G7 warn of Ukraine grain crisis, ask China not to aid Russia

G7 warn of Ukraine grain crisis, ask China not to aid Russia
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock speaks at the final news conference during the G7 foreign ministers’ summit in Weissenhaeuser Strand, on Saturday. (Reuters)
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Updated 14 May 2022

G7 warn of Ukraine grain crisis, ask China not to aid Russia

G7 warn of Ukraine grain crisis, ask China not to aid Russia
  • German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who hosted a meeting of top G-7 diplomats, said the war had become a “global crisis”
  • The G-7 pledged to provide further humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable

WEISSENHAUS, Germany: The Group of Seven leading economies warned Saturday that the war in Ukraine is stoking a global food and energy crisis that threatens poor countries, and urgent measures are needed to unblock stores of grain that Russia is preventing from leaving Ukraine.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who hosted a meeting of top G-7 diplomats, said the war had become a “global crisis.”
Baerbock said up to 50 million people, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, would face hunger in the coming months unless ways are found to release Ukrainian grain, which accounts for a sizeable share of the worldwide supply.
In statements released at the end of the three-day meeting on Germany’s Baltic Sea coast, the G-7 pledged to provide further humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable.
“Russia’s war of aggression has generated one of the most severe food and energy crises in recent history which now threatens those most vulnerable across the globe,” the group said.
“We are determined to accelerate a coordinated multilateral response to preserve global food security and stand by our most vulnerable partners in this respect,” it added.
Canada’s foreign minister, Melanie Joly, said her country, another major agricultural exporter, stands ready to send ships to European ports so Ukrainian grain can be brought to those in need.
“We need to make sure that these cereals are sent to the world,” she told reporters. “If not, millions of people will be facing famine.”
The G-7 nations also called on China not to help Russia, including by undermining international sanctions or justifying Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.
Beijing should support the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, and not “assist Russia in its war of aggression,” they said.
The G-7 urged China “to desist from engaging in information manipulation, disinformation and other means to legitimize Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.”
The grouping, which comprises Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, also reiterated its stance that the territories seized by Russian forces need to be returned to Ukraine.
“We will never recognize borders Russia has attempted to change by military aggression,” they said.
The meeting in Weissenhaus, northeast of Hamburg, was billed as an opportunity for officials to discuss the broader implications of the war for geopolitics, energy and food security, and ongoing international efforts to tackle climate change and the pandemic.
In a series of closing statements, the G-7 nations also addressed a wide range of global problems from the situation in Afghanistan to tensions in the Middle East.
On Friday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba appealed to friendly countries to provide more military support to Kyiv and increase the pressure on Russia, including by seizing its assets abroad to pay for rebuilding Ukraine.
Kuleba said his country remains willing to talk to Russia about unblocking grain supplies stuck in Ukraine’s silos and also about reaching a political agreement to end the war itself, but had so far received “no positive feedback” from Moscow.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in an interview published Saturday that he had not detected any change in Putin’s stance recently.
Scholz, who spoke at length by phone with the Russian leader Friday, told German news portal t-online that Putin had failed to achieve the military objectives he set out at the start of the war while losing more Russian soldiers than the Soviet Union did during its decade-long campaign in Afghanistan.
“Putin should slowly begin to understand that the only way out of this situation is through an agreement with Ukraine,” Scholz was quoted as saying.
One idea discussed at the G-7 meeting was whether Russian state assets frozen abroad can be used to pay for the reconstruction of Ukraine.
“Russia bears responsibility for the massive damage resulting from this war,” Baerbock said. “And that’s why it’s a question of justice that Russia should have to pay for this damage.”
But she added that, unlike in Canada — where legislation allows for seized funds to be repurposed — the legal basis for doing so in Germany is uncertain.
“But that’s precisely what such meetings are for, to have an exchange about how to resolve these legal questions,” Baerbock said.
Many of the foreign ministers were due to attend an informal meeting of NATO diplomats in Berlin on Saturday and Sunday.
That gathering will consider moves by Finland and Sweden to join the military alliance amid concerns about the threat from Russia, as well as ways in which NATO can support Ukraine without being drawn into the conflict.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was unable to attend the G-7 meeting after recovering from a COVID-19 infection, was expected at the NATO gathering.


Philippines’ president-elect Marcos says China ties ‘set to shift to higher gear’ under his term

Philippines’ president-elect Marcos says China ties ‘set to shift to higher gear’ under his term
Updated 12 sec ago

Philippines’ president-elect Marcos says China ties ‘set to shift to higher gear’ under his term

Philippines’ president-elect Marcos says China ties ‘set to shift to higher gear’ under his term
  • China President Xi Jinping agrees to hold more comprehensive discussions of issues
MANILA: Incoming Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos Jr on Wednesday said his country’s relations with China will be expanded and shift to a higher gear under his administration, and Beijing had given assurances it would support his independent foreign policy.
Marcos in a statement said China President Xi Jinping had agreed to hold more comprehensive discussions of issues and also recognized his late father’s role in opening diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Israel delivers helmets, vests to emergency and civilian groups in Ukraine

Israel delivers helmets, vests to emergency and civilian groups in Ukraine
Updated 41 min 47 sec ago

Israel delivers helmets, vests to emergency and civilian groups in Ukraine

Israel delivers helmets, vests to emergency and civilian groups in Ukraine

JERUSALEM: Israel has delivered 2,000 helmets and 500 protective vests for emergency and civilian organizations in Ukraine, Israel’s Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz last month said he would authorize the delivery of helmets and vests, signaling a shift in Israel’s position on providing such equipment. It follows a request by Ukraine for the supplies.


North Korea hails COVID-19 recovery as WHO worries over missing data

North Korea hails COVID-19 recovery as WHO worries over missing data
Updated 50 min 42 sec ago

North Korea hails COVID-19 recovery as WHO worries over missing data

North Korea hails COVID-19 recovery as WHO worries over missing data
  • Country’s anti-virus headquarters announced 232,880 new cases of fever and another six deaths
  • Outside experts believe most of the fevers are COVID-19 but North Korea lacks tests to confirm so many

SEOUL: North Korea said Wednesday more than a million people have already recovered from suspected COVID-19 just a week after disclosing an outbreak it appears to be trying to manage in isolation as global experts express deep concern about the public health threat.
The country’s anti-virus headquarters announced 232,880 new cases of fever and another six deaths in state media Wednesday. Those figures raise its totals to 62 deaths and more than 1.7 million fever cases since late April. It said at least 691,170 remain in quarantine.
Outside experts believe most of the fevers are COVID-19 but North Korea lacks tests to confirm so many. The outbreak is almost certainly larger than the fever tally, since some virus carriers may not develop fevers or other symptoms.
It’s also unclear how more than a million people recovered so quickly when limited medicine, medical equipment and health facilities exist to treat the country’s impoverished, unvaccinated population of 26 million. Some experts say the North could be simply releasing people from quarantine after their fevers subside.
Globally, COVID-19 has killed about 6.3 million people with the true toll believed to be much higher. Countries with outbreaks of a similar size to North Korea’s official fever tally have confirmed thousands of deaths each.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Tuesday that North Korea has not responded to its request for more data about its outbreak.
Before acknowledging COVID-19 infections for the first time last week, North Korea had held to a widely doubted claim of keeping out the virus. It also shunned millions of vaccine shots offered by the UN-backed COVAX distribution program, likely because of international monitoring requirements attached to them.
North Korea and Eritrea are the only sovereign UN-member countries not to have rolled out vaccines, but Tedros said neither country has responded to WHO’s offers of vaccines, medicines, tests and technical support.
“WHO is deeply concerned at the risk of further spread in (North Korea),” Tedros said, also noting the country has worrying numbers of people with underlying conditions that make them more likely to get severe COVID-19.
WHO emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan said unchecked transmission of the virus could lead to new variants but that WHO was powerless to act unless countries accepted its help.
The North has so far ignored rival South Korea’s offer to provide vaccines, medicine and health personnel, but experts say the North may be more willing to accept help from its main ally China. South Korea’s government said it couldn’t confirm media reports that North Korea flew multiple planes to bring back emergency supplies from China on Tuesday.
North Korean officials during a ruling party Politburo meeting Tuesday continued to express confidence that the country could overcome the crisis on its own, with the Politburo members discussing ways for “continuously maintaining the good chance in the overall epidemic prevention front,” the official Korean Central News Agency said Wednesday.
There’s suspicion that North Korea is underreporting deaths to soften the blow for Kim, who already was navigating the toughest moment of his decade in power. The pandemic has further damaged an economy already broken by mismanagement and US-led sanctions over Kim’s nuclear weapons and missiles development.
At the Politburo meeting, Kim criticized officials over their early pandemic response, which he said underscored “immaturity in the state capacity for coping with the crisis” and he blamed the country’s vulnerability on their “non-positive attitude, slackness and non-activity,” KCNA said.
He urged officials to strengthen virus controls at workplaces and redouble efforts to improve the supply of daily necessities and stabilize living conditions, the report said.
North Korea has also deployed nearly 3,000 military medical officers to help deliver medicine to pharmacies and deployed public health officials, teachers and students studying health care to identify people with fevers so they could be quarantined. The country has been relying on finding people with symptoms and isolating them at shelters since it lacks vaccines, high-tech medicine and equipment, and intensive care units that lowered hospitalizations and deaths in other nations.
While raising alarm over the outbreak, Kim has also stressed that his economic goals should be met. State media reports show large groups of workers are continuing to gather at farms, mining facilities, power stations and construction sites, being driven to ensure their works are “propelled as scheduled.”
North Korea’s COVID-19 outbreak came amid a provocative run in weapons demonstrations, including its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile in nearly five years, in a brinkmanship aimed at forcing the United States to accept the idea of the North as a nuclear power and negotiate economic and security concessions from a position of strength.
US and South Korean officials also believe North Korea could conduct its seventh nuclear test explosion this month.
The North Korean nuclear threat is expected to top agenda when US President Joe Biden meets South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol during a visit to Seoul this week. Kim Tae-hyo, Yoon’s deputy national security adviser, told reporters Wednesday that North Korea probably won’t conduct a nuclear test this week but that its preparations for another ICBM test appeared imminent.
Kim Jong Un during Tuesday’s Politburo meeting affirmed he would “arouse the whole party like (an) active volcano once again under the state emergency situation” to prove its leadership before history and time and “defend the wellbeing of the country and the people without fail and demonstrate to the whole world the strength and the spirit of heroic Korea once again,” KCNA said. The report did not make a direct reference to a major weapons test.
Recent commercial satellite images of the nuclear testing ground in Punggye-ri indicate refurbishment work and preparations at a yet unused tunnel on the southern part of the site, which is presumably nearing completion to host a nuclear test, according to an analysis released Tuesday by Beyond Parallel, a website run by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.


959 Ukrainian fighters from Azovstal surrendered so far, says Russia

959 Ukrainian fighters from Azovstal surrendered so far, says Russia
Since Monday, 959 militants from Azovstal have surrendered, 80 of whom were wounded. (AFP)
Updated 43 min 4 sec ago

959 Ukrainian fighters from Azovstal surrendered so far, says Russia

959 Ukrainian fighters from Azovstal surrendered so far, says Russia
  • 694 Ukrainian fighters surrendered over the last 24 hours

Russia said on Wednesday that a total of 959 Ukrainian fighters, including 80 wounded, had surrendered from the bunkers and tunnels below Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks since Monday.
The defense ministry said 694 Ukrainian fighters — including members of the Azov regiment — had surrendered in the past 24 hours, including 29 wounded.
In the latest update on what Moscow calls its special military operation, the ministry said Russia also struck eastern Ukraine with missiles in the Soledar area of the Donetsk region.
Russia also hit foreign mercenaries, destroyed Ukrainian Su-24 aircraft, Ukrainian arsenals and S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems, the ministry said.
Russia struck 76 control points and 421 troop and artillery points, including 147 artillery and mortar, with missiles and artillery, the ministry said.
It hit a Ukrainian battery of 155-mm M777 howitzers manufactured by the United States, the ministry said.
It was not possible to independently confirm the claims.


China removes some COVID-19 test rules on travelers from US

China removes some COVID-19 test rules on travelers from US
Updated 18 May 2022

China removes some COVID-19 test rules on travelers from US

China removes some COVID-19 test rules on travelers from US
  • Previous requirements on antibody tests before flights will be removed as well

BEIJING: Travelers flying to China from US cities including Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco from May 20 will no longer need a RT-PCR test seven days before flights, notices issued late on Tuesday by the Chinese embassy and consulates showed.
Previous requirements on antibody tests before flights will be removed as well, the notices said.
Travelers still need to do two RT-PCR tests within 48 hours or 24 hours of their flights — depending on which airport they are flying out of — plus another antigen test, those notices showed.