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Russia begins airstrikes in Syria “at the request of Bashar al-Assad”

Sources in Washington report being given an hour to clear Syrian airspace as Russia votes for military intervention.

Russia has reportedly begun airstrikes against Isis in Syria “at the request of the Syrian president”.

Following diplomatic friction between US president Barack Obama and Russian premiere Vladimir Putin at the UN general assembly, Reuters reports that Russia gave the US an hour to clear Syrian airspace before beginning flights.

State sources revealed this morning that Federation Council, the upper house in Russia’s parliament, voted unanimously for military intervention. Russia is expected to only use its air force and will not send in ground troops.

The last time the Federation Council authorised the use of military force outside the confederation was in March of last year, when it gave permission for Putin to send forces into Ukraine.

Russia’s TASS news agency stresses that the strikes comply with international law, following a request from the government of the state in question. “Baghdad has earlier sent the respective request to the international coalition”.

Journalists in Washington, however, are reporting that the first strikes appear to have hit not Isis controlled areas, but Rebels in Homs:

On Monday, Obama and Putin exchanged thinly-veiled blows on the subject.

While both David Cameron and Obama have indicated that Bashar al-Assad must not remain in government in Syria in the long-term, Putin called the president “legitimate”. These air strikes will be seen as further support for his regime.

The strikes follow news that the Pentagon’s top Russia official resigned yesterday amidst debates over how the US should respond to Russia’s actions in Ukraine and the Syria.

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland

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Emmanuel Macron's "moralisation of politics" comes at a heavy price for his allies

"Fake" jobs in French politics, season 3 episode 1.

Something is rotten in the state of France. No political party – at least none that existed before 2016 – seems immune to the spread of investigations into “fake” or shady parliamentary jobs. The accusations sank centre-right candidate François Fillon’s presidential campaign, and led to Marine Le Pen losing her parliamentary immunity in the European parliament (and proxy wars within her party, the National Front). Both deny the allegations. Now the investigations have made their way to the French government, led by Edouard Philippe, Emmanuel Macron’s Prime Minister.

On Wednesday morning, justice minister François Bayrou and secretary of state for European affairs Marielle de Sarnez announced their resignation from Philippe’s cabinet. They followed defence minister Sylvie Goulard’s resignation the previous day. The three politicians belonged not to Macron's party, En Marche!, but the centrist MoDem party. Bayrou, the leader, had thrown his weight behind Macron after dropping his own presidential bid in April.

The disappearance of three ministers leaves Emmanuel Macron’s cross-party government, which includes politicians from centre left and centre right parties, without a centrist helm. (Bayrou, who has run several times for the French presidency and lost, is the original “neither left nor right” politician – just with a less disruptive attitude, and a lot less luck). “I have decided not to be part of the next government,” he told the AFP.

Rumours had been spreading for weeks. Bayrou, who was last part of a French government as education minister from 1993 to 1997, had been under pressure since 9 June, when he was included in a preliminary investigation into “embezzlement”. The case revolves around whether the parliamentary assistants of MoDem's MEPs, paid for by the European Parliament, were actually working full or part-time for the party. The other two MoDem ministers who resigned, along with Bayrou, also have assistants under investigation.

Bayrou has denied the allegations. He has declared that there “never was” any case of “fake” jobs within his party and that it would be “easy to prove”. All the same, by the time he resigned, his position as justice minister has become untenable, not least because he was tasked by Macron with developing key legislation on the “moralisation of politics”, one of the new President’s campaign pledges. On 1 June, Bayrou unveiled the new law, which plans a 10-year ban from public life for any politician convicted of a crime or offence regarding honesty and transparency in their work.

Bayrou described his decision to resign as a sacrifice. “My name was never pronounced, but I was the target to hit to attack the government’s credibility,” he said, declaring he would rather “protect this law” by stepping down. The other two ministers also refuted the allegations, and gave similar reasons for resigning. 

Macron’s movement-turned-unstoppable-machine, En Marche!, remains untainted from accusations of the sort. Their 350 new MPs are younger, more diverse than is usual in France – but they are newcomers in politics. Which is exactly why Macron had sought an alliance with experienced Bayrou in the first place.

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