Basque militant chief arrested after 17 years
SALLANCHES — A longtime chief of the Basque militant separatist group ETA was arrested Thursday in a French Alps town after being on the run for 17 years, Spanish authorities said, proudly announcing the capture of a man accused of crimes against humanity.
José Antonio Urruticoetxea Bengoetxea, known by the alias Josu Ternera, has been the most wanted ETA member since 2002. Interpol, the global police body, had issued a red alert against him. Spanish authorities also accuse him of multiple killings and belonging to a terrorist organization.
ETA, whose initials stand for “Basque Homeland and Freedom” in the Basque language, killed more than 850 people during its decadeslong violent campaign to create an independent state in northern Spain and southern France. The militant group gave up its arms in 2017 and disbanded last year after being weakened by a sustained police effort to dismantle its operations and arrest its leaders.
Spain’s Interior Ministry said Ternera’s arrest took place early Thursday in Sallanches, a town of 16,000 in the French Alps, with both French intelligence services and Spanish Civil Guard agents taking part. Spanish authorities said Ternera, 69, had been living near Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, a French winter sports haven close to the borders of France, Switzerland and Italy.
The Paris prosecutor’s office said Ternera was arrested by France’s domestic intelligence service DGSI, based on a 2017 French conviction in absentia for involvement in a terrorist group.
Putin: Compromise needed on cathedral
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin called for a compromise Thursday to ease tensions over a plan to build a Russian Orthodox cathedral in a popular park in the nation’s fourth-largest city that has sparked protests and drawn nationwide attention.
Unsanctioned protests in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg have been held for four consecutive days near a central park where two local tycoons are planning to build a new cathedral. Several dozen protesters have been detained and 21 of them have been handed jail terms ranging from two days to 10 days for disobeying police.
The protests reflect local outrage after authorities pushed ahead with the project despite complaints that the massive church would take away a rare green, recreational space in the city of 1.5 million people. The standoff also reflected the growing power of the Russian Orthodox Church, whose increasingly assertive stance about secular affairs has worried many in Russia.
Asked about the controversy, Putin said authorities must reach out to opponents of the project and work out a compromise.
TV station uncovers fraud in talent show
MOSCOW — Russia’s Channel One TV on Thursday annulled the results of a popular TV talent show after uncovering evidence of fraud in its most recent competition that led to a landslide win for a pop star’s daughter.
Mikella Abramova, the 11-year-old daughter of former Eurovision contestant Alsou and Azerbaijani banker Yan Abramov, won the sixth season of the highly popular “Golos dyeti” (“The Voice Kids”) show with 56.5% of the vote. The contestant in second trailed far behind with 27.9%.
“The Voice Kids” is a spinoff from the highly popular international talent show “The Voice,” a worldwide franchise with shows in the U.S. and Europe.
A probe was launched after the voting results provoked an outcry on social media, with many users claiming the vote had been rigged because of the abnormally high number of votes cast for Abramova. The state-controlled Channel One quoted an investigation by the Group-IB cybersecurity firm that revealed a high proportion of automated votes via text messages.
Group-IB investigators found that only 300 phone numbers generated 8,000 text messages, all voting for Abramova.
Pricey wine served by accident in restaurant
LONDON — A British restaurant has given some customers an unexpected treat, accidentally serving them a 4,500-pound ($5,760) bottle of red wine.
The Hawksmoor Manchester said on Twitter it hoped the diners “enjoyed your evening” after getting the 2001 bottle of Chateau le Pin Pomerol instead of the 260-pound ($333) bottle they had ordered of Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2001.
A restaurant spokeswoman says “it was a very busy night at the restaurant and a very simple mistake. A member of staff picked up the wrong bottle.” The restaurant told the employee to keep their “chin up,” adding that “one-off mistakes happen.”
The Associated Press