Sweden offers lifeline to grounded airline workers with vital COVID 19 hospital role

The crew from crisis hit airline SAS are taking a three day course in general hospital practice. Out-of-work crew are hoping to help the Swedish healthcare system meet the demand of thousands of coronavirus cases.

SAS is partially owned by the Swedish and Danish governments.

The airline has temporarily laid off 10,000 to cut costs from the loss of air travel amid the pandemic.

That equals 90 percent of the airlines workforce, who are now seeking other employment for the time being.

Flights around the world have been mostly grounded due to border closures attempting to curb the virus’ spread.

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Stockholm’s healthcare system is in desperate need of reinforcements for medical staff.

Sophiahemmet University Hospital has reached out to former cabin crew, offering to teach them general hospital working skills.

These involve sterilising equipment, making hospital beds and providing medical information to patients and relatives.

The intensive course teaches furloughed workers all the skills needed in three days.

The first students are due to complete the course on Thursday.

Johanna Adami, principal at the University, has said the response has been overwhelming.

She said: “We now have a long, long list of healthcare providers that are just waiting for them.

“They have basic healthcare education from their work.

“They are also very experienced to be flexible and think about security and also to handle complicated situations.”

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According to the principal, hospitals and nursing homes are desperate to employ the newly trained staff.

Currently the hospital are predicted to create 300 new healthcare workers.

Adami said that airline staff are well suited to the retraining, and have basic experience from their previous work.

Airlines in Australia and the US have enquired about the hospitals training methods.

Sweden has 4,435 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of Wednesday evening.

Of that number, 180 have died after contracting the virus.

The Swedish government has come under fire for not introducing lockdown measures.

Prime Minster Stefan Löfven addressed the nation on the 22nd of March, saying: “We who are adults need to be exactly that: adults. Not spread panic or rumours.”

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Coronavirus will ‘change the world’ and Brussels will NOT survive, predicts French MP

“The health crisis we are all living through is one of major severity and scope,” M Bayrou, president of the Mouvement Démocrate (MoDem) party and mayor of the south-western city of Pau, told newspaper Le Figaro. He said: “The risk of social explosion is real. No crisis comes without major shake-ups or violence. But this tragedy will change our view of the world.

“We have learned that we are all ultimately one humanity threatened by a single epidemic, and that our method of organisation has made us weaker.”

The post-coronavirus period will be “very long,” M Bayrou continued, adding the pandemic would trigger an “unprecedented economic, social, and maybe even democratic crisis.”  

“A new world must emerge from this enormous upheaval,” he said, as he stressed the importance of solidarity between European states in times of crisis.

The Brussels bloc “will not survive this crisis without solidarity,” the French centrist noted.  

His comments echoed those made by France’s European Affairs Minister Amélie de Montchalin later on Sunday, who said that the EU’s response to the outbreak would determine its credibility and utility.

“If Europe is just a single market when times are good, then it has no sense,” Mme de Montchalin told France Inter radio.
 
“Our Europe is one of action, one of solidarity, and if certain countries see otherwise, well then the question of their place will raise itself, as will what the union should be doing as a group of 27,” she continued. “The crisis raises existential questions for Europe.”

The EU has so far failed to agree on measures to cushion the economic blow from the pandemic.

The bloc’s divisions were exposed after leaders hit an impasse on Thursday over how to minimise the economic damage and prepare for an eventual recovery, with the poorer south angered by the reluctance of the richer north to offer more support.

Germany and the Netherlands strongly opposed a push by Italy, Spain, Portugal and France to issue joint ‘corona’ bonds to help finance an economic stimulus. They also locked horns over the sharing of medical equipment and border controls.

Mme de Montchalin, for her part, warned there would be no economic rebound in Germany and the Netherlands if the rest of Europe remained sick.

However, she cited a decision by Germany and others to take in seriously ill French coronavirus patients and relieve pressure on France’s healthcare system as proof that solidarity between EU states still exists.

Europe is the continent worst hit by the epidemic that arrived from China earlier this year, with more than 20,000 deaths.

Over 738,500 people have been infected across more than 170 countries and regions and about 35,000 have died, according to a Reuters tally published on Monday. 

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Merkel left red faced as Italian MPs mention Nazi reparations in coronavirus support row

Angela Merkel was asked to consider the colossal debts racked up by Adolf Hitler’s evil war efforts some 81 years ago today. Rome has become infuriated with the German Chancellor after she helped block the creation of so-called “coronabonds”, a shared Eurozone debt mechanism to help prop up economies worst-affected by the global pandemic. In an open letter to the veteran leader, 12 Italian politicians, including the mayors of Venice and Bergamo, called on Mrs Merkel to reconsider her position.

“Currently the Netherlands are leading a group of countries, though, which resist this strategy, and Germany also seems to want to follow this group,” they wrote.

“The Netherlands are the one state, which has been evading taxes of the important European countries with its tax system for years. Our public budgets and the socially weak in our countries who have to pay the price for this. Those who are most affected by the crisis.

“The Dutch attitude is in every aspect an example of a lack of ethics and solidarity. But it was solidarity which was shown to you Germans after the war and until reunification by many European countries.”

The group were keen to remind Mrs Merkel that Hitler’s war machine run up debts of over €15 billion, in the Germany’s original deutsche mark currency.

They accused her of ignoring the generosity of Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, who have all voiced support for the creation of coronabonds, in halving the German debt in 1953.

“After 1945 the German debt had reached the amount of what was 29.7 billion deutsche mark,” the group wrote.

“Germany would never have been able to pay back the accumulated debt. In 1953 in London, 21 countries allowed for cutting the debt in half and the deferment of payments of the rest of the debt.

“This way German was able to avoid state bankruptcy. Italy is still proud and convinced of the correctness of the decision back then. And we repeat: with the eurobonds for the fight against coronavirus old debts are neither cancelled, nor shared.”

Despite the growing support for a joint Eurozone debt instrument, the single currency bloc’s bailout chief has warned it could take years to set up.

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Klaus Reglung, the managing director of the European Stability Mechanism, said any short-term lending programmes would have to come from existing structures.

He said if the goal is to cover short-term lending to bolster healthcare or support businesses “then I think the only way is to use existing institutions with existing instruments”.

He told the Financial Times it was possible to create a new bespoke EU institution if there were political agreement between European capitals.

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However, he added: “It would take one, two or three years, and member states have to come up with capital or guarantees, or assign future revenue.

“One cannot create bonds out of nothing.”

Eurogroup finance ministers are currently debating the plans, which are expected to be returned to leaders in the coming weeks.

Last week EU heads of state refused to sanction coronabonds and instead told officials to work on new plans to prop up the bloc’s ailing economy. 

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Coronavirus: Why are wet markets still open in China amid coronavirus crisis?

Experts warn wet markets, where animals are butchered in front of shoppers, are a “ticking time bomb” and could lead to another outbreak of a disease similar to coronavirus. The disease is thought to have first leaped to humans from a wet market in Wuhan, China, which sold animals like bats, chickens and reptiles. Another coronavirus named SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which broke out in 2002/2003 and led to the deaths of hundreds, was also believed to have originated in a wet market.

China has now banned the sale of wildlife for consumption under President Xi Jinping in a bid to protect “public health and ecological security”.

A number of countries in Asia, including Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, have a culture whereby it’s considered normal to sell exotic animals for human consumption at wet markets.

According to The Mirror and local sources, Tomohon market in Indonesia is still operating “business as usual”, despite the local mayor calling for a ban on wild meat.

Meanwhile, in Chatuchak, Bangkok, Thailand, a range of wild animals including African wild cats, tortoises and snakes all continue to be sold despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Monkeys, dogs, cats and bats are sold at the “Extreme markets” – nicknamed for their cruelty.

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Traders often use a single knife to slaughter all the animals, regardless of contamination from blood or faeces, before selling on body parts in other countries.

In the town of Mong-La, Burma, near the Chinese border, drugs, wildlife and women are notoriously trafficked.

The town’s markets sell a selection of body parts ranging from endangered species, including tiger skins, bear paws and pangolin scales – which are considered an invaluable item in Chinese medicine.

Professor Andrew Cunningham from the Zoological Society of London has called for an international ban on wet markets and insists species which don’t usually mix in the world are much more prone to catching viruses from one another.

Both COVID-19 and SARS are understood to have originated in a bat.

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Professor Cunningham said the extreme stress the animals are put under highly increases the chances of virus shredding.

He told the Mirror: “Where live animals of different species are brought together and held in overcrowded and unhygienic conditions, the likelihood of an animal being present that carries a potentially zoonotic virus (which are passed from animal to humans) is increased.

“The highest priority for the protection of the human health is to ban wet markets.”

The trade is believed to be worth around £58billion a year and there are fears the powerful industries could influence Asian politicians to keep them open.

China has shut down around 20,000 of these sites, similar to the procedures taken after the SARS outbreak.

Steve Gagster, of Bangkok-based anti-trafficking group Freeland, said: “Wuhan is a major wake-up call – mother nature’s revenge.

“The way to prevent further outbreaks is to stop the trade. China has put in place a ban, but this needs to be permanent as it is the biggest importer of wildlife in the world.

“Most wildlife is trafficked by gangsters. This is not a regulated trade so no wonder there are infections and the viruses spreading.

“HIV, SARS and bird flue all came from animals and now this one too. These markets are ticking time bombs.”

The Vietnamese Government has ordered its officials to draft a legal ban on wildlife markets following pressure from the rest of the world.

An estimated 20,000 markets in China are believed to have been closed down.

Jerry Flocked from the Humane Society International said that “it would be a grave mistake to think that the threat is isolated to China.”

He added: “Wildlife markets across the globe, but particularly in Asia and Africa, could easily be the start of disease outbreaks in the future.”

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Coronavirus crisis: Trust in French government dwindles as virus toll continues to rise

The poll, conducted by Ifop for Le Journal du Dimanche (JDD), showed that 56 percent of French people do not trust the government to “effectively address” the worsening health crisis. Just 44 percent said that they approved of the government’s crisis response plan, down 11 points in one week.

Paradoxically, a separate poll by Ifop also commissioned by the JDD found that President Emmanuel Macron’s popularity rating had hit a two-year high, showing that his handling of the crisis was being given a big vote of confidence.

Some 43 percent of the French are “satisfied” with M Macron, according to the Ifop poll, an 11-point increase compared to the previous month and the highest since April 2018.

The polls were published shortly before France’s health chief Jérôme Salomon said that 40,174 people had tested positive for coronavirus in France, up from 37,575 a day earlier.

Among the nearly 19,000 patients now in hospital, 4,632 are in intensive care, M Salomon told a daily press briefing.

Health authorities reported 292 new deaths on Sunday, he added, up 13 percent on the previous day and taking the total number of fatalities to 2,606.

The polls were taken after the Macron government imposed drastic restrictions on movement on March 17 to slow the spread of the disease, with people ordered to stay home other than to buy food, exercise alone, carry out essential work or seek medical care.

Prime Minister Édouard Philippe said on Friday that the “battle” against the virus was just beginning.

The first two weeks of April will be even tougher than the past fortnight,” he told reporters, before admitting that the unprecedented restrictions on public life would remain in place until at least April 15.

France’s Health Minister Olivier Véran, for his part, announced on Saturday that the government had ordered more than a billion face masks as it scrambles to keep up with demand.

Doctors, nursing home staff, police and other frontline workers are furious at the shortage of vital masks and other protective gear.

A plane arrived in Paris from China on Sunday carrying 5.5 million masks and other equipment, though health officials say the country needs 40 million masks each week for health workers alone as the outbreak rages on.

Our first Boeing 777 Cargo has just landed at #ParisCDG with close to 100 tonnes of medical equipment on board, including more than 5 million masks,” Air France tweeted.

Up to one-third of the world’s population is currently under lockdown as the virus forces countries to hit pause in a bid to slow its spread.

The coronavirus crisis has upturned nearly every aspect of society: wiping out millions of jobs, straining health care services and prompting scores of governments to dig deep into their pockets.

Worldwide coronavirus fatalities passed 33,000 on Monday as infections jumped to more than 700,000. European nations have been hit harder on a per capita basis, with 20,059 deaths.

• The first Ifop poll of 1,007 people was conducted online on March 26-27; while the second survey was conducted among 1,930 participants on March 19-28.

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Rebecca Long-Bailey says Labour leadership contest to end in ‘bizarre’ way

The shadow business secretary said the move was to “deal with these strange times” following lockdown measures in the UK during the Covid-19 outbreak. Ms Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy and Sir Keir Starmer are the three remaining candidates, with the successor to Jeremy Corbyn due to be announced on April 4. She told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “I think it’s trying to deal with these strange times and have an announcement on the leadership contest that our members and the public can view from their homes really.

“It’s logistically quite challenging and I think we’ve all been asked to do this victory speech so that it can be send out over the airwaves as quickly as possible after we win.

“I haven’t done mine yet, by the way.”

Asked if she would feel awkward recording the video ahead of the result, Ms Long-Bailey said: “It’s going to be a bit bizarre.”

Ms Long-Bailey did not rule out potentially joining a national unity government if elected as the next Labour leader.

Asked if she would be prepared to join such a government, she told Sky’s Sophy Ridge programme: “I’ve already been collaborating with the government and urging them to listen to my advice and the advice of my colleagues in tackling this crisis, because we want to be as helpful as possible.”

She added: “We are not criticising the government when we are offering our suggestions as to how this crisis can be better dealt with.

“We’re trying to help and that’s what I’ll do as leader, and that’s what I’ll do if I’m not leader, if I’m supporting a new leader.”

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Coronavirus: Fear Russians will use crisis as cover to strike

As the US pulls troops from potential conflict zones to deal with the virus at home, Vladimir Putin could take advantage, a former US diplomat has said. The warning follows “unusually high levels” of activity in the Channel by Russian warships last week. It also comes after the scaling down of a Nato exercise that was to have seen the largest US force in continental Europe for 30 years. Britain is using the MoD to help with the virus in the UK, and 800 British troops with 1st Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, currently stationed in Estonia as part of Nato’s Enhanced Forward Presence, will remain in post without relief until the situation normalises. Usually they would be on a six-month rotation.

More than 20 Nato members, led by Britain, Canada, Germany and the US, deploy forces to Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to act as a “tripwire” in the event of more Russian attacks following the invasion of Crimea. But they rely on Nato’s rapid batallions to shore up Europe’s defences.

On Wednesday Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance continued to meet its defence challenges despite Covid-19, following a meeting of ambassadors.

However, a decision to deploy only 6,000 of 20,000 US troops for the exercise Defender Europe 20, as well as a move to bring others home to help battle the outbreak, were “carefully watched by Putin”, said former US diplomat Brett Bruen, the head of the Global Situation Room think tank.

“It is very likely that Russia will try to take action while the US and Nato is distracted with Covid-19, arguably the first time we have a serious home threat that is impacting our readiness. In terms of overall readiness, the question is: how many soldiers can you cut from a brigade before it is inoperational? “The other challenge is the logistics and supply of strategic medical reserves. The US’s number POISED: Putin one priority is saving American lives. This means fewer personnel abroad and less resources.

“All this is ringing alarm bells in foreign capitals.”

Kremlin-supporting media outlets have already pushed out a variety of stories, including blaming the US, Italy, Estonia or even a secret global elite for creating Covid-19.

COMMENT BY MARCO GIANNANGELI

Beleaguered Italians celebrated as the Russian military convoy of 22 vehicles laden with Covid-19 testing kits and ventilators snaked its way under police escort from Rome to Bergamo on Wednesday. 

But no one was happier than Vladimir Putin. 

As the West grapples with its biggest peacetime crisis in a century, Russia is seizing opportunities one by one. Italy, Europe’s Covid-19 epicentre with 80,000 confirmed cases and 7,505 deaths, was easy pickings. 

Naturally, the hope that Rome would return the favour by vetoing fresh EU sanctions over Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea never entered Putin’s mind. 

To Nato consternation, he delivered his “from Russia with love” aid in a high-profile propaganda coup (never mind reports that it’s 80 percent ineffective) as Brussels delivered a £7million fine for Rome’s illegal subsidising of Sardinia’s tourism trade.

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UK Weather Forecast: Big chill to sweep Britain bringing snow and freezing temperatures

After days of sun in the sky, the UK will begin to see more normalised spring weather temperatures.

A chill from Scandinavia will roll in ending the balmier climates enjoyed this past week.

In Scotland and the north temperatures will feel more like -13C as the wind chill makes the air feel harshly cold.

Although the skies will remain clear, there will be frosts as conditions turn chilly.

The UK will see an almost -10C drop in temperatures after many have headed to local parks to enjoy one exercise a day.

The Met Office has warned of hail and snow along eastern coasts and inland today although these will become more confined to high ground in the north later in the day.

Met Office Chief Meteorologist Dan Suri said: “It will stay drier and brighter elsewhere, even so, it will be a marked change from the 18 or 19 Celsius we have been seeing in a few spots this week”.

This cold, bright weather is due mainly to a high-pressure system that is developing to the west of the UK, which will bring cold air down from the north”.

Next week forecaster Jim Dale has said the weather will be cold, dry and with some warm afternoons.

“It is going to turn much colder at the weekend as high pressure brings Polar air across Scandinavia towards Britain.

“There is a chance of some wintry showers and these could lightly affect lower ground across southern and eastern Britain.

“It is not out of the question that as well as the frost, some places could wake up under a late winter blanket.

“However it is going to turn much drier next week and this will help those regions affected by flooding.

“While there will be some cold mornings, it will be pleasantly mild in the sunshine during the afternoons, and this is the pattern we expect to hold into and through April.”

He added: “Most people are going to feel the cold over the next couple of days, it is going to be a return to cardigans and time to dig out winter coats.

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“Across parts of the country, we are expecting to see temperatures drop to around -5C.

“It is a brief return to wintry conditions, however, and after the weekend we are looking at drier weather with some pleasant sunshine.”

Temperatures on Sunday will struggle to reach double digits, the northeasterly wind making it feel colder than it has been previously.

Next week may look drier however it is important to follow government advice and stay inside.

It is only necessary to go out if it is to buy food, for health reasons or to work (if you can not from home) due to the coronavirus shutdown.

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Coronavirus crisis will trigger ‘economic and social upheaval’, warns French PM

Following a weekly cabinet meeting, M Philippe told reporters: “The public health emergency is today the number one concern [but the epidemic will also trigger] an economic shock, a social shock. We are just at the beginning of the crisis.”

He added putting the economy and society back on track will require “a long-term effort” and will be a challenge “we must all face together.”

He then laid out a string of measures designed to “limit the serious socio-economic damage” caused by the crisis.

His comments came shortly before President Emmanuel Macron pledged “massive investments” in the country’s public hospital health system, under acute strain as it struggles to cope with the flu-like virus which has already infected over 26,000 people and killed more than 1,300 in France.

In eastern France, where the virus has spread rapidly, M Macron said during an impromptu news conference: “Once this crisis is over, a massive investment plan and an upgrade of career paths will be put in place for our hospital system.

He added that he had decided to launch a military operation to help with health and logistics.

The operation, named “Resilience,” will focus on “aiding and supporting the population as well as helping public services face the epidemic in mainland France and overseas”.
 
The 42-year-old French President, whose government has come under fire for its failure to contain the virus’ spread, also called for national “unity” and slammed those trying to “fracture the country”.

He said: “We should have one obsession: to be united [against the virus].”

M Macron added France was “engaged in a war” against the highly contagious illness.
 
Hours later, the country’s Armed Forces Ministry said France would “temporarily” withdraw all its troops from Iraq until further notice due to the outbreak.

The ministry said: “France has taken the decision to repatriate until further notice its personnel deployed in Operation Chammal in Iraq.”  

The operation involves about 200 soldiers.

The army said it would continue air operations against the Islamic State terrorist group.
France on Thursday entered the tenth day of an unprecedented peacetime lockdown ordered by M Macron to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Like scores of other nations, the centrist administration has imposed a nationwide ban on non-essential movement and closed schools and restaurants in a bid to stop the epidemic.

The government will announce over the coming days for how long the country’s strict lockdown measures are to continue, spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye said.

However, a scientific council set up to advise M Macron on the epidemic crisis said on Tuesday the lockdown in place since March 17 should last “at least” six weeks.

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Coronavirus Russia: Hackers loyal to Putin may be behind WHO cyberattack, says expert

Spokesman Tarik Jasarevic yesterday told Express.co.uk hackers were targeting the WHO in multiple ways, including vishing [voice phishing], email phishing, WhatsApp phishing and social media scams. The Geneva-based health body is critical to the worldwide effort to halt the spread of the disease – and so anything which slows down its operation will, ultimately, endanger lives. So far the identity of the culprits remains unclear.

Mark Mulready, of cybersecurity specialists Irdeto told Express.co.uk: “Attribution is one of the most challenging aspects of cyberattacks.

“Known ransomware operators have stated that they will not target health and medical organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“However there have already been reports that a hospital in the UK has been hit by Maze ransomware.”

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The most likely scenario would be a state sponsored attack

Mark Mulready

Nevertheless, Mr Mulready added: “The most likely scenario would be a state sponsored attack.

“There have been numerous reports that Russia is linked to running a disinformation campaign around COVID-19.

“EU observers of Russian media have observed a significant amount of articles which contain false and misleading information regarding the coronavirus pandemic designed to incite unrest in the West.

“No doubt there will be detailed investigations ongoing regarding attribution for this attack on the WHO and we may hear more on this in due course.”

In such an uncertain climate, Mr Mulready drew a parallel with efforts to prevent transmission of coronavirus himself among people, using a phrase popularised by Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general.

Mr Mulready explained: “Global organisations need to behave just like humans to prevent attacks.

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“They need to increase their cyber hygiene levels.

“Don’t rely on systems with outdated and vulnerable software.

“Patch, patch, patch and test, test, test.

“Ensure you have a secure backup (which would not be automatically be impacted in case of a ransomware attack and test it) and have robust anti-phishing measures since most ransomware infections start with a mouse click by an employee.”

Russian hackers are widely blamed for having targeted the 2016 US Presidential election with a campaign of misinformation.

A report published by Microsoft in October blamed Fancy Bear, the Russian-sponsored hacker group, which Microsoft has named internally as Strontium, for “significant cyberattacks” on 16 national and international sports and anti-doping organizations, including the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA).

Tom Burt, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of customer security and trust, wrote: “The methods used in the most recent attacks are similar to those routinely used by Strontium to target governments, militaries, think tanks, law firms, human rights organizations, financial firms and universities around the world.

“Strontium’s methods include spear-phishing, password spray, exploiting internet-connected devices and the use of both open-source and custom malware.”

Speaking in 2017, Mr Putin said: “Artists may act on behalf of their country, they wake up in good mood and paint things.

“Same with hackers, they woke up today, read something about the state-to-state relations.

“If they are patriotic, they contribute in a way they think is right, to fight against those who say bad things about Russia.”

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