Ethiopia orders emergency as Tigray forces threaten capital

Ethiopian police march during a parade to display new police uniforms and instruct them to maintain impartiality and respect the law during the election, in Meskel Square in downtown Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on June 19, 2021. (AP)
Ethiopian police march during a parade to display new police uniforms and instruct them to maintain impartiality and respect the law during the election, in Meskel Square in downtown Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on June 19, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 03 November 2021

Ethiopia orders emergency as Tigray forces threaten capital

Ethiopian police march during a parade to display new police uniforms and instruct them to maintain impartiality and respect the law during the election, in Meskel Square in downtown Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on June 19, 2021. (AP)
  • The state of emergency takes effect immediately and will last for six months

NAIROBI, Kenya: Ethiopia’s government declared a national state of emergency Tuesday as rival Tigray forces threaten to move on the capital and the country’s yearlong war escalates quickly. The United States said security has “deteriorated significantly,” and it strongly warned its citizens to consider leaving.
The emergency declaration by Ethiopia’s Council of Ministers was the clearest sign of alarm yet from the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who a year ago this week allowed soldiers from a neighboring country to invade the Tigray region and pursue the Tigray forces alongside Ethiopian troops. Thousands of people have been killed since then.
The Tigray forces and their allies pose a “grave and imminent danger” to the country’s existence, the council’s declaration said. “Everyone will be tested,” the prime minister tweeted, saying the declaration was made to “shorten the period of tribulation and provide a time of solution.”
The US has warned the Tigray forces, who long dominated the national government before Abiy took office, against any attempt to “besiege” the capital, Addis Ababa, after seizing control in recent days of the strategic cities of Dessie and Kombolcha. That positions them to move down a major highway toward the capital.
The state of emergency takes effect immediately and will last for six months. The government can impose a curfew, order citizens into military training, disrupt transport services and travel, suspend licenses of media outlets and detain indefinitely anyone suspected of having links with a terrorist group.
Local administrations in some areas could be disbanded and a military leadership could be installed. Unauthorized public gatherings and any expression of opposition to the state of emergency are banned.
Such actions would be implemented by law. Ethiopian lawmakers are expected to convene within 48 hours.
Meanwhile, the Addis Ababa security bureau told residents that anyone with a firearm should register it now, and it warned that searches of homes and businesses would be carried out to ensure the city’s peace.
The United Nations expressed extreme concern at the latest events, warning that “the stability of Ethiopia and the wider region is at stake” and again calling for an immediate cease-fire.
Ethiopia’s prime minister this week called upon all citizens to combat the approaching Tigray forces, adding that “we should closely follow those who work for the enemy and live among us.” A new roundup of ethnic Tigrayans was seen in the capital Monday.
The Tigray forces say they are pressuring Ethiopia’s government to lift a deadly months-long blockade on their region of around 6 million people, where basic services have been cut off and humanitarian food and medical aid are denied.
This is “perhaps the most egregious humanitarian obstruction in the world,” a senior official with the US Agency for International Development told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “We’re seeing a campaign of systematic, bureaucratic obstruction blocking assistance into areas occupied by (the Tigray forces)” affecting not just Tigray but areas in the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions now held by the Tigray fighters, the official said.
The fighters moved into those regions after retaking much of Tigray in June, displacing hundreds of thousands of residents and widening the crisis.
“We certainly had difficulty getting the prime minister’s attention” to the problem and any calls to address it, the senior USAID official said after a recent visit to Ethiopia. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized otherwise.
The Tigray forces say they are now linking up with another armed group, the Oromo Liberation Army, with which an alliance was struck earlier this year.
The fighting soon could reach the Oromo region that neighbors Addis Ababa. Ethnic Oromo once hailed Abiy as the country’s first Oromo prime minister, but discontent has since emerged with the jailing of outspoken Oromo leaders.
The US special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, told a public event Tuesday that the linkup of Tigray forces with other armed groups is dangerous.
The envoy also said he understands why Ethiopia’s prime minister doesn’t want to sit at a negotiating table across from leaders of the Tigray forces, but “there are many, many ways to initiate discreet talks.”
In the end, Feltman said, “there will be talks because neither side is going to win.”


Gulf nations condemn violent attacks in Burkina Faso

Gulf nations condemn violent attacks in Burkina Faso
Updated 33 sec ago

Gulf nations condemn violent attacks in Burkina Faso

Gulf nations condemn violent attacks in Burkina Faso

DUBAI: Gulf nations have condemned the violent attacks in northern villages of Burkina Faso over the weekend which resulted in the death of dozens of people, including children, and injured others.
Armed men killed at least 34 people in separate incidents in Bourasso in Kossi province and Namissiguima in Yatenga province, both north of the country, the Burkina Faso government said over the weekend.
The West African nation, one of the poorest countries in the world, has been besieged by militant attacks by forces linked to Al-Qaeda and Daesh in recent years. The turmoil has resulted in the deaths of thousands and left nearly 2 million people displaced.
The UAE expressesd its “strong condemnation of these criminal acts” and repeated its rejection of “all forms of violence and terrorism aimed at destabilizing security and stability in contravention of human values and principles,” the country’s foreign affairs ministry said in the statement.
Bahrain also reiterated its “solidarity with Burkina Faso in its war against terrorism, calling on the international community to intensify its efforts in combating extremism and terrorism in all its forms,” according to its foreign affairs ministry.
Meanwhile, Kuwait’s foreign ministry in a statement outlined the country’s “principled and firm stance against violence and terrorism’ in condemning the attacks.
The Gulf states also sent their condolences to the Burkina Faso leadership and the families of the victims.


Hundreds urged to evacuate as Russians advance in Ukraine’s Donbas

Hundreds urged to evacuate as Russians advance in Ukraine’s Donbas
Updated 8 min 38 sec ago

Hundreds urged to evacuate as Russians advance in Ukraine’s Donbas

Hundreds urged to evacuate as Russians advance in Ukraine’s Donbas
  • Sloviansk has been subjected to “massive” Russian bombardment in recent days
  • Two Ukrainian Red Cross minibuses were heading there to evacuate willing civilians

SLOVIANSK: Ukrainian officials have called on civilians to urgently evacuate the city of Sloviansk as Russian troops press toward it in their campaign to secure the Donbas region.
Sloviansk has been subjected to “massive” Russian bombardment in recent days, with at least two people killed and seven others wounded in an attack on a marketplace Tuesday.
Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of the Donetsk region, which includes Sloviansk, told Ukrainian media his “main advice is evacuate!“
“This week there hasn’t been a day without shelling,” he said Tuesday evening, adding that the city was now within range of Russian multiple-rocket launchers.
“The enemy is shelling chaotically, the attacks are aimed at destroying the local population,” he said
“So, once again, the main advice is to evacuate.”
AFP journalists on the ground in Sloviansk saw rockets slam into the marketplace and surrounding streets, with firefighters scrambling to put out the resulting fires.
Kyrylenko also reported shelling across “the entire frontline” in the eastern Donbas region, where Russia has refocused its efforts since abandoning its initial aim of capturing Kyiv, following tough Ukrainian resistance.
Donbas is mainly comprised of Lugansk, which Russian forces have almost entirely captured, and Donetsk to its southwest — the current focus of Moscow’s attack
The fall of Lysychansk in the region on Sunday, a week after the Ukrainian army also retreated from the neighboring city of Severodonetsk, has freed up Russian troops to advance on Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.
On Tuesday, they were first closing in on the smaller city of Siversk — which lies between Lysychansk and Sloviansk — after days of shelling there.
Two Ukrainian Red Cross minibuses were heading there to evacuate willing civilians, according to AFP reporters.

Two Ukrainian Red Cross minibuses were heading there to evacuate willing civilians, according to AFP reporters. (File/AFP)


“Heavy fighting is taking place on the outskirts of Lugansk region near Lysychansk,” Lugansk governor Sergiy Gaiday said on Telegram.
“The occupiers are withdrawing equipment to the Donetsk region.”
To the southwest, in the Moscow-occupied Kherson region, Russian troops have deployed helicopters and artillery to try to stem Ukrainian counter-attacks.
A spokesman for Ukraine’s defense ministry said Tuesday that Russian forces outside Donbas were “trying to bind our troops in order to prevent them from moving to the battle areas.”
Kherson city, which lies close to Moscow-annexed Crimea, was the first major city to fall to Russian forces in February, and has seen a campaign of so-called Russification since.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking in his evening address Tuesday, said he was continuing to press for upgraded anti-missile systems as air siren alerts sounded across much of the country, including the capital.
“The Russian army does not take any breaks,” he said.
“Our task is to hold on.”


Thousands more flee as Sydney floods track north

Thousands more flee as Sydney floods track north
Updated 32 min 49 sec ago

Thousands more flee as Sydney floods track north

Thousands more flee as Sydney floods track north
  • New South Wales authorities issued fresh flood alerts north of Australia’s largest city
  • 85,000 people have been told to leave their homes immediately or be ready to depart imminentl

SYDNEY: Thousands of people on Australia’s east coast fled their homes Wednesday as torrential rains tracked north after unleashing floods in Sydney that submerged communities, roads and bridges under mud-brown water.
New South Wales authorities issued fresh flood alerts north of Australia’s largest city and warned that rising, rain-swollen rivers still posed a danger in parts of Sydney despite easing rainfall in the city.
“This event is far from over,” the state’s Premier Dominic Perrottet said.
Since the floods began over the weekend, emergency services have issued more than 100 evacuation orders.
A total 85,000 people have been told to leave their homes immediately or be ready to depart imminently so they will not be stranded by rising floodwaters.
Across Sydney’s western fringe, rivers broke their banks and large areas have been transformed into inland lakes, with mud-brown waters invading homes while cutting off roads and bridges.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visited the affected area Wednesday, promising to look for “long-term solutions” after multiple flooding disasters across Australia’s east coast in the past 18 months.
Albanese said that while “Australia has always been subject of floods, of bushfires,” scientists have warned climate change would make such events more frequent and intense.
“What we are seeing, unfortunately, is that play out,” he said.
There were 21 flood rescues across New South Wales overnight, and on Wednesday more than 1,000 emergency service workers were in the field.
The federal government has declared a natural disaster in 23 flooded parts of the state, unlocking relief payments to stricken residents.
Many people affected have lived through successive east coast floods that struck in 2021 and then again in March this year when more than 20 people were killed.
Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said the weather system was expected to move off coast later this week.
Andrew Hall, chief executive of the Insurance Council of Australia, said he expected the Sydney floods would be declared a “catastrophe” by the insurance industry.
He said 2,700 insurance claims have been lodged by Tuesday from Sydney alone, and more were anticipated as people were able to return to their homes.
Hall said there had been Aus$5 billion ($3.4 billion) in catastrophe claims made in Australia this year.
It was “untenable” for homes that had flooded four times in the past 18 months to remain in the insurance pool, Hall said, adding: “We’ve got to stand back and ask the question, ‘Have we built homes in the wrong spot?’”


Kyiv asks Turkey to probe three more Russian ships it alleges transported stolen grain

Russian-flagged bulk carrier Mikhail Nenashev is unloaded at the MMK Port in Dortyol near the Mediterranean town of Iskenderun
Russian-flagged bulk carrier Mikhail Nenashev is unloaded at the MMK Port in Dortyol near the Mediterranean town of Iskenderun
Updated 06 July 2022

Kyiv asks Turkey to probe three more Russian ships it alleges transported stolen grain

Russian-flagged bulk carrier Mikhail Nenashev is unloaded at the MMK Port in Dortyol near the Mediterranean town of Iskenderun
  • The conflict in Ukraine has heightened concerns about food security both in Ukraine and around the globe, driving up world food prices to record levels this year
  • NATO member Turkey, which has good ties with both Moscow and Kyiv, has criticized the invasion but also rejected Western sanctions on Russia

ISTANBUL: Ukraine has asked Turkey to help investigate three Russian-flagged ships as part of Kyiv’s efforts to probe what it alleges is the theft of grain from Russian-occupied territory, according to official documents.
In a June 13 letter, which hasn’t previously been reported, the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office asked Turkey’s justice ministry to investigate and provide evidence on the three named ships it suspects have been involved in transporting grain allegedly stolen from recently occupied Ukrainian territories, such as Kherson.
The letter, which Reuters reviewed, said the ships traveled from Crimea’s main grain terminal in Sevastopol in April and May and pressed Ankara to obtain documentation about their cargo and arrival at Turkish ports. Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

Smoke rises in the sky after shelling near a winter wheat field, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, near the town of Bakhmut, in Donetsk region, Ukraine. (REUTERS)

All three large dry bulk carriers — Mikhail Nenashev, Matros Pozynich and Matros Koshka — are owned by a subsidiary of a Western-sanctioned Russian state-owned company called United Shipbuilding Corporation, according to Equasis, a shipping database. The Russian company didn’t respond to a request for comment.
If it is established that United Shipbuilding Corporation transported grain from recently-occupied Ukrainian territory, it would add to emerging evidence of the involvement by Russian-state owned entities in exporting what Kyiv alleges is stolen goods. Ukraine has publicly accused Moscow of stealing grain since the February invasion; Russia has repeatedly denied it has stolen any Ukrainian grain.
The conflict in Ukraine has heightened concerns about food security both in Ukraine and around the globe, driving up world food prices to record levels this year. Ukraine is one of the world’s largest grain exporters but has struggled to export goods with war raging along its southern coast and many of its ports blocked. Grain accounts for nearly a fifth of all the country’s exports, according to official data.
Reuters was unable to determine the origin or end destination of the grain in the ships named by Kyiv in the letter.
The Kremlin didn’t respond to requests for comment. Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-installed administration in Kherson, said grain from the region was going to Crimea and that local farmers were responsible for transporting it there. He said he had no knowledge of any shipments to Turkey or the Middle East.
Reuters on Friday reported that Kyiv in a separate letter, dated June 30, asked Turkey’s justice ministry to detain and arrest another Russian-flagged ship carrying what it said was Ukrainian grain from the occupied port of Berdyansk. On Monday, a senior Turkish official said Turkey had halted the cargo ship and is investigating Ukraine’s claim.
NATO member Turkey, which has good ties with both Moscow and Kyiv, has criticized the invasion but also rejected Western sanctions on Russia. Ankara has agreed with Ukraine to block commercial shipments between Crimea and Turkey since 2014.
At the same time, Turkey has played a key role in discussions between the United Nations, Russia and Ukraine on a potential Black Sea corridor to export grain from Ukraine.
Turkey’s justice ministry declined to comment on Kyiv’s two letters and referred to recent comments by the Turkish foreign ministry that it had investigated Ukraine’s public claims that grain stolen by Russia had made its way to Turkey and determined there was no issue.
“We saw that the ships’ port of departure and the origin of the goods is Russia on the records,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters on June 23, without identifying which ships. “We are against Ukrainian grains or other goods being taken by Russia … and we will not allow these goods to come to us.” The foreign ministry did not respond to requests for comment on the ship from Berdyansk that arrived in Turkey late last week.
A Turkish diplomatic source added that Kyiv had shared with Ankara its claims about allegedly stolen grain being brought to Turkey via Russian ships and that cooperation with Ukrainian officials was ongoing.
The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment. Taras Vysotskiy, the first deputy to Ukraine’s agriculture minister, told Reuters that Kyiv estimates about 400,000 tons of stolen grain has been exported. Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey, Vasyl Bodnar, told Reuters Ukraine believes most of that has gone to Turkey and Kyiv has sent what it considered to be evidence on the involvement of 13 ships to Turkish authorities.
The June 13 letter said at least two of the ships switched off tracking systems that openly broadcast before entering Sevastopol port.
It also said Kyiv suspected grain was being taken from recently occupied territory, particularly Kherson, where it said there were several grain elevators that the owners don’t have access to due to the occupation. It didn’t identify the owners. Kyiv, in the letter, added that it is investigating criminal violations of Ukraine’s rules and customs of war, without naming individuals.
Ukraine’s embassy in Beirut told Reuters that at least seven companies who own storage units in newly-occupied territory have registered criminal cases with Ukrainian authorities alleging Russia stole their wheat. Two of the companies, Ukrlandfarming and State Food and Grain Corporation of Ukraine, confirmed to Reuters they had submitted a document to Ukrainian authorities but declined to provide details. The others didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Ukraine has also said Russia has sent its ally Syria wheat allegedly stolen from Ukraine since invading in February. Ukraine’s embassy in Beirut told Reuters that at least 150,000 tons of what it said was “stolen” wheat have made it to Syria since February, mostly on Russian ships, without specifying how it knew.
Neither Syria’s port authority, which is part of the transport ministry, nor the Syrian information ministry responded to requests for comment.

TURKISH TRIPS
One of the vessels Kyiv named in the June 13 letter, the 169-meter long Mikhail Nenashev, was at Sevastopol’s Avlita grain terminal from June 14 to 16, according to satellite imagery captured by Planet Labs PBC, a private satellite operator, which show the ship docked beside grain silos with cranes towering above.
The vessel arrived eight days later at Iskenderun, Turkey, according to Refinitiv Eikon ship-tracking data. Photos and videos supplied by Yoruk Isik, an Istanbul-based geopolitical analyst and head of the Bosphorus Observer consultancy, show port cranes lifting what appears from the images to be a golden, grain-like cargo from the Mikhail Nenashev into trucks on June 27 at nearby Dortyol port.
Since March, the Mikhail Nenashev has visited the Sevastopol grain terminal on at least three other occasions before arriving in Turkey between 5 and 15 days later, according to satellite imagery and ship-tracking data.
In one instance, it unloaded 27,000 tons of wheat in the Turkish seaport of Derince on April 22, according to data from Refinitiv Eikon, which shows the cargo was loaded in Sevastopol, Crimea. Ukraine, in its June 13 letter, said the Mikhail Nenashev loaded 27,500 tons of grain at Sevastopol’s Avlita grain terminal in April, without specifying which day.
Dortyol Port did not respond to Reuters’ queries about the shipments or precautions taken in light of Ukrainian claims. Derince Port confirmed it received “Russian ships carrying grains” but did not comment on screening processes. There was no answer at Avlita’s head office and a person at the Sevastopol office who answered the phone denied all knowledge of Ukrainian grain at the port and put down the phone.
Another one of the ships, the Matros Pozynich, docked in Syria on at least three occasions within a week or two of visiting Sevastopol’s Avlita grain terminal, according to satellite imagery and ship-tracking data. The third ship, Matros Koshka, has on at least three occasions left Sevastopol’s grain terminal before turning off ship transponders, according to satellite imagery and tracking data. On one of those occasions, it docked in Syria 10 days later, according to a Planet Labs satellite image.
All three ships are owned and managed by Russian-based company Crane Marine Contractor LLC and were purchased in either December or February, according to ownership records from Equasis. The company is a subsidiary of United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC), according to a copy of Crane Marine’s charter currently on its website. USC’s website also lists Crane Marine as one of its companies. Russian company records show Crane Marine is owned by Caspian Energy group, which is part of USC, according to USC company press releases dated in 2018.
Crane Marine didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The United States sanctioned USC in 2014 in response to Russia’s efforts “to destabilize eastern Ukraine” saying the state-owned defense technology firm manufactured arms and built ships for the Russian navy. In April, Washington renewed and expanded its sanctions relating to the company. Britain sanctioned USC in February.


UK PM Johnson names Zahawi as new finance minister

UK PM Johnson names Zahawi as new finance minister
Updated 06 July 2022

UK PM Johnson names Zahawi as new finance minister

UK PM Johnson names Zahawi as new finance minister
  • The 55-year-old co-founded the prominent polling company YouGo
  • Won widespread praise for overseeing Britain’s pandemic vaccines rollout.

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson late Tuesday named his Iraqi-born education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, as finance minister after the shock resignation of Rishi Sunak.
Downing Street said Queen Elizabeth II had approved the appointment of Zahawi, who came to Britain as a child with his Kurdish family not speaking any English, before forging a lucrative business career.
The 55-year-old co-founded the prominent polling company YouGov and was active in local Conservative politics in London, before becoming an MP in 2010.
He won widespread praise for overseeing Britain’s pandemic vaccines rollout.
But like Sunak, his private wealth has drawn adverse attention, including when he claimed parliamentary expenses for heating his horse stables in 2013.
Zahawi refused to comment to reporters as he left a meeting in 10 Downing Street, including on whether he will uphold Sunak’s pleas for fiscal discipline against Johnson’s free-spending instincts.
The prime minister named another loyalist, Michelle Donelan, to take Zahawi’s place at the education ministry.