After Romanian President Klaus Iohannis exited the race for NATO Secretary General on Thursday, the outgoing prime minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, stands alone to take over the post to be vacated by Jens Stoltenberg on Oct. 1.

All that remains is the formality, likely next week, of a convention of NATO ambassadors to approve his appointment.

Rutte had led a caretaker coalition of the Dutch government beginning last July, but after his government collapsed and before his Party for Freedom (PVV) came first past the post in the November 2023 elections, he stepped down as party leader. Rutte had been caught in several domestic imbroglios, notably his handling of an immigration crisis in Holland last year, but emerged from each unscathed, earning him the nickname “Teflon Mark.”

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(“The Teflon president” was a term first coined to describe former US president Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, as scandals never seemed to “stick” to him.)

After announcing his abdication from the leadership of the leading Dutch party, he threw his hat in the ring for the NATO chief position, and soon won the approval of France, Germany, the UK, and the US, AFP reported.

The more difficult countries for him to win over were Turkey and Hungary, both of which have less antagonistic relations with the Kremlin than other NATO countries, and right-wing Hungarian leader Viktor Orban has long been a thorn in the side of all Western coalitions to which his country belongs.

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The Council’s legal service told EU envoys last week that Budapest’s actions could constitute a breach of the bloc’s treaties.

Rutte will become the fourth Dutch leader to head NATO. November elections in the US will determine the next president just after Rutte takes office, and the US Republican candidate, convicted felon Donald Trump, has threatened to withdraw the US from NATO.

NATO leaders have commended Rutte’s diplomatic handling of the volatile one-term US president and many-times bankrupt real estate prospector; so much so that Stoltenberg, on a trip to Washington on Tuesday felt the need to reassure the White House's current administration that Rutte “is a very strong candidate… He’s a close friend and colleague.” 

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Russia jails teacher for about 20 years on ‘high treason’ for mustache scribbles and a few hundred dollars sent to Ukraine

The AFP reported on Thursday that a Russian military court had jailed a teacher for 20 years on “high treason” charges for sending the equivalent of between $229 to $1,146 to a Ukrainian fund to help its fallen soldiers.

The defendant, who was charged with “high treason” and “support for terrorist activities,” said colleagues reported him to authorities.

Daniil Kliuka, 27, will spend five years in prison and 15 more in a “strict-regime penal colony,” the RIA Novosti news agency told an anonymous spokesperson on Thursday.

AFP reported that the Russian media group RBK said Kliuka allegedly made two bank transfers in cryptocurrency worth between 20,000 and 100,000 rubles ($229 to $1,146) to a Ukrainian fund, called “Come Back Alive.”

Kliuka said he was arrested after scribbling horns, beards and mustaches on people shown in a local pro-Kremlin newspaper, and that his school colleagues noticed the drawings on the newspaper and reported him.

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As Moscow’s troops are sent to Kharkiv, a growing Russian offensive has a bead on targets northwest of the Donbas

Ukrainska Pravda reported on Thursday that Moscow’s troops have been advancing in recent days from the occupied Luhansk region and making their way in the direction of Kharkiv, which has been under siege from a Russian invasion from the northeast border.

According to reports, for about 18 months, invading forces have been trying to push the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) forces beyond the northern reaches of the Zherebets River that runs through the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions.

The goal, the state-backed media outlet said, of the invading forces is to move forward from there to Borova and Lyman, quoting the press service of the 66th Separate Mechanised Brigade, which has been operating on the Lyman front since the summer of 2022.

“A new wave” of the Russian offensive began in late April 2024, brigade spokespeople said, noting that the “zone of responsibility is consistently difficult, the enemy does not abandon its intention to continue assaults, suffers losses, but constantly replenishes assault units with hastily trained personnel, mostly contractors from the Russian “hinterland,” they said. 

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“The Russians have been expecting a counteroffensive on our front since approximately December 2022, which means that they have been trying to at least push us beyond the Chornyi Zherebets River for a year and a half,” the Brigade’s press officers said, noting that they mostly are using “drones, Lancelet munitions, unguided missiles from helicopters, glide bombs with a correction module (KABs), grenade launchers, mortars, 100mm to 152mm tube artillery, rocket artillery, tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and missile strikes.”

Gas pipelines, energy infrastructure destroyed in Nikopol

The head of the Dnipropetrovsk Regional Military Administration, Serhii Lysak, claimed on Thursday via social media that Russian shelling destroyed gas pipelines in the Nikopol area along with other energy infrastructure and residential housing. No one was reported killed.

“The Russians attacked with kamikaze drones and artillery. They dropped ammunition from a UAV. The enemy was attacking the Nikopol district all day,” Lysak wrote.

In addition to the blown-up gas lines and power lines, seven private houses were hit, two solar panels were destroyed, one outbuilding was destroyed, and three more were damaged.

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