Turkey reaches NATO deal with Finland and Sweden

Scandinavian countries will become observers at the upcoming summit

Turkey will support inviting Finland and Sweden into NATO at the bloc’s upcoming summit in Spain, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto announced on Tuesday after a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

The three countries signed a memorandum of understanding at the meeting, organized with the support of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. 

“The concrete steps for our accession to NATO will be agreed among NATO allies over the next two days, but that decision is now imminent,” said Niinisto. “I am pleased that this stage on Finland’s journey towards NATO membership has been completed.”

According to Turkey, Finland and Sweden pledged to “condemn terrorism in all its forms” and end their support for organizations Ankara has designated as terrorist – including the Kurdish groups PKK and YPG, as well as the movement led by the exiled cleric Fetullah Gulen, which the Turkish government refers to as FETO. 

“Turkey got what it wanted,” Erdogan said in a statement after the deal was announced.


• Sweden and Finland confirm that there are no arms embargoes against Turkey. pic.twitter.com/gMa0LgQHJO

— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) June 28, 2022

Speaking at a press conference after the meeting, Stoltenberg said that Finland and Sweden will become observers in NATO at the upcoming summit. He added that the memorandum includes provisions on fighting terrorism and arms exports, including adopting stricter national legislation.

Finland and Sweden imposed an arms embargo against Turkey in 2019, over Ankara’s intervention in Syria. Turkey also reportedly demanded that Stockholm and Helsinki shut down the offices and ban the publications belonging to FETO, freeze the assets related to groups it has designated as terrorists, and even ban them from demonstrating in public.

Ankara’s opposition threatened to derail NATO’s plan to invite Sweden and Finland at the summit in Madrid which began on Tuesday. The two traditionally neutral Scandinavian countries declared their desire to join the US-led alliance in April, citing the current conflict in Ukraine.

Dozens killed in prison riot

A fire broke out in the middle of a riot at Colombia’s Tulua prison, resulting in 51 deaths

Some 51 people have been killed and 30 injured after a fire broke out during a prison riot and escape attempt at Tulua prison in Colombia on Tuesday morning. The prisoners reportedly set their mattresses on fire during the affray.

The fire began in a cell block housing around 200 inmates, Semana, a Colombian news site, reported. After the prisoners had lit their mattresses on fire, some tried to escape, while others – who are believed to be connected with gangs – began brawling.

Colombian Minister of Justice Wilson Ruiz Orejuela told the story slightly differently, stating that the tragedy began as a fight between inmates, one of whom set fire to a mattress. Orejuela said that the blaze spread, and the Tulua fire department had to be called in to extinguish it. 

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It is unclear how many inmates perished in the fire and how many died as a result of the fighting.   

As families of the prisoners gathered outside the facility to learn of the fates of their loved ones, officials read out a list of survivors. All of the inmates held in other cell blocks were described as being “in perfect condition.”

According to Semana, there were 1,267 inmates in the entire facility at the time of the tragedy, around 200 more than the prison was designed to hold.

Colombian President Ivan Duque has called for an investigation into the incident, while President-elect Gustavo Petro called for a “complete rethinking of prison policy” aimed at protecting the “humanization of the prison and the dignity of the prisoner.”

A similar scenario played out at Bogota’s Modelo Prison in March 2020, when a protest over sanitary conditions devolved into a violent riot that killed 23 prisoners and injured more than 100. 

Hairdressers threatened with fines for over-shampooing

The mayor of a northern Italian town has threatened to fine hairdressers for double-shampooing during a drought

Hairdressers in the northern Italian town of Castenaso face fines of up to €500 ($527) if they shampoo a customer’s hair twice during an intense drought in the region under new regulations. Mayor Carlo Gubellini told local media outlets he announced the restrictions on Saturday to give hairdressers time to “adapt,” as they are closed Sunday and Monday.

At least 13 liters of water a minute flows from an open tap, and at least 20 liters are required to rinse a person’s hair twice, according to a “handbook” distributed to mark the new rule. It’s not clear how the rule is to be enforced, however.

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The mayor claimed the regulation, which is in effect until September, is widely accepted. “The feedback has been positive,” he told Corriere della Sera, insisting the rule “does not have an oppressive purpose, but rather one of empowering citizens.” Meanwhile, he said, the water shortage in the region was “really alarming.

Emilia-Romagna has enough water reserves necessary for farmland until 29 June, then from July things could get drastically worse,” he continued, referring to the region in which the town is located. Emilia-Romagna declared a drought emergency at the beginning of June.

We have about ten hairdressers with hundreds of clients a day. That means there are thousands of liters that we can save every day,” he told Italian state TV. “These savings replicated on a large scale could have enormous benefits.” 

However, not all hairdressers are onboard with the new rule, with some complaining that certain products – and certain dirty-haired customers – require multiple washes. 

The town has also urged residents to shower instead of bathing, turn off the tap when brushing teeth or shaving, and refrain from using garden hoses during the day.

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Other towns and cities in Italy have also imposed cutbacks on water usage, due to a prolonged drought from less-than-usual rain and snowfall feeding into the Po River, Italy’s longest waterway, which is reportedly 80% lower than normal. However, Castenaso is believed to be the only locale dictating what hairdressers can do in their salons. 

The northern region of Lombardy has declared a state of emergency, and the city of Milan has turned off about half of its public fountains, with residents urged to cut back on use of air conditioners after parts of the city endured power outages last week. Italy’s civil protection department chief Fabrizio Curcio has predicted further states of emergency could be imposed elsewhere in the country, along with daytime water rationing, while nighttime water restrictions are already in place in some parts of the north. The drought is believed to be costing Italian agriculture upwards of €3 billion ($3.16 billion).

China mocks G7

With the eyes of the world on the G7, Beijing reminded the West that it’s outnumbered by its competitors

Amid high-profile meetings of the G7 and NATO leaders, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian posted an image on Tuesday pointing out that despite being referred to as “international society,” the G7 countries actually account for a small percentage of the world’s population.

Depicting the leaders of the G7 countries alongside the leaders of the BRICS nations, the image noted that the population of the former amounts to 777 million, while the BRICS countries are home to 3.2 billion people. 

“So next time when they talk about ‘international society,’ you know what they mean…” Zhao wrote.

So next time when they talk about “international society”, you know what they mean… pic.twitter.com/3sV23dxLCp

— Lijian Zhao 赵立坚 (@zlj517) June 28, 2022

After the summit in Germany over the weekend, the G7 leaders departed for Madrid, where the US-led NATO alliance is meeting to draft its new Strategic Concept – a document that outlines its mission and stance toward non-members. In its first update since 2010, the document will address China as a “challenge,” and according to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, “will make clear that allies consider Russia as the most significant and direct threat to our security.”

Just days before the G7 summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and the leaders of Brazil, India, and South Africa, met virtually for the less-reported summit of the BRICS nations. The group, denoted by an acronym composed from the first letter of its member nations’ names, includes four of the world’s top ten economies and represents more than 40% of the planet’s population and 30% of its GDP.

While the BRICS group is not a formal alliance in a military or economic sense, its members are often united in opposition to the Western consensus. Save for Brazil, none of the BRICS nations voted with the US and its allies to condemn Russia’s military operation in Ukraine at the UN General Assembly in March, for example, and China and India have stepped up their trade links with Russia since then.

The bloc may soon expand too. Argentina and Iran applied last week for membership, with the Iranian Foreign Ministry describing BRICS as a “very creative mechanism with broad aspects,” and Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez said that the platform could “implement an agenda for the future that will lead to a better and fairer time.”

During the BRICS summit last Wednesday, Putin said that the five-member group was working on setting up a new global reserve currency “based on a basket of currencies of our countries.”

Drug lab busted at nuke-hosting NATO base

Belgian police has raided an illegal drug lab at the Kleine-Brogel airbase

Belgian law enforcement has busted an illegal drug lab located on the premises of the NATO Kleine-Brogel airbase in the northeast of the country, Limburg police said on Tuesday. 

The lab was discovered at the airbase last Wednesday, the police said, adding that “a neighboring house” located off the installation’s premises was involved into the operation as well. The lab has been manufacturing the synthetic drug MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy.

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Two suspects, who were not military personnel, were arrested during the raid. The suspects have been released under certain conditions since then. The police did not make any statements on the potential charges the two might be facing.

The Kleine-Brogel airbase is believed to house a stockpile of US nuclear weapons stationed across Europe under NATO nuclear-sharing program. The base has repeatedly became the target for anti-nuclear and anti-NATO protesters, who rallied outside the installation. 

Apparent nuclear status of the base has been the subject for assorted rumors for decades already and the number of warheads kept at the facility is not officially known. Back in 2019, a Green MP told Belgium’s parliament that some 10 to 20 warheads were stockpiled at the site.