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Uganda: Internet cut off as polls close in tense election – with reggae singer taking on president twice his age | World News

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Yoweri Museveni has been in power since 1986. File pic

Polls have closed in Uganda after a presidential election marred by violence – with internet access cut off amid fears that the unrest could escalate.

Long lines of voters were seen in the capital Kampala on Thursday, and results are expected to emerge by Saturday evening.

President Yoweri Museveni, who is 76, is seeking a sixth term in office – but he is facing a strong challenge from Bobi Wine, a former reggae singer who is half his age.

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Yoweri Museveni has enacted tough anti-homosexuality laws during his time in office
The campaign run by Bobi Wine, a former reggae singer, has struck a chord with Uganda's disillusioned youth
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Bobi Wine has made bold calls for the president to resign

Mr Wine has warned that he does not expect this election to be free and fair. Before a coronavirus-related curfew came into force, he urged supporters to linger near polling stations and protect their votes.

“No matter what they do, the world is watching,” the opposition politician wrote on Twitter.

While Mr Wine has made bold calls for the president to resign – accusing him of being an out-of-touch dictator who is failing to tackle rampant unemployment – Mr Museveni claims his political rival cannot be trusted with power because he is backed by foreign actors and homosexuals.

Mr Museveni, who has enacted tough anti-homosexuality laws during his time in office, said in a recent interview: “Homosexuals are very happy with Bobi Wine. I think they even send him support.”

Uganda, an East African nation of 45 million people, has never witnessed a peaceful handover of power since it secured independence from Britain in 1962.

As polling station queues snaked into the distance in Kampala, mechanic Steven Kaderere said: “This is a miracle. This shows me that Ugandans this time are determined to vote for the leader they want. I have never seen this before.”

Despite a heavy military deployment on the streets, young Ugandans said they were determined to vote – with some claiming that Mr Museveni’s government is out of ideas.

There are more than 17 million registered voters in the East African country
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There are more than 17 million registered voters in the East African country

Car washer Allan Sserwadda said: “If we are to die, let us die. Now there is no difference between being alive and being dead. Bullets can find you anywhere. They can find you at home. They can find you on the veranda.”

In November, at least 54 people were killed as security forces quelled riots that were triggered by Mr Wine’s arrest, amid allegations he violated campaign rules designed to stop COVID-19 spreading.

Mr Museveni says that he will accept the result - as long as there are no mistakes
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Mr Museveni says that he will accept the result – as long as there are no mistakes

Mr Wine insists he is running a non-violent campaign, but security forces are concerned opposition supporters could mount a street uprising leading to regime change.

After casting his vote, Mr Wine told NTV Uganda: “I want to ensure Ugandans that can we can and indeed will win.”

The votes are now being counted - and a result is expected on Saturday
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The votes are now being counted – and a result is expected on Saturday

When asked whether he would accept the outcome of the election, President Museveni said “of course” – but quickly added: “If there are no mistakes.”

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COVID-19: Town’s rapid coronavirus testing centres close as snow sweeps across parts of England | UK News

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COVID-19: Town's rapid coronavirus testing centres close as snow sweeps across parts of England | UK News

All three rapid COVID testing centres in Luton have been shut because of snow in the area, the council has said, while other parts of England have also woken up to snowfall.

Confirming the decision on Twitter, the council said it would be closing the centres “for the safety of the public and our staff”.

But social media users have complained of a lack of snow, with some branding the council’s move “utterly embarrassing”.

“Just been to the shop….more ‘snow’ in a snow globe!!!” wrote one Twitter user, while others said closing the testing sites was a “bizarre decision”.

Luton had a rate of new COVID cases in the seven days to 11 January of 808.3, according to Public Health England data. That was down from 961.7 on the previous week.

It comes after the Met Office warned that parts of southeast England and East Anglia will continue to see further snow on Saturday, with between 2cm and 4cm falling over the coming hours.

An amber snow alert was put in place for the east of England until 2pm, with yellow snow warnings for the South East until 8pm.

A further yellow snow and ice warning has been issued in a band stretching from the Midlands to the top of Scotland until 6pm on Saturday.

The Met Office said there was a likelihood of “delays or cancellations to rail and air travel, possible travel delays on roads stranding some vehicles and passengers”.

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TikTok video showing car parked across live railway line investigated by police | UK News

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The video had the caption 'would you take risk to get the shot no one else would?'

Police are appealing for information after a video posted on TikTok showed a car parked across a live railway track for a photoshoot.

The short clip shows the vehicle across the tracks in Bolton, Greater Manchester, with the caption: “Would you take the risk to get the shot no one else would?”

Network Rail’s North West route director has condemned the behaviour as “sheer stupidity at a staggering level”.

British Transport Police is investigating the footage.

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The video had the caption ‘would you take risk to get the shot no one else would?’

Inspector Becky Warren from the force said: “No picture or video is worth risking your life for.

“There is simply no excuse for not following safety procedures at level crossings. The behaviour shown by the individuals in this video is incredibly dangerous and reckless.”

The video showed the car across tracks at The Oaks level crossing, at Bromley Cross near Bolton.

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Police are investigating a video posted on TikTok that shows a car photoshoot on a live railway crossing at Bromleys Cross, Bolton
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The photoshoot took place in Bromley Cross in Bolton

Phil James, Network Rail’s North West route director, said: “The danger this person has put themselves and passengers in is sheer stupidity at a staggering level.

“Trespassing on the railway is a crime, as is endangering the lives of rail users.

“No-one should ever trespass onto the railway – so for it to be used as a backdrop for a photo shoot beggars belief.

“Lives could so easily have been lost by this reckless behaviour and we will be working closely with British Transport Police to make sure the person responsible for the video is brought to justice.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact the British Transport Police on 61016 quoting the reference number 122 of 14/01/21.

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Alexey Navalny: Poisoned Putin critic faces jail on return to Russia | World News

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Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia pose for a selfie with their children in a video released on 31 December on his Instagram account

Alexey Navalny is flying back to Russia and straight into the hands of the authorities.

Not only does he face a slew of fresh criminal charges against him but he will also once again be at the mercy of Russia’s domestic spy agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB), which he says tried to poison him.

It is an extraordinarily brave and risk-filled undertaking. It is also true to form.

Arrest for Alexey Navalny is nothing new. Nor is carving out a life of activism between court appearances, house arrest and prolonged periods in detention.

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Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia pose for a selfie with their children on NYE

He has repeatedly said he would return to Russia after his convalescence in Germany.

Had he not been poisoned by a novichok nerve agent, with treatment abroad the only way to keep him alive, he never would have left in the first place.

He is now on the Federal Wanted List and is implicated in a number of criminal and administrative cases which give law enforcement broad scope to keep him under prolonged investigation, most probably well beyond September’s parliamentary elections which the powers that be in the Kremlin do not want him around for.

Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service has submitted a request to revoke a three-and-a-half-year suspended sentence which wrapped up in December and imprison him instead.

They say he “systematically and repeatedly violated” the terms of his probation both whilst he was in Germany and on a number of occasions before.

If the court agrees, he could serve three-and-a-half-years in jail, minus a few months already spent under house arrest.

Alexei Navalny is seen at a Siberian airport before boarding the plane where he was taken ill. Pic: @djpavlin
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Mr Navalny at a Siberian airport before boarding the plane where he was taken ill. Pic: @djpavlin

On top of that, Russia’s investigative committee has opened a new criminal case accusing him of the supposed misallocation of crowd-sourced funds at his RBK anti-corruption foundation.

“If they really want to go after him, this would be the worst case scenario,” says his lawyer Vadim Kobzev.

“Three-and-a-half-years and then 10 years on top of that which is the maximum he can get for this new criminal case.”

He thinks a jail term of that length is unlikely. Recent cases against Mr Navalny have all resulted in suspended sentences, “but we’re all trying to read the tea leaves here,” Mr Kobzev says.

Vladmir Putin is ready to improve ties with the US, the Kremlin says
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Mr Putin has joked that if the FSB were responsible, they would have ‘finished the job’

The authorities’ most likely course of action – at least in the medium term – will be extended periods under house arrest with restrictions placed on, for example, his use of the internet.

Mr Navalny off-line is far less of a threat to Mr Putin’s cronies than the anti-corruption investigations he posts to his YouTube channel. His team will endeavour to keep those going but it is not the same.

And suffice to say, despite the slew of investigations into Mr Navalny’s own alleged wrong-doing, authorities have still refused to open any kind of inquiry into how exactly the symbol of Russia’s democratic opposition ended up fighting for his life on a work trip to Siberia, with a deadly novichok nerve agent coursing through his veins.

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President Vladimir Putin’s glib comment that the FSB would have finished the job if they had really wanted him dead is no substitute.

Nor, as Mr Navalny so convincingly proved in a telephone call with one of the FSB officers tasked with cleaning up the evidence of his poisoning, is it true.

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