Friday May 13, 2022

Wladimir Klitschko calls Bucha killings ‘genocide of Ukrainian population’

Russia’s has suffered further losses during its offensive in the DonbasUkraine‘s eastern industrial heartland, after Ukraine‘s airborne command released photos and video of what it said was a damaged Russian pontoon bridge over the Siversky Donets River and several destroyed or damaged Russian military vehicles nearby. 

Ukrainian news reports said troops thwarted an attempt by Russian forces to cross the river earlier this week, leaving dozens of tanks and other military vehicles damaged or abandoned. The command said its troops “drowned the Russian occupiers”.

The UK’s Ministry of Defence said that Russia lost “significant armoured manoeuvre elements” of at least one battalion tactical group as well as equipment used to deploy the makeshift floating bridge. 

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“Conducting river crossings in a contested environment is a highly risky maneuver and speaks to the pressure the Russian commanders are under to make progress in their operations in eastern Ukraine,” the MoD said in its daily intelligence update.

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Latest map shows extent of Russian advance

Tom Batchelor13 May 2022 17:55

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Italy backs Nato membership for Finland and Sweden

Italy will fully support Nato membership for Finland and Sweden, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Friday.

“We as Italy will be very happy to welcome these two countries in this great alliance that defends its member countries and… which has guaranteed peace for decades,” Mr Di Maio told reporters in Berlin.

Finland said on Thursday it would seek to join the US-led military alliance without delay and Sweden is expected to follow its neighbour’s lead as early as Monday.

Tom Batchelor13 May 2022 17:27

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US and Russian defence ministers hold first phone call of war

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin held a call with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Friday, the first since the war broke out more than two months ago.

During the call, Mr Austin appealed for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and stressed the importance of maintaining lines of communication, the Pentagon said.

It was the first time Mr Austin had spoken with Mr Shoigu since 18 February, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

Tom Batchelor13 May 2022 16:54

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Ukraine favourite to win at Eurovision

Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra and its folk-hip hop anthem to their war-torn country is favourite to win the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday.

Twenty-five bands will compete in the contest in the Italian city of Turin. Last year, 183 million people tuned in.

The song is a mashup of traditional Ukrainian folk music and contemporary hip hop elements.

Tom Batchelor13 May 2022 16:35

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US seeks to clarify Turkey’s position on Nato expansion

US officials are working to clarify Turkey’s position on Sweden and Finland’s potential membership to Nato, America’s diplomat for Europe at the State Department said on Friday, after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara is not supportive of the two countries’ bid to join the alliance.

In a call with reporters, Karen Donfried, assistant secretary for Europe and Eurasian Affairs, said the topic will be discussed at the Nato ministerial meeting over the weekend in Berlin.

Tom Batchelor13 May 2022 16:24

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Erdogan says Turkey not supportive of Finland, Sweden joining Nato

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday it was not possible for Nato-member Turkey to support plans by Sweden and Finland to join the pact given that the Nordic countries were “home to many terrorist organisations”.

Though Turkey has officially supported NATO enlargement since it joined the U.S.-led alliance 70 years ago, its opposition could pose a problem for Sweden and Finland given new members need unanimous agreement.

Turkey has repeatedly slammed Sweden and other Western European countries for its handling of organisations deemed terrorist by Ankara, including the Kurdish militant groups PKK and YPG, and the followers of U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen. Ankara says Gulenists carried out a coup attempt in 2016. Gulen and his supporters deny the accusation.

Finland’s plan to apply for NATO membership, announced Thursday, and the expectation that Sweden will follow, would bring about the expansion of the Western military alliance that Russian President Vladimir Putin aimed to prevent by launching the invasion of Ukraine.

“We are following the developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we don’t hold positive views,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul, adding it had been a mistake for NATO to accept Greece as a member in the past.

“As Turkey, we don’t want to repeat similar mistakes. Furthermore, Scandinavian countries are guesthouses for terrorist organisations,” Erdogan said, without giving details.

“They are even members of the parliament in some countries. It is not possible for us to be in favour,” he added.

Maryam Zakir-Hussain13 May 2022 16:05

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Russian soldier on trial in first Ukraine war crimes case

A 21-year-old Russian soldier went on trial Friday in Kyiv for the killing of an unarmed Ukrainian civilian, marking the first war crime prosecution of a member of the Russian military from 11 weeks of bloodshed in Ukraine.

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The soldier, a captured member of a tank unit is accused of shooting a 62-year-old Ukrainian man in the head through an open car window in the northeastern village of Chupakhivka during the first days of the war.

Scores of journalists and cameras packed inside a small courtroom at the Solomyanskyy district court in Ukraine‘s capital, where the suspect, Sgt. Vadim Shyshimarin, sat in a glassed-off area wearing a blue and grey hoodie, sweatpants and a shaved head.

He faces up to life in prison under a section of the Ukrainian criminal code that addresses the laws and customs of war. Ukraine‘s top prosecutor, with help from foreign experts, is investigating allegations that Russian troops violated Ukrainian and international law by killing, torturing and abusing possibly thousands of Ukrainian civilians.Friday’s hearing in Shyshimarin’s case was brief.

A judge asked him to provide his name, address, marital status and other identifying details. He also was asked whether he understood his rights, quietly replying “yes,” and if wanted a jury trial, which he declined.

The judges and lawyers discussed procedural matters before the judges left the courtroom and then returned to say the case would continue on May 18.

Defense attorney Victor Ovsyanikov acknowledged that the case against the soldier is strong but said the court would make the final decision over what evidence to allow.

Ovsyanikov said Thursday that he and his client had not yet decided how he will plead.

After Friday’s hearing, Ovsyannikov said he was assigned to defend Shishimarin as a lawyer for the Center for Free Legal Aid.

His client “certainly knows all the details” of what he’s accused of, Ovsyannikov said. The lawyer would not detail his defense strategy.

Maryam Zakir-Hussain13 May 2022 15:50

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Access to abortions needed for Ukrainian refugees in Poland – UNHCR

Women who have fled to Poland to escape war must have access to reproductive rights that meet international standards, including abortions, a top UNHCR official said on Friday, amid reports of rape and sexual violence in Ukraine.

Poland has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, and human rights activists have raised concerns about the difficulties victims of rape from Ukraine fleeing to the country may face if they need to terminate a pregnancy.

“There are particular policies (regarding reproductive services in Poland) that we believe do not meet international standards,” assistant high commissioner for protection Gillian Triggs told a news briefing.

She said that the UNHCR would work with those who needed an abortion to make sure that they got them in Poland or elsewhere.

A Polish government spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Maryam Zakir-Hussain13 May 2022 15:40

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Helsinki urges patience after Turkey says not supportive of Finland joining Nato

Finland’s foreign minister Pekka Haavisto urged patience on Friday and called for a step-by-step approach in response to Turkish resistance to Finnish and Swedish NATO membership.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan earlier said NATO member Turkey could not support Finnish and Swedish plans to join the alliance, erecting a potential stumbling block as membership requires unanimous backing from all 30 member states.

“We need some patience in this type of process, it’s not happening in one day … Let’s take issues step-by-step,” Haavisto told reporters.

Erdogan’s statement appeared to come as a surprise to Finland after Haavisto had visited Turkey twice in recent months and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto spoke on the phone with Erdogan in early April.

After that call, Niinisto tweeted “Turkey supports Finland’s goals.”

Maryam Zakir-Hussain13 May 2022 15:26

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UK and U.S. defence ministers discuss support for Ukraine

Britain’s defence secretary Ben Wallace and his U.S. counterpart discussed next steps to help Ukraine, including military aid, in talks held in the United States this week, a statement published by the Ministry of Defence has said.

“We will continue to work with unity and resolve to provide Ukraine with what it needs to defend itself against Russia’s unprovoked invasion,” Wallace said in the statement, issued on Friday after a meeting with Lloyd Austin on Wednesday.

“We discussed the next steps to provide defensive support for Ukraine, as well as AUKUS (a defence pact between Australia, the United States and Britain), the future of NATO, and other aspects of our shared security.”

Maryam Zakir-Hussain13 May 2022 15:14

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