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Yulia Skripal to return to Russia

Viktoria Skripal said on Thursday.

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Reports are emerging that Yulia Skripal will return to Russia before long, based on statements that have surfaced from her cousin, Viktoria Skripal. Viktoria says that Yulia is faring well and now has an internet connection, and that Yulia has indicated that once her father, former double agent Sergei Skripal, has sufficiently improved she will go back to her homeland. A phone conversation between Viktoria and Yulia reportedly took place on Tuesday on the occasion of Yulia’s grandmother’s 90th birthday, Sergei’s mother, who expressed that she was happy to learn that Sergei was okay.

Sputnik reports

Yulia Skripal, who was allegedly poisoned alongside her father Sergei Skripal in the UK city of Salisbury in March, will return to Russia when the latter gets better, Yulia’s cousin Viktoria Skripal told Sputnik on Thursday.

“[Yulia] said she was doing well and already had a connection to the Internet… She will return home when her father gets better,” Viktoria said.

The phone conversation took place on Tuesday, when Sergei Skripal’s mother was celebrating her 90th birthday.
“She was very happy to hear that Sergei was okay,” Viktoria stressed, adding that, according to Yulia, Sergei Skripal still had a respiratory tube in his trachea.

Sergei and Yulia Skripal were allegedly poisoned with military grade nerve agent novickok on March 4th, and were found unresponsive on a park bench following lunch at a nearby restaurant. The alleged poisoning was the pretext for various international political bouts between Britain and Russia, resulting in the expulsion of hundreds of diplomats from countries all over Europe as well as America. Sergei and Yulia miraculously survived the attempted assassination which the British government suspects the Kremlin to have been behind, however, conclusive evidence has yet to be shown to the public that this line of reasoning is reasonably substantiated.

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Begging for bread: A Greek family under austerity

Like 20 percent of Greeks, Iliodoros and Ioanna Filios cannot find work in the country’s austerity-ravaged economy.

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Originally appeared on Al jazeera

Piraeus, Greece – When Iliodoros Filios first ventured to a soup kitchen in 2012, he was consumed with shame. He waited idly outside while his wife and children went in to gather their portions.

With time, he says, their needs eclipsed grief. Within a year, the 52-year-old jobless painter was making the rounds each evening at bakeries, begging for stale leftovers: meat pies, pastries and an occasional loaf of bread.

Later, Filios and his 48-year-old wife, Ioanna, found help in vegetable markets, where they were able to get a handful of tomatoes, onions and cucumbers twice a week.

Without these handouts, the family wouldn’t be able to bear the crushing weight of Greece’s austerity-ravaged economy.
“Lately, they say they don’t have any more to give,” Ioanna explains. “They say they already gave to the orphanage or the church. But the rubbish cans are full of food at the end of the day.”

With two daughters, the couple struggles to make ends meet each month on a 466-euro welfare cheque.
The family’s hardships are common. They were among the 20 percent of Greeks who were without work in December.
Although joblessness is down from the nearly 28 percent it hit in 2014, it still towers over the EU’s 8.7 percent unemployment recorded by Eurostat at the end of last year.

‘Only enough for the basics’

Inside their two-bedroom flat, where a local church organisation has set them up, books, suitcases and stuffed animals cramp the living room.
A photo of the Last Supper, which depicts a host of robed disciples flanking Jesus Christ at a long dinner table, is fastened on the wall.
After they received a larger welfare cheque for the holiday season, Filios bought a small plastic Christmas tree. Weeks later, the multi-coloured lights still blink in the living room corner as he speaks.
Christina, his 15-year-old daughter, sits on a small wooden box next to her father and listens, an austere expression on her face.

Wrapped in blankets, she rubs her gloved hands on her legs. They cannot afford heating, even in winter.
“We’ve never even turned on that heater,” says Ioanna, pointing to an electricity-powered radiator.
While the church pays their rent, the family is responsible for utilities, food and other expenses.
“We only have enough money for the basics,” says Filios.
They could not survive on welfare cheques alone, without the help of friends, neighbours and the church, he explains.

‘The structure is still falling’

For the Filios family, promises of politicians and policymakers ring hollow.
In January 2015, Syriza, a left-wing party, came to power after vowing to support the downtrodden and poor. Yet, with Greece teetering under the weight of debt, austerity only deepened.
Over the last three years, the once defiant leftist government has largely accepted creditors’ demands, including budget cuts and economic reforms.
The initially fierce disputes with Germany, which has overseen Greece’s bailout, have given way to quiet acquiescence in Athens.
Crisis has led to turbulence on the streets, with strikes, protests and riots taking place to resist austerity.
In January, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras addressed the Hellenic Parliament after legislators approved new austerity measures.
Outside, tens of thousands protested. Just days before the 1,500-page bill was passed, riot police fired tear gas at angry demonstrators in Athens, the capital.

He proclaimed that Greece was “a breath away from the end of the programme”, adding: “This gives hope and courage to millions of our citizens, who all these years have made large sacrifices and now finally see light and a way out.”
Filios says he has yet to catch a glimpse of that light.
“Despite the fact that Tsipras has almost destroyed the country, the government has helped people in need,” he argues, “but the structure is still falling.”
Against this backdrop, his days are dotted with what feel like pointless job applications and cold calls.
When he tells potential employers his age, they respond that the vacancies have been filled.
He is far from alone.
More than half of Greeks endured financial hardship in December 2017, according to a study published by the University of Macedonia in Thessaloniki.
That study found that less than seven percent of the respondents had experienced “no financial problems” that month.
Giorgos Kiritsis, a parliamentarian and Syriza member, defended the austerity measures, such as home auctions.
“It was crucial for keeping the banks afloat,” he tells Al Jazeera, insisting that the government has done its best to protect workers and the poor.
Meanwhile, frustration over the government’s policies has come from across the political spectrum.
From the right, parties such as New Democracy have accused the Syriza-led coalition of worsening poverty.
Last month, New Democracy chief Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Greeks no longer “trust the prime minister to solve the financial problems we face”.
“He promised to put an end to austerity and the old [establishment],” he said in a video message. “Instead he brought more poverty, the dissolution of the middle class and heavy taxation. He cut wages and pensions.”
On the left, parties and critics have blasted the government for what they see as capitulating to the EU at the expense of Greece’s struggling workers and pensioners, among other charges.
Greece’s ongoing economic crisis has seeped into every crevice of society, penetrated every sector of the economy and affected almost every field of work.
Although economic growth has ticked up, high unemployment, crippling austerity measures and a lack of hope continue to stymy any benefits of that growth for most Greeks. The country’s bailout programme is slated to conclude in 2018.

‘Panic attacks’

The Filios family’s journey has been a long one, sprinkled along the way with bursts of hope and periods of distress, temporary moments of improvement giving way to what feels like epochs of stress.
Work has never been stable for the married couple.
However, back in Gargaliani, the southern town where they met and wed after Filios put out a “love wanted” ad in a local newspaper, they were able to get by with freelance jobs and short-term contracts.

Things took a turn for the worse in 2008, when jobs dried up as the global economic crisis loomed. With fewer people renovating and making repairs to their homes, Filios couldn’t find painting gigs.
In 2009, unable to afford renovations to their crumbling home, they sold the property, which Ioanna had inherited from her family.
With no options left, they packed their bags in their sedan and headed for Kalamata, the second-most populous city in Greece’s Peloponnese region.
For Filios, the new home’s spacious balcony was symbolic of the hope the family harboured for the move.
“We had only had a very small balcony in Gargaliani,” he recalls.
“I looked forward to us all spending time on the new balcony, which was much bigger.”
But the years that followed were especially trying, as Filios realised he was the victim of a long-term crisis.
“That’s when the panic attacks started,” he recalls.
“That’s when I realised it; we didn’t have food, we didn’t have food and I didn’t know what to do. If you don’t have a stable job to know you’ll make money every month. I realised that going to a bigger city and not finding a job meant there was a big problem.”
Once more unable to afford the repairs to their home, they were forced to move out and search for another alternative.
In the years that followed came a failed attempt at launching a mini-market business, eviction from one home to the next, and hundreds of unanswered job applications.
They eventually landed in Piraeus, the port city next to Athens, where the local Greek Orthodox church put them up in a flat.
Stung by luckless attempts to land a job, Ioanna has enrolled in night courses at the same school her daughter attends.
“When we first got married, we had big dreams and hopes for our family and our future. We still have dreams, but …” says Ioanna, trailing off.
Filios picks up where she left off.
“But in the three years we’ve been here [in Piraeus], nothing has changed in Greece’s reality. You’re not able to find a job. As more time passes, I am still trying; but I just can’t find work.”
Ioanna wraps herself tightly in a blanket.
“We never imagined it would be long term,” she says.
“We didn’t want to still be begging at bakeries and markets all these years later.”
By Patrick Strickland

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Following backlash, SYRIZA-led government withdraws absurd legislation on pets and stray animals

In a country where the population of stray animals continues to be an issue, SYRIZA aimed to outlaw their care and adoption.

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For those who are unaware, SYRIZA isn’t a traditional political party. It was a coalition of various “leftist” groups based around the old “Synaspismos” (“Coalition of the Left and Progress”) party. “SYRIZA” itself is an acronym, which means “Coalition of the Radical Left,” a masterpiece of Orwellian doublespeak if there ever was one. This coalition, before being officially abolished in 2012 to create a “unified” party, included at least three fringe “ecological” parties and movements.
In other words, SYRIZA is, in part, comprised of political personnel who we are supposed to be believe are sensitive to such issues as environmental rights, and by extension, animal rights.
Greece is a country which is infamous for its population of stray cats and dogs. Stray dogs are a common sight in Greece’s urban centers, although the problem today is seemingly less acute than in years past. Stray cats, on the other hand, are an omnipresent feature of the Greek landscape and could be considered an unofficial “trademark” of the country, featured on tourist calendars and postcards.
While many of these animals are essentially the beneficiaries of “community ownership” and are treated well, life on the streets is difficult, and unfortunately there exist many unconscionable individuals who often hurt and abuse these animals. On the part of the official state, little to nothing is done to control the population of strays, other than scattered local initiatives.
In comes the SYRIZA-led government to “save” the day. Or is it? Recent draft legislation prepared by SYRIZA and uploaded online for public deliberation would have essentially outlawed the care of stray animals (including spaying/neutering them). According to the Hellenic Animal Welfare Federation, some of the most adverse aspects of this legislation include the following:

  1. Outlawing animal welfare activities of citizens and organizations, including the rescue, spaying/neutering, and housing of stray animals.
  2. Prohibiting citizens and organizations from placing stray animals up for adoption.
  3. Outlawing all animal adoption initiatives and networks.

Essentially, the law would place all animal welfare organizations and groups out of commission, or require them to operate under the aegis of local municipalities — most of which do not possess the requisite capabilities to handle stray animals or perform animal rescue operations.
Furthermore, anyone found to be housing or rescuing stray animals or placing them would adoption would be considered an “illegal trafficker” and would be liable for imprisonment of one year and a monetary fine of €5,000 to €15,000.
Feeding of stray animals would, in turn, only be permitted at designated locations in each municipality. Those currently housing stray animals would be required to turn them over to their local authorities. Municipalities in Greece are generally not set up to handle the housing of animals, which means that such a law would likely lead to their mass euthanasia.
In addition, the number of household pets a citizen can possess would be determined by the size of their residence, and would be subject to monetary fines if this limit is exceeded. The spaying and neutering of all household pets would also be mandatory.
As a final touch — and a sign for things to come for humans as well if the “powers that be” get their way — veterinarians will face a €3,000 fine for treating an animal that is not electronically tagged and which has not been entered into a database.
Following a general outcry which followed the introduction of this draft legislation for public deliberation, the “radical leftist” SYRIZA-led government’s minister of agricultural development Vaggelis Apostolou announced that the legislation would be withdrawn and will be reintroduced with “alterations.”
At a time where the only living beings the aforementioned government seems to care about are its foreign paymasters in Brussels, Berlin, and Washington — and the massive waves of migrants which are being imported into Greece in the name of “humanitarianism” — while thousands of Greek citizens are homeless or have lost their livelihoods, it should come as no surprise that the otherwise “sensitive” SYRIZA-led government should show no concern for homeless and vulnerable animals either. There’s no money to be made from them or their rescue. Just ask FRONTEX.
Opinions expressed are those of the author alone and may not reflect the opinions and viewpoints of Hellenic Insider, its publisher, its editors, or its staff, writers, and contributors.

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"Lord of the Rings" Petrounias scores 8th consecutive gold medal

Greek athletes shine at the FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan, as Lefteris Petrounias scores a gold medal and Ioanna Xoulougi wins silver.

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For the eighth consecutive medal competition in the past 22 months, Greek gymnast Lefteris Petrounias wins the gold, after finishing in first place in the rings event at the FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Cup, taking place in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Petrounias emerged victorious after earning 15.333 points during the finals of the rings competition, finishing ahead of Ibrahim Colak of Turkey (15.100 points) and Xingyu Lan of China (14.866 points).

Greece’s Ioanna Xoulogi won the silver medal in the women’s floor event at the FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan, on Sunday, March 18, 2018.


Another Greek competitor, Konstantinos Konstantinidis, barely missed the bronze medal in the same event, finishing with 14.700 points.
Also at the FIG Gymnastics World Cup, Ioanna Xoulogi won the silver medal in the women’s floor exercises, finishing with 12.733 points. Ana Derek of Croatia won the gold with 13.533 points, while Turkey’s Demet Mutlu won the bronze.
In still another distinction for Greek competitors at the event, 16 year old Evelina Magia, participating in her first international event in the women’s category, finished in fifth place in the floor event with a final tally of 12.566 points.

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