new civilian regime in Sudan, to secure Sudan’s payment of compensation to our diplomatic families for that act of terror,” said Bartley, who herself lost her father and brother in the attack in Nairobi.

“The escrow fund established by that agreement, once it is released to the victims, will fulfill a longstanding commitment first made by President Bush, honored by President Obama, and now affirmed by President Trump, to condition normalization on compensating survivors and the families of those who were lost to acts of terror. In so doing, we vindicate the sacrifice of our diplomats abroad,” she said.

CNN’s Vivian Salama, Nima Elbagir and Yassir Abdullah contributed to this report.

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UK accuses Russian intelligence agency of hacking 2020 Olympics


The UK accused the GRU of targeting the “organisers, logistics services, and sponsors” of the games. The 2020 competition was scheduled to take place in Tokyo in July but was postponed due to the pandemic.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab condemned the GRU’s actions in the “strongest possible terms,” calling the unit “cynical and reckless,” in a statement published on Monday.

The statement also accused the Russian body of targeting the 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in South Korea with cyberattacks.

“The UK is confirming for the first time today the extent of GRU targeting of the 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea,” the government statement said.

“The GRU’s cyber unit attempted to disguise itself as North Korean and Chinese hackers when it targeted the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Games.”

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre has assessed the attacks and believes they were intended to sabotage the games, as the malware used “was designed to wipe data from and disable computers and networks.”

The UK statement supplemented major charges announced in the US on Monday.

Six Russian military officers were charged by the US Justice Department, in what was described by officials as a hacking scheme to attack several major foreign powers and former Soviet republics.

The alleged cyberattackers are also GRU members, who stand accused of conducting cyberattacks against the 2018 Winter Games.

US government officials said the officers had hacked into software using destructive malware that blacked out thousands of computers and caused nearly $1 billion in losses.

The attacks were intended to support Russian government efforts to undermine, retaliate against, or otherwise destabilize worldwide computer networks, the US Justice Department said.

The Olympic Games are a popular target for cybercriminals.

In 2016 Russian hackers broke into a World-Anti Doping Agency database through an account created by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the Summer Games in Rio. The group stole information about star American athletes like Simone Biles and Venus Williams.

In response to the widening range of threats the IOC and host countries have ramped up cybersecurity efforts in recent years.

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The rich really are different: They’re buying more jewelry during Covid


According to Edahn Golan, founder of Edahn Golan Diamond Research & Data, purchases of fine jewelry in the US recovered from the early months of the pandemic and started to gain momentum heading into the summer. Fine jewelry sales were up nearly 10% to $5.25 billion in August from the same month last year, according to the latest data available.

Signet Jewelers (SIG), which owns and operates the retailers Kay Jewelers and Zales, said the company’s preliminary August sales for all jewelry are up 10.9% compared to a year ago.

Meanwhile, Tiffany, a chain that was hit hard by the drop in tourist visits to stores, said last week that US sales in August and September declined by a low double-digit percentage, an improvement since May.

The company, which is currently embroiled in a high-profile court battle with French luxury brands conglomerate LVMH (LVMHF) over a merger agreement, also called out strong performance of its T1 line, its newest gold and gold with diamonds jewelry collection.
Improving fortunes for the jewelry industry come as the US economic recovery runs out of steam after a rapid rebound witnessed in the summer.
Some economists have argued the economic recovery appears to be a K-shaped one, where the wealthiest Americans are quickly rebounding while the middle- and lower-income households are not.

Daniel Bachman, US economic forecaster with Deloitte, said the pandemic has hit the labor market unevenly.

“The lower end was hit hard, and frankly they are not buying jewelry,” he said. “The higher end is sitting on unspent income and the savings rate is very high right now.”

Buying diamonds instead of traveling

Jewelry sellers have a theory on why they’re seeing sales come back.

“In every market in the world, the number one competition to our industry is travel,” said Stephen Lussier, executive vice president with De Beers, the world’s largest diamond mining firm. “If you have a wedding, a 10th or 25th wedding anniversary, a significant birthday, the romantic thing to do is travel.”

But now, with travel in a slump, diamond jewelry has been capturing some of the unspent travel budget, he said.

In the US, De Beers’ diamond jewelry brand Forevermark has seen year-over-year double-digit growth each month since July, he said.

Macy’s CEO Jeffrey Gennette highlighted a similar sentiment at a Goldman Sachs retail conference in September, noted noting how sales of luxury items were “outpacing expectations.”

“There’s a lot of theories for that. I think one of them is that you’ve got customers that are not traveling. So those budgets that used to be spent on experiences are now going to kind of treating themselves with products,” he said.

Macy’s, in an email to CNN Business, said it has seen customers during the pandemic “gravitate toward the jewelry category, in part because it retains its value.”

Signet Jewelers is seeing that trend with engagement rings.

Because couples aren’t doing destination engagements, “they’re investing in an even more fabulous [diamond] ring,” said Jamie Singleton, president of jewelry retailers Kay Jewelers and Zales.

One smaller seller says things are getting better after it was hit hard earlier this year. As with most retailers, the Covid-19 lockdown forced Van Cott Jewelers, a 100-year-old business in Vestal, New York to shut its doors in mid-March.

Van Cott Jewelers in Vestal, New York.

The business reopened on June 8. Since then, owner Birdie Levine, a certified gemologist appraiser, has noticed a few trends in diamond jewelry purchases.

“Due to Covid-19, we were closed for almost three months and then we were only allowed to offer curbside sales,” said Levine.

“These conditions definitely had an adverse effect. It was not until July that we witnessed an uptick in higher-end diamond sales. We’ve been selling a lot of $20,000, $30,000, $40,000 diamond jewelry pieces,” she said.

Levine said her customers are either upgrading the diamonds in existing jewelry they own, like an engagement or wedding ring, or buying a completely new piece. As a result, she said her average sale since reopening has been “much higher” though her total sales haven’t caught up to what they were a year ago.

Still, Levine expects diamond jewelry will be a hot seller for the holidays. “I’m gearing up to purchase lots of loose diamonds to be ready,” she said.

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Wales is introducing a ‘firebreak’ lockdown. What this means – CNN Video


Wales will introduce a “firebreak” lockdown which will require everyone to stay at home, for two weeks, beginning October 23. CNN’s Becky Anderson speaks with Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford about the decision.

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The iPhone 12 Mini’s big drawback: A tiny battery


That’s not technically true — because the iPhone 12 Mini is so much smaller, it has a significantly tinier battery. Apple says the iPhone 12 Mini gets two hours less battery life than its larger sibling — 15 hours of video playback on the iPhone 12 Mini compared with 17 hours on the iPhone 12.

That’s still impressive, especially considering some of the iPhone’s larger rivals have substantially larger batteries and don’t get nearly as much life out of them. Apple has always worked some magic with battery life by making its software and chips work seamlessly together.

But lower battery life remains tradeoff of the iPhone 12 Mini. Sure, you’re getting the same screen, camera, chip, software and other features for $100 less, in a 5.4-inch package. But when your buddy with the bigger phone is at 20% and you’re at 5%, you might be rethinking whether the smaller phone was the right choice.

Apple blog 9to5Mac reports that the iPhone 12 Mini battery capacity is 21% smaller than the iPhone 12. The iPhone 12 itself, which is thinner and lighter than the iPhone 11, has a 9.5% smaller battery than last year’s iPhone.

But Apple is promising the same battery life on the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro as the iPhone 11. The iPhone 12 Pro Max has a whopping 20 hours of battery life.

This year’s 5G-equipped iPhones include enhanced cameras, an upgraded display, a tougher glass screen and new colors, among other bells and whistles, compared with last year’s iterations.

The cheapest phone in the lineup is the iPhone 12 mini, which starts at $699. The top-of-the-line iPhone 12 Pro Max starts at $1,099. It has Apple’s biggest ever smartphone display at 6.7 inches.

AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile are all offering ways to get cheaper — or even free — new iPhones.

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China’s economy is the envy of the world 


The pace of growth was a tad slower than economists had expected. But there were plenty of signs of strength, with the services and construction sectors performing especially well.

China’s economy has now recovered from its historically bad first quarter, when the coronavirus forced the country to shut down. GDP grew a cumulative 0.7% through the first nine months of 2020, the data show.

“China’s economy continued its rapid rebound last quarter, with the recovery broadening out and becoming less reliant on investment-led stimulus,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist for Capital Economics.

Growth of less than 5% would normally be a cause for real concern in China, which is accustomed to much quicker expansion. But it’s pretty good considering the circumstances, and even more remarkable when compared to the extremely fragile recoveries underway in most other big economies.

The big picture: The International Monetary Fund expects China’s economy to expand by 1.9% in 2020. That compares to contractions of 5.8% in the United States and 8.3% in the 19 countries that use the euro. 

Benefits of control: The way Beijing handled the initial outbreak of coronavirus late last year has been criticized by some Western politicians. But China’s stringent lockdown and population tracking policies helped bring the virus under control within its borders. The country also set aside hundreds of billions of dollars for major infrastructure projects to fuel economic growth. The central bank has done its part, too.

The blueprint for controlling the virus has proved difficult for other countries to replicate, especially in places where leaders do not wield the same level of control over their populations as Beijing.

Europe and the United States are now facing another surge of coronavirus cases. Paris has imposed an overnight curfew. In London, people from different households are banned from meeting indoors. The United States is averaging more than 55,000 new cases a day — up more than 60% since a mid-September dip, and pretty much every state is trending the wrong direction.

What’s next: The United States is probably not headed for a national lockdown anytime soon, but its economy will remain hamstrung until there’s a dramatic reduction in the number of coronavirus cases. 

China, meanwhile, will continue to power ahead. Economic data for the month of September indicated the country’s recovery is gaining even more strength. Industrial production and retail sales figures were particularly robust.

“We think growth will continue to pick-up in the near-term,” said Evans-Pritchard. “Fiscal policy is set to remain supportive until at least the start of next year, which should keep activity in industry and construction strong. Meanwhile, tightening labour market conditions and improving consumer confidence mean that the recovery in consumption and services activity probably has further to run.”

Looking even further ahead: The International Monetary Fund predicts that China’s economy will grow by 8.2% in 2021, a much faster pace than the United States or the eurozone. 

Alibaba spots an opportunity

Alibaba (BABA) has taken a controlling stake in one of China’s leading supermarket chains as it tries to fend off rival in the fast growing online grocery industry, my colleague Sherisse Pham reports. 

Alibaba is spending 28 billion Hong Kong dollars ($3.6 billion) to up its stake in Sun Art Retail Group from 36% to 72%, the company said in a statement Monday. Alibaba will then make a general offer to shareholders to buy out the rest of the the retail company.

The news sent shares in Sun Art up nearly 20% in Hong Kong. Alibaba’s Hong Kong listed shares rose about 1%.

Alibaba is in a fierce battle with for China’s online food market. The e-commerce giants are both using a mixture of physical supermarkets and online platforms to win shoppers.

The play: The Sun Art deals signals that Alibaba is pushing for the “accelerated digitization” of Chinese consumers post-pandemic, according to Jefferies analyst Thomas Chong. Sun Art operates nearly 500 hypermarkets and supermarkets across China.

Alibaba “has been highlighting digitization as the greatest opportunity to change how people live and work,” and seeking “opportunities in traditional retail” by solving problems such as scalability and sustainability, said Chong. 

What’s next: Ant Group, a crown jewel of Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma’s empire, is preparing to go public in what could be the biggest IPO in history. 

Ant Group is one of the biggest technology firms in the world and the biggest online payments platform in China. The app has established its presence in every aspect of financial life in China, from investment accounts and micro savings products to insurance, credit scores and even dating profiles.

The company has secured a key approval from the China Securities Regulatory Commission for its listing in Hong Kong, Bloomberg reported on Monday. The IPO is expected to include a listing in Shanghai.

US debt hasn’t been this high since World War II

The amount of money that the United States owes investors has hit record levels in more than a few ways, my colleague Jeanne Sahadi reports. 

Both the annual deficit and total debt accumulated over the years has topped levels not seen since World War II.

Last week, the US Treasury reported that for fiscal year 2020, which ended September 30, the US deficit hit $3.13 trillion. As a share of the economy, the 2020 deficit is more than triple what the annual deficit was in 2019.

Having topped $21 trillion, the country’s total debt owed to investors is now estimated to have outpaced the size of the economy, coming in at nearly 102% of GDP, according to calculations from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Debt hasn’t been that high since 1946 when it hit 106% of GDP.

Extraordinary times: With millions of Americans still out of work and struggling to get by as a result, the country’s burgeoning debt is understandably no one’s top concern at the moment. Even deficit hawks are urging a dysfunctional Washington and a chaotic White House to approve another round of badly needed stimulus to the tune of trillions of dollars.

Big picture: The problem with such high debt levels going forward is that they will increasingly constrain what the government can do to meet the country’s needs.

“There is no set tipping point at which a fiscal crisis becomes likely or imminent, nor is there an identifiable point at which interest costs as a percentage of GDP become unsustainable,” Congressional Budget Office director Phillip Swagel said last month. “But as the debt grows, the risks become greater.”

Up next

Halliburton and Philips will report their latest quarterly results before the bell.

Also today:

  • IBM and PPG Industries report after the close.
  • The NAHB Housing Market Index for October is out at 10:00 a.m. ET.

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Back after 20 years, the Land Rover Defender is named MotorTrend SUV of the Year


Like the Jeep Wrangler or Ford’s Bronco, the Defender is built to withstand serious off-road use — even though many buyers will rarely take it beyond the suburbs. When it was first unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany in 2019, Land Rover boasted it had been subjected to “Extreme Event Test” procedures that were far more rigorous than those ordinarily used in the auto industry.

MotorTrend editors were impressed by the Defender’s performance on the road — as well as off — and by its design, which gave a sense of adventure.

“You can tell that Land Rover spent the extra money to make the interior look rugged, but also be rugged,” said editor-in-chief Mark Rechtin.

The new Defender has a modern design that carries styling cues from classic boxy Land Rovers. It’s currently available in the four-door Defender 110 version, with a starting price of about $50,000. The two-door Defender 90 will be available early next year with prices starting at about $46,000.

Land Rover has a few SUVs in its lineup with similar exterior dimensions and prices, Rechtin said, but the brand manages to make each one appeal to a different sort of customer. The Defender will attract those who want to go far off-road — or at least look like they do. All the same, said Rechtin, it drives well on pavement, too.

“I’m sure there’s gonna be plenty of people who will never take it off-road, who just want to buy it because it’s cool looking and there’s nothing wrong with that,” he said.

To be eligible for MotorTrend’s award, an SUV model had to be completely new or substantially redesigned for the 2021 model year. Last year’s winner was the Kia Telluride.

A total of 28 SUV models were in competition for the award this year. The vehicles were put through instrumented tests, with results measured by computer-connected monitors. Then MotorTrend staffers drove all the contenders and met to discuss their subjective impressions and vote on the winner.

Besides the Defender, there were five other finalists for the award. They were the Cadillac Escalade, Genesis GV80, Kia Seltos, Nissan Rogue and Toyota Venza.

Due to coronavirus restrictions, this year’s testing did not include off-road driving. It would have just been logistically too difficult to get all the SUVs out to a remote off-road location at the same time, said Rechtin. (All the subjective driving tests involve driving the same vehicles on the same roads at or near the same time.) Some MotorTrend journalists had previously driven the Defender in difficult off-road environments, though, Rechtin said.

The SUVs were judged on six criteria: safety, efficiency, value, advancement in design, engineering excellence, and performance of the intended function, MotorTrend said.

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The Gaza Strip was already in isolation. Then came the Covid-19 lockdown – CNN Video


The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely-populated areas in the world. After more than a decade under blockade, the Covid-19 lockdown is adding isolation and despair to the area.

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Taiwan official allegedly injured after altercation with Chinese diplomats in Fiji


The incident occurred on October 8 during a celebration for Taiwan’s National Day at the island’s representative office in Fiji’s capital city of Suva, Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokesperson Joanne Ou told CNN on Monday.

Ou said that officials from the Chinese embassy in Fiji attempted to “gatecrash” the venue to take photos of the guests attending the event.

The two Chinese officials then became “violent when dissuaded by our staff, causing head injuries to our (official) who was later sent to hospital,” Ou said. She didn’t say whether the official had been released from hospital yet.

In a statement Monday, China’s embassy in Fiji disputed Ou’s version of events, contending instead that Taiwan officials had been “acting provocatively against the Chinese embassy staff, who were carrying out their official duties in a public area outside the function venue.” The embassy said that one Chinese diplomat had been injured in the altercation outside Fiji’s Grand Pacific Hotel.

Ou said the Chinese officials’ account was “an attempt to reverse the truth and confuse the public.”

The apparent confrontation comes amid escalating tensions between Taiwan and China. Even though Taiwan has never been controlled by China’s ruling Communist Party, Beijing insists it is an integral part of its territory and has threatened to use force if necessary to assert its control over the the self-governing island.
The Pacific has long been a point of conflict between the two governments, with Taiwan attempting to hold onto its remaining diplomatic allies among the tiny island nations. In September 2019, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands both cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan within a week of each other, leaving Taipei with just 15 diplomatic allies worldwide.
Fiji was the first Pacific Nation to recognize Beijing over Taipei in 1975. Though Fiji does not engage in formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, the two sides maintain informal links through Taiwan’s representative office in Suva.
Fiji's Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe "Frank" Bainimarama talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 16, 2017.

In its statement Monday, the Chinese embassy in Fiji said that Taiwan was an “inalienable part of China’s territory” and criticized the function celebrating Taiwan’s National Day for “clearly (violating) the one-China principle.”

Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ou said that the two Chinese officials who entered the event on October 8 were later “forcibly taken away from the scene by the Fiji police.”

CNN has reached out to Fiji’s police for comment but has yet to receive a response.

The Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had asked the injured official and the Taiwan representative office in Fiji to submit witness testimony and physical evidence to the Fiji police and foreign ministry to “ensure a correct understanding of the situation.”

Taiwan said it had lodged a protest with the Chinese embassy in Fiji and the Fiji Ministry of Foreign Affairs following the incident.

In a statement, the Chinese embassy said that it “expects that the Fijian side will tackle this issue properly.”

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