U.S. pop singer Pink has offered to pay a fine given to the Norwegian female beach handball team for wearing shorts instead of the required bikini bottomsBy JARI TANNER Associated PressJuly 26, 2021, 10:29 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleHELSINKI — U.S. pop singer Pink has offered to pay a fine given to the Norwegian female beach handball team for wearing shorts instead of the required bikini bottoms.Pink said she was “very proud” of the team for protesting against the rule that prevented them from wearing shorts like their male counterparts.In a tweet posted on Sunday, Pink said: “The European handball federation SHOULD BE FINED FOR SEXISM. Good on ya, ladies.” She added that “I’ll be happy to pay your fines for you. Keep it up.”At the European Beach Handball Championships in Bulgaria last week, Norway’s female team was fined 1,500 euros ($1,770) for what the European federation called improper clothing and “a breach of clothing regulations.” The rules stipulate that women must wear bikini bottoms while men wear shorts.The Norwegian Handball Federation didn’t contest the decision, seen by the Norwegian team and several others as unfair, and announced earlier that it was ready to pay the fine.The European Handball Federation acknowledged the commotion that the incident had triggered in media outlets and social media, and said Monday that it would donate the amount paid by the Norwegian Handball Federation “to a major international sports foundation which supports equality for women and girls in sports”.“We are very much aware of the attention the topic has received over the past days, and while changes cannot happen overnight, we are fully committed that something good comes out of this situation right now which is why the EHF has donated the fine for a good cause promoting equality in sports, ” European Handball Federation President Michael Wiederer said in a statement.Wiederer said that handball already was ahead of other sports in some respects, such as the parity given to the men’s and women’s competitions. He said such parity had been achieved in beach handball much sooner than it had in soccer, for example.The Norwegian women posted a photograph of themselves on Instagram wearing shorts and told their followers: “Thank you so much for all the support. We really appreciate all the love we have received.”———This story has been corrected to show the Norwegian Handball Federation, not the women’s team, paid the fine.
The European Union’s border agency is pledging to “significantly” step up its support to Lithuania “due to the growing migratory pressure at Lithuania’s border with Belarus” that the Baltic nation is trying to containBy JARI TANNER Associated PressJuly 11, 2021, 5:07 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleHELSINKI — The European Union’s border agency is pledging to “significantly” step up its support to Lithuania in the coming days “due to the growing migratory pressure at Lithuania’s border with Belarus” that the Baltic nation is trying to contain.The decision by Frontex, the agency responsible for coordinating border control between EU member states and third countries, was announced late Saturday following a video call between Frontex’s Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda.“Lithuania’s border is our common external border and Frontex stands ready to help where needed,” Leggeri said in a statement. “We are ready to strengthen our level of support and deploy more European standing corps officers and equipment” to Lithuania, an EU and NATO member of 2.8 million.Frontex’s operation, which started earlier this month with the deployment of a dozen officers and patrol cars, will more than double next week, the agency said.Nauseda’s office said reinforcements pledged by Frontex were expected to reach Lithuania by July 15 and that some armed border patrols and additional translators arrived over the weekend. In addition, a patrol helicopter will be sent to Lithuania from neighboring Poland and discussions were under way to dispatch another helicopter from Germany, Nauseda’s office said.In a tweet, Nauseda thanked Frontex for its support “to manage flows of illegal migrants through eastern border” with Belarus, another former Soviet republic that is not in the EU.Lithuania, which has granted refuge to Belarus opposition figures, accuses its neighbor of organizing the border crossings by people mainly from Iraq, the Mideast and Africa.In June, the number of illegal border crossings from Belarus into Lithuania rose six-fold, increasing the pressure on national border control authorities, Frontex said. The phenomenon has accelerated in July. More than 1,500 people have crossed into Lithuania from Belarus in the past two months — 20 times more than in all of 2020.Tensions between the EU and Belarus escalated even more after Belarus diverted a passenger jet on May 23 to arrest an opposition journalist. Belarus’ authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko has said his country will halt cooperation with the 27-nation bloc on stemming migration in retaliation for bruising economic sanctions the EU slapped on Belarus over the passenger jet diversion.On Friday, Lithuania started building a double barbed wire fence on the Belarus border. It will run for 550 kilometers (342 miles), covering most of the nearly 680-kilometer (423-mile) border and cost 41 million euros ($48 million), according to Lithuanian authorities.In addition, Lithuania has set up tent camps to accommodate the growing number of migrants.Nauseda, on a visit to Poland on Sunday, said that “technical steps are necessary to make the border work and be a real barrier, because now it can be easily crossed.”Nauseda said Lithuania was talking to the governments of the countries where the migrants come from and also with transit countries like Turkey in order to “curb the (illegal migration) process that is being supported by the Belarusian regime.”“It is a kind of revenge for EU sanctions,” Nauseda said in Krakow, following talks with Poland’s President Andrzej Duda.Duda said Poland will “extend the necessary assistance” to Lithuania and was talking about the best way to do that with Frontex.———Follow all AP stories on global migration at https://apnews.com/hub/migration
European Union member Lithuania has declared a state of emergency due to an influx of migrants from neighboring Belarus in the last few daysBy JARI TANNER Associated PressJuly 3, 2021, 6:49 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleHELSINKI — Lithuania has declared a state of emergency due to an influx of migrants in the last few days from neighboring Belarus, as tensions between the European Union and Belarus escalate.Lithuania’s Interior Minister Agle Bilotaite said late Friday that the decision, proposed by the State Border Guard Service, was necessary not because of an increased threat to the country of 2.8 million people but to put a more robust system into place to handle migrants coming in.“It’s very important to have a legal system and instruments … to be able to swiftly make decisions in response to arising challenges,” Bilotaite said during a government meeting Friday evening, according to the Baltic News Service.Belarus’ authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko has warned that his country would retaliate against the latest EU sanctions on his regime by loosening border controls for undocumented migrants. The bloc tightened sanctions against Belarus after Lukashenko’s government forced a passenger plane to divert and land and arrested a prominent journalist on the flight.Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte’s Cabinet declared the emergency after border officials reported Friday that they had detained about 150 illegal migrants in the last day who had crossed over from Belarus, with whom Lithuania shares a 679-kilometer (422-mile) border.That number of detained migrants at the Belarus border is three times higher than the previous daily record, Lithuanian officials said. CCTV footage released by the Lithuanian border guard showed migrants jumping over a fence separating Belarus and Lithuania and either crawling, walking or running to the Lithuanian side.According to the Baltic News Service, the most of the migrants have already sought asylum in Lithuania and include citizens of Afghanistan, Cameroon, Iraq and Syria. Lithuania has set up tent camps to accommodate the growing number of migrants.Mantas Adomenas, Lithuania’s vice minister for foreign affairs, said the main problem was identifying migrants who arrive with no documents.“We’re now talking about how to identify them, give them documents so that economic migrants can be returned to their country of origin,” Adomenas told broadcaster LNK Lithuania.A total of 822 migrants crossing in from Belarus have been detained in Lithuania so far this year, up from 81 in 2020, the Baltic News Service said.European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen paid a visit to Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital, on Friday, and vowed to help the country, a former Soviet republic, cope with the influx of migrants.“Your worries and your problems here in Lithuania are European worries and problems,” von der Layen said in a joint news conference with Simonyte and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda. “We really stand by your side in this difficult time.”Von der Layen pledged assistance from Frontex, EU’s border and cost guard agency, which said on Thursday said that it would deploy border guard teams not only to Lithuania but also to Latvia, a Baltic neighbor that also shares a border with Belarus.On Monday, Belarus’ foreign ministry announced that the government would suspend an agreement with Brussels intended to stem illegal migration into the EU.———Follow all AP stories on global migration at https://apnews.com/hub/migration
Finnish health authorities have detected a spike in coronavirus cases that has been traced to soccer fans returning from neighboring Russia following European Championship matches in St. PetersburgBy JARI TANNER Associated PressJune 26, 2021, 2:10 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleHELSINKI — Finnish health authorities have detected a spike in coronavirus cases that has been traced to soccer fans returning from neighboring Russia following European Championship matches in St. Petersburg.The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare on Saturday urged “all passengers who have traveled from St. Petersburg to Finland by any bus company to apply for a coronavirus test.”“Any bus or minibus may have been exposed,” the institute said.Finland played two of its Euro 2020 group games in St. Petersburg, facing Russia on June 16 and Belgium on Monday. At least 2,000 Finns are estimated to have traveled to the city for those matches.The Finns finished in third place in their group and were eliminated. Russia was also eliminated after finishing last.St. Petersburg hosted six games in the group stage of the tournament and will host one of the four quarterfinal matches on Friday.Authorities in the Russian city tightened anti-coronavirus restrictions last week in an effort to curb a spike in new infections. That included closing food courts in the city’s shopping malls and its Euro 2020 fan zone.The Finnish health institute’s director, Mika Salminen, told public broadcaster YLE that more than 120 virus cases have so far been detected from passengers returning from St. Petersburg, mostly soccer fans, and the number is likely increase.Though the Finnish Border Guard was prepared for heavy return traffic from St. Petersburg, the key Vaalimaa border station got badly jammed Tuesday with lines of dozens of buses carrying soccer fans and hundreds of cars waiting for the required coronavirus test after border formalities.As the queue got longer and the border station was to be closed, Finnish authorities decided to let passengers into the country without testing, on the condition they would take one at their respective home region after arrival.Finnish health officials said earlier this week that they traced some of the infections to a German beer hall-style restaurant in St. Petersburg.There are two main crossing points between the countries in eastern Finland, making it a trip of between 180-220 kilometers (112-135 miles) from the border to St. Petersburg.The Russian city’s population of more than 5 million nearly equals the entire population of Finland.According to the latest information from Russia’s national coronavirus taskforce, there were 8,457 new infection cases in Moscow and 1,247 in St. Petersburg detected in the past few days.Finland is one of the least affected European countries by coronavirus with just under 95,000 cases and 969 deaths detected since the start of the pandemic. The 1,340-kilometer (832-mile) long Finnish-Russian land border has been closed for passenger travel from both sides since March 2020 and remains so with certain exceptions, such as traveling to Euro 2020 matches.———Associated Press writer Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this report.———More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP—SportsFollow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine