Maradona Care ‘Deficient, Reckless’ Before Death, Medical Board Report Says 

A medical board appointed to investigate the death of Diego Maradona has concluded that the soccer star’s medical team acted in an “inappropriate, deficient and reckless manner,” according to a copy of the report shared with Reuters on Friday.Maradona’s death in November last year rocked the South American nation where he was revered, prompting a period of mourning and angry finger-pointing about who was to blame after the icon’s yearslong battle with addiction and ill health.Argentine prosecutors launched investigations shortly after Maradona’s death at age 60 from heart failure at a house near Buenos Aires, including ordering searches of properties of his personal doctor and probing others involved in his care.Maradona, nicknamed “D10S,” a play on the Spanish word for god, and “Pelusa” for his prominent mane of hair, had battled alcohol and drug addiction for many years and had undergone brain surgery in November.In March this year, a medical board appointed by the Justice Ministry met to analyze allegations that members of the health team who attended Maradona did not treat him adequately.”The action of the health team in charge of treating DAM [Diego Armando Maradona] was inadequate, deficient and reckless,” said the medical board report dated Friday and shared with Reuters by a source close to the investigation.The report said Maradona had become seriously unwell and was dying for around 12 hours before his death at around midday on November 25.”He presented unequivocal signs of a prolonged agonizing period, so we conclude that the patient was not properly monitored from 00:30 on 11/25/2020,” the report added.Reuters could not reach prosecutors and lawyers involved in the case for comment on Friday.Maradona, a champion with Argentina in the 1986 World Cup, played for Barcelona, Napoli, Seville, Boca Juniors and Argentinos Juniors, and is widely heralded as one of the greatest soccer players of all time.

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Russia Bars Eight EU Citizens in Sanctions Retaliation

Russia on Friday barred eight officials from European Union countries from entering the country in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Russian citizens by the EU.Russia’s foreign ministry said those banned included Vera Jourova, vice president for values and transparency at the executive European Commission, David Sassoli, the president of the European parliament, and Jacques Maire, a member of the French delegation at the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly.”The European Union continues to pursue its policy of illegitimate, unilateral restrictive measures against Russian citizens and organizations,” the ministry said in a statement.It accused the EU of “openly and deliberately” undermining the independence of Russia’s domestic and foreign policy.Sassoli, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council chief Charles Michel said in a joint statement they condemned Russia’s “unacceptable” action in “the strongest possible terms” and said it showed Moscow had chosen a path of confrontation with the bloc.”The EU reserves the right to take appropriate measures in response to the Russian authorities’ decision,” they saidSassoli said in a tweet that no sanctions or intimidation would stop the parliament or him defending human rights, freedom and democracy.”Threats will not silence us. As Tolstoy wrote, there is no greatness where there is no truth,” his tweet read.Russia banned three officials from the Baltic states: Ivars Abolins, chairman of Latvia’s National Electronic Media Council, Maris Baltins, director of the Latvian State Language Center, and Ilmar Tomusk, head of Estonia’s Language Inspectorate.It also banned Jorg Raupach, Berlin’s public prosecutor, and Asa Scott of the Swedish Defence Research Agency.Scott was among officials who said Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny had been poisoned in Russia with a Soviet-era nerve agent.Navalny recovered from the poisoning in Germany and was detained upon his return to Russia in January, and sentenced in February to 2-1/2 years in prison for parole violations on an earlier embezzlement conviction that he says was politically motivated.The EU imposed sanctions in March on two Russians accused of persecuting gay and lesbian people in the southern Russian region of Chechnya. The EU also imposed sanctions on four senior Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin in March.

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UN: 30,000 People Have Fled Recent Attacks in Northern Mozambique

U.N. agencies say the number of people who have fled last month’s armed attacks in northern Mozambique’s coastal town of Palma has now risen to nearly 30,500.Most of those who have fled Palma have gone to Pemba, the capital of northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province. The U.N. refugee agency said dozens of people reportedly have been killed by Islamist militants who began their assault on the oil and gas rich town on March 24.Thousands flee PalmaU.N. refugee spokesman Babar Balloch said thousands of people fled Palma in a panic by foot, by road and by sea. He said they have been arriving in Pemba with no belongings, often in ill health or with injuries and severely malnourished.He said desperate people are still on the run.“They are fleeing still Palma area as far as still last night,” Balloch said. “My colleagues in Pemba were telling me that there were three boats that arrived with civilians. At least 100 people on board, and as we were talking, a majority of them are women and children.”Balloch said many more people are believed to be trapped inside Palma, unable to leave. France’s energy giant Total recently suspended a multi-billion-dollar gas project in northern Mozambique because of the jihadist assault.Violence stops aid workersBalloch said government forces are on the ground inside Palma, but he does not know how much of the area they have secured. He said UNHCR aid workers are unable to work there because of the dangers.He said the ongoing armed conflict in Cabo Delgado has resulted in grave human rights abuses. He said critical services are disrupted and that is seriously affecting civilians. Children, who account for half of the displaced population, are at particular risk.Balloch said many children get separated from their families during their flight to Pemba.“Hundreds of children have arrived traumatized and exhausted after being separated from their families,” Balloch said. “Many others have come with their mothers … UNHCR is working with UNICEF and our other partners and referring vulnerable displaced children to appropriate services or for family reunification, mental health, and psychological support, as well as material assistance.”Cabo Delgado’s four-year-long conflict has killed or injured tens of thousands of people and forcibly displaced more than 700,000. 

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US Drawdown from Afghanistan Now Underway

After 20 years, the final U.S. drawdown of troops from Afghanistan has begun, marking a watershed moment for both countries.  VOA’s Senior Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine has the story.

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Russia Releases Video of Black Sea Military Drills

Russia’s defense ministry released video Friday of its warships firing rockets during military drills in the Black Sea, the Reuters news agency reported Friday.
 
The drills were conducted earlier this week amid rising tensions between Russia and the west over Russia’s military buildup near the border it shares with Ukraine.  
 
Russia said the troop buildup was part of drills it planned in response to what it said was NATO’s threatening behavior. Last week, Russia ordered a pullback of some troops from the border area.  
 
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during a May 5-6 visit to Ukraine “to reaffirm unwavering U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression,” Blinken’s spokesman, Ned Price, said in a statement.
 Blinken Heads to Ukraine After Russia Sends 150K Troops to Border Trip aims to ‘reaffirm unwavering US support for country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in face of Russia’s ongoing aggression,’ State Department saysRussia began naval combat drills Tuesday as the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Hamilton was entering the Black Sea to work with NATO and other allies in the area.
 
Russia’s Black Sea fleet said its Moskva cruiser would participate in live-fire exercises with other Russian ships and military helicopters, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.
 
The drill took place as fighting in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed troops escalated sharply since January, despite a cease-fire that took effect last July.
 
The conflict began when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, since killing some 14,000 people, according to Ukraine’s government.
 

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Afghanistan Wants Foreign Firms to Continue Maintaining Its Military Hardware

The head of Afghanistan’s armed forces said that in preparation for the withdrawal of foreign troops, his country was trying to sign up the companies currently working with United States and NATO forces to repair and maintain a significant portion of Afghan military and air force equipment. “We are working with Americans (to get contracts with) those companies — that’s companies, not the U.S. government or soldiers. And every company tries to make money. Therefore, they will join us and work, and if they don’t, we need to replace them,” General Mohammad Yasin Zia told VOA. Afghanistan’s military depends on thousands of foreign contractors to maintain high-tech equipment it has received over the years, and senior U.S. officials fear the Afghans lack the technical capability required to maintain it. President Joe Biden announced April 14 that the United States would withdraw all forces from Afghanistan under a deal signed by the administration of former President Donald Trump with the Taliban last year. FILE – Members of the Afghan Police clean their rifles during a weapons maintenance training session at Narizah base in Narizah, Khost Province, Aug. 12, 2012.While the Biden decision would miss the May 1 deadline for a complete pullout set in the Trump deal, Biden said the U.S. would start withdrawing its forces on that date and complete the pullout on September 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States. Foreigners serving in nonmilitary roles, such as nondiplomatic civilian personnel, private security contractors and people involved in maintenance or training, would also have to leave Afghanistan. According to John Sopko, the U.S. inspector general monitoring spending in Afghanistan, the Afghan National Army was carrying out only 20% of its own maintenance until December. Of the highest concern is the maintenance of aircraft that U.S. officials think cannot survive for long without this support. “No Afghan airframe can be sustained as combat effective for more than a few months in the absence of contractor support,” Sopko told an audience at Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in March. Air support has often been the deciding factor during intense fighting between the Taliban and government forces. “A Taliban offensive on Kandahar City last October — as peace negotiations were ongoing — may well have succeeded were it not for U.S. air support,” Sopko said at CSIS. FILE – Marine General Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, speaks with U.S. troops while visiting Forward Operating Base Fenty in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Sept. 9, 2019.General Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie Jr., the U.S. Central Command leader of U.S. forces in the Middle East and Afghanistan, told journalists the U.S. was looking for alternatives to help “Afghans and their maintenance effort from a distance.” Some of those alternatives could involve videoconferencing or other televised means of interaction. “We want them to be successful; that remains a very high priority,” he said. “So we will look at innovative ways to do that. We’re still working those out right now.” An Afghan maintenance crew is already using some of those communication tools to aid their work. “We already have with our contractors WhatsApp, and Messenger, and also VTC. We have to do it,” said Colonel Abdul Fatah, the head of Afghan air force maintenance group. Under questioning from journalists, McKenzie acknowledged that providing maintenance help is going to be a lot harder to do once the U.S. is out of the country. Fatah insisted that his maintenance crew of about 1,600 had the situation under control. “For now, we are able to do our inspection and maintain our aircraft, but the main problem is that we need logistic and spare part support,” he said. When questioned on the maintenance of some of the bigger or more high-tech aircraft, such as the C-130 cargo planes, Fatah confessed that his team needed outside help. FILE – A member of the ISAF Security Forces secures the perimeter of a USAF C-130 cargo plane in Jalalabad, Sept. 17, 2008.”Yes, but they promised us they will support us,” he said. Afghan efforts to hire foreign companies were only “exploratory in nature at this point,” according to a U.S. defense official who spoke to VOA on condition of anonymity. “I’m not sure if the contractors, many of whom are American citizens, would like to stay here without U.S. military presence,” the official said. In anticipation of deteriorating security after May 1, several Western embassies, including the U.S., U.K., and Canada, have issued warnings to their citizens to avoid all travel to Afghanistan. The U.S. has also ordered all government employees who can perform their duties from elsewhere to leave the country. U.S. officials have publicly expressed concerns about an increase in Taliban attacks if efforts to reach a negotiated settlement fail. Ongoing peace talks between Taliban and the Afghan government in Doha have stalled, and the Taliban recently refused to attend a multinational conference in Turkey designed to aid the process. “If we withdraw and no deal was made with the Taliban, I think the government of Afghanistan is going to be in for a very stiff fight to retain possession” of towns and cities, McKenzie told the Los Angeles Times newspaper last month. 
 

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