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Kyrgyz president ‘ready to resign’ as unrest continues

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A disputed parliamentary vote has sparked a fresh crisis in the volatile Central Asian country, triggering mass protests.

Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov has offered to resign following an uprising in the wake of disputed elections that saw pro-government parties cornering almost all the seats in parliament.

The disputed vote has sparked a fresh crisis in the volatile Central Asian country, triggering protests and unrest that have left at least one person dead and hundreds injured. The results of the Sunday’s elections have since been annulled but the protests have continued.

The protests have forced mass resignations that included the prime minister, the cabinet and several governors and mayors leaving a political vacuum.

Jeenbekov, who has rules Kyrgyzstan since 2017, said in an address published on the presidential website he could resign once a date for fresh elections had been set and changes in government had been confirmed by parliament and his office.

“We need to get the situation back to the rule of law as soon as possible. After legitimate executive authorities have been approved and we are back on the path of lawfulness, I am ready to leave the post of President of the Kyrgyz Republic.”

The statement comes just hours after Jeenbekov’s press chief said the president’s resignation was not “under question” in talks he was holding with national political leaders.

Jeenbekov has made no public appearances since the unrest broke out Monday.

Opposition parties claim Sunday’s election was rigged by significant vote-buying in favour of parties close to Jeenbekov.

The results of the ballot were annulled on Tuesday, but that has done little to ease tensions as rival politicians and their supporters press claims to leadership posts and state institutions are in chaos.

Omurbek Suvanaliyev, who has claimed the title of national security chief in the aftermath of clashes between police and protesters, told Russian news agency Interfax that national borders had been closed.

The border service confirmed the closure to the AFP news agency.

Suvanaliyev is one of several politicians who claimed titles after a rally against election results turned violent and protesters seized the main seat of government.

Meanwhile, Russia has described the current situation as “chaotic”. The country, which has an airbase in Kyrgyzstan, said it had obligations under an existing security treaty to prevent the situation from totally breaking down.

‘Legitimise ongoing appointments’

Jeenbekov said that he wanted to “legitimise ongoing appointments” before his potential resignation.

He also called on law enforcement to ensure legislators, whose building is not under state control, are able to hold a session to approve the changes.

Prime Minister Kubatbek Boronov was reported to have resigned on Tuesday and populist politician Sadyr Japarov positioned himself as his replacement after he was released from jail by supporters following the violence on Monday.

Japarov’s candidacy was approved by a majority of legislators in an extraordinary session in a three-star hotel after the parliament building was seized by protesters, the parliamentary press service said.

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Farewell to the airport that wouldn’t die

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(CNN) — While the imminent opening of Berlin’s long-delayed Brandenburg Airport will cause many in the city to breathe a sigh of relief, it also means the sad end of an era.

As Brandenburg cranks into action, Berlin’s Tegel Airport — a much-loved relic from the last century — will at long last be closing for good.

In truth, Tegel should’ve been decommissioned years ago. It was congested, tired and outdated. But Brandenburg’s decade of delays kept it alive as a stand-in, and for all its faults, it had many admirers.

Even efforts to permanently close the airport earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic failed. Tegel managed to evade death one last time.

Despite its relatively small size, it became Germany’s fourth busiest airport and symbolized Berlin like few other public buildings.

Berlin’s airports were never just means of transport, never just faceless terminals in the middle of a field. These facilities perfectly reflect the turbulent story of the city in the 20th and 21st century.

The most famous, Tempelhof, was opened in 1927, and sealed its place in aviation history during the Berlin airlift of 1948-49 when the city was blockaded by the Soviet Union.

Now closed, it’s been transformed into a park and sought-after location for World War II movies.

The city’s other main airport, Schönefeld, opened in 1946 as the main airfield of East Germany, and retained something of that Soviet atmosphere well beyond the country’s reunification.

Of all of them, it’s Tegel that holds a special place in the heart of many Berliners.

Stalin’s orders

Tegel Airport is scheduled to close for good on November 8, 2020.

Tegel Airport is scheduled to close for good on November 8, 2020.

JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP via Getty Images

Like so many other things in the city, Tegel Airport is a stopgap measure that somehow became permanent.

After World War II, when West Berlin was still in the hands of allied forces, there were plans to turn the area into allotments, but Soviet leader Joseph Stalin had different plans.

As the blockade he ordered began in June 1948, it turned out quickly that there was need for an additional airfield to bring supplies in, so the French authorities in charge of the Tegel district ordered the construction of a 2,500-meter-long runway — the longest in Europe at the time.

The first plane, a USAF Douglas C-54, landed in November 1948.

After the blockade ended six months later, Tegel became the Berlin base of the French Air Force.

In the late 1950s, with increased air traffic coming into West Berlin in ever bigger planes, the runways at Tempelhof were proving too short, so over the next two decades Tegel became the main airport.

The city’s special status during the Cold War meant that only the Allies could operate military and civilian aircraft from and to Tegel. All passengers had to use the airport’s original small prefabricated terminal building.

Despite these cramped conditions and restrictions, for some the airport truly was a gateway to freedom.

Drahomira Bukowiecki fled communist Czechoslovakia in 1968 to West Berlin and was sentenced to 10 years hard labor in absentia.

For her, the airport became the only means of escaping a city surrounded by communism.

“I could only ever leave through Tegel, as I would have been arrested if I tried to cross the GDR via land,” Bukowiecki tells CNN Travel. “So Tegel truly became my gateway to the world, also because I took a plane for the first time in my life from here.”

Hexagonal glamor

Tegel was seen as a

Tegel was seen as a “a gateway to freedom” for some people fleeing Soviet oppression.

Maja Hitij/Getty Images

The airport continued to make an impression on Berliners, especially after a new, mildly brutalist and hexagonally shaped terminal building was opened in 1974.

The striking design shortened walking distances to as short as 30 meters from aircraft to the terminal exit.

“To me and many other West Berliners, Tegel really was a place apart,” Bukowiecki adds. “It symbolized the glamorous world of air travel with its shops that sold wonderful things and the whole process of taking a flight which was very different in the 1970s.

“And even after reunification, with air travel becoming available widely, that view did not change. Schönefeld really is so far away from the city center. So for me and my generation Tegel is the true Berlin airport, a part of us and the one place that enabled us to fly to freedom!”

In the next few years things really took off for Tegel.

On September 1, 1975, Pan Am and British Airways moved their entire Berlin operation here overnight.

Retired journalist Jutta Hertlein remembers the excitement of her neighbors when the new terminal started its operations.

“In the morning my neighbor came to me and asked if I had heard all the planes flying low over the house all night — they were moving them from Tempelhof to Tegel,” she says. “But I had been so immersed in my work that I did not hear a thing.”

Hertlein also recalls that Tegel occupied a significant place in the political landscape of Berlin and Germany, for better or worse.

“I used it often to travel for work; but at the same time in the ’80s the airport was already used for the deportation of asylum seekers.

“There was a large protest planned on one such occasion, and I went to join the protestors at Tegel in the morning, but as I was wearing my usual business attire the policemen cordoning off the protest tried to guide me to the airport as I did not look like a protester at all — but I wanted to show that it’s not just the young punks and leftists protesting these deportations.”

Confusion and chaos

Tegel was scheduled to close early because of the pandemic, but still came back for more.

Tegel was scheduled to close early because of the pandemic, but still came back for more.

JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP via Getty Images

With German reunification in 1990 and the government moving from Bonn to Berlin, all restrictions on Berlin air traffic were lifted and Tegel became the official German government airport.

That role has meant it’s seen the US President’s Air Force One landing here more often than any other airport in Germany.

Reunification also meant that passenger numbers and flights increased exponentially as air travel became more and more commonplace.

Tegel was designed for handling 2.5 million passengers a year, but 24 million people flew from here in 2019.

While a new third terminal was added in 2007, Tegel became increasingly cramped, with operations and facilities clearly outdated.

There was no direct public transport connection either. Travelers using Berlin’s U-Bahn metro system had to change to a bus at Kurt-Schumacher-Platz. Even Schönefeld had better rail connections.

“Tegel’s unique architecture and design make you feel like being time-warped into the 1970s,” says frequent traveler Michael Stoffl, from Berlin. “The airport is tiny, especially when compared to other major capitals around the globe.

“The airport may have been considered modern and appropriate when it was opened but, especially over the last decade, passengers were to experience its downsides, like often feeling crammed and chaotic — and definitely the lack of space.

“You had to make sure you didn’t line up in the wrong queue at the check-in counters as it was often confusing where each one led to.

“Many Tegel regulars rave about its proximity to the city center, which makes for a quick transfer into town — unless you were using public transport. Personally, I won’t be missing Tegel, except perhaps from a nostalgic aspect.”

“ I’m madly in love with its ’70s ugliness. ”

Tilman Hierath, managing partner of Berlin’s Circus Hotel

But Tegel’s car-friendly design endeared the airport to many, especially in the Berlin hospitality sector.

Tilman Hierath is the managing partner of the Circus Hotel on Rosenthaler Platz as well as an enthusiastic hobby pilot and loves to use the airport.

“Tegel is easily the best airport in the world,” he says. “And I don’t only say that because I’m madly in love with its ’70s ugliness.

“This design might not be efficient to operate, but it is a traveler’s dream of short waiting times and short distances. When the cab drivers went on strike a few years back, I rented a van and drove our guests from the hotel to the airport.

“In Tegel that does not mean to an entrance two counties away. Instead, we were able to drop our guests off directly at their gate. It is the only major airport I know where you can see the check-in counter from the curb and the airplane from the check-in counter.”

Shabby charm

An old Boeing 707 that was presented as a gift to Lufthansa sits at the end of the runway.

An old Boeing 707 that was presented as a gift to Lufthansa sits at the end of the runway.

aslu/ullstein bild/Getty Images

Hierath recalls a particular incident involving a time-pressed guest.

“He needed to be in a very important meeting at our hotel and also needed to catch his flight that afternoon. So our front desk actually called Tegel and they held the gate open for our guest.

“It is this personal touch that made all the difference. Tegel was not designed to intimidate and impress, it was designed to be at the traveler’s service.”

Tegel has always seemed an appropriate entrance to Berlin.

It’s not a sleekly designed airport strewn with massage seats and smart screens. Instead, like the city it serves, it has a shabby charm and a good heart.

Its character shows through in the quirky parts of the airport unrelated to flight operations.

At the end of the runway sits an old Boeing 707, originally operated by El Al, that was once the target on an attempt by Palestinian terrorists to hijack it in 1970.

It was decorated in vintage Lufthansa markings and presented to the airline by Boeing as a gift in 1986. As no German pilots or carriers were permitted to fly into Tegel at the time, the plane was covered with white stickers and delivered by an American crew at night, to be revealed in Lufthansa colors the next day.

The aircraft was presented by Lufthansa to West Berlin in 1987 as part of celebrations for the city’s 750th birthday. Eventually it was shuffled off to a far-flung corner of the airfield, occasionally being used for evacuation training.

At the other end of Tegel is the small but quirky Allierte in Berlin museum, a private collection operated by volunteers and dedicated to the history of the Allied forces in Berlin.

Bowie and Reagan

A gateway to Berlin for US Presidents and popstars, Tegel has cemented its place in the city's history.

A gateway to Berlin for US Presidents and popstars, Tegel has cemented its place in the city’s history.

Maja Hitij/Getty Images

The airport itself is due to be confined to history on November 8 when the final scheduled flight to leave Tegel will be — fittingly — an Air France service to Paris.

After that, the future is somewhat uncertain.

Real estate developers and architects are ready to reinvent the airport: There are plans to develop the site into a so-called “Urban Tech Republic,” a high tech business hub that could provide 18,000 jobs.

Tegel’s A and B terminals will be used by the University of Applied Sciences Berlin to establish a new technology park for up to 2,500 students. The remaining area will be available for industrial use, the largest single inner-city development area in contemporary Berlin.

Whatever its fate, the airport’s place in the story of Berlin will forever cement its status as “the” city airport, particularly, as British writer and Berlin expert Paul Sullivan points out, thanks to its role in recent pop culture.

“I think that over the decades the airport’s modest dimensions and aesthetic and the fact that many celebrities like David Bowie and Ronald Reagan used it to enter West Berlin really created a lot of affection in Berliners,” he says.

“Even the overpriced Currywurst stall outside the terminal, made to look like an S-Bahn carriage, to me symbolizes the airport’s charming crappiness.”

Even though the neighbors will be relieved, the one thing that I’ll miss about Tegel the most is the direct, loud and smelly experience of travel.

There was something genuinely appealing about waiting at the bus stop on Kurt-Schumacher-Platz near the kebab stands and Chinese restaurants and watching the planes roar in just 50 meters overhead on their final approach to the airport.

Tegel was one of the last of a dying breed: a veteran city airport, battered and forever unbeaten.

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Egypt votes for new ‘rubber-stamp’ parliament

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Egyptians are voting to elect a new parliament which critics say will just replicate a “rubber-stamp” body in place since 2015 under hardline President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

In the second national elections this year, the country will be electing 568 seats out of 596 in the lower house of parliament from Saturday.

The remaining deputies will be appointed by the army general-turned-president el-Sisi, whose government has over the years silenced any serious political opposition to its rule.

More than 4,500 candidates are running as independents and on lists of party alliances. They are widely seen as backers of el-Sissi, who
has been governing Egypt since 2014.

Final results are not expected until mid-December.

Giant billboards have sprung up across the bustling capital, Cairo and elsewhere ahead of the vote that takes place on Saturday and Sunday.

And some candidates are campaigning online and have released video clips with songs to draw support.

But many of those running also stood for election five years ago in a political landscape marked by the presence of dozens of parties with little weight and influence on the ground.

The 2015 parliament was the first to come into office after the army, led by el-Sisi, deposed former leader Mohamed Morsi following widespread protests against the country’s first democratically elected civilian president.

In August, Egypt held elections for the newly restored 300-seat Senate in muted upper house elections marked by low voter turnout [File: Mohamed el-Shahed/AFP]

“Parliament has become an apparatus attached to the executive authority with no real legislative authority,” said Hassan Nafaa, a political science professor at Cairo University.

“It has almost never questioned any of the government’s policies or carried out any of the functions that parliaments normally do.”

‘Facade’

Most of the candidates are fielded by a pro-government coalition led by the Mostakbal Watan party, or the “Nation’s Future Party”.

It includes top businessmen and public figures and has grown since 2014 to be one of the dominant political forces.

Earlier this week, its leader Abdelwahab Abdelrazek was named head of the Senate.

The October vote is the second to be held amid the COVID-19 pandemic which has so far infected more than 105,000 people and killed nearly 6,200 in the country.

In August, Egypt held elections for the newly restored 300-seat Senate in muted upper house elections marked by low voter turnout of about 14 percent.

The reinstatement of the upper house – which was abolished after Morsi’s removal – was among the constitutional amendments that Egyptians overwhelmingly voted for last year.

Other amendments included potentially extending el-Sisi’s rule until 2030, boosting his control over the judiciary and granting the army even greater influence in political life.

“The return of Senate was unnecessary, and parliament only serves as a facade of a legislative authority in Egypt,” said Saeed Sadiq, a professor of political sociology at Nile University.

He said he expected few among the the country’s 63 million eligible voters would cast their ballots this weekend.

Speaking from London, Wafik Moustafa, Chairman of the British Arab Network agreed that most people would not be taking part in the vote, explaining that the Egyptians had lost confidence in el-Sisi’s elections.

“People will be boycotting these elections because the parliament itself has no legislative power,” said Moustafa.

“It is a fake parliament that has never questioned the government,” he added.

Under el-Sisi authorities have cracked down on dissent, in a move which has ensnared journalists, online bloggers, lawyers and intellectuals.

Protests have been effectively banned under a restrictive 2013 law, and a state of emergency, which has been extended repeatedly, has been in place since 2017.

“The public space is only filled with movements, ideologies, and parties supportive of policies of the current ruling system,” said Nafaa.

“There is not a single sign showing that this climate allows for free and real elections.”

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Kapil Dev: Indian cricket legend recovering after heart surgery

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The 61-year-old suffered a heart attack but is now in a stable condition, hospital says.

Indian cricket legend Kapil Dev is “well on the road to recovery” after undergoing emergency cardiac surgery in New Delhi.

The 61-year-old, who led India to their first World Cup title in 1983, was rushed to a hospital in the capital after complaining of chest pain on Friday.

“Kapil Dev suffered a heart attack. He was evaluated and an emergency coronary angioplasty was performed in the middle of night,” said a hospital statement carried by the Press Trust of India news agency.

“Kapil Dev is stable now and he is expected to get discharged in a couple of days.”

In a brief statement on Instagram and Twitter, Dev thanked fans for their outpouring of support, but did not offer specifics on what had happened.

“Thank you everyone for all the love and concern. I am overwhelmed with the good wishes and well on the road to recovery,” he said.

The news triggered a flurry of comments on social media from cricketers and fans, with current Indian captain Virat Kohli wishing the once-feared all-rounder a speedy recovery.

“Please join me in sending prayers, strength and good wishes,” said Madan Lal, a bowler in the 1983 “Kapil’s Devils” side that stunned the West Indies in the World Cup final at Lord’s.

Dev took 687 Test and One-Day wickets and scored nearly 9,000 runs during a 16-year international career.

After retiring in 1994, he became a national team coach and selector.

In 2002, Dev was named “Indian Cricketer of the Century” by Wisden.

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