While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, March 9

Protesters brandishing an EU flag are sprayed with a water cannon, during clashes with riot police near the Georgian parliament in Tbilisi, on March 7, 2023. PHOTO: AFP

Protesters rally in Georgia after violent clashes with police

Thousands of people staged a second straight day of protests in the Georgian capital Tbilisi on Wednesday, rallying against a “foreign agents” law which critics say signals an authoritarian shift and harms Georgia’s chances of closer ties with Europe.

Parliament on Tuesday passed a first reading of the legislation, which requires any organisations receiving more than 20 per cent of their funding from overseas to register as “foreign agents” or face substantial fines.

The ruling Georgian Dream party say it is modelled on US legislation dating from the 1930s. Critics, including President Salome Zourabichvili, say it is reminiscent of a Russian law that the Kremlin has used extensively to crack down on dissent.

In violent clashes on Tuesday evening, protesters threw petrol bombs and stones at police, who used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowds. The interior ministry said 66 people had been detained.


Ukraine defiant as Russians claim control over Bakhmut’s east

The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group said on Wednesday his fighters had captured all of the eastern part of Bakhmut, and Nato’s secretary-general said the rest of the Ukrainian city could fall to the invading army in the next few days.

But as one of the bloodiest battles of the year-long war ground on amid the ruins, Ukrainian defenders - who last week appeared to be preparing for a tactical retreat from Bakhmut - remained defiant.

Ukrainian military and political leaders now speak of hanging on to positions and inflicting as many casualties as possible on the Russians to grind down their fighting capability.


Putin’s friend moved millions through Swiss bank accounts

A concert cellist linked to Vladimir Putin moved millions of francs through Swiss bank accounts without proper checks, Swiss prosecutors said on Wednesday, in a trial of four bankers accused of helping him.

Prosecutors alleged that Sergey Roldugin, a close friend of the Russian president, deposited millions of francs in Swiss bank accounts between 2014 and 2016.

The four bankers - three Russians who worked in Zurich and one Swiss - appeared at Zurich District Court on Wednesday and denied charges of lacking diligence in financial transactions. They cannot be identified under Swiss reporting restrictions.


Girl who drew pro-Ukraine sketch held over dad’s war posts

A 13-year-old Russian girl is being denied contact with her father who was placed under house arrest for comments critical of Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine, a rights group reported on Wednesday.

Since the beginning of the offensive last February, Russian opposition voices have been targeted by legislation that government opponents say is designed to stamp out criticism of the conflict.

OVD-Info, a human rights monitor, said the girl, who drew a pro-Ukrainian sketch in school, was moved to a “juvenile rehabilitation centre” after investigations had begun into her father’s comments.


Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet: Royal titles for Harry’s kids

The children of Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan will be known as prince and princess, with the couple publicly using their daughter’s royal title for the first time to announce she had been christened.

Under royal rules, the monarch’s grandchildren can become princes or princesses of the realm, meaning that Harry’s children, Archie, three, and Lilibet, one, were eligible to use the titles since his father became king last September.

The interest in Harry’s children’s titles comes after his relationship with his father, King Charles, hit rock bottom following his tell-all memoir earlier this year, in which he made accusations against the royal family.


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