Minute’s silence as UN General Assembly meets on Russia-Ukraine

Minute’s silence as UN General Assembly meets on Russia-Ukraine
European Union Ambassador to the United Nations Olof Skoog speaks on the Russia-Ukraine conflict at an UNGA emergency meeting, New York, Feb. 28, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 28 February 2022

Minute’s silence as UN General Assembly meets on Russia-Ukraine

Minute’s silence as UN General Assembly meets on Russia-Ukraine
  • Assembly president Abdulla Shahid led all of the UN’s 193 members in the moment of meditation before calling for ‘an immediate cease-fire’
  • Russia is due to find out just how isolated it is on the world stage during the meeting, only the 11th time in the UN’s history that such a session has been held

The United Nations opened a rare emergency special session of the General Assembly on Monday to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by observing a minute of silence for those killed in the conflict.
Russia is due to find out just how isolated it is on the world stage during the meeting, only the 11th time in the UN’s history that such a session has been held.
Assembly president Abdulla Shahid led all of the UN’s 193 members in the moment of meditation before calling for “an immediate cease-fire.”
More than 100 countries were expected to speak as the global body decides if it will support a resolution condemning Russia’s “unprovoked armed aggression” in Ukraine and demanding its immediate withdrawal.
“The fighting in Ukraine must stop,” warned UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as the session began.
“Enough is enough. Soldiers need to move back to their barracks. Leaders need to move to peace. Civilians must be protected.
“Nothing can justify the use of nuclear weapons. The guns are talking now, but the path of dialogue must always remain open,” he pleaded.
A vote on the resolution may not come until Tuesday. Its authors hope they may exceed 100 votes in favor — though countries including Syria, China, Cuba and India are expected to either support Russia or abstain.
It will be seen as a barometer of democracy in a world where autocratic sentiment has been on the rise, diplomats said, pointing to such regimes in Myanmar, Sudan, Mali, Burkina Faso, Venezuela, Nicaragua — and, of course, Russia.
If Moscow wins in Ukraine, the international order could be “changed forever,” one senior diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity, underscoring the gravity of the moment at the body charged with global peace and security.
Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Since then Russia has become an international pariah as its forces do battle on the streets of Ukraine’s cities, facing a barrage of sanctions including a ban from Western airspace and key financial networks.
On Sunday Putin ordered Russia’s nuclear “deterrence forces” onto high alert, prompting an international outcry, with the United States calling the order “totally unacceptable.”
Russia has pleaded “self-defense” under Article 51 of the UN Charter.
But that has been roundly rejected by Western countries and the UN, which accuse Moscow of violating Article 2 of the Charter, requiring its members to refrain from the threat or use of force to resolve a crisis.
They were due to repeat those accusations Monday.
The move to hold the emergency session was sparked by Russia on Friday using its veto to block a Security Council resolution that condemned Moscow’s invasion and called for the immediate withdrawal of its troops.
Russia voted against the resolution, but it did not have veto power to derail the referral of the war to the General Assembly, allowed under a 1950 resolution called “Uniting for Peace.”
It allows for members of the Security Council to seize the General Assembly for a special session if the five permanent members — Russia, the United States, Britain, France and China — fail to agree to act together to maintain peace.
Only the support of nine of the council’s 15 members is required to call an emergency special session of the General Assembly.
Eleven countries voted in favor. Russia opposed, while the United Arab Emirates, China and India abstained.
“The council members who supported this resolution recognize that this is no ordinary moment,” said US ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
Separately Monday, the Security Council is scheduled to hold an emergency meeting on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, where up to seven million people are expected to flee the fighting.


British Council workers stranded in Afghanistan at ‘high risk’

British Council workers stranded in Afghanistan at ‘high risk’
Updated 12 sec ago

British Council workers stranded in Afghanistan at ‘high risk’

British Council workers stranded in Afghanistan at ‘high risk’
  • Over 180 teachers for the educational outfit suddenly given permission to come to Britain but still lack clear travel route

LONDON: Over 180 teachers at the British Council risk being stranded in Afghanistan after being given permission by the UK government to apply to come to Britain but still lacking a clear route for traveling to the country, The Guardian reported.

Former colleagues and MPs campaigned for the recovery of the contractors, horrified that they had been left behind as full-time British Council staff were extracted amid fears that they would face punishment from the Taliban for teaching values that do not align with the new Kabul administration.

Of the teachers stuck in Afghanistan, 85 have been classified as being at “very high risk,” while another 90 workers have been listed at “high risk.” Many have reportedly gone into hiding fearing the Taliban’s crackdown.

Joe Seaton, a former British Council employee who worked alongside many of the teachers in Afghanistan, told the Guardian that no evacuation plan has been drawn up for the contractors despite 11 months passing since the fall of the city to the Taliban.

Having originally not been afforded the right to be recovered to Britain, the UK government suddenly announced last month that British Council contractors will now be allowed to apply to come to the UK with their families. A decision was expected in August.

Seaton said: “We are finally making some progress, but there does not yet seem to be any clear arrangements on how to get them out. This is a key question. How long will it take to get them out? Every day is another day in grave danger, and so far, all government efforts at processing former British Council staff have been very slow and clunky. The government needs to massively speed up on processing the individual cases.”

He added that the British Council did not have a full list of contractors who worked with them, which he had provided to the organization: “I have given the British Council lists of the contractors on several occasions as they did not have the information.”

Seaton, who speaks to the contractors stuck in Afghanistan on a near-daily basis via WhatsApp, told The Guardian that, following the government’s decision, they were “optimistic, but worried this might be another false dawn.”

The Home Office decision in June ruled that British Council contractors, staff at GardaWorld and former Chevening Scholars could come to Britain with their families so long as the total number of refugees applying in this category to the Foreign Office did not exceed 1,500. Problems with housing have mired the government’s attempts to process Afghan refugees, with the average Afghan family significantly larger than the space afforded by a typical British house.

They have been told to make applications online, but the Home Office Minister for Afghan Resettlement conceded that this would be difficult in many parts of the country.

The British Council said: “We have a full and comprehensive list of our former colleagues and have shared that list with relevant government departments.

We know our former colleagues are living in increasingly desperate circumstances, as the situation in the country continues to deteriorate.

The Afghanistan relocation schemes are run by the UK government. We have been pushing for progress with senior contacts within the UK government to ensure the earliest consideration of our former colleagues’ relocation applications.”


Putin orders Ukraine offensive to continue after capture of Lugansk

Putin orders Ukraine offensive to continue after capture of Lugansk
Updated 04 July 2022

Putin orders Ukraine offensive to continue after capture of Lugansk

Putin orders Ukraine offensive to continue after capture of Lugansk
  • ‘Military units, including the East group and the West group, must carry out their tasks according to previously approved plans’

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday ordered Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to press ahead with Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine after troops took control of the entire Lugansk region.
“Military units, including the East group and the West group, must carry out their tasks according to previously approved plans,” Putin told Shoigu.


Singapore urged to halt hanging of Malaysian drug trafficker

Singapore urged to halt hanging of Malaysian drug trafficker
Updated 04 July 2022

Singapore urged to halt hanging of Malaysian drug trafficker

Singapore urged to halt hanging of Malaysian drug trafficker
  • Kalwant Singh, who was convicted in 2016 of bringing heroin into Singapore, is scheduled to be hanged Thursday
  • Activists: Death penalty has done little to stop drug traffickers and organized syndicates

KUALA LUMPUR: Anti-death penalty activists in Malaysia urged Singapore’s government on Monday to halt the execution of a convicted Malaysian drug trafficker this week, the second in less than three months.
Kalwant Singh, who was convicted in 2016 of bringing heroin into Singapore, is scheduled to be hanged Thursday, activists said. The execution of another Malaysian in late April sparked an international outcry because he was believed to be mentally disabled.
The Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network delivered a statement to Singapore’s embassy urging that Kalwant’s execution be suspended to allow him an opportunity to file for clemency.
It said Kalwant, who was 23 when he was arrested in 2013, had been threatened with violence and forced to make drug deliveries to Singapore to repay a football gambling debt, and that factor was not adequately considered during his trial.
It said the death penalty has done little to stop drug traffickers and organized syndicates.
“The government of Singapore’s persistence in maintaining and utilizing the death penalty has only led to global condemnation and tarnishes Singapore’s image as a developed nation governed by the rule of law,” it added.
The hanging in April of Malaysian drug trafficker Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam sparked an international outcry because he was believed to be intellectually disabled with an IQ of 69. Another Malaysian drug trafficker who was to be hanged in April was given a reprieve pending the outcome of a legal challenge.
A Singapore activist, Kokila Annamalai, said convicted Singaporean drug trafficker Norasharee Gous is to be hanged on Thursday, the same day as Kalwant. She said they are the seventh and eighth executions scheduled this year. So far, two people including Nagaenthran have been hanged while four other executions were delayed by last-minute legal challenges, she said.


12 bodies found after South China Sea typhoon shipwreck: official

12 bodies found after South China Sea typhoon shipwreck: official
Updated 04 July 2022

12 bodies found after South China Sea typhoon shipwreck: official

12 bodies found after South China Sea typhoon shipwreck: official

BEIJING: Twelve bodies have been found following a shipwreck in the South China Sea over the weekend that left the crew of 30 missing, Chinese authorities said Monday.
“As of 3:30 p.m. on July 4, rescue forces found and recovered 12 bodies, suspected to be of victims who drowned, in an area around 50 nautical miles southwest of the site where the vessel sank,” said the Guangdong Maritime Search and Rescue Center in a notice.


Copenhagen shooting suspect had mental health issues: police

Copenhagen shooting suspect had mental health issues: police
Updated 04 July 2022

Copenhagen shooting suspect had mental health issues: police

Copenhagen shooting suspect had mental health issues: police
  • A 22-year-old Danish man was arrested, Copenhagen police inspector Søren Thomassen told reporters

COPENHAGEN: Danish police said Monday that the suspect in a weekend shooting at a Copenhagen mall that left three dead, including two teenagers, was known to mental health services.
“Our suspect is also known among psychiatric services, beyond that I do not wish to comment,” Copenhagen police chief Soren Thomassen told a press conference.
Thomassen added that the victims appeared to have been randomly targeted and there was nothing to indicate it was an act of terror.
“Our assessment is that the victims were random, that it isn’t motivated by gender or something else,” Thomassen said.
The police chief could not yet comment on a motive, but said there seemed to have been preparation ahead of the attack and that the 22-year-old suspect was not aided by anyone else.
“As things stand, it seems he was acting alone,” he said.
The three killed have been identified as a Danish teenage girl and boy, both aged 17, and a 47-year-old Russian citizen residing in Denmark.
Another four were injured in the shooting: two Danish women, aged 19 and 40, and two Swedish citizens, a 50-year-old man and a 16-year-old woman.
Police confirmed that the suspected shooter was present at the mall at the time of the shooting and is known to the police “but only peripherally.”
They added that they believe videos of the suspect circulating since Sunday evening on social media to be authentic.

An ambulance and armed police are seen during the evacuation of people at the Fields shopping center in Copenhagen, Denmark, on July 3, 2022 after Danish media reported a shooting. (AFP)

In some of the images, the young man can be seen posing with weapons, mimicking suicide gestures and talking about psychiatric medication “that does not work.”
YouTube and Instagram accounts believed to belong to the suspect were closed overnight, AFP noted.
The shooting occurred Sunday afternoon at the busy Fields shopping mall, located between the city center and Copenhagen airport.
According to police, the shooter was armed with a rifle, a pistol and a knife, and while the guns were not believed to be illegal, the suspect did not have a license for them.
Witnesses quoted by the Danish media described how the suspect had tried to trick people by saying his weapon was fake to get them to approach.
“He was sufficiently psychopathic to go and hunt people, but he wasn’t running,” one witness told public broadcaster DR.
Other eyewitnesses told Danish media they had seen more than 100 people rush toward the mall’s exit as the first shots were fired.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen denounce the “cruel attack” in a statement late Sunday.

People embrace outside Fields shopping center, after Danish police said they received reports of a shooting at the site, in Copenhagen, Denmark, July 3, 2022. (Reuters) 

“Our beautiful and usually so safe capital was changed in a split second,” she said.
The shooting came just over a week after a gunman opened fire near a gay bar in Oslo in neighboring Norway, killing two people and wounding 21 others.
In February of 2015, two people were killed and five injured in Copenhagen in a series of Islamist-motivated shootings.